August 16, 2010

The Most Terrifying of All Battles: When the Enemy Lies Within Ourselves

[Update added.]

I've come across one item that merits a followup to my recent discussion of the entirely false controversy about the "Ground Zero mosque," and of the bigotry that is the source of opposition to the "mosque."

One of the themes constantly repeated by many opponents to the construction of Cordoba House is that they recognize the right for the project to be built, and their objection is only to the project's planned location. This is the formulation offered by John Boehner, for example: "The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding."

I discussed the illegitimacy of the reasons for objecting to the particular site in the earlier post, and let's leave that aside for this discussion. Here, I'm focused only on the fact that opponents almost always say that they have no problem with the project being built anywhere else -- they just don't want it at or near Ground Zero. This is the obvious implication of Boehner's statement, and many other opponents have said the same. Many opponents also note that there are many mosques (some of them actual mosques!) elsewhere in New York City, perhaps as many as 100.

If they're comfortable with mosques anywhere else in New York City, just not at or very near Ground Zero, they should be completely comfortable with mosques outside the city altogether, correct? They certainly should be comfortable with mosques scattered around the United States, sometimes thousands of miles from Ground Zero.

Are they? Not three thousand miles away, in California:
The dispute over the mosque is just the most prominent in a series of debates around the country where Muslim groups have sought to build mosques. In the community of Temecula, Calif., where a proposed mosque has sparked an intense dispute, Mr. Obama's comments spurred a surge of letters to local newspapers decrying his statements. Pastor William Rench of Calvary Baptist Church, next door to the proposed mosque site, said he now expected opposition to the mosque plan to harden.

"It will galvanize their desire for resistance to the mosque," he said. "It confirms in their minds the idea that Mr. Obama seems to be more accommodating to the Islamic world than he is for the Christian representation in America."


[S]ince he has begun reading more commentary from American Islamic leaders, he said, he has grown concerned about extremist statements such as one imam declaring Islam the "dominant" religion. He said he now worried that a large mosque could attract an extremist crowd in contrast to the current local Muslim community.
From the same story, some people don't seem all that comfortable in Tennessee:
In Tennessee, where the growing Muslim community wants to build a larger mosque in Murfreesboro, Darrel Whaley of Milton said the president's remarks angered him. A local pastor at Kingdom Ministries Worship Center, Mr. Whaley has spoken at county meetings against plans for the mosque and recreational facilities.

Asked how the president's comments might influence the local debate over the Islamic center, Mr. Whaley said Mr. Obama "didn't help it any, that's for sure." Mr. Whaley said he was concerned that "if Islam comes in with the Sharia law, there's not going to be any such thing as religious freedom."
The situation is markedly better in Wisconsin, but note opponents' concern about "extremists" there, as well:
Recently approved plans to establish a mosque in Sheboygan County, Wis., have also stirred intense feelings. Imam Mohammad Hamad, president of the Islamic Society of Sheboygan, appreciated Mr. Obama's emphasis on religious freedom. "The issue here is not the issue of a religious building, it is an issue of the Constitution," he said. Another Sheboygan mosque supporter, the Rev. Gregory S. Whelton, a pastor at St. John's United Church of Christ in Sheboygan, said Mr. Obama articulated the same issues of religious tolerance that were at stake there.

"It falls right in with the middle of our debate," he said, adding that the local debate centered on religious tolerance and opponents' concerns that the mosque would attract extremists, a notion Rev. Whelton called "really funny."
Yet even Whelton expresses doubts about the "Ground Zero mosque": "'To do it in light of what has happened,' he said, 'I'm not sure I would agree with that. But as far as their right to do it, absolutely.'" At least Whelton did support the building of a mosque in his own backyard, which is much more than can be said of many of the other "anywhere but Ground Zero" opponents.

And that's the point: many of the "anywhere but Ground Zero" opponents don't mean it when they say they're fine with mosques being built in other places. There are some individuals like Whelton who will actively support construction of a mosque in their own cities and neighborhoods, but they're rare. Most of the "Ground Zero mosque" opponents don't want any mosques constructed anywhere, period.

Given the opponents' beliefs, their across the board opposition to Islam and any of its manifestations is entirely consistent and unsurprising. Remember the statement from one mosque opponent mentioned in the WSJ story: "Mr. Whaley said he was concerned that 'if Islam comes in with the Sharia law, there's not going to be any such thing as religious freedom.'" The same hysteria appears at the conclusion of the WSJ article:
Mr. Obama's remarks quickly energized local opponents of the proposed mosque. Gary Berntsen, a New York Republican Senate candidate, fired off a statement Friday criticizing the president's comments. In an interview Sunday, Mr. Berntsen, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency officer who served in Afghanistan, said a mosque near Ground Zero would become a national security risk.

"He missed the point that people found this offensive because it's very, very close to Ground Zero," he said. "That mosque will become a magnet for militants. They will be drawn there in large numbers, and they will seek to impose themselves on that mosque, regardless of who the leaders are."

Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, founder of a group called Stop Islamization of America and a vocal opponent of the mosque near Ground Zero, blasted Mr. Obama in a statement. The president, she said, "has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists."
To be candid, I would expect to see these three paragraphs in a textbook on severe clinical neurosis, more particularly, neurosis that combines fantastic grandiosity with delusions of universal persecution. I would not expect to see them in a newspaper article discussing a current controversy -- that is, I wouldn't but for the fact that I've been paying careful attention to this phenomenon ever since 9/11 revealed that a significant number of Americans enthusiastically embrace dangerously distorted views of the world. This kind of delusional thinking has become part of our new "normal."

Consider the immense distance between such views and the operative facts, even interpreting those facts in the most negative and threatening of lights. A mosque, anywhere at all and even at Ground Zero, is "a national security risk"? It's going to be "a magnet for militants"? While all this is happening, what's going on with the NY Police, or the many-headed hydra of the national surveillance state? They all fell into a deep coma? They're all on permanent vacation? "Hey, the militants are magneting at the national security risk mosque! Let's keep on fishin'!" I mock such views because such views are stupidly insane as well as insanely stupid.

I also find it wonderfully amusing that Berntsen is "a former senior Central Intelligence Agency officer." Dementia of this kind frequently sprouts in the ever-fertile brains of "intelligence" officers. I recently wrote about the fundamental fraud of "intelligence" and why its greatest significance is its utility as propaganda. All too often, the greater one's devotion to "intelligence" work, the greater one's removal from anything remotely connected to reality.

And Pamela Geller with her "Stop Islamization of America." Good God. Truly, what can one say? The United States spends more on defense than all the rest of the world combined. It has the most powerful military that has ever existed in the entire history of the planet. The U.S. has weapons that could wipe out all of human life many times over. How exactly is it that the U.S. is going to be eviscerated, exploded and/or trampled by "Islamization," with Sharia law being imposed in all 50 states? Hmm? Howzat happen, my friend? These dreaded enemies are having a lot of trouble just building a few mosques, and the one near Ground Zero isn't even a "mosque" as that term is commonly understood. But they're going to take over the world? This is cartoon political analysis, leavened with severe psychological disturbance.

This is where we come to the horrifying truth about this ludicrously overblown, even hysterical viewpoint. While people like Berntsen, Geller and their many compatriots are furiously denouncing the enemy they perceive as the "apocalyptic crusader," the awful fact is that they themselves are crusaders of precisely the kind they condemn. Some months ago, I discussed the vicious racism displayed by Tunku Varadarajan, and this was one of my major points. [See the Update, which discusses Varadarajan's views on the "mosque" controversy.] For while Varadarajan and the opponents of the "Ground Zero mosque" are consumed by irrational loathing of the fearsome, despised Other, they reveal that it is they themselves who are the source of the evils they condemn:
I will observe that if one chooses to engage in this kind of demonization of huge groups of what are, in fact, individual human beings, individuals possessed of widely different convictions and exhibiting greatly variable behavior (as is true of all such broad designations), you might more profitably start with Christians. For much of human history, that is also where you can end. In that connection, I've written at length about the "apocalyptic crusader" psychology, one which has led to horrifying consequences in the foreign policy of the United States. Among my articles on that subject are: "The Apocalyptic Crusader: Redemption, Purification and a New World -- Through Sacred Violence and Death" and "The Apocalyptic Crusader, Continued: American Apocalypse."
Those who repeatedly and furiously denounce the "Ground Zero mosque," as they speak in horrified tones of the coming conquest of America by Islam, tremble before one possibility far more than any enemy they have chosen to identify. Their capacity for more accurate perception and even minimal self-awareness is altogether obliterated by their greatest of all fears: that they might have to hold up a mirror to their own souls and see the diseased, twisted nature of what they have allowed to permanently reside there.

Such people cannot be reasoned with, and it is futile to try. But we should always remember what it is that actually drives them to such destructive rage, and that it has nothing at all to do with the source they are willing to identify. This pattern is, of course, as old as humankind. What we loathe in ourselves, we place in others. Then we destroy those others, believing we thus destroy what we loathe.

But the enemy still lives, inside us. Until that is understood, the battle will never end, nor will the destruction, the suffering and the death.

UPDATE: I refer above to "Varadarajan and the opponents of the 'Ground Zero mosque...'" The "and" was important: when I wrote that, I was aware that I didn't know Varadarajan's views about the "mosque." He might have agreed with the opponents; he might not have. The "and" was not intended to equate Varadarajan with the opponents with regard to the mosque specifically -- but in connection with the racism they share, which is the more fundamental issue.

In fact, Varadarajan does not agree with those opposed to the "mosque." In his column, he refers to "Many of us who are libertarian..." May the gods save us from another "libertarian," especially one who writes vicious racist screeds such as "Going Muslim," which I discussed here. And may they save us from "libertarians" who write vicious attacks on Julian Assange and Wikileaks, which I analyzed in the concluding section of this article.

And it is the combination of those other views of Varadarajan's that make his own support for Cordoba House ultimately meaningless. Yes, it's very marginally better than being opposed, but only on this single question. And to consider it "better," we have to disregard the meaning and implications of Varadarajan's other views. If we keep all of Varadarajan's views in mind, his support is meaningless in the same way that Obama's initial remarks were meaningless. Even a war criminal like Obama, and even a vicious racist like Varadarajan, can happen to be right on one issue. It means nothing.

Having said that, emphasizing that is what's most important here, Varadarajan criticizes Obama's backpedaling in ways with which I am largely in agreement. However, and it's a very significant however, when Varadarajan moves into the broader policy reasons as to why the "mosque" should be built, he enthusiastically embraces American exceptionalism in an especially false and dangerous form:
Obama had the chance to make a larger, grander, more beautiful point. America will let a mosque be built near ground zero—yes, hallowed ground, defiled by Islamist terrorists—because we are a great nation, more tolerant, more civilized, more open to debate and to resolution of conflict by words, more enlightened, elevated, proud, polished, humane, unafraid, accommodating, gracious, and resilient than any other place in the world.
"Than any other place in the world"! Focus on just one part of this peroration (we'd consider all of it, but our spirit and body protest in ways we dare not ignore): America is "more open ... to resolution of conflict by words..."

America peacefully resolves conflict more than any other place in the world? Seriously? About a nation whose government criminally occupies one country following a criminal war of aggression, makes criminal war in another country, seeks to widen that war to more countries, and threatens still more countries that refuse to behave exactly as the U.S. demands? About a nation that systematically uses torture as a legitimate method of warfare? And so forth and so on. See this recent article for more.

It's one hell of a way to resolve "conflict by words..." We may do that here and there in isolated domestic matters, but it has precious little to do with any aspect of U.S. foreign policy, which uniformly relies on covert operations, overthrow, outright war, occupation, etc., all in the drive to worldwide hegemony. (It also has less and less to do with domestic policy: "Terrorist State, Abroad and at Home.") And someone who so fully embraces American exceptionalism will also necessarily embrace the most primitive form of racism -- because racism lies at the heart of American exceptionalism itself.

So the fact that Varadarajan happens to support the "mosque" near Ground Zero means less than nothing. He remains, as I said before, a thoroughly vile human being.

August 15, 2010

Bob and Herb Have a Talk

[This scene is offered in connection with the issues raised here. In the early 1960s, conversations like this happened in many homes across America. As we know all too well, such conversations have never stopped. The races and ethnicities may alter; the basic dynamics do not. In far too many cases, even the races and ethnicities are the same.

So let's pick a date, say, April 1962. I don't pick that date for any particular reason, although I have first-hand experience with the general atmosphere of the time period, as indicated by my description of the "nice" suburban town where I grew up. Bob and Herb are sitting in Bob's living room after dinner, while their wives clean up and chat in the kitchen. Bob and Herb live in a suburb of a major metropolitan area.]

BOB (as he pulls a bottle out of the liquor cabinet): Say, Herb, my boss gave me this bottle of single malt after the work I did on the Capitol Carpet account. Want to try some?

HERB: Single malt? You bet!

BOB (pours out drinks for them, gives one to Herb, and sits down in his easy chair; they taste the wares): Man, that's good stuff.

HERB: Boy, oh, boy. Great! That was a great dinner that Beth cooked, too.

BOB: Yeah, the little lady does a swell job in the kitchen. She's a keeper! (They both laugh. They sample the single malt again.) Say, did you hear about that family that put in a bid on the house over on Magnolia?

HERB: The Smith house? (His tone grows heavier.) Yeah, I heard about that.

BOB: What do you think? Anything we can do about it?

HERB: I heard a couple of guys talking about it at the club yesterday. One of them talked to his lawyer. The lawyer said it's all perfectly legal. Not a damned thing we can do to stop it.

BOB: He sure about that? Maybe there's something funny about the construction of the house, something we could say violates some ordinance. There must be something we can use.

HERB: He didn't think so. Anyway, we might not want to make a big deal out of it, publicly at least. It might get a lot of attention and just make everything worse. I don't see how it could be any worse, but still...

BOB: Yeah, maybe you're right. (He takes another drink, thinks it over some more.) Maybe someone should talk to the broker or even to the family that wants the house, but, you know, quietly, off the record. Explain what's what to them. I mean, they'd be the first family like that to live here. It's just asking for trouble. Not from you or me, of course, but everyone else isn't as broadminded as we are.

HERB: Yeah, you can say that again. I heard Jim Warren talking about it. I hadn't heard some of those expressions since I left the Army. Man, was he mad! (He laughs, and Bob joins in the laughter.) That's why it's such a bad idea. It's like I always say: just because you have the right to do something, that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

BOB: Or the smart thing. Why would that family go looking for so much grief? Better to go where they're wanted. Look at the Weinbergers. Took them about four years to finally start to fit in. But I wonder if they think it was worth it now. Things were pretty rough for them for a long time there.

HERB: Yeah, but that shows how accepting we can be. We got used to it. Of course, they aren't in some of the clubs or organizations in town, but in most other ways, they're like everyone else.

BOB: Yeah, but this situation here is different, completely different.

HERB: You can say that again.

BOB: It's just obvious we aren't the same in most ways. It's as plain as the nose on your face. (Bob pauses and looks at Herb. As the meaning sinks in, Herb leans over and slaps Bob on the back, and they both laugh again.) But, you know, I mean the way we speak, the way we live, what we think, the kinds of problems we have, none of it's the same.

HERB: I know. Why wouldn't they want to stay with their own kind? Oh, they have kids, too. Can you imagine what it'll be like at school, our kids mixing with theirs?

BOB: Christ, I hadn't even thought about that. I don't want my kids in the same classes with them. And gym and sports? Even taking showers together? Oh, no, don't want any part of that. Damn, I wonder if Beth knows about that. She'll have a fit.

HERB: So what are we going to do?

BOB: I'll give the broker a call tomorrow. And let's get some of the guys together, see if we know some other family that can buy that house. A good, solid family, people we can trust. Let's ask the wives, too. They may have heard of someone who's looking to move into a nice town.

HERB: Well, we'd better do something to make sure it stays a nice town. Look, I know those people have had it pretty rough. But I did, too, you know. Nobody gave me a damned thing. Had to work for everything I've got.

BOB: Me, too. Nothing was handed to me. Earned it all the hard way. I don't see why everyone can't do the same thing. That's what makes America great! And none of us gets everything we want. All of us end up on the short end of the stick sometimes. Life's full of disappointments.

HERB: You got that right. And sometimes you have to draw a line. Some things just aren't meant to be.

BOB: We're very happy here. It's a really friendly town, full of nice people. Be a damned shame if all that got shot to hell. And for what? So that one family can get what they want? And if they understood all the trouble they're in for, they probably wouldn't even want it.

HERB: Okay, so we have a plan then. We'll work it out. We'll stop it. Somehow.

BOB: Oh, yeah, we'll stop it all right. Yes, we will.

(Bob pours them both another drink. They sit reflecting on it further. They look very grim.)

August 14, 2010

Damn It: For Once, Obama (Briefly) Happened to be Right

[Update added.]

To begin, I've said over and over and over that Obama is a war criminal. As I also often say, it's not an arguable point. Read this damned post. Read this one, too. If you wish to be minimally consistent, if you want to apply to the U.S. and its leaders the same standards and principles that the U.S. applies to everyone else, then Obama (and Biden, and McCain, and Bush, and Cheney, and Hillary Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice, etc., etc., etc.) are war criminals.

It is also the case that even war criminals can make a statement that happens to be true. That doesn't mean they cease being war criminals, or that we should loathe them less or, may the heavens forbid, admire them in the slightest degree. It means only that in this one instance, they happen to be right.

As is the case with Obama's comments about the "mosque" being proposed for the neighborhood of Ground Zero:
Obama himself had steered clear of the issue for weeks, with his spokesman Robert Gibbs telling reporters that it was primarily a local issue. But at a Friday White House Iftar dinner, Obama said that while he understands Ground Zero is “hallowed ground,” he told a group of Muslims that he believes they have “the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in the country.”

“And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.”
The part I highlighted is especially crucial, and what Obama said is absolutely correct.

He's still a war criminal.

On the subject of the "mosque," Tom Knapp explains the two huge lies at the center of this invented controversy with admirable clarity. It's not a "mosque" using the commonly understood meaning of that term, and it's not planned to be built on Ground Zero. Knapp includes a little Google Map so you can see that it's not on Ground Zero. As Knapp also points out (he doesn't phrase it this way, because he's far more polite than I am), if you want to be consistent in your opposition to the "mosque," get rid of the goddamned Roman Catholic Church that's even closer to Ground Zero than the planned Cordoba House. (I put goddamned in there just to be certain that any unsuspecting passersby are deeply offended, as well as irreparably damaged. At least, I hope they're irreparably damaged.)

Not a mosque. Not on Ground Zero. Therefore, no controversy.

Unless, that is, you're a vicious bigot. I'm not going to set out (again) a detailed argument about why you have to be a vicious bigot to be vehemently opposed to building a "mosque" on Ground Zero. One fact tells you a lot about those so strongly opposed to this proposal right off the bat: that they insist on speaking about a "mosque" being built on Ground Zero. Their refusal to give up these two fundamental lies tells you a great deal.

Beyond that, opposition to this project finally reduces to unreasoning, blind, notably vicious racism -- of the kind I've previously analyzed here and here. It's a sickening subject, and I don't care to revisit it in detail at the moment. But I will note that the second linked post explains how this racism has been at the very heart of U.S. foreign policy for more than a century. Little wonder then that those who so strongly oppose the "mosque" are the same people who so profoundly support a foreign policy of aggressive, violent, non-stop interventionism, using brutality and murder to impose "civilization" on "inferior" cultures and peoples (the last point being an issue I discussed recently in my series on Wikileaks).

I want to mention two other aspects of this story. First, there's this:
Several New York Democrats either involved with members of Congress or strategists said privately that they are not happy about the speech because it puts them in a bind. A recent CNN poll found two-thirds of Americans oppose building the mosque in the neighborhood around Ground Zero.
Ah, the voice of the people!

The people are an ignorant ass.

You have to admit that, in a sick, twisted kind of way, this is very damned funny. Here you have a country that endlessly proclaims its dedication to individual rights. But when controversies like this arise -- make that: especially when controversies like this arise -- people's immediate argument of choice is to appeal to public opinion polls. Two-thirds of Americans agree with me!

That is: two-thirds of Americans are profoundly ignorant and/or vicious bigots.

An idiotic majority of people who are mostly idiots agree with me! That means it's the right position! Now there's a foundation for government action and State planning, especially for a nation dedicated to individual rights.

Fuck, people. I mean, fuck. Can't you do any better? I've been over this particular ground before, too: see here. The joke is even better when "libertarians" use polls as alleged support for their positions. Teh funnee! As that earlier post noted, "libertarians" use public opinion polls to support discriminatory, blatantly racist immigration laws. Hmm, racism again. Doctor Watson, I detect a theme here! That earlier post also mentions that almost three-quarters of Americans opposed racial intermarriage -- one year after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. At least one branch of government doesn't always bow down to the god of public opinion. Hardly coincidentally, I saw last week that Reynolds used a poll to impliedly demonstrate the "correctness" of the anti-"mosque" position. You can find it yourself, if you care. I guarantee you I read it -- and he'd offered the identical "argument" for immigration laws, so why wouldn't he? But I've read enough shit on this subject for several months at a minimum.

Hell: here you go. See? I'm a conscientious blogger. Does my masochism earn your admiration? It damn well better. And note that all those "good" Americans oppose "the Ground Zero mosque." Ignorant bigots opining about lies! I'm convinced!

The other issue which is appallingly clear in the Politico story is the rapidity and determination with which the Democrats run away from anything which might however remotely be viewed as negative in strictly political terms, that is, with regard to getting votes this fall. Never mind that an issue of very significant political principle is involved: the Democrats will do and say anything to get elected and keep their majorities.

So Obama is already scrambling to undo any undesirable effects of his comments yesterday: "President Barack Obama on Saturday sought to defuse the controversy over his remarks ...," and “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” and so on. O brave Obama!

The Democrats are, as always, a nauseating collection of unprincipled creeps. Martin Frost: "While a defensible position, it will not play well in the parts of the country where Democrats need the most help.” It's not "a defensible position." What Obama said yesterday is the right position, and it's the only right position on this question.

More from the Politico story:
Democratic aides say that, at the very least, the president has again knocked his party's candidates off local messages and forced them to talk about a national issue that doesn't appear likely to play well with important swing voters.

"The main reaction is 'Why? Why now?’" said one House Democratic leadership aide. "It's just another day off message. There have been a lot of days off message."

The chief of staff to one politically vulnerable House Democrat said it "probably alienates a lot of independent voters" and "it's not a good issue to be talking about right now."

He said he suspects "there are a lot of (Democrats) who are spooked in tough districts today" and "a lot of Republicans licking their chops right now."
On and on it goes. If you're a masochist, too, read the whole sorry article.

Keep in mind one critical distinction. When I say the Democrats are "unprincipled," I mean only that they're unprincipled with regard to what they claim their principles are. In fact, they're not unprincipled at all. It's just that the principles that actually concern them are not ones they care to identify to anyone else, least of all to voters.

For the past century, and despite some differences on derivative issues, the Democrats and Republicans have been in full agreement on the fundamentals. Both Democrats and Republicans want an authoritarian-corporatist-militarist state, just as they both want a constantly increasing surveillance state. I've been over these issues in numerous articles (here, here, here, follow the internal links for much more).

This episode involving the "mosque" also brings into clearer focus a point that I and others have been making for some time. If, God forbid, there is another terrorist attack on U.S. soil which is the equivalent of 9/11 or even worse, you can kiss good-bye whatever liberties you might believe remain to you. They'll be entirely gone, almost certainly for the rest of your lifetime at a minimum.

The worst thing of all is that, in the wake of such an attack -- if five or ten thousand Americans are dead, or possibly even more (and as I said, God forbid, and Christ knows I mean it, for this and countless other reasons) -- a majority of Americans will probably be glad to have a far more brazenly dictatorial government. At that point, with the slaughter being endlessly replayed on every television network, the indefinite "detention" of anyone considered at all "suspicious," the censoring of "dangerous," possibly "terrorist-related" material (including blogs), the complete suspension of the right to assembly, etc. ad nauseam, will be what the majority of Americans want. The politicians, both Democratic and Republican, will be more than happy to give it to them.

A year or two later, some Americans will begin to have regrets. A few will timidly venture the opinion that perhaps we went "too far." Then, it won't matter. Then, it will be far, far too late.

The ruling class, including almost every Democrat and Republican in Washington, know that, too. They'll probably even provide opportunities for a few "dissenters" to make their objections known, so Americans can continue to tell themselves that the First Amendment still exists and continues to have some meaning. The ruling class is expert at meaningless charades of that kind.

But life as you've known it, as you believe it to be, will be entirely dead. In fact, it's dead now. The Obama administration already claims it has the "right" to murder anyone in the world for any reason at all. You can't get more dead than that.

You don't smell the rotting corpse yet. That's all.

Well. That wasn't cheerful in the least, especially for a weekend. Sorry about that.

There is one thing you can do: withdraw your support for an evil system of this kind, in every way possible (and I do mean every way possible). Wikileaks provides you a wonderful model for doing so; as I discussed in the final section of this article, Julian Assange has shown that when you withdraw your support, those who would rule us have nothing.

And as I mentioned in the concluding paragraphs here, imagine a world with ten, or even a hundred, Wikileaks organizations. I was discussing that possibility with some friends recently and remarked: Then we might finally get somewhere!

Goddamn, yes. As one of my friends said in response: The many Wikileaks world! There's an idea to cheer you up.

UPDATE: In an Update to his own post about this, Lambert links to this entry, noting that the Cordoba Center is not, in fact, a "mosque," and goes on to say: "Personally, I don't care if it's the Islamic equivalent of St. Peter's."

I almost added a sentence to my original post to this effect: "As far as I'm concerned, I don't give a damn if someone were to build a gigantic actual mosque right in the damned middle of Ground Zero." I didn't say that, simply because that's not this controversy which, as demonstrated above and in Knapp's post, is built on nothing but lies combined with primitive racism. (And I've said it now, so there you go. The miracle of blogging!)

But if someone were to propose building a gigantic actual mosque right smack in the middle of Ground Zero, let's have that debate! I would welcome it. And given the U.S. government's ongoing campaign of slaughter and destruction targeted at Muslims in various locations around the world, a real mosque at Ground Zero would be a serious gesture of reconciliation, if that word were finally to have some genuine meaning. Of course, the action that would be most meaningful, as well as most humane and entirely right, would be the complete cessation of that campaign of slaughter and destruction...

But, God, I wish a real mosque at Ground Zero would happen, or even be proposed. Just think of all the racist, bigoted heads exploding...

August 13, 2010

Proudly on Wikileaks' Side

I recently discussed the Pentagon's "demand" that Wikileaks cancel any plans to publish additional materials, and that Wikileaks "pull back" all the documents it has already released. It would appear the Pentagon believes that Wikileaks is staffed by monks living in secret caves, producing but a handful of illuminated manuscripts with infinite patience over many decades. "Pull back those illuminated manuscripts!" cries the Pentagon. "All nine of them!" So much for the U.S. government's understanding of the realities of the internet age. I suggest you avoid serious or prolonged contemplation of the fact that those who run the U.S. military combine the most frighteningly destructive power ever known to humankind with a level of understanding permanently halted somewhere around 1150 A.D.

About this earlier performance by the Pentagon, I observed: "If the Pentagon and its press secretary did not speak on behalf of a government that embodies unrelenting, world-historical evil, this would be merely funny. As it is, the amusement is that offered by especially vicious practitioners of Grand Guignol who are execrable farceurs. The laughter drips blood and suffering."

By his glorious refusal to obey the orders of serial murderers, Julian Assange has revealed that those who would rule us are entirely powerless once you withdraw your support. If you refuse to obey, if you say "No" -- and if you mean it, as Assange does -- they have nothing.

Since they have been rendered powerless in this encounter, but because they have no means of expression other than to continue this inept effort at Grand Guignol laced with the hysterical laughter of a deranged killer, the Pentagon offers us another chapter of this doomed attempt to regain a semblance of control:
The Pentagon says it believes the next document dump by WikiLeaks will be even more damaging to national security and the war effort than the organization's initial release of some 76,000 war files.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Thursday that the military believes it has identified the additional 15,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks has vowed to release.

Morrell declined to identify the documents other than to say that their exposure would be even more damaging than the thousands already published.
Consider the infinite tragedy of the Pentagon's dilemma.

Here we have the most fearsome military machine in history. At the moment, it continues a criminal occupation of one country (which country the U.S. has utterly destroyed, not coincidentally), an occupation which follows a criminal war of aggression, while the same military pursues a criminal war in another country. It also seeks to widen this war into additional neighboring countries, while it continues to threaten still more countries that refuse to behave exactly as the U.S. demands, although those countries are entirely within their rights to do so.

Simultaneously, the U.S. has launched operations "in at least 75 countries, and made "[p]lans ... for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world." And the U.S. continues to utilize torture systematically, as a "legitimate" method of waging war. Despite Obama's repeated claims to have "ended" torture, the U.S.'s use of torture has never ceased even for a moment (1, 2).

We must add that the current rulers of American Empire claim the "right" to murder anyone in the world, for any reason they choose -- or for no reason at all. Considering all these factors, one and only one conclusion is indicated, indeed compelled: the leaders of American Empire are war criminals. I repeat once more my constant refrain on this issue: if you read the linked post, you will see that this is not an arguable point in any respect. Since it cannot be argued, it is ignored completely.

So let's be sure to understand the Pentagon's position. Led and directed by war criminals, the Pentagon engages in criminal occupation, criminal war, the instigation of wider war, unceasing threats against non-existent dangers, and systematic torture. Of course, we could add much more to this list, but time is not unlimited. But according to the Pentagon itself, with regard to this monstrous and murderous behavior, we're now supposed to regret that Wikileaks' next release of documents might be "even more damaging to national security and the war effort"?

As the previous homicidal Leader of Empire was heard to say: "Bring it on!" Bring on more and more and more documents. Don't just "damage" the continuation of criminal war and murder: if you can, stop these bastards in their tracks.

One widely-read writer who consistently supports the Empire in its course of death and destruction recently stated that he thinks Assange is "a tool." For years, the same writer has propagated a vicious smear, maintaining that those who oppose the American Death State aren't antiwar, but "just on the other side." As with all smears of this kind, he carefully selects isolated instances of behavior that almost anyone would judge negatively, and focuses on a few individuals of questionable moral status. Using this meaningless and intentionally distorted foundation, he offers a very broad conclusion: that anyone who is seriously opposed to the American Empire's ceaseless campaign of conquest, brutalization and murder is "on the other side." (As one example, note the second item at the preceding link, concerning "Code Pink's head-scratching war on drones," which offers a typically complete inversion of the facts. By the way, it was Reynolds who approvingly linked the loathsome Varadarajan article discussed in the concluding section of this article, which is how I happened to see it.)

Julian Assange seeks to stop the murder and the torture. He seeks to stop the monstrous cruelty. He acts to protect innocent human life.

If this is what it means to be a "tool," if this is what being "on the other side" now signifies, then, yes: you bet your lying ass I'm on the other side, motherfucker.

Yet even now, I'm perfectly willing to be magnanimous on one point, and I'm prepared to acknowledge Reynolds' disdain for those who are merely "tools." Surely Reynolds himself is no tool, despite the fact that on every significant matter, he speaks on behalf of the ruling class and its agenda. (We will but note one rather glaring inconsistency. In the Age of Obama, Reynolds writes endless posts proclaiming that the government, and most especially the Democrats, aren't to be trusted on anything, most particularly not on anything to do with domestic and economic policy. In that realm, Reynolds considers them to be entirely ignorant, when not viciously punitive. Yet somehow, in one of those magical transformations that are never explained, when it comes to matters of war and murder, the government uniformly acts out of the highest motives and the deepest understanding, on behalf of liberty and peace. If Reynolds and his many followers have any complaint at all with regard to foreign policy, it is only that the United States doesn't bomb and kill enough. Thus, on economic and domestic policy: Worse than useless and ignorant. On war, conquest and murder: More, please! For the defenders of Empire, the contradiction doesn't even exist.)

But we decline to follow Reynolds' own example. We will not disparage Reynolds by calling him a "tool." Rather, we should adopt terms that he himself would seem to prefer: he is a fully knowing, intentional, systematic propagandist.

And I am "on the other side," on Wikileaks' side -- and very proudly so.

August 12, 2010

That's Lovely, But It Actually Matters Right Now

I see that Naked Capitalism today links an article of mine about the fraud of "intelligence." The linked article (this one) is from three years ago.

In light of my discussion just the other day about the non-durability of most blogging and the rise of the superhuman army of what I call "60-second Arendts," it's rather amusing to see some notice paid to a piece from the summer of 2007. What is not quite so amusing is that Naked Capitalism fails to note that the older article was mentioned in a recent installment of my ongoing series about Wikileaks: "Good-bye to All That." (I'm certain my own recent mention of it is the only reason a three-year-old article came to anyone's attention this week.) That is: these issues are critically related to a major news story right now, which I myself view as the obviously more significant point. That is especially true when these issues help to explain a crucial aspect of Wikileaks' genuinely radical approach that I feel is far too little appreciated.

But I only wrote the articles in question, so what the hell do I know. Nonetheless, I added a couple of paragraphs at the beginning of the older article, noting its relevance today and directing people to the current article. If I sound a bit irritated, it's because I am. This pattern is overly familiar to me. As one example, this, also from 2007. I could provide many more examples ... hell, here you go. And here. When articles such as those are noticed, if they are at all, it's usually only three or four years after the fact. Under no circumstances should you pay any heed to what I'm writing now. Come back in 2013 at the earliest.

In any case, thanks to Naked Capitalism for the link. Our manners remain intact even under pressure. :>))

August 10, 2010

On Wikileaks (VII): Take Up the Wikileaks Challenge with Pride and Honor

Three False Criticisms of Wikileaks, and the Rush to Irrelevance and Error

Three interconnected criticisms of Wikileaks, and of the recently released Afghanistan material, merit consideration. These particular criticisms can be summarized as follows:

"These materials don't tell us anything new, or anything we didn't already know."

"While the materials may contain points of interest, they certainly aren't the Pentagon Papers!" (The exclamation point is always implied at a minimum.)

"Perhaps Wikileaks is to be commended in certain respects. Sad to say, though, this won't stop the war."

All three points were announced within a day of the latest Wikileaks story breaking in the news; sometimes, they were put forth within hours. This was true of both mainstream media and of the overwhelming majority of blog posts.

Not one of the criticisms is valid. They are all either woefully inaccurate or largely beside the point. Taken together -- and the first two are almost always offered in combination, with the third frequently added as a further reason to set this story aside as another non-event -- the arguments render each other incoherent. If one appreciates the issues involved and knows the actual history that is referenced, the arguments explode one another.

In significant part, these related failures are the inevitable result of our culture's insistence on speed as a primary virtue. Mainstream media, following their purpose of providing daily news (among other purposes), are expected to provide almost immediate reports of breaking news. With regard to blogs, it is worth noting that, for all the talk (largely from bloggers themselves) about "breaking new ground" and providing truly "independent" perspectives, blogs have copied this aspect of traditional media behavior with close to absolute fidelity. Of course, the internet greatly increases the speed at which purported "analysis" is offered.

Immediate reporting without more is unquestionably of value. Especially with regard to developments that indisputably will (or very probably will) have significant implications, we want to know of breaking events as quickly as possible. Yet if we reflect on what kinds of events fall into this category, we will appreciate that they are very few in number. Major weather or geological events (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) and the initiation of military action obviously qualify. Most of the rest of the "news" does not.

But such distinctions are almost entirely lost now: everything is "news," and it is here today (or even only for a few hours), and gone tomorrow. Everything passes, and nothing is remembered; usually, nothing is understood. This is certainly true of almost all blogging, and it is increasingly true of traditional media. From one perspective, the rise of blogging and its growing influence are an enormous boon. Certainly they are for me personally. Without the internet and blogging, I most probably would never have written most or even any of my essays, and you would never have read them. In that sense, and leaving aside the dubious moral quality of such criticism, I definitely do not come to bury blogging.

Yet from a different, and hopefully broader, perspective, there are aspects of what we might call "blogging culture" which are darkly baleful in their effects. For bloggers offer not just reports about what has happened, but simultaneously provide what purports to be analysis of what it means. But do any of us truly believe that 99% of blog posts will be remembered five years from now, or even one, or even next week? No, we don't. (I have a very faint hope that some of my essays may not fall into the same pool of forgetfulness, but then, with momentary exceptions here and there, I never wanted to do blogging of that kind. In any case, time will tell. I have no expectation that it will be notably kind in my own case.)

Nonetheless, it appears to be the commonly accepted view that the almost instant analysis offered by blogs has serious merit and represents a valid, considered perspective. I am filled with admiration, mixed with indescribable astonishment, that we have evolved so far that the world is filled with 60-second Arendts. It is truly a wonder for the ages.

Comparatively speaking, and speaking even in absolute terms, I'm a plodder. When the Wikileaks-Afghanistan story broke, I appreciated one primary aspect of it almost immediately, but only one. That aspect was noted in my first post about the story. While that aspect was important, I quickly sensed that far more was involved -- not only with regard to the specifics of the released material, but in connection with Wikileaks itself and the role it plays when set against the State, both in general terms and as embodied by the United States more particularly.

I began to set out these further reflections in my next post about Wikileaks, which appeared two days later. That post described some of the ways in which I was trying to analyze the issues involved. I won't revisit the development of my arguments here; you can consult the links to previous installments at the conclusion of this post. My point is that many aspects of my arguments only became clear to me as I continued to reflect on these matters, and that required time and what I hoped was careful thought. I will also freely acknowledge that, in my own view, it was not until I arrived at parts five and six that I began to feel truly comfortable with this material: that I had finally appreciated the various elements involved and how they informed one another.

That process took two weeks, and the process continues today. Two weeks is still fast in terms of how we think about time in many aspects of our lives, but in "blog time" it's an eternity. Most bloggers have already moved on; for the most part, they moved on within days of the initial reports of the release of the Afghanistan materials.

The first installment of the Pentagon Papers was published by The New York Times on June 13, 1971. In an issue of The New York Review of Books dated November 18, 1971, Hannah Arendt's essay about certain issues raised by the Pentagon Papers was published: "Lying in Politics: Reflections on The Pentagon Papers." The essay, with minor revisions, is republished in Crises of the Republic.

Arendt's essay was first published five months after the story broke. Five months! What a dawdler. Yet Arendt's essay is still consulted four decades after she wrote it, as well it should be. Last evening, I sat down and reread "Lying in Politics" in its entirety for the first time in a long time; I reread parts of it multiple times. I'd intended to do this ever since the Wikileaks story appeared, and I'm only sorry I waited until yesterday.

Even The Pentagon Papers Weren't "The Pentagon Papers"

The subheading immediately above is intended to convey that the now commonly accepted view of the Pentagon Papers and their significance is largely mythological. None of that mythology corresponds to the facts and, of critical importance, even to the facts as they were understood in 1971. (The general formulation of my subheading is one I've used before in connection with notable distortions of the historical record. See, for example, "Even Churchill Wasn't Churchill." Let it be noted that the article, from July 2006, concludes: "ON TO IRAN!!!" Damnably enough, some things never change.

That essay, and the previous longer article it references, detail how the image of Churchill as a principled foe of the immense danger of Nazi Germany, at a time when he supposedly stood alone against the "appeasers," is entirely a myth. Moreover, it is a myth that Churchill himself created in large part. The actual record establishes beyond question that Churchill waffled on the question of Nazi Germany and how it should be opposed, if at all, as much as anyone else. And such opposition as he offered was not principled in the least, at least it had nothing to do with the principles Churchill later attributed to his actions. Without question, Churchill was one of the most deeply contemptible and unprincipled leaders of the twentieth century.)

In the final section of her Pentagon Papers essay, Arendt summarizes "the aspects of the Pentagon papers" that she has chosen to discuss as "the aspects of deception, self-deception, image-making, ideologizing, and defactualization." She notes that other features of the papers "deserve to be studied and learned from." She goes on to write -- and may all those who proclaim that the Wikileaks documents are no Pentagon Papers (and they know the Pentagon Papers!) take careful note:
What calls for further close and detailed study is the fact, much commented on, that the Pentagon papers revealed little significant news that was not available to the average reader of dailies and weeklies; nor are there any arguments, pro or con, in the "History of U.S. Decision-Making Process on Vietnam Policy" that have not been debated publicly for years in magazines, television shows, and radio broadcasts.
Earlier in her essay, Arendt speaks of how "the more successful a liar is, the more people he has convinced, the more likely it is that he will end by believing his own lies." Concerning the government's systematic attempts to manipulate the American public, she then writes: "The fact that the Pentagon papers revealed hardly any spectacular news testifies to the liars' failure to create a convinced audience that they could then join themselves."

As our Wikileaks critics might have been heard to say (if they only knew the actual history): No news in the Pentagon Papers! Nothing we didn't already know! No arguments we haven't heard countless times! Never mind!

The same point concerning the non-news aspect of the Pentagon Papers is made in this Frank Rich column, which is unexpectedly not terrible. I say "unexpectedly" because Rich can be relied upon to be unrelievedly awful. As just one example from my archives (there are others), see my savaging of Rich in the second half of this article. Rich fully deserved such treatment; if anything, I was far too kind.

Despite Rich's general awfulness, on this occasion he got it right. One passage from his column should be set out here:
Last week the left and right reached a rare consensus. The war logs are no Pentagon Papers. They are historic documents describing events largely predating the current administration. They contain no news. They will not change the course of the war.

About the only prominent figures who found serious parallels between then and now were Ellsberg and the WikiLeaks impresario, Julian Assange. They are hardly disinterested observers, but they’re on the mark — in large part because the impact of the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War (as opposed to their impact on the press) was far less momentous than last week’s chatter would suggest. No, the logs won’t change the course of our very long war in Afghanistan, but neither did the Pentagon Papers alter the course of Vietnam. What Ellsberg’s leak did do was ratify the downward trend-line of the war’s narrative. The WikiLeaks legacy may echo that. We may look back at the war logs as a herald of the end of America’s engagement in Afghanistan just as the Pentagon Papers are now a milestone in our slo-mo exit from Vietnam.

What was often forgotten last week is that the Pentagon Papers had no game-changing news about that war either and also described events predating the then-current president.
As Arendt points out, these aspects of the Pentagon Papers were understood in 1971 and "much commented on." Rich correctly reminds us of these facts to point out the mythologizing that has transpired since that time.

Rich also identifies one of the reasons for the reaction of indifference by so many to the Wikileaks release:
The logs also suffer stylistically: they’re often impenetrable dispatches from the ground, in contrast to the Pentagon Papers’ anonymously and lucidly team-written epic of policy-making on high.
In part, many members of the mainstream media as well as many bloggers reacted with indifference because of intellectual and class snobbery and elitism. These critics unabashedly adore the "lucidly team-written epic of policy-making on high," for this approach is self-evidently "important" and "significant." Such critics don't have to slog through the innumerable, often dizzyingly unclear details: the "important" issues are handed to them on a platter. They can eat the meal at their leisure, gently masticating their own added morsels of wisdom.

They can't do this with the Wikileaks material, as I discussed in detail in the preceding installment. If we want to make sense of the Afghanistan documents, we have to do the work; in part, as I said, we have to be "intelligence analysts" ourselves. This is what I've identified as a crucial part of Wikileaks' genuinely revolutionary approach: it transfers the demanding work -- understanding the material in the first instance, and then making those judgments we think justified -- to each and every one of us. Many people don't want the responsibility. Their greatest preference is to defer to authority, to obey. Wikileaks deprives them of that opportunity. One of the results is that many people profoundly resent Wikileaks and wish only that it would instantly dissolve into nothingness.

This particular resentment stands largely separate and apart from a writer's political beliefs, and you find it on both right and left. It is more deeply personal than political convictions alone. Wikileaks allows people no excuse merely to obey, and they no longer have justification for being intellectually lazy. Wikileaks' critics often decry the manner in which government systematically and increasingly disregards citizens' voices and concerns -- but present them with the means to take back their own power in a meaningful way, and they recoil in horror. In addition to being invaluable in itself, Wikileaks' work provides this additional benefit: it reveals many people's actual motivations and concerns. And one great truth that has been revealed (again) by this latest episode is that the majority of people want to be guided by authority, by "experts," by those with "secret information." Give them that "secret information" so they can judge it for themselves and they immediately cry: "Oh, we can't possibly understand that! Only the State, or 'experts,' can be trusted with that information and explain it to us!" Most people want to obey. They've been taught obedience as the primary virtue, and they now believe the lesson and have fully internalized it.

Further Distortions of History, and the Complete Disregard for Facts

The mythologizing of history carries illimitable dangers. It not only leads to arguments that are invalid and erroneous in both their specifics and totality, but it also paves the path to enormously destructive and self-destructive action. Two additional examples from Arendt's "Lying in Politics" are instructive.

Arendt distinguishes the "problem-solvers" from the "ideologists," but emphasizes that both suffered from "defactualization." In this respect, they didn't serve to balance each other out, but only reinforced the underlying problem. She discusses the "postwar comprehensive ideology" of anti-Communism, which "was originally the brain child of former Communists who needed a new ideology by which to explain and reliably foretell the course of history." She goes on, and here we also come upon the mythologized Churchill once again:
This ideology was at the root of all "theories" in Washington since the end of World War II. I have mentioned the extent to which sheer ignorance of all pertinent facts and deliberate neglect of postwar developments became the hallmark of established doctrine within the establishment. They needed no facts, no information; they had a "theory," and all data that did not fit were denied or ignored.

The methods of this older generation -- the methods of Mr. Rusk as distinguished from those of Mr. McNamara -- were less complicated, less brainy, as it were, than those of the problem-solvers, but not less efficacious in shielding men from the impact of reality and in ruining the mind's capacity for judgment and for learning. These men prided themselves on having learned from the past -- from Stalin's rule over all Communist parties, hence the notion of "monolithic Communism," and from Hitler's starting a world war after Munich, from which they concluded that every gesture of reconciliation was a "second Munich." They were unable to confront reality on its own terms because they had always some parallels in mind that "helped" them to understand those terms. When Johnson, still in his capacity as Kennedy's Vice-President, came home from an inspection tour in South Vietnam and happily reported that Diem was the "Churchill of Asia," one would have thought that the parallelism game would die from sheer absurdity, but this was not the case.
And then there is this from Arendt's essay:
In the case of the Vietnam war we are confronted with, in addition to falsehoods and confusion, a truly amazing and entirely honest ignorance of the historically pertinent background: not only did the decision-makers seem ignorant of all the well-known facts of the Chinese revolution and the decade-old rift between Moscow and Peking that preceded it, but "no one at the top knew or considered it important that the Vietnamese had been fighting foreign invaders for almost 2,000 years," or that the notion of Vietnam as a "tiny backward nation" without interest to "civilized" nations, which is, unhappily, often shared by the war critics, stands in flagrant contradiction to the very old and highly developed culture of the region. What Vietnam lacks is not "culture," but strategic importance (Indochina is "devoid of decisive military objectives," as a Joint Chiefs of Staff memo said in 1954), a suitable terrain for modern mechanized armies, and rewarding targets for the air force. What caused the disastrous defeat of American policies and armed intervention was indeed no quagmire ("the policy of 'one more step' -- each new step always promising the success which the previous last step had also promised but had unaccountably failed to deliver," in the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., as quoted by Daniel Ellsberg, who rightly denounces the notion as a "myth"), but the willful, deliberate disregard of all facts, historical, political, geographical, for more than twenty-five years.
For those who are tempted to play "gotcha" with my argument and to try to hoist me with my own petard, I note that to speak of Afghanistan today and Vietnam then is not to talk of distorting parallelisms in any manner whatsoever -- but to speak of the complete identity of the mechanisms involved. The "willful, deliberate disregard of all facts, historical, political ... for more than twenty-five years" is not a parallel between the two tragedies, but exactly the same.

But you will notice that, following Arendt's admonition to "confront reality on its own terms" and to always maintain our "mind's capacity for judgment and for learning," I have omitted one critical factor from the list of identities: geography. For the reasons outlined in this article, the tragedy of Afghanistan will almost surely be greater than that of Vietnam -- because Afghanistan is of immense "strategic importance," that is, it is for those who seek to control events. As I have argued, this is one reason, and probably the reason, why we will not be leaving, even in slow-motion as in the case of Vietnam. Barring developments unforeseen at present, we will not be leaving that part of the world in the next few years, or even in the next few decades. With that hugely significant difference always in mind, and it may be a difference with implications none of us wish to contemplate, Arendt's lessons may be applied with full force.

While Wikileaks has revealed that most people prefer to obey and to follow the dictates of authority, it provides those of us who decline to obey -- those of us who have decided to withdraw our support -- with both a deeply admirable model and the means of realizing our own potential for resistance. You should grasp that means and that potential, with great pride in your determination to defend genuine freedom and the sanctity of life. Wikileaks offers us a great challenge. We should take up that challenge with pride and honor, and do our utmost to meet it.

As usual, this turned out to be longer than I had expected. I'll turn to the other aspects of the three mistaken arguments next time.


Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

August 07, 2010

On Wikileaks (VI): Good-bye to All That: Good-bye Consensus, Good-bye Establishment, Good-bye Mainstream

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V


I begin by offering my most sincere apologies to Mr. Robert Graves. That is a marvelous book. Several years ago, I discussed it and provided some excerpts here.

In Part IV, I analyzed an article by Maximillian Forte. My focus in the earlier essay was to demonstrate why the argument that the Wikileaks' Afghanistan material might help support broadening the fight against the Taliban, and even against Iran, is entirely irrelevant and invalid as a criticism of Wikileaks itself and its actions. Here, I want to focus on Forte's reliance on authority, on how he seeks to interpose some group, or "experts," or other "qualified" individuals between Wikileaks' "raw data" and the general public.

Forte presents this argument in several of his "Reasons for Concern" (or, as Forte asks: "Why might there be much less to celebrate than we thought?"). In a section titled, "The incomplete and fragmentary nature of the records," Forte writes:
In my own research with these records, involving the use of American social scientists in units known as Human Terrain Teams, I have come to some important realizations. These records are only some of the records that we might have had [emphasis in original]. They are incomplete and fragmentary. Can anyone believe that the records Wikileaks obtained, almost 110,000 of them, are all the records produced by the U.S. military in a period covering six years of war? If not, then what was left out? Why were these records released, and not others? How can we make any credible claim based on these records, without knowing what has been kept from our view? What if what we do not have would somehow modify or reshape what we now claim to know?
First let it be noted -- and underscored repeatedly -- that all of these objections could be leveled many times over at information released by the government. And who in the world maintains that these "are all the records produced" in the specified time period? Precisely no one. This is a transparently specious argument.

But is the government voluntarily going to release many tens of thousands of records concerning the Afghanistan war, or anything remotely approaching that number? Of course not. And if making "any credible claim" depends on knowing the totality of the records, and on knowing that we have the totality of the records, which is exactly what Forte maintains, then no one will be able to make any judgment ever. This is doing the government's bidding with a vengeance. Moreover, the government is never going to tell us "what has been kept from our view." Beyond these objections to Forte's argument, which you may have noticed destroy his argument utterly, Forte again misses the point completely, as we'll see shortly.

In another section, "The records are not the same as 'the truth,'" Forte says:
These are records written by combatants on one side in a war. They are written by elements of the American military, with a military audience in mind, and to suit the purposes of that military. That many of the records are based on hearsay, rumours, and unsubstantiated allegations that would not survive review at higher levels of military intelligence, is also the case. The records lack context and often lack depth: short, terse bursts of information. Information is not the same thing as meaning, nor is it understanding. It is just data, and data is dead until an analyst gives it life by adding value.
Ah, "an analyst" -- an "intelligence analyst" at that -- will give "life" to this dead data, and provide "meaning" and "understanding." This is all a lie. Keep it in mind, for I'll get to this as well in just a moment.

Finally, in "Crowd sourcing: an ideal with little substance?," Forte writes:
Having first chosen mainstream news media for the release of the first stories based on the records, Wikileaks now turns to the wider public, sourcing opinion and analysis from the “crowd.” If Wikileaks had real faith in that process, it could have better appreciated and understood the wide range of expertise in the worldwide community of bloggers, and understood that the power to gain traction from a story can come just as much from below, as from above. Presumably Wikileaks understood this, and even cherishes this principle, which is what makes its choice of dependence on the news media strange. The crowd is not homogeneous. The crowd, just like with mainstream news media, contains sensitive specialists, and miserable propagandists. There is no escaping this. When one goes crowd sourcing, one must expect a lot of opinion that is based on poor understanding, inadequate training, selective reading, wishful thinking, and a deliberate desire to distort what the records say in order to suit certain political ends. The results will certainly be mixed, and these records will settle very little in our continuing public debates. But we should always expect surprises…including nasty ones.
Whenever anyone sings praises to "expertise," "sensitive specialists" and the like, clanging alarms should go off in your head. I could choose many passages from previous essays of mine to make the following point. Let's use this one (from September 2008):
Those people who have followed the foreign policy catastrophes of recent years are repeatedly struck by this phenomenon: all the "experts" who are supposedly so knowledgeable in this area -- that is, all the "experts" who led us into the catastrophes and who were grievously, bloodily, murderously wrong about every significant matter -- remain entrenched in the foreign policy establishment. Moreover, they are precisely the people to whom everyone turns for the "solution" to the disasters that engulf us, both now and the disasters likely to come. This is what it means to have a ruling class. As I have said, the ruling class rules. The ruling class exercises a lethal monopoly on the terms of public debate, just as it exercises a lethal monopoly on the uses of state power.

What you have seen over the last six months and more, and what you will see in the coming months and years, is the same phenomenon in the realm of economic policy. All of the solons who led us into this abyss of mounting debt, worthless securities, failing financial institutions, economic contraction and collapse, rising taxation, and all the rest, will now instruct us as to how we should "solve" the crisis that they have created. The crisis may be ameliorated to a degree, and the worst of the consequences may be postponed for a while. But whatever "solutions" are implemented, whatever reorganization and reregulation is imposed, it will all be done in accordance with the ruling class's desires and goals. It will all be to protect their own wealth and power to whatever extent is possible, and to expand their wealth and power still more, if that remains at all feasible.
If you rely to any significant extent on "experts" and "specialists" (even "sensitive" ones), you'll lose. Not only will you lose, you'll very probably end up broke, homeless and/or dead. That's exactly why the ruling class wants you to believe you have to rely on "experts" and "specialists." They know you'll lose. That's how the system is set up.

Part of what is going on here is that Forte regards himself as an "expert"; note, as just one example, the pointed mention of his "own research with these records, involving the use of American social scientists in units known as Human Terrain Teams." He's enough of an "expert" to know which other "experts" to call and, even better, the other "experts" will take his call. Forte expects that, should you follow his advice, he'll be one of the people who will provide "meaning" and "understanding" to this "data." I suggest in the strongest possible terms that you decline the offer. Another part of what is going on is what I discussed in the preceding installment: Forte sees that he and others like him are losing control, and he doesn't like it one bit.

On a much less problematic level -- we're in a different universe entirely here -- we have formulations that are somewhat similar to Forte's in the Chris Floyd article I earlier discussed (also in Part IV). Floyd repeatedly and passionately denounces the reliance on "expertise" and "specialized knowledge" in the manner endorsed by Forte; in fact, the totality of Floyd's writing argues directly against Forte's perspective in almost every meaningful respect. But consider these remarks of Floyd's in connection with the subject of this post:
Ultimately, I suppose on balance it is better to have this material than not to have it. But I still question the usefulness of rolling out mountains of raw "human intelligence" -- precisely the same kind of unfiltered junk that was "stovepiped" to build the false case for the mass-murdering invasion of Iraq -- about Iran, al Qaeda, Pakistan; even North Korea gets into the mix.
About Floyd's comment that "on balance it is better to have this material than not," I can only ask: Why? In light of Floyd's arguments, it seems to me that the opposite conclusion is indicated, and rather strongly so. I would think that Floyd's presentation at least compels the conclusion that the question is too close to call.

Much more significantly, the obvious question about the highlighted phrase is: who does the "filtering"? Whom do we trust to perform this task? As he himself has stated countless times, Floyd manifestly doesn't trust our political leaders or mainstream media to do it. But Floyd appears to assume that "filtering" must be performed by someone. This is the implied reliance on authority that I mentioned.

Again, in my view this reflects a failure to apprehend precisely what it is that Wikileaks is doing, and why it is so genuinely radical. To the argument that someone needs to perform "filtering" or that we must rely on "experts" and "specialists," Wikileaks in effect responds: Then you do the analysis and make whatever judgments you think justified, if you want to -- you and anyone and everyone else. You do it. You do all of it.

As I've said, this is what a real revolution looks like. At this point, I must also remind you of the fraud that is "intelligence" itself. The actual purpose of intelligence is not to provide accurate information (it's almost never accurate), but to serve as propaganda for policy decisions that have already been made. "Intelligence" is used after the fact, to convince the still frighteningly gullible public that Country X or Group Y is a "serious" or "imminent" or "grave" threat that must be dealt with using the strongest of measures, up to and including systematic bombing and even invasion. If events continue on their present course, don't be at all surprised if this pattern is repeated in the coming months or year or two with Iran.

You can consult "Played for Fools Yet Again: About that Iran 'Intelligence' Report" for a detailed presentation of my argument regarding "intelligence," and following the links in that article will take you to much more on this subject. I will mention here one earlier piece in particular, because it speaks directly to what Wikileaks is doing. In "You, Too, Can and Should Be an 'Intelligence Analyst'," I wrote:
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.

None of these facts and this background are all that difficult to ascertain, if one is committed to finding out the truth. It is a measure of the monolithic, deadly grip that so-called "conventional wisdom" holds on our public discourse that what ought to be regarded as noncontroversial and even obvious truths are transformed into forbidden matters never to be mentioned in "polite" company. And it is entirely remarkable that the intelligence game continues with none of its lethal force spent. As Jim Webb's recent pathetic explanation of his support for the abominable FISA legislation demonstrates, there would appear to be only one value that our politicians refuse to compromise or surrender: their wholehearted, indeed passionate devotion to abject stupidity.

But two can play this game, and the politicians and the "professionals" can be turned into fully deserving losers. As the above indicates, you too can be an "intelligence analyst" -- and you can do it with far more accuracy and insight than those with careers that will be imperiled if they deliver unwelcome news. Make your own judgments based on what is in the public record, as [Ray] McGovern indicates, and resist the calls to war.

After all, it is members of the public who pay for it all -- and it is members of the public who die for it, too. Let the public decide. It's only just. And perhaps, one day in the future, we finally will have peace.
Given the unrelieved fraud that is "intelligence," and in light of the conclusively and repeatedly proven inability to trust any part of the Establishment to "filter" any of this or any other material whatsoever, including "raw data," I view it as a complete and shining triumph for Wikileaks and other organizations to release as much information, and as much "raw data," as they can get their hands on. Wikileaks thus increases what is in the public record, and thereby provides more information on the basis of which you can make your own judgment. We -- by which I mean you, me and everyone else -- certainly can't do any worse than the politicians and "experts" in trying to make sense of it. Moreover, I consider it much more likely that we will do a significantly better job. And even if we don't, we aren't the ones who will be ordering bombing runs, assassinations, or invasions.

The broader point remains the most critical one. By acting as it does, Wikileaks entirely bypasses the structures of authority, "order" and obedience. By stepping outside them altogether, Wikileaks diminishes their power -- and transfers that power to all of us. Just think about what would happen if ten or twenty organizations did this many times a week, releasing "secret" and "confidential" information closely guarded by governments, multinational corporations, and others who exploit, brutalize and act in innumerable destructive and cruel ways. The world as it exists today would be severely threatened as people began to see the details of what is actually transpiring.

And many people -- many of those "ordinary" human beings across the world who today are entirely disregarded and only brutalized, and who "merely" provide the labor and often the blood that sustains the power structure that rules us -- would make sense of it. At a minimum, they would make sense of it in ways that the prevailing powers ceaselessly try to obfuscate and cover up. A lot of "ordinary" people would begin to see a fuller version of the truth.

That's exactly what States and those who rule and enable them are afraid of. That's why they condemn Wikileaks with such vehemence, in a manner that frequently verges on hysteria. The ruling class understands very well indeed the threat that Wikileaks represents, and what would happen if additional organizations utilized the same strategy. If you want to understand the threat embodied by Wikileaks, do what I suggest: multiply Wikileaks by ten, or a hundred. The ruling class sees that possibility with startling and unnerving clarity. Why do you think they're scared shitless?

And they are.

Next time, I'll discuss Forte's argument concerning Wikileaks' purported "lack of ethical concern, and an inadequate review process." I've dealt with some aspects of the "review process" question above and in earlier installments, but more needs to be added. The alleged "lack of ethical concern" is a fairly astonishing charge to level at Wikileaks when one compares Wikileaks' capabilities with those of the powers it challenges (see the concluding paragraphs here). But this argument comes up frequently, and I have a fair amount to say about it. By the way, you'll see the same argument (among others) in this uniformly dreadful article at Reason. So much for Establishment "libertarianism." The emphasis is solely on Establishment, with none at all that I can detect on libertarianism. I hadn't understood that "respectability" was a key libertarian value, just as I hadn't appreciated the enormous virtues of "journalism" as presently practiced. I learn something new every day.

I'll have a response to all that next time.

On Wikileaks (V): Losing Control

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV


The Illusory and Costly Pursuit of Control

The determined, unrelenting pursuit of the illusion of control is responsible for as much particularized human tragedy and general devastation, sometimes encompassing entire continents, as any other factor. On the personal scale, all of us are brought up to believe that if only we act in the "right" way, if we have the "right" thoughts, education, jobs, families and friends, success and happiness are guaranteed to us. In this manner, we seek to control many elements of our lives; if we control them in the "right" way, we will get what we want, what will make us happy.

In the United States, this is another aspect of the American exceptionalist myth. Yet if we are at all honest, and if we acknowledge the truth of American history, we know that even the possibility of acting in the "right" way in this manner has been systematically denied to vast numbers of Americans: to Native Americans, who were almost entirely slaughtered, thus making all possibilities eternally meaningless, and who were thereafter severely restricted with regard to physical placement and social mobility; to blacks, who were denied human status altogether for centuries through the abomination of slavery, then grudgingly granted semi-human status for another hundred years through formal and informal systematized discrimination, and who today are still denied full equality through the continuation of institutionalized discrimination, together with destruction targeted at them with hideous specificity via the endlessly destructive "War on Drugs" and other mechanisms; to women, who were treated as chattel for the first half of American history, both formally and legally as well as by social convention and informal decree, and who today still must continually struggle against the cultural presumption that they are inherently weak, inferior, undeserving of full human recognition, and even evil, which belief is the root of the lesser charges; to gays and lesbians, "illegal" immigrants, and on and on .. the full list, even in the comparatively brief span of American history, is of a length that must profoundly shock any person of decency and conscience.

Yet almost all Americans still believe in the critical necessity of control, even those Americans who have been and are today systematically denied the means of pursuing it. Until very recently, most Americans thought that if they worked hard, played by "the rules" and made themselves dependable parts of the system, they would enjoy good and rewarding lives, rounded off by a secure retirement. Events of the last few years have destroyed these plans for many Americans, in part or in whole: their jobs have vanished, a great number of them never to return (or to return so far into the future that it's immaterial), their homes have been lost, their retirement savings have been destroyed. Pursuit of control has turned out to be a tragic illusion.

We all know the pursuit of control on a more intimate level as well. We think: "If I can only explain this in just the right way, then my friend (or lover, or colleague, or boss) will understand." Or we tell ourselves: "If I act in just the right way, I'll get that promotion (or this lover, or be invited to join that exclusive group)." The result will be the one we desire: by acting in the "right" way, we'll get what we want. Most of us know all too well how many times this strategy succeeds and how many times it fails, or even leads to a result directly opposed to what we had hoped for. And even if we are momentarily successful, the costs of pursuing this strategy are enormous. It occurs to me that, while I am not nearly as enamored of Mad Men as are many of its passionate admirers, it does capture this aspect of engaging with "the system" very perceptively and accurately. (I don't have current television at all, so I'm watching season three on DVD at the moment.)

The series shows in awful detail the endless calculation, the flattery and cajoling of the bosses (and even of equals and those lower on the corporate ladder), the constant manipulation, the perpetual anxiety of wondering how others are judging us and what they'll do about their judgments. No matter where these people are in the organization, they all have these same concerns: there is always someone else who must find them pleasing and valuable, who they desperately hope will choose to help rather than harm them. The same dynamics frequently play out in the characters' personal lives. Beneath the more superficial, localized emotions they experience, on a much deeper psychological level, all these people are absolutely exhausted. Pursuing control in this way is exhausting. It's a very nice touch that Don Draper, the protagonist, is both the most systematically intent on pursuing control and therefore the most exhausted: he seeks to control not only the present and the future, but also the past. He deliberately obliterated his actual past and replaced it with a history, and an identity, that he thought were more likely to bring him what he wants.

About these dynamics and the pursuit of control, you may be thinking: ah, governments and societies do the same thing. Precisely so. We'll get there in a moment.

I'm not suggesting for a moment we should forswear efforts to understand our world, either in general or as it affects us individually. That obviously isn't the case, or I would never write at all. Nor am I saying that we can't improve our lives; clearly we can in countless, sometimes genuinely wonderful ways. What I am saying is that most of us believe, as I did for much of my life, that we can control people (notably including ourselves) and events in ways that aren't susceptible to control at all. For the most part, in terms of the way most people conceive the issue, the pursuit of control is nothing more than an illusion. Most of us like the illusion, even love, cherish and depend on it: we believe it can be made to be true, and its realization will also make our desires real. I was in my late forties when I finally concluded that, with regard to how I had previously thought about the issue, I could control almost nothing. I consider that realization a significant step in my finally growing up.

The Illusion of Control and the Idea of Progress

For most of us, and especially for those of us in the West, the illusion of control is inextricably connected to the Idea of Progress. We seek to control people and events so that we may improve our lives. I discussed this Idea in one of my earliest essays about the Iran "crisis," in a piece from four and a half years ago (good lord). The fact that the Iran "crisis" today is identical in every critical respect to that of over four years ago proves, among other things, the persistence of these underlying and widespread cultural beliefs. And see the discussion in Part IV of this series for an abbreviated explanation of how this "crisis" has been created out of precisely nothing. (In connection with the piece from February 2006, I must state that there are several formulations in that article that I find inexact, confusing and/or troubling now, and a few that I would explicitly disavow. I was on a steep learning curve during that period. But I stand by the major points in the earlier discussion.)

Here's part of what I wrote those seemingly distant years ago:
This returns us to the "Idea of Progress," as [Robert] Merry discusses it in Sands of Empire. You should consult Merry's book for the full explanation; here I will offer only a few relevant highlights of the Idea, and how it developed. The first point is to distinguish between two kinds of Progress: we are not concerned here with the idea of intellectual progress, or mankind's acquisition of knowledge. Obviously, we all recognize that knowledge has increased immeasurably through the ages, and that it has grown exponentially in the last several hundred years. With the exception of a few unhappy, dedicated Luddites, everyone enthusiastically welcomes such progress.

But the progress that concerns us at the moment is of a different kind. Even though his name and work are little known today, the idea was first announced by a French social philosopher in the early eighteenth century, Abbe Charles-Irenee Castel de Saint-Pierre. He saw a future where man not only achieved greater understanding of the physical universe: he saw "inexorable progress toward social perfection, human happiness, and world peace. He foresaw nothing less than 'a golden age,' as historian J.B. Bury puts it, 'a paradise on earth.'" In other words, human nature itself could be changed and brought closer to perfection -- and the major agent for achieving this end was government. Merry notes that this conception of the Idea of Progress is a dominant one in Western thought, and that Saint-Pierre's view of achievable "social perfection" is now largely viewed as indistinguishable from Progress itself.
Merry goes on to note the view of historian Robert Nisbet that "in an increasingly secular culture," the Idea of Progress absorbed many aspects of what the idea of Providence had provided in earlier times. Progress, like Providence, represented the ideal toward which we must strive and, in modern times, it is the State which will coordinate and forcibly guide our efforts. (This is still another reason for my fundamental opposition to the State itself.) I think Nisbet is tragically correct on this point; as I recently noted, the myth of American exceptionalism functions as a secular version of fundamentalist belief and, as I have expressed a closely related idea, America becomes God on Earth.

Merry also notes "two great contradictions" in the Idea of Progress. The first is that proponents of this Idea were profoundly uncomfortable with endless Progress, so they instead advocated Progress toward "a particular end point." For many of those in the West, that end point was Western society itself, and Western democracy more particularly. In the United States, and for its ruling class, the end point became the United States and its political system (or what they proclaimed that system to be, whether the reality comports with their idealized version or not). The second contradiction is that, despite claims of the "universality" of Progress, the Idea of Progress as it developed was entirely Eurocentric: "Implicit in this was the view that other cultures were inferior to the West, and hence universal progress required that these inferior cultures embrace the Western heritage."

In this way, the pursuit of control expands to encompass the entire world: note that universal progress requires that inferior cultures be made more like the West. In other words, it is necessary for the State to control events on the domestic front to ensure the steady march toward the "end point" of Progress, but that is not sufficient. The State must also control events everywhere else. If it does not, to adapt Browning, what's an Idea of Progress for? Thus the drive to global control, to Dominion Over the World, to a policy of global interventionism.

What is absolutely fascinating is that Wikileaks has engaged this strategy precisely on its own terms: those who advance American global hegemony seek to impose their own particular Idea of Progress everywhere, as they simultaneously increase the power and wealth of America's ruling class, that is to say, the power and wealth of those most committed to both Progress in general (as they conceive it) and their own individual Progress. The two aspects are not at odds in any respect: they complement each other.

To this, Wikileaks responds: We actually are everywhere. Stop us if you can.

And neither the United States nor any other government can stop them. The illusion of control is shattered. And Wikileaks doesn't seek control as the global hegemonists do in any manner whatsoever; it provides information broadly and freely, shorn of the controls on information so desperately sought by States of all kinds. Wikileaks provides information to anyone and everyone who wants it, and they can make of it what they will.

Those who would control the past, the present and the future thought that "everywhere" meant only what they imagined it to mean. They're learning differently. Genuine freedom -- freedom without obedience or authority in any of their forms -- reaches everywhere in a way that States cannot imagine. Freedom of this kind cannot be controlled.

Consider how Wikileaks has so dramatically shifted the ground on which this battle is fought.

Withdraw Your Support, and They Have Nothing

I think that if many of us had read this in a novel five or ten years ago, we would have thought a development of this kind was absurd and ridiculous. "Oh, that could never happen!" Yet it has happened, and it is wonderfully, completely true:
The Pentagon demanded Thursday that a website that solicits leaked government secrets cancel any plan to publish more classified military documents and pull back tens of thousands of secret Afghan war logs already posted on the Internet.

The demand, which the Defense Department has no independent power to enforce, is primarily aimed at preventing release of approximately 15,000 secret documents that the website WikiLeaks has said it is holding. The Pentagon also hopes to stop WikiLeaks from making public the contents of a mammoth encrypted file recently added to the site. Contents of that file remain a mystery.

"We are asking them to do the right thing," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. "I don't know that we're very confident they'll have a change of heart."

WikiLeaks posted more than 76,900 classified military and other documents, mostly raw intelligence reports from Afghanistan, on its website July 25. The 15,000 additional documents are apparently related to that material.
In the preceding installment, I wrote:
[W]hat finally undoes Varadarajan utterly is that he sees no way to stop Assange and Wikileaks.

This is further testament to Assange's brilliance -- and it is also testament to what I call "the power of 'No'": finally, the only weapon held by those who insist on obedience to authority is your own willingness to comply. If you refuse to comply, if you say "No," if you act "irresponsibly" and withdraw your support, there is nothing they can do. Those who represent and uphold authority understand this. Many other people do not. Wikileaks may help many people to see finally the enormous power they have, if only they will use it.
The latest story is a perfect dramatization of what I meant. The U.S. government issues a "demand" -- when it knows full well the answer will be a resounding, No! The U.S. government, led by a nauseating group of genocidal serial murderers and torturers, asks those who want only to stop that government's crimes to "do the right thing."

If the Pentagon and its press secretary did not speak on behalf of a government that embodies unrelenting, world-historical evil, this would be merely funny. As it is, the amusement is that offered by especially vicious practitioners of Grand Guignol who are execrable farceurs. The laughter drips blood and suffering.

But -- I emphasize again -- appreciate how completely powerless the State is. Assange has withdrawn his support, and there is nothing they can do to stop him. This is why I keep asking, and asking and asking: Why do you support? With regard to every issue that matters, your support is all they have.

This is hardly to say that I don't think the U.S. government (and other States as well, no doubt) will try to stop Assange and Wikileaks. They surely will. But the methods by which they will attempt to stop him are only those conceived of by those who seek illusory control. They may try to capture (or "detain") Assange and others, perhaps (almost certainly) they will torture them if they do. Or they may simply kill Assange and other individuals they consider key parts of Wikileaks. Note that for those who seek illusory control, the ultimate form of control is always the same: destruction and death.

Even if they succeed at all that, even if they torture and murder again (and again and again), it won't matter in terms of stopping Wikileaks. It won't matter generally: Wikileaks has established mirror sites, so if one or even several are shut down, there will be others to keep the material available, and to provide still more material in the future. And it won't matter more particularly: with regard to the mysterious encrypted file, for example (which Wikileaks has intriguingly, and maddeningly to those who seek control, labeled "Insurance"), that file has already been downloaded by countless people all around the world. Even if Wikileaks did take it down now, it doesn't matter. Wikileaks has doubtless made provision enabling those who've downloaded the file to decrypt it, regardless of what happens to Wikileaks itself. Those who seek control can't stop any of this, try as they might.

Wikileaks has taken the only weapon it has -- its ability to make information freely available to anyone and everyone -- and aimed it directly at the heart of those who seek control and demand obedience. It has scored an immensely powerful hit. No wonder States and those who advance their policies are so panic-stricken. They're powerless, and they know it.

I'll conclude this installment here. Next time, I'll turn to another aspect of losing control, and how that prospect unnerves writers such as Forte, who see positive aspects of Wikileaks' actions but are also very critical of Wikileaks (or at least of the latest release). As I've already indicated, those criticisms arise from the loss of control, which necessarily means that the criticisms arise from a continuing reliance on authority. There is more to be said on that subject.