February 26, 2012

They Won't Stop Until There's No One Left to Kill

The awful Drudge links this:
The Pentagon is readying for the possibility of intervention in Syria, aiming to halt Syrian President Bashsar Assad's violent crackdown on protesters, the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Saturday, citing a US military offical.

According to the official, the intervention scenario calls for the establishment of a buffer zone on the Turkish border, in order to receive Syrian refugees. The Red Cross would then provide the civilians humanitarian aid, before NATO crews would arrive from Turkey and join the efforts.

The measure would pave the way for the US to declare an aerial blockade on Syria.

The intercession is to be modeled after NATO's efforts in Kosovo, which brought an end to the Serbian control of the region. NATO's plan of action included prolonged aerial shelling.
Therefore, a brief memo to all the intellectually incompetent and/or lying bastards who supported and propagandized for the intervention in Kosovo, or in Libya, or in ... at this point, fill in almost any country of your choice. And the memo states only this:
"Modeled after NATO's efforts in Kosovo..."

"Oh, we did a wonderful, noble thing! We stopped a genocide!" No, you did not:
I've written about the Clinton administration's Balkans policy, in the second half of "Iraq Is the Democrats' War, Too," and in "Liberal Hypocrisy in the Name of 'Humanitarianism'."

I suppose it might be advisable to remind you that the major excuse employed to this day by many liberals to "justify" the bombing campaign -- "But a genocide was going on!" -- was a lie. Yes, it was a lie. Read Diana Johnstone's book, Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions, and read her article from February [2008], "NATO's Kosovo Colony." You should read the entire piece, but here are a couple of brief excerpts from the latter...
And about "the prospect of a ‘second Srebrenica’ or even ‘another Rwanda’ in Benghazi" that provided the excuse for regime change in Libya?

Also a lie.

In the present case, I do not doubt that the Syrian government is brutal and murderous, nor do I doubt that it is committing various atrocities. Nonetheless -- and I realize this is astounding and staggering news to many Americans -- whatever may be going on in Syria is no goddamned business of the U.S. government. And to believe at this perilously late date -- after more than a hundred years of slaughters around the world, in countless countries, leading to an immense pile of corpses that numbers in the millions -- that the United States government and its military are dedicated, to any extent whatsoever, to the exercise of brutality in the name of "humanitarianism" ... well. If we are talking about the limits of understanding, we need a word far stronger than "stupid." And if we're talking about lies ... then damn them to hell.

Speaking of murderous regimes and goddamned liars, this part of the story almost caused me to throw up:
In his most forceful words to date on the Syrian crisis, US President Barack Obama said Friday the US and its allies would use "every tool available" to end the bloodshed by Assad's government.

"It is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government," Obama said in Washington, adding that it "absolutely imperative for the international community to rally and send a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition. It is time for that regime to move on."
It is Obama who claims the "right" to murder anyone in the world, including American citizens, whenever he chooses, for whatever reason he wishes. He further claims that his "right" is absolute, subject to no review or check whatsoever. This is the claim to absolute power.

And Obama has done it. He's ordered the murder of people for one reason alone: he decided to murder them.

So Mr. Obama, and I say this with all the respect you have earned: It's time for you to stop your own killing. It is time for you to move on.

Just get out. Leave. I don't give a damn where you go, just go away so that decent, civilized human beings never have to hear one more word from you.

I am forced to conclude that we are not dealing with a U.S. ruling class made up of genocidal murderers. We need an additional adjective: we're dealing with a U.S. ruling class made up of compulsive genocidal murderers. They won't stop until there's no one left to kill -- or until events force them to stop.

No such events appear to lie in the foreseeable future. This ends the news for Sunday evening.

The United States of Gary

When I was 11 or 12, I was stopped by one of the neighborhood kids as I walked home one day. Gary was in my grade; even at that age, I knew he was remarkably stupid. He was also much stronger than I was. Gary was very athletic; I was not. He had a sizable group of friends; I did not. I was overweight, and I knew -- everyone knew -- that I was "different" from most other kids in at least several ways. Gary and I had never had much to do with each other; that day, for some reason, he decided that he had some business to conduct with me.

"Where have you been?," he asked, in a manner suggesting I'd answer if I knew what was good for me. I told him I'd been at my piano lesson. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and thought about it for a moment or two. "I don't want you going to piano lessons any more." Gary said it as a simple declaration of fact: this is what he wanted, and it would happen. I looked puzzled in my turn; I wondered what on earth he meant. Gary noted my expression, and he took a step closer to me, his face tightening with distaste and disapproval. "You aren't going to any more piano lessons. If I catch you going to one, I'm going to beat the crap out of you."

I looked down at the ground without speaking. I couldn't make sense of what he was saying. I understood the words, but why did this have anything at all to do with him? Why did he even care? After a few moments passed and I still hadn't said anything in response, Gary said: "Do you understand what I'm telling you?" He was leaning into me by this time, and his threatening manner convinced me that the first beating would take place then and there if I didn't answer. "Yes," I said. "I understand." "Good," he replied. "No more piano lessons." And he turned back toward his house, dismissing me.

I didn't mention the incident to anyone. There was no one I could talk to about it, or about anything else that concerned or worried me. My parents treated me as an invisible child; if I wished to continue living in their house, my primary task was to never call attention to myself in any manner at all. I was absolutely never to have problems that required my parents' involvement. But I loved my piano lessons. I wasn't about to give them up, but I also knew that, if he chose, Gary could definitely beat the crap out of me. So I devised a few different routes to my piano teacher's house, routes where I thought it very unlikely that Gary's path and mine would cross.

I avoided my old route to piano lessons for several weeks, and I never met Gary. Then I grew annoyed, even angry, but my anger was primarily directed at myself and at the fact that I'd made even that much of a concession. I also concluded that Gary didn't actually care a great deal whether I went to my piano lessons. I saw him at school and in other places; he never mentioned it again. Without yet understanding the psychology involved, I sensed that Gary had delivered the threat simply because it pleased him in some manner to bully me that day. Then he forgot about it. He probably went on to bully other kids about other things. But he seemed to be done with me. So I went back to my old route, and I never met Gary on my weekly trips.

I have no idea what became of Gary. Sometimes I wonder if he joined the police, or the military. Bullies are frequently drawn to such professions, where they are provided official approval for their preferred behavior, where they are encouraged and invited to be bullies almost whenever they wish and whenever there is the slightest pretense of "justification."

Occasionally, I think of the United States government as Gary. They're both remarkably stupid, and they both derive enormous pleasure from telling others what they may and may not do. And they both deliver threats of destruction to be incurred by their victims if the victims dare to disobey them. To make the comparison more accurate, I imagine Gary holding a machine gun which he points at me. By his side is a large pile containing many more guns, together with a huge number of knives and other weapons. I also have to imagine that Gary has already murdered 10 or 15 neighborhood kids (or more), and no one has done anything to stop him. Gary murders whomever he wants, whenever he chooses. It's just the way things are in our town. Nobody questions it; it sometimes seems that no one even notices.

Here is a story from two weeks ago:
NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said on Monday they had mistakenly killed a group of children in an air strike that has enraged the government, and said their deaths may have been linked to an anti-insurgent operation in the area.

The air strike took place last Wednesday near the village of Giawa, in eastern Kapisa province, and followed similar bombings that have stoked tension between the government and NATO over a civilian death toll that has risen annually for five years.

The children were killed as NATO aircraft and ground forces attacked insurgents on open ground in the Najrab district of Kapisa, said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for NATO’s 130,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“At this point in our assessment we can neither confirm nor deny, with reasonable assurance, a direct link to the engagement. Nonetheless, any death of innocents not associated with armed conflict is a tragedy,” Brig. Gen. Jacobson told reporters.

Afghan government officials showed gruesome photographs of eight dead boys, and said seven of them had been aged between six and 14, while one had been around 18 years old. They were bombed twice while herding sheep in heavy snow and lighting a fire to keep warm, they said.

“Where were the rights for these children who have been violated? Did they have rights or not? Did they have rights to live as part of the world community?” said Mohammad Tahir Safi, a member of parliament sent by President Hamid Karzai to investigate the air strike.
This is only one of recent similar stories. These are the stories we know about. How many more stories like this are there, and that we will never know about? The necessary logic of the situation tells us there must be many such additional stories.

Last week, the New York Times published this story, written by Alissa J. Rubin. Remember that name. The story focuses on "protesters angry over the burning of Korans at the largest American base in Afghanistan this week." Almost at the end of the story -- how many readers follow the story almost to the end? -- we read:
Protesters in Kabul interviewed on the road and in front of Parliament said that this was not the first time that Americans had violated Afghan cultural and religious traditions and that an apology was not enough.

“This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children,” said Maruf Hotak, 60, a man who joined the crowd on the outskirts of Kabul, referring to an episode in Helmand Province when American Marines urinated on the dead bodies of men they described as insurgents and to a recent erroneous airstrike on civilians in Kapisa Province that killed eight young Afghans.

“They always admit their mistakes,” he said. “They burn our Koran and then they apologize. You can’t just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology."
Hotak pays NATO and the U.S. a compliment they have done nothing to deserve: "They always admit their mistakes." No, they most assuredly do not. But even if they did, Hotak's point stands. Murder is absolute and final. Apologies about murder are entirely without meaning. They may be of occasional interest in a work of fiction contemplating the delicate shades of conscience and spiritual regeneration. In the world of facts, and when the critical fact is the systematic commission of murder on a vast scale, apologies -- and most particularly "small" apologies -- are another wound. It is an especially awful and cruel wound, given that the murderer has no intention of stopping his murders.

The NYT story from four days ago excerpted immediately above -- the story by Alissa J. Rubin -- identifies the ongoing murders as a key factor in explaining the protests and riots in Afghanistan. Today, a mere four days later, in a story written by Graham Bowley and the same Alissa J. Rubin, we read:
Rioting continued across the country on Sunday as anger over the burning of Korans by the American military continued unabated, putting the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States on shaky new ground.
If we follow the story to the end -- yes, we read the entire story this time, too -- we see this theme reinforced and repeated:
About 4,000 protesters massed in the city on the sixth day of protests around Afghanistan since first reports of the Koran burning at another NATO base appeared last week.
The Koran burnings and the subsequent unrest is complicating relations between the United States and the Afghan government at a time of critical negotiations...
Gone are references to the murders of eight Afghan boys, or to American Marines pissing on dead bodies. All "the subsequent unrest" is the result of "the Koran burnings."

This recasting of events is, of course, fully embraced by U.S. officials, as the latest NYT story indicates, again near the end of the article:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday expressed regret for the incident involving the Korans but said it should not derail the American military and diplomatic effort in Afghanistan.

“We are condemning it in the strongest possible terms,” she said in Rabat, Morocco, “but we also believe that the violence must stop, and the hard work of trying to build a more peaceful, prosperous and secure Afghanistan must continue.”
Clinton is not referring to "the violence" perpetrated by the U.S. and NATO. Loathsome person that she is, she refers to the violence of the "unrest" of the Afghan people -- "unrest," we are now implicitly (and often explicitly) told is entirely the result of the "primitive" beliefs of an "uncivilized" people.

Aside from the consequential fact that this rewriting of events that occurred within the last week is entirely false, this is a remarkably idiotic criticism for Americans to make. If we wish to speak of the "primitive" beliefs of an "uncivilized" people, let's instead talk about Americans' pathologically neurotic attachment to a piece of cloth. It appears that most Americans need to be reminded that it was not until 1989 -- 1989, you remarkably stupid people -- that the Supreme Court ruled that flag desecration is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. Moreover, the Supreme Court decision was five to four, not precisely an overwhelming majority opinion. In his dissent, Stevens wrote:
The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach. If those ideas are worth fighting for - and our history demonstrates that they are - it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration.
Now that, baby, is primitive.

And a lot of Americans -- and a lot of legislators -- still hold these "primitive" beliefs with enormous enthusiasm. In protest against the Supreme Court decision in 1989, Congress almost immediately passed the Flag Protection Act. The Supreme Court stuck it down. The swollen ranks of "barbarian" Americans were still not done:
Congress has made seven attempts to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court by passing a constitutional amendment making an exception to the First Amendment in order to allow the government to ban flag desecration.
Thus, the United States of Gary: remarkably stupid, vicious, cruel, and murderous without end.

Here's a suggestion. If you wish to show your solidarity with the "primitive" and "uncivilized" people of Afghanistan -- and of Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, of Iran possibly in the near future, and many other countries around the world -- if you want to demonstrate that you choose to side with all those who protest the United States' unceasing drive to American global hegemony, get an American flag.

Set it on fire.

Never let it be said that we advocate irresponsible action. We would never want the fire to spread. So put it out.

Piss on the burning flag.

Everybody happy now?

February 22, 2012

When "Antiwar" Means "Start the Bombing!"

Given the attention it is receiving from those who are nominally opposed to the United States' foreign policy of criminal, aggressive war and intervention, it is understandable that unwary readers will view Peter Beinart's article, "The Crazy Rush to Attack Iran," as strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. And while Beinart's piece may very superficially appear to oppose such an attack, opposition of this kind is no opposition at all. And it is far worse than that: Beinart accepts the entire framework of those whose warmongering he criticizes, and he thus makes an attack on Iran more likely, not less. As I recently observed about a similarly flawed example of faux-dissent: "The propagandists in the media and in Washington are laughing with delight, for they could not ask for more. With opposition and dissent like this, they can begin the next war this afternoon, and nothing will stand in their way."

We'll begin where Beinart does, with his opening paragraph:
The debate over whether Israel should attack Iran rests on three basic questions. First, if Iran’s leaders got the bomb, would they use it or give it to people who might? Second, would a strike substantially retard Iran’s nuclear program? Third, if Israel attacks, what will Iran do in response?
Beinart's article is structured around the answers to these questions. It is a measure of the overwhelming intellectual bankruptcy of our public debate on this (and every other) question that I am compelled to state the following. Read the first question again: "First, if Iran's leaders got the bomb..." If. That is, this entire discussion focuses on a non-existent threat, on a threat that may never exist. With regard to this particular issue, at present and for the foreseeable future Iran represents no threat at all.

That necessarily leads to only one conclusion: to speak of an attack on a nation that represents no threat at all, is to speak of launching a criminal war of aggression. How can we further characterize a criminal war of aggression? We needn't look far for the answer, as I recently had occasion to note. As part of the script for an ad which hopefully would alert the somnolent American public to the true nature of an attack on Iran, I proposed this language:
After World War II, the U.S. was a key member of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which rendered judgment on the crimes of the Nazis. The Nuremberg Tribunal condemned Nazi Germany for waging aggressive war. It called aggressive war "essentially an evil thing," and said that "to initiate a war of aggression ... is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
It is no small historical irony that the U.S. and Israel now consider committing precisely the same heinous crime for which the Nuremberg Tribunal condemned the Nazi regime. Yet somehow Beinart fails to mention this indisputable and hugely significant fact in his analysis. In the rest of his article, Beinart purports to weigh various factors in deciding whether an attack on Iran is advisable in purely pragmatic terms -- but the fact that he is evaluating whether or not to commit the supreme international crime escapes his notice entirely.

If we were genuinely civilized in any meaningful sense, this failure of Beinart's would exclude his article and all similar articles from any and all further consideration. It is obscene to discuss whether committing the supreme international crime is, in effect, "a good idea under the circumstances." This is the perspective of murderers on a mass scale -- of murderers like the Nazis. This is where we are in America today.

There are several additional points to be made about Beinart's article, but I must stress that everything that follows is in the nature of a postscript. For the reasons I've just stated, I consider this entire discussion to be disgusting in a manner that defies description. And the quality of Beinart's analysis is exactly what you would expect from someone who is completely unaware that he is discussing the "advisability" of committing a heinous crime on an international scale.

Beinart is a well-known writer and commentator; he regularly analyzes national and international events. That might lead you to think that he would have formed some first-hand judgments, and that he would have exercised a minimal degree of intellectual independence. But if you think that -- about Beinart, or about any other well-known writer -- you would almost always be wrong. Beinart begins his analysis with a confession of impotence and ignorance: aw, shucks, I don't have "the expertise to answer" these goldanged important questions, I don't have "secret sources." How can you expect l'il ol' me to figure this stuff out? Fear not, for he has a solution to this awful dilemma: "we decide which experts to trust." And which "experts" does Beinart trust? "Experts" from American and Israeli "military and intelligence agencies."

I've written about this phenomenon at great length. Here is how I once summarized the key issues involved:
The continued insistence by virtually everyone on arguing about "intelligence" arises in large part from the reliance on authority that is drummed into all of us, usually beginning in early childhood. In Part II of "Fools for Empire," I set out several notable examples of what is wrong with relying on intelligence in the manner most people do. One of those examples is from Barbara Tuchman, and here's part of what she said (writing about Vietnam in The March of Folly):
The belief that government knows best was voiced just at this time by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who said on resumption of the bombing, "We ought to all support the President. He is the man who has all the information and knowledge of what we are up against." This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand. It is usually invalid, especially in foreign affairs. "Foreign policy decisions," concluded Gunnar Myrdal after two decades of study, "are in general much more influenced by irrational motives" than are domestic ones.
And in making the connection between that passage and how we are all taught to rely on authority and to obey, I wrote:
To connect Tuchman's argument to my ongoing discussion of the crucial significance of Alice Miller's work, I will rephrase Tuchman's statement, "This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand...," as follows: Mommy and Daddy [and usually, especially Daddy] have special, secret knowledge that I can't possibly have or understand, since I'm just a kid. So when it comes to most things, and particularly when really big questions are involved, I have to do what they say. Mommy and Daddy know best. I have to obey them.
About "intelligence" specifically, I offer the following passage from -- let it be noted -- an article published on December 4, 2007, "Played for Fools Yet Again: About that Iran 'Intelligence' Report":
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.
In addition to "Played for Fools Yet Again," you can find these issues discussed in detail in "You, Too, Can and Should Be an 'Intelligence Analyst,'" and in the further articles linked in those two pieces.

An additional aspect of these problems must be mentioned, in connection with Tuchman's (and my) argument that reliance on authority amounts to nothing more than "a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand." In the second part of "Fools for Empire," I wrote:
All of the facts concerning Iran's activities lie in plain sight in the public domain. Here's an additional fact: the same is true of the overwhelming majority of information that is allegedly so vital to intelligence work. That is not my contention; it is the observation of Ray McGovern, who worked for the CIA as an analyst.
Two examples from Beinart's article will demonstrate the validity of this argument. Beinart writes: "Start with the first question: whether Iran would be suicidal enough to use or transfer a nuke." I must add -- although Beinart does not -- that would be "a nuke" that exactly no evidence suggests even exists. Beinart then proceeds to answer the question from his fully prone position: he quotes several military and intelligence "experts" for the proposition that "Iran is a rational actor," that "Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict,” and so on.

That's funny. That's exactly what I said in an article from May 2007 titled, "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?" (ha! in fact, this excerpt is from an article almost one year earlier):
Once again, the decision is one of policy and judgment, and the intelligence will have nothing to do with it. Even if Iran had nuclear weapons in five or 10 years [or even sooner], many factors strongly argue against the likelihood that they would ever use them against the United States [or Israel]. There is no evidence to suggest that Iran's leaders are entirely suicidal: any attack that could be traced back to Iran would surely result in the large-scale destruction of that country. They know that, so do we, and so does everyone else. Given our current foreign policy of attacking and occupying any country on earth that our current leaders take a strong dislike to -- whether that country constitutes a threat to us or not -- it is hardly surprising that Iran and other nations want a nuclear deterrence of their own, to protect them from our lethal lunacy. Moreover, it is well-known, despite the fact that it is almost never mentioned in our polite political debates, that Israel has a very sizable nuclear arsenal. I should remind you that Israel is not a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and that Iran is. If Iran and Israel both had nuclear weapons at their disposal, that might actually serve to stabilize the Middle East situation, and make a wider regional war less likely. This is not a complicated or controversial thought. It is blindingly logical and straightforward. (Obligatory point for the thinking-impaired: this is not to say that I view a nuclear Iran as a good thing. I don't view it as a remotely good thing that anyone has nuclear weapons, including us. [That is especially true, since we're the only country that has used them-- even when we did not have to, and even when we lied about the devastating human consequences.] I am simply suggesting that the results may not in fact be the End Times calamity that so many assume.)
I arrived at these conclusions -- almost six years ago -- not because I am some goddamned "expert." I made these judgments because I am a reasonably intelligent individual -- like you, and like Beinart (at least perhaps, at least at one time), I looked at the information available in the public domain, and I evaluated the evidence. In brief: I thought about it.

This is what Beinart resolutely refuses to do -- just as Taibbi refuses, just as virtually all public voices refuse to do. Beinart approaches the third question -- "the likely fallout" of an attack on Iran -- in the same manner. He trots out his beloved "experts," who declare that such an attack "would have a 'destabilizing' influence on the region." And: "Meir Dagan, who ran Mossad from 2002 to 2011, warned last year that attacking Iran 'would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.'” Some of us have been saying all of this for years. In addition to the posts mentioned above, see here and here, as just two examples.

I emphasize again the critical importance of this issue: all of these conclusions are easily available to an "ordinary" individual -- an individual who educates himself to even a minimal degree about what information is publicly available, and then thinks about it. In addition to the overwhelmingly significant fact that you need "experts" for none of this, "experts" will always have agendas of their own, as well as agendas aligned with the institutions with which they are associated. When you choose to rely on military and intelligence "experts," you are asking for disaster. You are asking for the next war. Yes, these "experts" may be offering statements now that you think support the case for opposing an attack on Iran -- but what if they change their minds tomorrow? We don't need to imagine that they might decide to announce: "We just received this vital new intelligence report, with critical new data. We now conclude that Iran will have a nuclear bomb within a month unless we act right now. The bombing will commence tomorrow!" We've seen that scenario, on many more than one occasion in our history. It would appear that everyone has forgotten, or never noticed in the first place.

And Beinart and everyone who approaches these issues in the same way will have no answer. "We're just poor ignorant slobs," they declare. "We have to rely on the experts!" And the next war begins. But the principles some of us have identified over and over again, for many years, will not have changed. The determinations with regard to policy and judgment will not have changed. Yet the "experts" will once again declare that war is the only answer -- and those who so blithely resign themselves to following the dictates of authority will go along. They will obey.

The final obscenity in Beinart's endless string of obscenities is contained in his concluding paragraphs. He states that "I've never seen a more lopsided debate among the experts paid to make these judgments," and then laments:
And who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? They’re a collection of think-tankers and politicians, most absolutely sincere, in my experience. But from Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it. The story of the Iraq debate was, in large measure, the story of their triumph over the career military and intelligence officials—folks like Eric Shinseki and Joseph Wilson—whose successors are now warning against attacking Iran.

How can it be, less than a decade after the U.S. invaded Iraq, that the Iran debate is breaking down along largely the same lines, and the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about that war are driving the debate this time as well? Culturally, it’s a fascinating question—and too depressing for words.
If the subject weren't so horrifying, this would be funny. Who was one of "the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong" about the Iraq war? That's right: Peter Beinart. I wrote about his sickening "regret" that the invasion and occupation of Iraq turned out to be "a tragic mistake" at some length: "The Abominables of The New Republic: Getting Away with Murder."

That Beinart neglects to mention his own role in this history points to the larger error he makes now. Beinart names people like Santorum, McCain, Abrams and Bolton, along with other "think-tankers and politicians" -- but these are not the people driving American policy on Iran. That policy is most significantly being driven by the Obama administration. It is the administration, that is, the executive branch of government, that determines Iran policy. And beyond that, it is the fully bipartisan policy directed toward American global hegemony that drives foreign policy with regard to Iran, and with regard to everything else throughout the world -- as I very recently discussed:
For this is the view of the ruling class: "America is God. God's Will be done."

What they want is dominion over the world. They intend to have it. In pursuit of this aim, as they believe the necessity arises, they will destroy anyone and anything that stands in their way. To describe their behavior as insane is to miss the much more critical point, and to minimize the far greater danger. They know exactly what they're doing. They're hoping that you do not. To date, far too many people oblige them.
But Beinart discusses none of this and fails to mention it even once. Since Beinart is incapable of even identifying the nature of American foreign policy and its goals -- a foreign policy and a set of goals that, in their fundamentals, are fully shared by Democrats and Republicans alike -- he is incapable of opposing it in any meaningful way. And the fact is that he does not oppose it, as his record makes balefully clear. This, coupled with his catastrophic reliance on "experts," means only one thing: when the winds change, when enough "authorities" and "experts" declare that their calculations have altered and that they now think several months of bombing runs over Iran will be "worth it," he'll follow their command. He will meekly agree with their edicts, doubtless with deeply touching "regret" and "reluctance." After all, who is he to question their "expertise" and their "special knowledge"? Once again, he will obey.

So I can only repeat what I said in concluding my analysis of Beinart in 2006:
Beinart and his fellow warlovers are filled with regret now, only because the devastation and horror are so immense they cannot be denied. But most Americans have an attention span measured in months and, in the very best case, perhaps a year. Moreover, the horrors of Iraq still have no reality for most Americans, least of all with regard to how those horrors affect Iraqis. To the extent they are aware of them at all, that awareness will fade quickly enough.

And then the stage will be set for the next war, and Beinart and his crowd will propagandize for it once more. For pity's sake, don't let them get away with it again. Remember, and I mean this literally: they will be getting away with murder.

Just as they did this time, and as they do every time.

February 21, 2012

Yet Another Appeal to Non-Existent Gods

A few years ago, in a series of posts about the economic unraveling of the United States, I cited Mike Whitney a number of times. Whitney was very perceptive about many aspects of what was happening and why. To put it informally: I'm predisposed to like the guy's writing.

But as the ruling class's grip on those who are not favored by wealth and power grows constantly tighter, as the ruling class throttles the little remaining life out of those of us struggling merely to survive, laments of this kind grow more and more wearisome. Whitney begins by describing the latest outrage:
Under the terms of the 50-state mortgage foreclosure settlement, US taxpayers could end up paying billions in penalties that were supposed to be paid by the banks. That’s the gist of a front-page story which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, February 17. The widely-cited article by Shahien Nasiripour notes that the 5 banks that will be effected [sic] by the settlement — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial – will be able to use Obama’s mortgage modification program (HAMP) to reduce loan balances and “receive cash payments of up to 63 cents on the dollar for every dollar of loan principal forgiven.”

And that’s not all. If borrowers stay current on their payments after their loans are restructured, the banks could qualify for additional government funds which (according to the FT) “could then turn a profit for the banks according to people familiar with the settlement terms.”

How do you like them apples? Leave it to the bank-friendly Obama administration to turn a penalty into a windfall.
Whitney sets forth additional details of this scheme to make the wealthy and powerful still more wealthy and powerful, and then writes:
It’s also worth reviewing what this case is all about, which is industrial-scale fraud directed at millions of people whose lives have been ruined by the banks.
After explaining that "industrial-scale fraud" a bit more, Whitney states the question which appears to remain a burning concern for him:
So, why are we talking about “mortgage foreclosure settlements” instead of criminal prosecutions? Why hasn’t anyone gone to jail with evidence this compelling?
And he repeats the point in his concluding paragraph:
Forget about the mortgage-foreclosure settlement. It means nothing. Someone has to go to jail. That’s what matters.
The title of his article emphasizes the question: "Why Hasn't Anyone Gone to Jail?"

The question assumes that "the law" exists in a manner separate and independent from particular actors in our corporatist-authoritarian system of government -- that "the law" will in some unspecified manner root out wrongdoing and punish it. That particular assumption will reliably be found in fifth-grade civics textbooks. It has no place in discussions conducted by adults about politics in the real world.

To conceive of "the law" in the fashion Whitney does is to embrace the State's own propaganda. As I have recently discussed with regard to this entirely false conception, "The Law Is a Lie." This brief passage from another recent post is to the same effect:
For the ruling class, "the rule of law" isn't a means of protecting you or your liberty. It's a means of enforcement, a critical way of protecting their own power and wealth.
This particular example of State propaganda goes back to the founding of the United States, as I pointed out several months ago:
What killed "democracy" in America? What gave the government over to the wealthy and powerful?

The Constitution. Of course.

The American Change in Management (formerly known as the "American Revolution," and we should work to make that "formerly" an actuality in usage) surely ranks as one of the more effective propaganda triumphs in history.


The Constitution created a government of, by and for the most wealthy and powerful Americans -- and it made certain (insofar as men can make such things certain) that their rule would never be seriously threatened. The most wealthy and powerful Americans were the ones who wrote it, after all.
After a lengthy discussion of these issues, that post set forth two examples of invocations just as futile and pointless as Whitney's: Chris Hedges' plea for "a return to the rule of law," and Glenn Greenwald's entirely erroneous claim that the law "has been completely perverted." I briefly explained why both those writers were fundamentally mistaken:
What we have today is the rule of law -- the rule of law as conceived and implemented by the ruling class. As is true of the State itself, the law will always be conceived and implemented by someone -- and those who conceive and implement it will be those who have the most power. This should not be a difficult point to grasp, certainly not for those who regularly write political commentary.
The law has not been "perverted." The truth is exactly the opposite. "The law" is serving the precise function for which it was designed -- to serve, in Greenwald's own words, as "a weapon used by the most powerful to protect their ill-gotten gains, strengthen their unearned prerogatives, and ensure ever-expanding opportunity inequality." This is what history tells us repeatedly, as set forth in Bouton's book and other books on the same theme.

Moreover, this must be true if we are talking about "the law" of any State at all. (See "The State and Full Spectrum Dominance" and the detailed discussion here, as well.) It is again the most obvious point that seems to remain entirely invisible: The State and "the law" will always be devised and implemented by those with the most power: that is why they are devising them and not you. To expect the powerful to erect a system that will strip them of every advantage they possess fails to comport with the lengthy testimony of history, or indeed with human nature itself.
I recently set forth some ideas about how those of us opposed to the criminality of an attack on Iran might fight against the massive wall of propaganda erected by the State and its willing enablers in the media (and its perhaps unwitting enablers, as well). I will take this opportunity to suggest that a similar campaign could be devised to take a message directly to the American public about the actual nature of "the law," and how "the law" is used by the ruling class to make itself ever more wealthy and powerful, and to systematically impoverish, brutalize and destroy the rest of us.

But it appears that no one who enjoys a platform with a large audience is interested in advancing my suggestions in a way that might lead to the realization of a campaign of that kind -- as well as to the further possible results that I described. I was trying to help, but I now think that I myself was quite foolish.

We all tend to cling to fables that give us hope, however faint it may be. I think I should be prepared to give up mine. I still have hope, but it's of a very different kind and lies in another direction, as I'll be discussing soon.

February 18, 2012

Hardhitting, Dissenting Journalism -- Without the Hardhitting, Dissenting Part

In a recent essay, I mentioned Matt Taibbi as one of the examples of a phenomenon I call "The Obedient Dissenter," and said I would be examining that phenomenon in further detail soon. This isn't that lengthier analysis, but more in the nature of a sneak preview.

Taibbi posted this entry yesterday: "Another March to War?" His remarks deal with the major media's warmongering about Iran and the distortions they rely upon. All true, and all old news to those who've been awake however briefly in recent years. Note what he drops into the middle of his discussion:
I’m not defending Achmedinejad, I think he’s nuts and a monstrous dick and I definitely don’t think he should be allowed to have nuclear weapons...
He shouldn't be allowed to have nuclear weapons? Ahmadinejad is going to stock all those terrible nuclear weapons in his very own personal Closet of Worldwide Destruction? And then, some night when he's had a few too many drinks or because he's pissed off about not getting his favorite dessert, he's going to haul out a missile and hurl it at some unsuspecting country? And he shouldn't be allowed to have these weapons? Who's going to enforce that prohibition, Taibbi -- you and what military? Oh, that's right: that would be the United States military.

In this manner, Taibbi reduces the most consequential matters of international relations to questions of personality -- thus throwing open the door to all the gutter language used by every warmongering propagandist, all the talk of Ahmadinejad being the "new Hitler," the embodiment of evil and so on. Taibbi even helpfully includes his entirely unsupported and extraordinarily dangerous opinion that Ahmadinejad is "nuts." Way to fight the power, Taibbi!

Thus does Taibbi accept all the assumptions and premises of those he says he is criticizing. Thus does he concede the battle before the first shot is fired.

But that's not the worst thing in his post. Taibbi discusses what he calls "a weird set of internalized assumptions" that form the basis for much of the media's coverage, a sort of "'Western industrial power' code." He describes the operations of that code this way:
[O]ur newspapers and TV stations may blather on a thousand times a day about attacking Iran and bombing its people, but if even one Iranian talks about fighting back, he is being “aggressive” and “threatening”; we can impose sanctions on anyone, but if the sanctioned country embargoes oil shipments to Europe in response, it’s being “belligerent,” and so on.
Taibbi then hauls out one of the hoariest of lines: wasn't there a time, he wonders, a sort of Paradise Lost, when Americans "genuinely needed to feel like they were on the right side of things, and so the foreign powers we clashed with were always depicted as being the instigators and aggressors, while our role in provoking those responses was always disguised or at least played down"?

And he concludes:
But now the public openly embraces circular thinking like, “Any country that squawks when we threaten to bomb it is a threat that needs to be wiped out.” Maybe I’m mistaken, but I have to believe that there was a time when ideas like that sounded weird to the American ear. Now they seem to make sense to almost everyone here at home, and that to me is just as a [sic] scary as Achmedinejad.
A translation of these gibberings would seem to be required. Wasn't there an idyllic period of comparative innocence, asks our babe in the woods, when the lies were better? When the lies weren't quite so transparent? No, Taibbi, there wasn't.

We might mention the lengthy slaughter of Native Americans by the European settlers. It wasn't precisely a secret that the Native Americans were already here -- I mean, they were here and the settlers were slaughtering them in huge numbers. It also wasn't a secret that we pushed the Native Americans into smaller and smaller areas -- and continued to slaughter them. It is also fairly well-known -- at least, I had thought it was -- that the general attitude of the new arrivals was: "How dare these primitive barbarians resist when we kill them!" And we proceeded to kill almost all of them.

And we might mention the centuries during which the European settlers enslaved vast numbers of human beings, after first forcibly importing them to these shores under unimaginably brutal conditions. We could discuss the unending evils of the institution of slavery -- and we might note that, whenever those who were enslaved rebelled against the evils imposed on them, the attitude of many Americans was: "How dare these subhuman beasts protest against their enslavement!" Of course, the Americans who lived in the Paradise Lost imagined by Taibbi killed huge numbers of slaves, while condemning the rest to lives of terror and unending cruelty.

Or we might mention America's deliberate instigation of the Mexican-American War, and the manner in which the same propaganda techniques we see today were used in the middle of the nineteenth century. I discussed all this in a post from November 2006. That entry offered excerpts from Hampton Sides' book, Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West. Sides writes:
The mission on which Kearny led the Army of the West [in 1846] had no precedent in American history. For the first time the U.S. Army was setting out to invade, and permanently occupy, vast portions of a sovereign nation. It was a bald landgrab of gargantuan proportions.


Realizing that neither diplomacy nor outright bartering would achieve his expansionist ends, Polk was determined to provoke a war. He dispatched Gen. Zachary Taylor to disputed territory, between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, in southern Texas. It was an unsubtle attempt to create the first sparks. In April 1846, Taylor's soldiers were fired upon, and Polk was thus given the pretext he needed to declare war.

"American blood has been spilled on American soil," Polk spluttered with righteous indignation, neglecting to mention that Taylor had done everything within his power to invite attack, and that anyway, it wasn't really American soil--at least not yet. Mexico had "insulted the nation," the president charged, and now must be punished for its treachery, beaten back, relieved of vast tracts of real estate it was not fit to govern.

The simple truth was, Polk wanted more territory. No president in American history had ever been so frank in his aims for seizing real estate. ...

Perhaps to dignify the nakedness of Polk's land lust, the American citizenry had got itself whipped into an idealistic frenzy, believing with an almost religious assurance that its republican form of government and its constitutional freedoms should extend to the benighted reaches of the continent then held by Mexico, which, with its feudal customs and Popish superstitions, stood squarely in the way of Progress. To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor.
We might also mention America's deliberate and carefully calculated decision to embark upon an overseas Empire -- with the annexation of Hawaii, followed by the occupation and war in the Philippines.

And so on and so forth. In "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals," I described this repeated pattern. In discussing the torments inflicted by Israel on the prisoners of Gaza, I wrote:
For a very long time, the United States government has specialized in the pattern pursued by Israel. The vastly more powerful nation wishes to act on a certain policy -- almost always territorial expansion, for purposes of access to resources, or to force itself into new markets, or to pursue the evil notion that economic and ideological success depend on brutality and conquest -- but a specifically moral justification for its planned actions does not lie easily to hand.

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

The United States government has utilized this tactic with Mexico, to begin the Spanish-American War, even, dear reader, in connection with the U.S. entrance into World War II, most recently in Iraq, possibly (perhaps probably) with Iran in the future, and in numerous other conflicts. It's always the fault of the other side, never the fault of the United States itself. Yet the United States has always been much more powerful than those it victimizes in this manner. The United States always claims that its victims represented a dire threat to its very survival, a threat that must be brought under U.S. control, or eliminated altogether. The claim has almost never been true. This monstrous pattern is "The American Way of Doing Business."
This preview turned out to be longer than I had anticipated. Taibbi made it necessary -- for he is not merely "mistaken" (pity the poor child). Rather, he appears to have missed all of American history, as well as the stratagems utilized by the powerful throughout all of history whenever they seek to increase their power still more.

But Taibbi tells us he "ha[s] to believe" in the Eden of his concocted fantasy, and that he "ha[s] to believe" in an America that never existed then and that has never existed at all. That is because he has absorbed every critical element of American exceptionalism, and he seems to lack even the faintest understanding of the false set of beliefs to which he clings so desperately.

So Taibbi is inexorably led to call Ahmadinejad "nuts," and to proclaim that this "nut" must "definitely" not be "allowed" to have nuclear weapons. The propagandists in the media and in Washington are laughing with delight, for they could not ask for more. With opposition and dissent like this, they can begin the next war this afternoon, and nothing will stand in their way.

But some of us are not laughing. No, we most certainly are not.

February 14, 2012

Dumb Is Good

Mr. Smartypants Drudge links this story:
ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN - The American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has passed through the Strait of Hormuz, shadowed by Iranian patrol boats.

But there were no incidents on Tuesday as the Lincoln's battle group crossed through the narrow strait, which Iran has threatened to close in retaliation for tighter Western sanctions.

Several U.S. choppers flanked the carrier group throughout the voyage from the Gulf. Radar operators also picked up an Iranian drone and surveillance helicopter in Iran's airspace near the strait, which is jointly controlled by Iran and Oman.

The Lincoln entered the Gulf last month amid heightened tensions with Iran. It is scheduled to begin providing aiding [sic sic sic] the NATO mission in Afghanistan starting Thursday.
Okay. I'm calm. No, seriously, I am. Perfectly calm.

I guess I could make an obvious point. Well, it seems obvious to me, but hardly anybody seems to mention it. Lots of talk about the Strait of Hormuz. Ya know, Iran is right there on the Strait of Hormuz. I mean, right there. But okay. I guess the U.S. sends an aircraft carrier along with a battle group and even several U.S. choppers because those terrible Iranians have a fleet of warships floating right next to the southern tip of Manhattan. And then there are some of Iran's bombers flying practice runs along the Atlantic coast. Like, all the time, for months and months! So yeah, I'm sure that's the explanation.

Still calm!

And Iran "has threatened" to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for sanctions, embargoes and other acts of war? Iran thinks it has the right to defend itself? Is the world going totally nuts?

And my God, there were "an Iranian drone and surveillance helicopter"! Wait, wait, just a sec. "In Iran's airspace"?? What the hell? It's a trick! It must be an evil, horrible trick!! Iran has its own airspace? When did that happen? I don't understand anything about this.

And the Lincoln will provide aid to "the NATO mission in Afghanistan"? I can't be obvious again, can I? Okay, just a smidge. Afghanistan is right there. I mean, you know where Afghanistan is? That's where it is. Why is NATO there? That's not where NATO is.

All right, I get it. I'm just stupid. And still calm! Yay!

This kinda reminds me of the time Rush Limbaugh was OUTRAGED! because those rotten commie Russians were spying on the U.S. (Rush said they're still commies. Rush knows things.) Rush said there couldn't be any reason for the rotten Russkies to do that, 'ceptin' that they're all, like, evil and stuff.

Just like this current story is totally mystifying to me (cuz I'm stupid, I get it), I couldn't follow what Rush was saying either. So I got all serious about it:
To put the actual point very bluntly: the Russians, along with the Iranians, along with everyone else in the world, are entirely justified in thinking that, if they are not on their guard and if they do not take all possible precautions, the United States will fuck up their shit. This is what it means to be devoted to a policy of American worldwide hegemony, enabled by, among other elements, a global empire of bases. The United States is intent, to the fullest extent it can, on fucking up everyone's shit. That's what the U.S. has been doing for more than a century. See, e.g., here, here and here.
But I get upset when I'm all serious like that.

So I'm not going to do it. I'm just gonna be stupid. And calm!

You can do it too! Yes, you can. Look, if you're not even going to try, I can't help you.

Dumb is good! I always wanted a religion. This is it! C'mon, it only hurts until lotsa brain cells die. Then you feel fine. And calm!

I like calm.

February 12, 2012

Nightmare Without Limits

I must begin with a reminder. In "The Face of the Killer Who Is Your President," I excerpted an article by Nick Turse. Here are several passages from Turse's reporting:
Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you're done... for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the U.S. military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world's countries. ...

While it's well known that U.S. Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. "We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq," he said recently. This global presence -- in about 60% of the world's nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

SOCOM represents something new in the military. Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as "the president's private army," today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive's private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.

In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once "special" for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
Turse's article was published at the beginning of August 2011.

In a story dated today, February 12, 2012, the New York Times now reports:
As the United States turns increasingly to Special Operations forces to confront developing threats scattered around the world, the nation’s top Special Operations officer, a member of the Navy Seals who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, is seeking new authority to move his forces faster and outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels.

The officer, Adm. William H. McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, is pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy. The plan would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.

It would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
I'm certain you find all this tremendously reassuring. How good to know that Special Operations forces are used more and more frequently "to confront developing threats." What constitutes a "developing threat"? What are the factors involved? Who evaluates the available information and judges the severity of the threat?

And, if I may be so bold as to ask, what the hell does anyone in this criminal government mean by "threat" in the first damned place? Every bloody and blood-drenched official and miserable bureaucrat in Washington tells us that Iran is the gravest "threat" facing the United States -- except that it is no threat at all, nor will it ever be in the foreseeable future.

But Special Operations wants a still "larger role," and its leader wants "more autonomy to..." To what? Counter non-existent "threats"? And Special Operations wants "to expand their presence in regions" where they aren't yet killing whomever they choose and generally wreaking devastation whenever they feel like it. But I'm certain you'll sleep much better in light of all these wonderful reassurances.

I will give the NYT credit in one respect: their reporting on matters of this kind perfectly captures the nauseatingly hilarious mood of the murderous, maniacal farce that suffocates our lives. The very next paragraph of its story offers a series of real howlers:
While President Obama and his Pentagon’s leadership have increasingly made Special Operations forces their military tool of choice, similar plans in the past have foundered because of opposition from regional commanders and the State Department. The military’s regional combatant commanders have feared a decrease of their authority, and some ambassadors in crisis zones have voiced concerns that commandos may carry out missions that are perceived to tread on a host country’s sovereignty, like the rift in ties with Pakistan after the Bin Laden raid.
Don't you adore the fact that this collection of murderers and assassins exhibit the same petty squabbles over influence and power as are found in the moth-eaten bureaucracy of any pathetically rotten company you care to name? "No, no, you can't kill that guy! He's mine!" Or: "Wait a second, you miserable bastard. I'm the one who gets to order the destruction of those villages!" It's a magnificently edifying spectacle, it most surely is.

And I simply love that "some ambassadors" have "voiced concerns" that the always courteous and thoughtful United States might "tread on a host country's sovereignty." When killing a country's citizens, destroying their land, and exploiting their resources, you can never be too thoughtful. We wouldn't want to offend anyone, for heaven's sake.

I could go through the rest of the story, but honestly, neither you nor I deserve that kind of punishment. I want to make a few general points of some significance.

First, and I consider this absolutely crucial, stories like this -- especially when reported in the NYT, or the Washington Post or other organs of the State -- and let's please cut to the chase here and state what is indisputably the truth, for they are merely extensions of the State -- are what the State wants us to know. I repeat: this is what those with all the power want us to know.

I realize that all of us, including me, spend a lot of time analyzing and commenting on the "news." Of course we do: for the most part, what else do we have to go on? But do you honestly believe -- honestly, mind you -- that anything you read in the NYT or similar publications, or hear on radio or television, is what is actually going on right now? I haven't for decades. I don't consider this to be engaging in "conspiracy" theories to any degree whatsoever. I view it as the unvarnished, awful truth of where we are, and where we've been for a long time. To be sure, stories like this one bear some kind of very rough approximation to something that's going on -- but do they constitute a complete and accurate version of those events? Absolutely not.

The major purpose of this kind of "reporting" is to soften the public up, to get the suckers accustomed to what's already going on and/or what will happen very soon. That way, when a completely "unexpected" crisis occurs in some country no one has ever paid the slightest bit of attention to, we've already been conditioned for the "surprising" and uniformly awful "news." Perhaps it's an attack on the Third Minister of Transportation for the Fourth Southeastern Subdistrict in Middle Ofuquia. Lo and behold! Heroic Special Operations personnel just happen to be there to kill the "terrorists," and incidentally slaughter most of the inhabitants of all the surrounding towns. These things happen. And the fact that a small deployment remains to "guard" the nearby natural gas deposits is entirely coincidental. That's not reported in the NYT until a year later, and then only as a passing mention in a report on still another "crisis." An "unexpected" one, of course.

We've known for over half a year that Special Operations forces would be operating in roughly 120 countries by the end of 2011. It's now February 2012. The actual number is higher, if anything. And we know those forces are engaged in "high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans."

That's what they want us to know. The truth must be far worse. The latest NYT story, like all such stories, is at best a general, indistinct approximation of the truth. We can only guess at the rest.

As for all the talk about "developing threats" and the other "needs" that supposedly demand a U.S. presence in almost every corner of the world ... that's marketing. It's all about the marketing, baby. This bullshit sells. What's beneath the marketing? The ruling class has told us repeatedly, and with regard to this issue, they've been admirably clear over a period of many decades. As I recently explained once again:
[T]his is the view of the ruling class: "America is God. God's Will be done."

What they want is dominion over the world. They intend to have it. In pursuit of this aim, as they believe the necessity arises, they will destroy anyone and anything that stands in their way. To describe their behavior as insane is to miss the much more critical point, and to minimize the far greater danger. They know exactly what they're doing. They're hoping that you do not. To date, far too many people oblige them.

Don't help them in their pursuit of brutality, oppression, murder and vast destruction. I state again: they know exactly what they're doing. Be sure you judge them accordingly.
Believe it.

On Behalf of Life: Occupy, Authority, and The Obedient Dissenter

Men may be divided into those who are in favour of life and those who are against it. Among those who are against it there are sensitive and wise and penetrating people who are too offended and discouraged by the shapelessness of spontaneity, by the lack of order among human beings who wish to live their own lives, not in obedience to any common pattern. Among such was Maistre. On the whole he has no positive doctrine, and if he has to choose between liberty and death he rejects liberty. -- Isaiah Berlin, writing about Joseph de Maistre, quoted in my essay, "Writing from the Scaffold: In Defense of Terror and Authoritarianism"
At the conclusion of my post from last week, where I described an ad idea which I hoped would get the attention of many Americans and prompt them to think about the criminality and insanity of an attack on Iran, I indicated I had additional ideas along the same lines and would discuss them soon. I decided I would leave that post as the latest one for a period of time, to see what response it received. I repeat that I'm not especially wedded to that particular ad idea, although I think it's a good one. But I'm sure other people could come up with more effective ones, or ideas of very different kinds employing strategies grounded in other ways. My post got a few links and several tweets, and I thank the few people who noticed it. And that was it. No writer or site with a large readership linked to or commented on my article.

With regard to what I hoped might happen -- the beginning of a discussion about doing something significantly different, in the hope of altering what otherwise seems to be an inevitable series of events -- the response was exactly the same as it was five years ago when I went through this same process: nothing. Almost nothing at all. As I indicated in the entry preceding the ad idea, that is what I expected. I may be perceived by some as being extraordinarily rude and dismayingly unruly in this post and several subsequent ones. I'm not going to use four-letter words this time (except perhaps one or two), but I plan to do something far worse. I will offer some observations which are more in the nature of indisputable facts, yet they are facts that most people have agreed never to acknowledge. Here, "most people" includes many dissenting writers and the major alternative websites.

Those writers and websites have offered hundreds, even thousands, of articles over the years about the immense destructiveness of U.S. foreign policy in general, and more particularly about the devastation and chaos that would result from a criminal U.S. attack on Iran. They have also published articles about the destruction of civil liberties and the massive growth of the surveillance state. I've written many such articles myself, including many dozens about Iran and the Middle East. During this time, all the terrible problems to which we've devoted so much attention have gotten steadily worse -- and not simply worse, but much worse. How do I know this? I follow the news -- and I read the dissenting writers and the alternative websites. They tell me that all these problems become more nightmarish by the day, and they tell me (and all of us) in excruciating, lengthy detail. Thousands of articles document the gathering, worsening horrors -- and the horrors constantly grow still more horrifying.

I do not want to be misunderstood on one critical point. The articles I refer to (and the alternative websites) have very significant value. They provide an inestimable educational service, by setting forth history, facts and analysis that are not available elsewhere for the most part. That is crucial. Also, and very importantly, they offer a sense of community and kinship to those who would otherwise feel isolated and alienated by the depravity and cruelty that dominate our culture. I myself receive emails from time to time in which a reader will thank me for allowing her to feel less alone, for reassuring her that she is not the only person who resists the madness that descends on us. I find some of those emails very moving, and I'm always enormously gratified to read them. These two purposes -- education and community -- are vital. I do not underestimate or casually dismiss their importance.

But if we hope to alter the course of events, even if all we can do is slow down what now seems to be a rush toward disaster on an ungraspable scale, thus to buy ourselves more time if we can, it cannot be disputed that all those articles are not enough -- and they will never be enough. Nor will huge, worldwide protests on the order of what we saw in 2002-2003, as I noted. I say again that it is the dissenting writers and alternative websites themselves that repeatedly tell me that all these awful problems grow steadily worse and increase in their destructiveness and cruelty. In addition to the articles, and to protests of the kind we've seen (which are routinely and systematically ignored), something very different in kind is required if we wish to see another outcome. That's the reason I offered the ad idea: to start a discussion of what we can do that is different and new, something that might motivate many Americans to look at these questions in a radically different way.

This is the same reason I offered my suggestions five years ago. I remind you that I was far from alone in thinking that the Bush administration was determined to attack Iran; a great many people had reached the same conclusion, and a large body of evidence supported it. I continue to believe that we will not know until 10 or 20 years hence, if then, what convinced the criminal Bush gang to give up those plans. And in that article from 2007, I wrote:
Two or three years hence, no one will be happier than I to look back on this time and laugh about how worried we were about what turned out to be nothing in the end. But as I said, that is not a chance I am willing to take. Even if my assessment should turn out to be completely wrong, the steps suggested below would be wonderfully good practice, in the awful event that an equally maniacal administration should hold power in the future. It would be enormously useful and comforting to know that an effective force of resistance can be built to check the mad ambitions of those who hold the reins of power.
I occasionally think about how much easier this work would be today if such an "effective force" had been built five years ago. I don't dwell on it, for it's far too dispiriting. There's also no point in reflecting on what might have been, especially at this moment in time.

Now, five years later, here we are again, seemingly in the exact same place. With regard to an attack on Iran, we have "an equally maniacal administration" that appears to be determined to follow the same general plan the Bush criminals finally gave up, for reasons unknown. They certainly didn't give it up because of the force of a resistance movement that had become so powerful that the ruling class decided some concessions had to be made, if only to protect their own power. That couldn't have been the reason because nothing like that came close to happening. So it is again today, at least as things stand at the moment. And a few thousand more articles about the criminality and insanity of attacking Iran will not alter future events, not by themselves. So I suggested something new and different. And exactly as before, almost no one is interested in even discussing it.

I've been reading Adam Hochschild's book, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. In his usual engrossing manner, Hochschild tells the stories of those individuals in Britain who enthusiastically supported The Great War and drank deeply of the endless stream of lies offered to justify it, against the stories of those who opposed what had previously been unimaginable horror and destruction. Bertrand Russell was one of those who resisted the call to murder and devastation from the beginning. Russell managed to escape imprisonment until the last year of the war, and it is worth noting the excuse finally used to throw him in jail. Among the awful consequences of an attack on Iran, I would expect excuses like this to be employed once again, especially since they already have been. Hochschild writes:
In this bleak spring [of 1918], Bertrand Russell finally joined those Britons in prison. As their excuse, authorities seized on a few sentences in an article in the No-Conscription Fellowship's Tribunal, where Russell predicted that the American troops now starting to arrive in England and France might be used as strikebreakers, "an occupation to which the American Army is accustomed when at home." In court, the prosecutor claimed that this passage would have a "diabolical effect" and interfere with relations between Britain and a key ally. "A very despicable offence," thundered the judge, and sentenced Russell to six months.
Russell was released shortly before the Armistice and the war's end on November 11:
Bertrand Russell, recently released from prison, walked up Tottenham Court Road and watched Londoners pour out of shops and offices into the street to cheer. The public jubilation made him think of the similar mood he had witnessed when war was declared more than four years earlier. "The crowd was frivolous still, and had learned nothing during the period of horror. . . . I felt strangely solitary amid the rejoicings, like a ghost dropped by accident from some other planet."
It would never occur to me to compare myself to Bertrand Russell in any respect; besides being unbearably pretentious, it would be astonishingly stupid. But to some extent, I think I understand how he felt on that day so long ago. We find ourselves in the same place we were five years ago, and I make the same arguments I made then. I again point out that registering our dissent as we have will change nothing. Events of the last decade prove that conclusively. And the dissenting writers are very smart people: they know that hundreds, even thousands, of new articles about the madness of attacking Iran won't stop it. Yet to my knowledge, almost no one will discuss doing something new and different in addition to those articles.

So I sometimes feel "like a ghost dropped by accident from some other planet." Given my overall perspective, which differs on every fundamental issue at every critical point from the prevailing consensus (and is usually in direct opposition to that consensus), it is not a feeling unfamiliar to me. But even ghosts have work to do. Russell lived for another 50 years, and much important work was yet to be accomplished.

I find the great reluctance to consider new and different courses of action, even on the part of sincere and dedicated dissenters, an intriguing and important subject. I've been thinking about it a lot. An explanation for this phenomenon has gradually taken shape in my mind. And although it is not where I began my investigation -- for I never begin with a conclusion, even one I find very persuasive and even if it is one I have been led to in the past, but instead always begin with the very particular facts of the specific question before me -- I was inexorably led to themes to which I've devoted much attention over the years: how we all are taught the necessity of obedience to authority, the manner in which most people are profoundly uncomfortable when confronted with spontaneous, unplanned and undirected situations, and the operations of tribalism, including the tribalism of political affiliation. I was also led to the identification of what I will call "The Obedient Dissenter." I'll explain what I mean by that phrase in considerable detail, using several well-known examples. Hell, to pique your possibly wandering attention, I'll tell you the examples I plan to use: Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges (and see below), and Glenn Greenwald. Several important aspects of these questions are captured in the Isaiah Berlin passage at the beginning of this article, which is why I selected it. (The full essay offers more extensive excerpts from Berlin.)

While I was working my way through these very complicated issues -- so complicated that they will require several essays to examine -- a controversy erupted which reveals many of the same dynamics. Chris Hedges wrote this article -- "The Cancer in Occupy" -- and David Graeber responded with this one -- "Concerning the Violent Peace-Police." If the controversy is new to you, I strongly suggest that you begin with Graeber's piece. Graeber is relentlessly focused on facts and the specifics of the problem being examined. The conclusions and more general observations he offers grow out of those facts; in this sense, Graeber's conclusions and observations are organic and spontaneous, much like the Occupy movement itself.

Hedges proceeds in a very different manner. He wrote the article because he had an agenda; as Graeber reveals in an especially devastating fashion, it is a very ugly agenda, whether Hedges realized it consciously or not. And there is close to nothing in Hedges' article that is accurate or truthful. Graeber also demonstrates, to put it plainly, that Hedges doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. In rereading Hedges' piece, it struck me very forcefully that it is nothing like the sober political analysis it purports to be: rather, it is a psychological confession. What interests me, and what I think constitutes its importance, is what Hedges is confessing. Hedges is far from alone in approaching these questions in this way.

As you correctly suspect, I have much more to say about both articles, and that is where I will continue next time.

February 06, 2012

The First Ad: Who Are the Nazis Now?

I plan to set out a number of ideas about what we can do to try to stop the drive to war with Iran, and I'll discuss them very soon in upcoming posts. Here, I want to offer an idea for the first ad in a series of ads. I offer this idea right now because I desperately want to see some people take it up -- or other, better ideas along the same lines -- as soon as possible.

In the preceding post, I referred to the action plan I set forth five years ago for the same reason. The purpose of the ad campaign remains what I said in 2007: "The major goals here are to educate, to lead, and to motivate a critical number of Americans to take action themselves..." Toward the conclusion of that article, I discussed the monolithic war-making ideology that rules the United States:
Most Americans have never heard an alternative point of view -- because almost no one in national life has an alternative point of view. That is why I say that a critical part of this campaign must be educational in nature: to explain, however briefly, an alternative view, specifically with regard to Iran. And consider a related point: most of you reading this are seriously engaged with political issues to one degree or another. But in many ways, that kind of involvement is a luxury unknown to most Americans. The great majority of Americans spend all their days, and often sleepless nights, worrying about very basic concerns: how to pay next month's rent, how to afford the medical care that one of the children needs very badly, whether they can afford to go to the movies -- or if they have to save that money for food next week. I think a lot of you who may read this forget how many Americans live. I don't forget it, in large part because I've lived with those kinds of concerns myself for the last few years, and continue to live that way now.

Most Americans rarely think about politics at all; they can't afford to, in any sense of that phrase. When they very briefly pay attention, they simply absorb the ideas that predominate on television or radio, or in newspapers they may occasionally glance at. Today, virtually everything they hear or read tells them that Iran is the "greatest threat" we face, and that an Iran with nuclear weapons is "intolerable" and "unacceptable." None of that is true ...

They don't hear another point of view, because there isn't one. It's past time for those of us who approach these issues in a radically different way to provide it to them, on the largest scale possible. For many of you reading this, your involvement in and knowledge about politics is a great luxury, one you often take for granted. But I would suggest that, along with that luxury, comes greatly increased responsibility. You know more, you are able to spend more time on these subjects, and so more can rightfully be expected of you.
It's terrible to read those words from five years ago -- and to realize that every aspect of what I described has only grown much worse during the intervening years.

Thus, the purposes of the ad campaign are to educate Americans, and then to motivate them to act. In this cultural atmosphere, the first goal must be that of education for the reasons I set forth. This past Saturday was a "Day of Mass Action" to demonstrate against a possible attack on Iran. There was very little coverage of the protests that I could find (and who decided it was a good idea to have them on Super Bowl weekend?); here's one story about the protests. In New York City -- New York City, mind you -- there were about 500 protesters.

Please understand that nothing I'm saying here is intended as criticism of any kind of the people who protested. They see something awful coming toward us, and they desperately want to stop it. I salute them for all of that, and I genuinely mean it. My point has only to do with strategy and outcomes: protests of this kind will stop absolutely nothing. And this isn't Field of Dreams and we're not Kevin Costner: it's not the case that protests can be announced -- and "they will come." Until they're provided the required education and motivation, they won't come.

But even much larger numbers of protesters won't stop the horror that may be coming toward us. Remember what happened in 2002-2003. There were huge protests across the world -- and still the war against Iraq began. So protests that last for a day or less and then disperse aren't sufficient. But what might work is 500,000 or a million people (or even more) descending on Washington, D.C. -- and simply staying. The purpose would be very simple:


Just shut it down. Don't leave. Shut the damned place down completely -- until the U.S. Government disavows any and all plans to attack Iran in the present and foreseeable circumstances. Think of it as Occupy multiplied by a factor of 10,000, or maybe 50,000. And think what might happen if New York, Chicago, San Francisco and several other cities were shut down in the same way. We'd at least get the bastards' attention. It would be a colossal news story.

Oh, that's crazy, you think. That could never happen. Why not? Attacking Iran is crazy. Invading Iraq was crazy. The U.S. Government claiming it has the "right" to assassinate anyone in the world for any reason at all -- or for no reason, just because they feel like it -- is crazy. Most of what's happened in the last ten years is crazy. I see no reason to believe that lunacy is a trait on which the fuckers in the ruling class hold a monopoly. Those of us on the side of peace and life, instead of war and death, are entitled to some craziness, too.

So the question is: How do we get from where we are today to the place where demonstrations of the kind I've described are possible? That's where the campaign to educate and motivate is crucial. And the first ad in that campaign is critical.

A month or two ago, I saw an ad that serves as a wonderful model for the the kind of ad that I think is needed to start this process. It's this Ron Paul ad. For our purposes here, please put aside every issue concerning Paul's candidacy and what you think of it. I don't care about any of that, and I suggest that you shouldn't care either. What I do care about is that the ad is stunningly effective, and it grabs your attention in an unforgettable way. Obviously, the key to the ad's effectiveness is the reversal at its heart: How would you feel if Chinese or Russian troops were stationed in the middle of Texas? The ad then goes through the major elements concerning the presence and behavior of U.S. troops in foreign countries, and asks how the viewer would feel if he were a citizen of one of those countries. Most people never think in those terms, but those are exactly the terms they should use in analyzing these questions.

The Ron Paul ad will never convince anyone who thinks America is the embodiment of nobility and goodness, and that nothing the U.S. ever does can be fundamentally, horribly wrong. We'll never convince those people either. Forget them. But there's a huge group of Americans who might respond to a radically different point of view, if they ever heard it. The point of an ad of this kind is to let them hear it in a way they'll be sure to remember. The Paul ad does that, and it does it brilliantly.

To put it another way, the major purpose of the first ad concerning Iran is simple, and crucial. It is, once again: to get people's attention. To that end, it should be as controversial as possible, while being entirely truthful. Part of the controversy will be that a great many people will be absolutely enraged. Great! That guarantees that it will be talked about a lot. That's exactly what we want.

I would want to see the ad on every major television network on the same night, right in the middle of primetime. It may well be that no network will run it. But, hey, no crime in trying. (Not this week, at least not yet.) In that case, we'd have to work to make it a huge internet phenomenon. Once it becomes big enough, major news outlets will cover it -- now as a news story. Also great!

The content of the ad would focus on the Gleiwitz incident which Germany used to "justify" Germany's invasion of Poland, as discussed in the preceding post. The ad would juxtapose Germany's claims about Poland's "provocation" with U.S. claims about Iran's "provocation." I would suggest using lots of photographs and/or film footage: shots of German leaders and troops, then shots of U.S. leaders and troops, battleships, planes, and so forth. Just imagine how angry some Americans will get. Fantastic!

When the German pictures/films are shown, we hear: "At the end of August 1939, Germany claimed that Polish saboteurs attacked a German radio station and took it over. The Polish saboteurs were actually Germans wearing Polish uniforms. The German government said that the Polish attack justified the German invasion of Poland. But it wasn't true."

Then we see the U.S. pictures/films, and we hear: "Today, the U.S. claims that Iran is working to get nuclear weapons. In fact, there isn't any proof of that. In fact, just recently 'the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community said that they were not sure that Iran was even trying to build a nuclear weapon.' The U.S. claims that Iran's determination to have nuclear weapons justifies an attack on Iran. But it isn't true."

Then we see more German pictures/films, and we hear more details of Germany's claims about why Germany had to invade Poland -- and then, "But it wasn't true."

Then more U.S. pictures, and another of the U.S. claims about Iran's actions, perhaps: "The U.S. says that Iran refuses to let inspectors verify that Iran isn't diverting materials to make nuclear weapons. In fact, Iran has repeatedly submitted to more extensive oversight and investigation of its nuclear program than any other country. The U.S. claims that Iran's secrecy and its refusal to be open about its work justifies an attack on Iran. But it isn't true."

After maybe five or six of these comparisons, we get to this:
After World War II, the U.S. was a key member of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which rendered judgment on the crimes of the Nazis. The Nuremberg Tribunal condemned Nazi Germany for waging aggressive war. It called aggressive war "essentially an evil thing," and said that "to initiate a war of aggression ... is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." [During this narration, we see photos and films of Nazi leaders and the German military, perhaps with film of Hitler at the end of this section.]

Today, the U.S. claims that Iran is a serious threat to America and to the world, and that an Iran with nuclear weapons is absolutely unacceptable. But there is no evidence at all that Iran is even seeking nuclear weapons. So the U.S. is threatening Iran with military action because of a threat that doesn't exist and may never exist. That means the U.S., which has the most powerful military the world has ever seen, is threatening a much weaker country, a country that couldn't possibly threaten the U.S. in any serious way -- and the U.S. is threatening to launch a war of aggression, which we ourselves have called "the supreme international crime." [During this narration, we see photos and films of U.S. leaders and the U.S. military. I would suggest film of Obama at the end of this section, but that might get us all thrown in jail. And we have more work to do. So maybe just a picture of the U.S. flag.]
And then at the very end of the ad, the tagline:
So ... Who are the Nazis now?
Imagine for a moment what would happen if an ad like that were shown on every television network at 9 PM. Yes, it would cause a huge controversy. As I said, that would be wonderful! This should be followed by four or five more ads -- one focusing on the effects of an attack on Iran, including how it is very possible (even likely) that a war could spread very quickly throughout the Middle East and even beyond -- that we might be in the middle of World War III within months. Another ad could focus on the effects here in the U.S.: rocketing oil prices, enormous economic hardship (particularly affecting the middle class and the poor), maybe widespread government crackdowns on dissenters. A separate ad could compare the lies about Iran to the lies told about Iraq -- and by the way, I wouldn't mention Iraq at all in the first ad. The focus should be solely on Iran, and I myself think nothing should distract from that. Keep the focus very tight, and just on Iran. The ad should be as powerful as possible, and the tight focus is very important for that purpose.

As I said above, it's certainly possible that no network would touch an ad like this. In that case, put it on Youtube and publicize the hell out of it. Every writer and blogger who gives a damn should talk about it nonstop. Make it a tremendous story.

To do all this obviously requires money. I have a very, very small readership, and there is no way I could raise the kind of money needed. As I did five years ago, I must ask for help. Surely there must be some writers with much larger audiences who would want to help with this project. If you don't like my ideas, come up with your own. We can all pretend we're in Mad Men. It's actually fun to work on ads like this. I did this very quickly, and I had a great time thinking about it. Try it! (I also repeat what I've said many times in the past. I feel no proprietary interest whatsoever in any of these ideas. If someone wants to use these ideas or some of what I've written about Iran, just take it. I want no credit or payment of any kind at all. In other words: steal as much as you want, please.)

There are writers who have written and spoken very passionately about the insanity of U.S. foreign policy, and about the insanity of an attack on Iran in particular. I would think that people like Hedges, Taibbi and Greenwald (among others, to say nothing of alternative and dissenting websites and organizations themselves) could raise a lot of money if they wanted to. They have large audiences. (And didn't Greenwald raise over half a million dollars several years ago for his PAC, Accountability Now? That's my memory. I can easily imagine that many reasons might well prohibit using that money for ads like this -- it wouldn't be within the defined purposes of the PAC or among the purposes for which people donated funds, etc. I mention it to make the point that writers with very large audiences can raise large sums when they put their minds to it.)

But get the first ad made, and then get it out there. If the ad is powerful and controversial enough, it will become a huge story. As I said in that post five years ago, we must make the insanity and criminality of an attack on Iran the major topic of conversation in the country. It has to become inescapable. Everyone will be talking about it, including those who think we're the worst kind of traitors. That's fine. We want everyone talking about it nonstop, all the time.

We need a lot of people to help with this. So in closing, for now, I'll repeat what I said at the end of that post from 2007:
We cannot choose the moment in history during which we happen to spend our lives. But we can choose what we do about it, and how we try to affect the course of events, to the extent we can. We are living during an especially critical time, one that is filled with terrible dangers -- and one that might change the world and our country for the rest of our lives. We may not have chosen this battle, but it is here whether we want it or not. So I hope some of you will choose to join it, on the side of peace, liberty and the infinitely precious value of a single human life.

And I hope some of you start, or continue with renewed dedication, today.
I have more ideas. I'll write about them in the next few days.