February 28, 2006

The Troops Want Out

Noted with almost no comment, since none is necessary, as reported in Stars and Stripes:
WASHINGTON — Seventy-two percent of troops on the ground in Iraq think U.S. military forces should get out of the country within a year, according to a Zogby poll released Tuesday.

The survey of 944 troops, conducted in Iraq between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14, said that only 23 percent of servicemembers thought U.S. forces should stay "as long as they are needed."

Of the 72 percent, 22 percent said troops should leave within the next six months, and 29 percent said they should withdraw "immediately." Twenty-one percent said the U.S. military presence should end within a year; 5 percent weren’t sure.


John Zogby, CEO of the polling company, said the poll was funded through Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, which received money for the project from an anonymous, anti-war activist, but neither the activist nor the school had input on the content of the poll.

Zogby said the survey was conducted face-to-face throughout Iraq, with permission from commanders. Despite the difficulty of polling in a war zone, he said, pollsters were pleased with the results.

"This is a credible and representative look at what the troops are saying," he said. "Clearly there are those [in the U.S.] who will speak for the troops, so there is a real value in seeing what they are actually saying."

The poll also shows that 42 percent of the troops surveyed are unsure of their mission in Iraq, and that 85 percent believe a major reason they were sent into war was "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks." Ninety-three percent said finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for the ongoing military action.


In terms of current operations, 80 percent of those polled said they did not hold a negative view of all Iraqis because of the ongoing attacks against coalition military forces.

More than 43 percent of those polled said their equipment, such as Humvees, body armor and munitions, is adequate for the jobs facing them, while 30 percent said it is not.
And get this, which I suppose will be part of the standard hawk line:
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. and chairman of the Victory in Iraq Caucus, a group of 118 Republican lawmakers, said the poll does not diminish his opinion of the importance of the armed forces role in Iraq.

"Whatever the percentages are, I know 100 percent of our troops want to complete their mission over there," he said. "My view is, whatever the poll results say, the bottom line is these are troops who will continue their mission, because they would rather fight the enemy overseas than at home."
As we already knew, all the hawks here at home are living in Fantasyland.

If only the troops in Iraq were. Then they might come home alive, and healthy.

One Man's Perversity Is...

Well, you be the judge. In an article about upcoming New York theater offerings entitled, "Sweet Are the Uses of Perversity," Ben Brantley writes:
As it happens, the great Teutonic ancestor of the comedy of the perverse is on hand for inspection this season as well. That's "The Threepenny Opera," Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's mordant 1928 reworking of John Gay's 18th-century "Beggar's Opera." Brecht's signature alienation effect was never writ as briskly or bouncily as it is in this capitalism-bashing study of thugs, whores and mercenary parents in Victorian London.

Bourgeois morality, and what have come to be called family values, are reflected and splintered in the cracked mirror of an underclass that eats its own for breakfast. Last revived on Broadway in 1989 (in a much-reviled production starring the rock star Sting), "The Threepenny Opera" is being reincarnated again, in a new translation by Wallace Shawn opening on April 20 at Studio 54, with a creative team that specializes in fashionable shock effects.

The director is Scott Elliott, a specialist in comedies of bad manners ("Hurlyburly," "Abigail's Party") and a man who believes that nothing suits the stage like an unexpected flash of full-frontal nudity (which he managed to inject even into Broadway revivals of "The Women" and "Present Laughter"). Alan Cumming, who won a Tony for playing that ultimate ringmaster of decadence, the M.C. in "Cabaret," shows up here as the polygamous archbrigand Macheath (a k a Mack the Knife).

He is sandwiched between two charmingly contrarian pop stars — Cyndi Lauper (the anti-Madonna of the mid-80's) as Jenny, the piratical prostitute, and Nellie McKay (the anti-Norah Jones of the mid-00's) as the demi-virginal Polly Peachum. The role of Polly's romantic rival, Lucy Brown — famously portrayed by Bea Arthur in the fabled Off Broadway revival half a century ago — is in this version played by a man, Brian Charles Rooney. Anything goes in the name of alienation.
On my beloved Opera-L list, there has been much discussion about Cyndi Lauper playing Jenny. I suppose I could go all elitist on you: "Lenya, Lemper, Lauper. Did they just pick someone whose last name starts with L, no matter how revoltingly wrong she is?? Does Lauper understand the complexities of tonality in Weill, and can she possibly execute the composer's intricate and subtle demands of his interpreters? The sublime Teresa Stratas now appears to be retired from opera, so why not get her, for God's sake? She's recorded two incomparable Weill albums. And Stratas knew Lenya, who personally designated Stratas to record some previously unknown Weill works -- and Stratas promised Lenya when Lenya was dying, to 'carry on the torch for Kurt Weill's music.' Stratas, yes! Lauper, no!"

Stratas would be absolutely brilliant in the part, although she's too old to do it on stage. (But with the magic of the theater, and since Stratas is a superlative actress...) But then, Lauper might be brilliant too, for all I know. So no elitism from me on this one. And I suppose I could be catty about a man playing a role once taken by...ahem, Bea Arthur...but I'll be polite, and just let that one go by. See, I can too be well-mannered. Now and then. In any case, if I were in New York, I'd go to this production in a heart beat.

I have no segue for the following (unless you think I'm being perverse, in which case send me an email -- I read all emails with "perverse" in the subject line with tremendous care and attention) -- but my great thanks to those who have made donations in response to this entry the other day. It's still not clear where my landlords and I end up on this dispute, but I'm not too hopeful, damn it. But the kindness of readers has brought me within a couple of hundred dollars of what I will probably need. So if you have a couple of spare bucks hanging around, I would be enormously grateful. I've reposted below a couple of essays that are directly relevant to my ongoing foreign policy discussion, and I'm working on a number of new pieces, including the conclusion of the Iran series. So there will be quite a lot of additional reading throughout the rest of this week. I shall endeavor to do my perverse best.

My deep thanks once more to all of you who are so wonderfully generous. And remember: one person's perversity is another's normalcy. More profound thoughts later.

P.S. And do yourself a wonderful favor, and get the "Stratas Sings Weill" album. All of it is superb, and if her performance of "Lonely House" from Street Scene doesn't reduce you to a quivering mass of radiant ectoplasm...well, don't tell me about it. You obviously have no soul. Not that I have passionate and deeply-held feelings on this subject...

The Apocalyptic Crusader, Continued: American Apocalypse

[I originally wrote this on March 18, 2005. I republish it here for reasons that will be obvious. These ideas are central to our current foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq and the possible coming crisis with Iran. And the Lifton article that I excerpt is an invaluable aid in tying together many of the themes that concern me. More particularly, Lifton's approach (and that utilized by James Carroll, too) perfectly complements Alice Miller's analysis of the psychological dynamics involved to provide what is, in my view, the most comprehensive picture of the forces that give rise to the present crisis -- and this combined analysis also points to the solution, if people will only confront all the sources of the immense destructiveness men perpetually inflict on others, and on themselves. In addition, as Lifton and Miller note and as I mention in the essay about Paul Berman I've also reposted, the desire for revenge features prominently in all of these dynamics. People usually underestimate the significance of that desire, in terms of the scope of its power and its full reach. They shouldn't: the consequences of all these forces tragically continue to play out before the entire world, every day.]

I'm catching up on some articles I first read months ago, but have not had time to write about until now. Here is one of particular importance: Robert Jay Lifton's, "American Apocalypse," from last December.

I find this piece of immense interest for several reasons, not the least of which is that it so closely echoes similar themes discussed by James Carroll (noted in my essay about the apocalyptic crusader, and Carroll in fact references Lifton's book, Superpower Syndrome) and, in a different sense, by Matt Taibbi (in an article I discussed in the second half of an entry explaining my support for Kerry in the last election). There is one element missing from Lifton's analysis in my view -- and that element is supplied by Alice Miller. I will deal with that in a moment, but first let me offer a few excerpts from Lifton's article:
[W]e are experiencing what could be called an apocalyptic face-off between Islamist forces, overtly visionary in their willingness to kill and die for their religion, and American forces claiming to be restrained and reasonable but no less visionary in their projection of a cleansing warmaking and military power. Both sides are energized by versions of intense idealism; both see themselves as embarked on a mission of combating evil in order to redeem and renew the world; and both are ready to release untold levels of violence to achieve that purpose.

The war on Iraq--a country with longstanding aspirations toward weapons of mass destruction but with no evident stockpiles of them and no apparent connection to the assaults of September 11--was a manifestation of that American visionary projection.


The American apocalyptic entity is less familiar to us. Even if its urges to power and domination seem historically recognizable, it nonetheless represents a new constellation of forces bound up with what I've come to think of as "superpower syndrome." By that term I mean a national mindset--put forward strongly by a tight-knit leadership group--that takes on a sense of omnipotence, of unique standing in the world that grants it the right to hold sway over all other nations. The American superpower status derives from our emergence from World War II as uniquely powerful in every respect, still more so as the only superpower from the end of the cold war in the early 1990s.

More than mere domination, the American superpower now seeks to control history. Such cosmic ambition is accompanied by an equally vast sense of entitlement--of special dispensation to pursue its aims. That entitlement stems partly from historic claims to special democratic virtue, but has much to do with an embrace of technological power translated into military terms. That is, a superpower--the world's only superpower--is entitled to dominate and control precisely because it is a superpower.

The murderous events of 9/11 hardened that sense of entitlement as nothing else could have. Superpower syndrome did not require 9/11, but the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon rendered us an aggrieved superpower, a giant violated and made vulnerable, which no superpower can permit.

Indeed, at the core of superpower syndrome lies a powerful fear of vulnerability. A superpower's victimization brings on both a sense of humiliation and an angry determination to restore, or even extend, the boundaries of a superpower-dominated world. Integral to superpower syndrome are its menacing nuclear stockpiles and their world-destroying capacity.

In important ways, the "war on terrorism" has represented an impulse to undo violently precisely the humiliation of 9/11.


The war on terrorism is apocalyptic, then, exactly because it is militarized and yet amorphous, without limits of time or place, and has no clear end. It therefore enters the realm of the infinite. Implied in its approach is that every last terrorist everywhere on the earth is to be hunted down until there are no more terrorists anywhere to threaten us, and in that way the world will be rid of evil.


The war on terrorism, then, took amorphous impulses toward combating terror and used them as a pretext for realizing a prior mission aimed at American global hegemony. The attack on Iraq reflected the reach not only of the "war on terrorism" but of deceptions and manipulations of reality that have accompanied it. In this context, the word "war" came to combine metaphor (as in the "war on poverty" or "war on drugs"), conventional military combat, justification for "pre-emptive" attack and assertion of superpower domination.


The amorphousness of the war on terrorism carries with it a paranoid edge, the suspicion that terrorists and their supporters are everywhere and must be "pre-emptively" attacked lest they emerge and attack us. Since such a war is limitless and infinite--extending from the farthest reaches of Indonesia or Afghanistan to Hamburg, Germany, or New York City, and from immediate combat to battles that continue into the unending future--it inevitably becomes associated with a degree of megalomania as well. As the world's greatest military power replaces the complexities of the world with its own imagined stripped-down, us-versus-them version of it, our distorted national self becomes the world.
At the end of his article, Lifton has several suggestions for developing "wiser, more measured approaches, more humane applications of our considerable power and influence in the world" -- and this is part of what he says:
We need to take a new and different lesson from Lord Acton's nineteenth-century assertion: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Acton was not quite right. The corruption begins not with the acquisition of power but with the quest for and claim to absolute power. Ever susceptible to the seductive promise that twenty-first-century technology can achieve world control, the superpower (or would-be superpower) can best resist that temptation by recognizing the corruption that follows upon its illusion.

To renounce the claim to total power would bring relief not only to everyone else but, soon enough, to the leaders and followers of the superpower itself. For to live out superpower syndrome is to place oneself on a treadmill that eventually has to break down. In its efforts to rule the world and to determine history, the superpower is, in fact, working against itself, subjecting itself to constant failure. It becomes a Sisyphus with bombs, able to set off explosions but unable to cope with its own burden, unable to roll its heavy stone to the top of the hill in Hades. Perhaps the crucial step in ridding ourselves of the syndrome is recognizing that history cannot be controlled, fluidly or otherwise.
As I noted in my earlier post about James Carroll's article concerning the apocalyptic crusader, Alice Miller is one of the very few writers I know of who has explained the full psychological meaning and roots of the phenomenon that both Lifton and Carroll describe so well. Here is part of what I said there:
In a previous essay (also from my Miller series), which began with an examination of the scorn and contempt that many hawks heaped on Spain in the wake of the Spanish election last spring, I spoke of the ultimate roots of the hawks' reaction. After setting forth an excerpt from Miller's book, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence (which you need to read to understand my comments more fully), I wrote:

"In light of Miller's analysis, we can now see the real tragedy of the terrorist attacks in recent years -- the attacks of 9/11, the attack in Madrid, and all the other atrocities that we have witnessed. The people who commit such monstrous acts are the perfect embodiments of the mechanism Miller describes: these are people who were terribly abused as children (read any description of the kind of education and upbringing endured by any terrorist), yet they deny their own history and their own immense pain, and idealize and venerate their elders, and their religious leaders.

"Now, as adults, since their denial continues, they seek revenge -- and no mounting toll of bodies will sate their need, and their arguments are impervious to reason: [quoting Miller] 'The unconscious compulsion to revenge repressed injuries is more powerful than all reason.'

"Such terrorist attacks demand a response, and they demand that our political leaders protect us from future attacks, to the extent possible. But a reasoned response would be one targeted to those who represent the danger: it would be an attack on the terrorist networks themselves, not on a third- or fourth-rate dictatorship that represented no substantial threat either to its neighbors, or to us.

"But those who plan and implement our current foreign policy, as well as those who defend them, have adopted a different strategy, which arises from a different source altogether. They are using the threat of terrorism as a springboard to remake the entire world, one area at a time -- utilizing the Utopian delusion of 'nation-building' as their rationale, and as their rationalization. They ignore the lessons of history, which show that such a delusion is simply that -- a delusion, one that it is doomed to fail; they ignore the huge costs in both human life, and economically; and they ignore that our current course provides a recruiting tool for our enemies that the terrorists themselves could only dream about, and would not be able to provide themselves, if we did not offer it to them.

"But the hawks and their defenders ignore all this -- and they ignore the indisputable fact that rather than minimizing the dangers we face, our present course only increases them -- because they are not focused on the reality of the threat that faces us. And this leads to the additional tragedy now unleashed by the terrorist attacks of recent years, and it is this tragedy that almost no one cares to name, or to face.

"The fact that we have been attacked by monsters who seek revenge for the injuries they themselves have suffered in the past, and particularly in their childhoods, has provided a morally defensible 'cover' for the hawks now to engage in a similar revenge fantasy, arising out of the injuries that they have suffered in the past, and in their childhoods -- and it takes the form of their desire to remake the world, of their plans of 'nation-building,' and of their desire to impose their will on the rest of the world by military force, one country at a time.

"This is the source of the rage and condemnation you see directed at the people of Spain. The hawks are saying, in effect: 'How dare you disobey and disagree with us? How dare you question the wisdom of our course? How dare you suggest that you might have another plan of action which would achieve the end we say we care so much about, and would achieve it more effectively, and create less new dangers in doing so? Don't you understand that we know best, and that we are not to be questioned? How dare you?'

"This is the voice of the enraged parent -- who inflicts untold cruelties on his child, all the while proclaiming that he is committing monstrous acts for the child's own good. And, in fact, this is precisely what the hawks tell anyone who disagrees with them, and what they tell the entire rest of the world: we know what is best for you, not your own citizens, and not your own leaders. We do -- and you had better do what we say ... or else.
This is the crucial point to note: this statement of Lifton's -- "A superpower's victimization brings on both a sense of humiliation and an angry determination to restore, or even extend, the boundaries of a superpower-dominated world" -- parallels precisely the injury suffered by the child as described by Miller. The first is only the adult projection -- across the entire world, with all of civilization at stake -- of the trauma the child first suffered. Moreover, the people who direct our current foreign policy, and those people who support it with enthusiasm, are all driven by the desire for revenge, as described by both Lifton and Miller, for the simple reason that they have failed to surface and resolve these longstanding emotions. The majority of people would rather die than acknowledge this truth, because to acknowledge it would require them to challenge the family (and more particularly, the parental) mythology that sustains them -- and it would require them to question the authority figures in their lives. And this they will not do. As I stated toward the conclusion of another installment in my "Roots of Horror" series:
These are the victims described by Miller -- now grown into adulthood, continuing their denial, with additional authority figures added to the ones they first had. Besides the original parent, they now revere our government and our military and, beyond a certain point, nothing they do is to be challenged. To do so would bring into question these individuals' entire false sense of self, it would undermine their worldview completely, and it represents a threat that cannot be allowed to come too close. As always, what is dispensable in all this are facts, untold national wealth, reputation and prestige, and above all, the lives of human beings.
Finally, with these dynamics in mind, I will repeat part of what I said toward the end of my entry about the Carroll article:
[T]hat is the greatest danger of all: because both sides are utilizing the same overall framework, one animated and given tremendous emotional impetus because of the deep and powerful psychological forces at work, today's conflict could all too easily lead to worldwide conflagration, on a scale we have never before witnessed. And I say that fully mindful of the enormity of the destruction of both World Wars.
In my view, that remains the profound danger -- and the longer the atmosphere of ongoing war and crisis continues, the greater the danger grows.

I wish I could end this post with an encouraging thought, but I'm afraid I can't. I genuinely do think the danger is incalculably great and that, if certain forces are fully unleashed, the destruction may be of a scope vaster than we can possibly imagine. But I desperately hope to be wrong. If I prayed, I would pray to be mistaken about all of this. But I fear that I am not.

Paul Berman's Obsessions

[I first published this essay only a few months ago, on November 23, 2005. I offer it again here because in rereading it this morning, I remembered how crucial some of the themes I talked about are to my ongoing series about Iran. As I indicate below, they would be featured in that series, as they now are: for example, one of America's central myths about itself, and the racism that the myth inevitably implies, are analyzed in Part IV. And the idea of Western and American "exceptionalism" -- or the "Idea of Progress," with Western civilization, and the United States more particularly, embodying the final culmination, a universal ideal to which everyone should aspire -- is discussed in Part III, and especially in Part VI. These ideas are all part of the intellectual and cultural foundation that drives our foreign policy; their cumulative effect, when coupled with a notably aggressive militarism, is calamitous.

I also republish this piece, simply because I must confess that I am inordinately fond of it. Aside from the ideas it discusses, which I view as of great significance and as containing many implications on a wide range of topics, I was especially pleased with this essay in purely literary terms. I hope you enjoy it, and find it of some value in my continuing treatment of these themes.]

Paul Berman has a great deal to make amends for, should the urge ever strike him. On the basis of this lengthy article in The New Republic, he will not be so moved in the foreseeable future. The article celebrates what Berman views as a long overdue, desperately needed and very welcome strain in French thought: "a new literature of anti-anti-Americanism."

Berman played a far from insignificant role in softening the ground on behalf of the Bush foreign policy, and providing justification for it. His book, Terror and Liberalism, presented what I view as a largely meretricious argument on behalf of a cause he ought to have understood much better than he appeared to. When I have time one of these days, I'll explain several of the more glaring problems in his presentation. (For me, although it may not hold similar interest for many others, one of the more intriguing ways in which Berman loses his footing is in his failure to grasp the roots and motivations of the romantic literary movement of the nineteenth century, including the concerns that drove French writers like Victor Hugo. To view Hugo as embracing in any notable way the kind of nihilism that is connected, however tangentially, to the destructiveness unleashed by modern terrorists and to 9/11 is quite a leap, but Berman makes it with considerable commitment.)

Without even attempting to prove a case against Berman here, I will only note that he provided a defensible cover for many other self-appointed members of our intellectual class, and offered a dressed-up version of the more prosaic arguments used to defend what was an utterly unjustified war of aggression against a nation that did not threaten us. Berman added a lot of intellectual curlicues and made it appear that, if we failed to heed his call to arms, civilization would disappear from the planet once and for all. His effort constitutes a powerful exhibit for the proposition that if you make any position sufficiently intimidating and construct a complex argument that dares anyone to deconstruct it and point out its numerous flaws, people will swallow anything. Until I get around to a lengthier consideration of Berman's foreign policy prescriptions, think of them as Peter Beinart with more book learning, if that helps.

In the post-9/11 atmosphere, when too many people were willing to succumb to such urgent pleas, Berman added intellectual footnotes to the desire for revenge. When you stripped away the camouflage, the cry was still: "Let's attack somebody! Anybody! That will make us safer!" What he and others meant was that it would make them feel better, which is not exactly the same thing.

Here, I want to note two excerpts from Berman's article about, in his view, the French finally coming to their senses. After discussing several other books and writers, Berman turns to Andre Glucksmann, whose "great purpose is to insist that such a thing as hatred does exist." Berman laments that "[w]e have ceased to believe in the reality of hatred." Berman goes on:
We are all social determinists now. We like to suppose that everything has a material explanation--which is precisely what Aeschylus, Seneca, Shakespeare, and Racine knew was not the case. Today, confronted with the signs and deeds of an uncontrolled and murderous hatred, our first impulse is to go looking for some proximate cause--to assume that, if Medea has gone out of her mind and has slaughtered her children and has burned down the city, there must be some large motivating explanation beyond the unfortunate fact that she is upset at being abandoned by her husband, Jason.

But why should we look for larger motivating explanations? The wildest of hatreds do not need a cause outside of ourselves. This is Glucksmann's point. Hatred's causes may merely be hatred's excuses. We hate because we choose to hate. We could equally choose not to do so. And why choose to hate? On this question, Glucksmann reveals himself as the disciple, as no one could have predicted, of Sartre. In Anti-Semite and Jew, Sartre wrote that people who give in to the pleasures of hatred do so because they cannot abide their own frailties. Weakness and imperfection are the human condition. But weakness and imperfection leave us unsatisfied, maybe even disgusted with ourselves. Hatred, however, can make us feel strong. Hatred is thrilling. Hatred is reassuring. When we choose to hate, we discover that, by hating, we overcome our own disappointment at ourselves. We choose to hate because we want to feel the exhilarating vibrations of power instead of weakness, the perfect ideal instead of the imperfect reality. And so, in order to hate, we hold aloft a glorious vision that can never exist: the vision of a perfect mankind unstained by weakness and flaws, a vision of purity and power. And we give ourselves over to the satisfying pleasures of hating everyone who stands in the way of the perfect vision.
The three examples of this kind of self-sustaining hatred that Glucksmann offers are those of women, of Jews, and of America. Berman obviously finds this very attractive, because these are also "the three pillars on which modern radical Islamism stands" -- and it thus fits neatly into the structure of Berman's own argument.

There is far too much to untangle here in a single post, so I won't even attempt it. I don't deny the reality of any of these hatreds at all, although I would suggest that the roots of anti-Americanism are very different in nature and cause when compared to the other two (and especially different from the hatred for women, even radically so). Similarly, I don't deny that a strain of deeply irrational hatred of America exists, although I don't think it is nearly as widespread or dangerous as Berman does. (I also think it has different causes in very large part than those ascribed to it by Berman and the authors he cites.)

But what I find so interesting is the thought that never appears to occur to Berman: this identical dynamic could be applied to many aspects of America itself today. From the very ugly strain of the most extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric, to the particular hatreds unleashed by the evangelical religious movement (including a virulent hatred of gays and lesbians, and all of which has been significantly empowered by Bush), to what appears to still be a foundational racism in America's soul (revealed most recently in the aftermath of Katrina), this is hardly a phenomenon unknown to the United States. Indeed, America's treatment of Native Americans and blacks is mentioned in Berman's discussion as one of the roots of French "anti-Americanism." I'll side with the French on that point, thank you, and gratefully so.

And more than this: Bush and his most ardent supporters fervently believe in America itself as "a vision of purity and power" -- and their disdain for any nation or people that declines to embrace our particular version of the ideal society easily shades into hatred for "the other." In fact, this kind of "perfect vision" of America itself lies at the core of what drives our current foreign policy in significant part, both now and in the past. Think of the more familiar phrase, "American exceptionalism." And recall Wilson's crusade to "make the world safe for democracy." He wasn't talking about just any form of "democracy." Wilson meant democracy in the particularly American style. These are only a few examples out of many. But Berman appears to have been overtaken by devotion to his numerous defenses of America, so such thoughts never occur to him, or at least he doesn't write about them to my knowledge. (By the way, this element of America's view of itself will be a central element in my series involving Iran.)

I want to offer one other excerpt, because its obvious implication runs directly against one overall theme advanced by Berman, as well as by Bush and the foreign policy he has adopted (which is, not coincidentally, resonant with Wilsonian echoes): the idea that everyone wants what we want, that everyone yearns for "freedom" in the specifically American mode. Berman outlines European attitudes toward America in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among the figures he mentions is the naturalist Buffon, who believed that the Biblical flood took place later in America than it had in Europe. As a result, "the New World was still a bit soggy." As a further result, animal and human development were very backward compared to their counterparts in Europe. (As Berman notes, we laugh at such notions now, but Buffon was apparently viewed as "fair and reasonable" in his scientific methods, both during his own lifetime and afterward. Berman says that no less an eminence than Darwin spoke favorably of him. We progress even on this record, for which we must give thanks.)

After laying this background out in more detail, Berman says:
Franklin, at a dinner in Paris, asked all the American men to stand up, and likewise all the French men, in order to demonstrate that Americans were taller, not shorter, than the French--which was a devastating refutation of the naturalist theory of biological degeneration, and a genial display of American wit, to boot. But Franklin's dinner is likewise bound to disappoint us. We would prefer to learn what Franklin might have said to his dinner partners on just about any other topic at all. Electricity, for instance; or liberty. Only, what alternative did Jefferson and Franklin have, except to demonstrate at length that, whatever the possibilities for human freedom might be, New World moisture did not stand in the way?

The existence of these debates shows us, at the very least, just how radical and even bizarre was the democratic idea in the late eighteenth century--an idea that ran up against science itself, let alone five thousand years of political wisdom. And the debates suggest how deeply and even unconsciously the leading thinkers in Europe, the lights of the Enlightenment, the best and not the worst in European civilization, recoiled at the new society arising across the ocean.
Berman seems not to appreciate the significance of his own observations.

I have often made the point that many commentators and far too many politicians, including most regrettably our president, forget that the United States represented the culmination of several centuries of intellectual development. It relied on ideas that had developed over a long period of time, and it arose in a specific time and place. It is simply not possible to think that our system of government can be painlessly or easily transplanted around the world, and installed in the equivalent of ten easy steps in countries with cultures, societies, peoples and histories vastly different from ours. To put it more simply: the idea that "everyone wants what we want" is patently absurd. But this is another symptom of "American exceptionalism": the idea that we have the best system ever devised by man, and that everyone else will immediately want it once we have explained its wonders to them. Wonders they certainly were at the country's founding, and wonders they remain in certain respects -- but that does not translate into the desire for instant emulation around the globe.

And Berman himself offers evidence on this point with admirable clarity, yet he fails to see its meaning. The late eighteenth century was but a moment ago in historic terms. We barely became familiar with liberty ourselves, and now we are seeing its attempted destruction in significant part courtesy of the present administration. We demand that others make themselves "free" in the way we are free -- while we simultaneously do grievous injury to liberty here at home.

Yet writers like Berman, who are all too numerous, never seem to find time to discuss the great significance of the threats within our own borders. He is transfixed by "anti-Americanism," and he rejoices at the new French "literature of anti-anti-Americanism."

To understate the matter considerably: I think Mr. Berman might much better spend his time and considerable intellectual energies on more pressing concerns closer to home. He would do us all a great service. And if he helped to ensure and make more certain the continuation of liberty here, that liberty might finally be so attractive to other countries that they will very gratefully adapt it to their own needs, without the aid of invasions and occupations.

And how much happier we all might be.

February 27, 2006

On Responsibility: The Comedy Continues

Yesterday, I offered some excerpts from Robert Graves's World War I memoir, Good-bye to All That, focusing on the "Little Mother" propaganda story in particular. That episode starkly reveals the insanity of the "mythic war" mentality in a manner so extreme that it continues to reverberate almost a century later.

In reading the Graves book, I was especially struck by this passage at the conclusion of Paul Fussell's introduction:
Graves's reliance on broad comedy to make very serious points about life and death seems to anticipate and illustrate Friedrich Durrenmatt's post-Second World War conviction that "comedy alone is suitable for us." The reason? "Tragedy presupposes guilt, despair, moderation, lucidity, vision, a sense of responsibility," none of which we have got:

"In the Punch and Judy show of our century ... there are no more guilty and also, no responsible men. It is always, 'We couldn't help it' and 'We didn't really want that to happen.' And indeed, things happen without anyone in particular being responsible for them. Everything is dragged along and everyone gets caught somewhere in the sweep of events. We are all collectively guilty, collectively bogged down in the sins of our fathers and of our forefathers ... That is our misfortune, but not our guilt ... Comedy alone is suitable for us."
I mentioned this perspective in my post earlier today about Guantanamo, and the meaning of certain policies that the Bush administration has pursued since immediately after 9/11. I used the painfully familiar example of the "well-meaning," ordinary German who insisted, after all the horrors of the Nazi regime: "But who could have known it would come to that?"

This particular frame of mind has been raised to a high (or low) art by the Bush administration, and by many of its supporters and those who defend our foreign policy in particular. The following may seem like a paradox, but in fact it is only two sides of the same coin -- or two different ways of achieving the same goal. On the one hand, Bush and his numerous allies throughout our culture proclaim the foundational virtue of independence, self-reliance and individualism -- that with sufficient "will," we can accomplish anything. We are self-determining beings: we are what we choose to be. On the other hand, with regard to broad questions of foreign policy -- and with regard to narrower questions such as the use of torture or warrantless spying -- they announce: "We have no choice about what we do. We must do these things, if we wish to save our country, and civilization itself."

But note the aim which both approaches serve: they want to be able to do whatever they wish -- and they never want to be held accountable for any of it.

Herewith, a few examples. In analyzing Charles Krauthammer's sickening defense of torture as a legitimate and required part of our conduct in the "War on Terror," a defense that has been widely praised by many hawks, I wrote:
This is the same justification that every cowardly, bloodthirsty murderer has always used: "You have left me no choice but to be a monster. Because I am helpless to resist what I know to be evil, I am still moral. I still uphold the values of civilization."

A word that is stronger and more damning that "evil" is needed to convey the nature of this kind of argument. Krauthammer seeks to make us all monsters, and to make us all accept that we must be monsters: "We must all be prepared to torture." And even worse: we are "morally compelled" to be monsters.

The confession is undeniable. Be absolutely sure to grasp what it is: Krauthammer thus confesses that he is already a monster, but he does not want you to condemn him for it. To the contrary, he wants you to become a monster too, to accept that you were "compelled" do so in the name of morality itself, all so that you will fear judgment in the same manner, and for the same reason.

Thus, these monsters seek to reduce every one of us to their level -- to make all of us sadistic brutes, who inflict pain for the sake of pain, and who continue to maintain that they are "morally compelled" to do so, that they are upholding civilization in so acting, and that they had no choice in the matter.

But it is all a lie. It is the single worst lie any human being can ever tell. We always have a choice. The choice is what makes us human. That is where the essence of our humanity lies -- and where the possibility for true nobility of action and spirit resides.

It is also where the capacity for evil lies. Krauthammer and those who believe as he does have told us in unmistakable terms that they are already monsters. They deny it, but the truth is that they have chosen to be monsters.
(The entries in my series, On Torture, are described here.) Irving Kristol utilizes the same perspective, and applies it to all of United States foreign policy over a period of many decades. In discussing the policy prescriptions Kristol offers in his neoconservative manifesto, I said:
The lie contained at the heart of this paragraph is probably the worst and most shameful in the entire article (and the article contains a number of stupendous lies, so this is no mean achievement). To term our involvement in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo conflict, the Afghan War, and the Iraq War "bad luck" is an intellectual crime for which capital punishment would be too good, and too swift. In this context, "bad luck" has only one possible meaning: that we had no choice but to become involved in these conflicts, that the conflicts were "forced" on us against our will, and that we were merely passive observers in world affairs who became embroiled in one conflict after another, in an unceasing train of war, altogether against our better judgment.

This is a vicious and reprehensible rewriting of history. If I thought Kristol were capable of experiencing the emotion, I would say he ought to be ashamed of himself. Every single one of those wars was one that the United States deliberately and intentionally chose to become involved in after a long period of deliberation. I will be offering some excerpts from Barbara Tuchman's masterful history of the Vietnam War (in her book, The March of Folly) in the near future -- but I would have thought everyone knew that our involvement in Vietnam was the result of an intentional and very deliberate process of decision-making over a very long period of time. It was utterly mistaken and based on what ought to have been obviously dubious premises at almost every single step, but it was hardly a course of action foisted on us when we were simply minding our own business. And the same is true with regard to every other war in Kristol's list.

But Kristol's intellectual legerdemain accomplishes one objective, and it is a significant one: it absolves us of all responsibility for our past decisions in the foreign policy sphere. In effect, Kristol's analysis entirely negates the element of moral judgment when it comes to issues of war and peace, at least so far as the conduct of the United States is concerned. Wars, endless bombing raids, huge troop deployments, massive domestic taxation, a military draft (during the long period we had one), endless foreign entanglements, and large-scale death -- it's all just "bad luck." It just happened. It's not enough that Kristol engages in intellectual suicide before our eyes: he also wishes to prevent anyone else from engaging in critical analysis of historical events, in an attempt to ascertain if there just might be any lessons to be learned from such a study. And Kristol thus hopes that this intellectual paralysis will continue in the present, and into the future. Why, we can't question the means or methods by which we are now fighting the war on terror. It just happened. It's just our "bad luck." Whatever we do now or in the future, there are no judgments to be made about any of it.
And in a later part of my continuing discussion of the Iran "crisis," I quoted Barbara Tuchman on the identical point, from her analysis of the Vietnam disaster:
Persistence in error is the problem. Practitioners of government continue down the wrong road as if in thrall to some Merlin with magic power to direct their steps. There are Merlins in early literature to explain human aberration, but freedom of choice does exist--unless we accept the Freudian unconscious as the new Merlin. Rulers will justify a bad or wrong decision on the ground, as a historian and partisan wrote of John F. Kennedy, that "He had no choice," but no matter how equal two alternatives may appear, there is always freedom of choice to change or desist from a counter-productive course if the policy-maker has the moral courage to exercise it. He is not a fated creature blown by the whims of Homeric gods. Yet to recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government.

For a chief of state, admitting error is almost out of the question. The American misfortune in the Vietnam period was to have had Presidents who lacked the self-confidence for the grand withdrawal. We come back again to Burke: "Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great Empire and little minds go ill together." The test comes in recognizing when persistence in error has become self-damaging.
As we have seen before, and as we now witness again with regard to Bush, his allies and the horrors which continue to unfold before us every day, the message is clear: they are to be held responsible for none of it. They have no choice. They had to invade and occupy Iraq, they have to torture people and they have to use torture systematically if we are to win, they have to imprison people without ever charging them and perhaps forever, and they have to spy illegally, even on Americans, if we are to be "safe." They have to do all this, and much, much more -- and not only are we prohibited from judging them negatively, no judgments of any kind are even possible. If there is no element of choice, there can be no moral responsibility whatsoever.

And it is all a lie, from beginning to end. As Tuchman correctly notes, and as we all know if we are honest, in matters such as these, "there is always freedom of choice." They did not and do not have to take any of these actions. They are responsible for all of it.

Never forget it -- and never let them forget it. Never.

What Excellent Drugs Can Do

This column from Victor Davis Hanson -- the "Bard of the Booboisie" -- may eventually merit a chapter unto itself in a future edition of a book like...hmm, well, say, Clinical Studies in Extreme Aberrant Psychology: How to Find Your Bliss While the World Explodes Under Your Feet.

And, no small wonder, he manages to work in virtually every cliche of Iraq propaganda. For example, we have the line about how one more school will save our entire foreign policy: "the terrorists have an invaluable ally in the global media, whose 'if it bleeds, it leads' brand of journalism always favors the severed head in the street over the completion of yet another Iraqi school."

Shortly thereafter, the drugs take serious effect:
During this sort of waiting game in Iraq, the American military silently is training tens of thousands of Iraqis to do the daily patrols, protect construction projects, and assure the public that security is on the way, while an elected government reminds the people that they are at last in charge.
Say what? Oh, that's just "Pentagon officials" talking. What do they know? C'mon, get serious.

Then Vic pops a few more pills:
It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.

The Iraqi military goes out now on about half the American patrols, as well as on thousands of their own. It is not the Fallujah brigade of early 2004 — rather, it is developing into the best trained and disciplined armed force in the Middle East. While progress in reestablishing the infrastructure necessary for increased electricity and oil production seems dismal, in fact, much has been finished that awaits only the completion of pipelines and transmission lines — the components most vulnerable to sabotage. It is the American plan, in a certain sense, to gradually expand the security inside the so-called international or green zone, block by block, to the other 6 million Iraqis outside, where sewers run in the streets and power from the grid is available less than 12 hours per day.
Oooooh, so that's "the American plan," three years on: when the infrastructure finally works, it will work! When we can "gradually expand ... security" outside the green zone, then a few more blocks will be safe for human habitation. Just don't forget those "other 6 million Iraqis outside"! Then, presto magic, everything will be keen! I just didn't understand that before.

Besides, life is already peachy for us, so what are you griping about?
Most would agree that the Americans now know exactly what they are doing. They have a brilliant and savvy ambassador and a top diplomatic team. Their bases are expertly run and secured, where food, accommodations, and troop morale are excellent.
"Most would agree..." I love writing like that. Strong, persuasive, manly.

You should read the whole thing. Most instructive. And note the last paragraph:
Can-do Americans courageously go about their duty in Iraq — mostly unafraid that a culture of 2,000 years, the reality of geography, the sheer forces of language and religion, the propaganda of the state-run Arab media, and the cynicism of the liberal West are all stacked against them. Iraq may not have started out as the pivotal front in the war between democracy and fascism, but it has surely evolved into that. After visiting the country, I think we can and will win, but just as importantly, unlike in 2003-4, there does not seem to be much of anything we should be doing there that in fact we are not.
Hey, everything is against us -- including that &@*@&* "liberal West" -- and all the facts indicate that this is nuts. But we are not afraid!

It's downright inspiring. And what a glowing testament to the wonders of modern medicine. So listen up: if you have an ounce of kindness in your soul, you'll find out what he's taking. And then send me some.

Lots and lots. Ta.

American Gulag

With a predictability that used to irritate me and that now simply makes me feel very, very tired, I come across comments about various essays of mine stating that, while I am probably mostly correct about the issues I discuss, I'm guilty of "overstating" the case, or of being "melodramatic or "shrill." As others have noted over the past year or so, the accusation that you are "shrill" is actually a compliment, even if usually not intended as such: it means that you've stated a truth that most people would prefer not to acknowledge.

But with regard to criticisms that I sometimes "overstate" the case or am too "melodramatic," let me note the following. What my critics usually go on to say in various ways is that, while what I'm discussing may be bad in important ways, it's not that bad. Sure, they say, things could get very bad indeed if people took certain ideas to extremes, but they haven't done that yet -- and maybe they won't. So, yes, we should keep an eye on these developments, but there's no reason to get "hysterical" about it.

This is where the tiredness hits me. As I'm writing this, I found for a few minutes that I could barely get myself to go on, because the flaws in this approach are so obvious. Most people apparently know nothing of history and, if they have studied it at all, they have learned absolutely nothing. This is always the way abuses of power begin, and this is always the way those abuses increase. Even a full dictatorship, for example, does not have to arrive overnight: it can make its presence known slowly, in small increments. With each new step, most people say: "Well, that's not so bad. I can live with that." And they never seek to understand the principle that is being established -- and where that principle can lead in time. I keep thinking that people will at least remember one of the worst excuses offered by many people after incomprehensible horrors have occurred -- that, for instance, many ordinary Germans said after World War II: "But who could have known it would come to that?" The point, of course, is that some people did know, but nobody listened to them. They were undoubtedly accused of being "shrill" and "hysterical."

The approach of almost all our media, and of most bloggers too, is to treat each incident and each case in isolation -- to act as if each new story has no past and no future, and connects to nothing else at all. Some of the reaction to the recent stories about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping made me tired in the same way: many commentators acted as if the Bush administration's attempts to place itself entirely beyond all legal constraints were new in some way, and that we had suddenly crossed some new threshold. In fact, the Bush administration announced these particular goals several years ago and, in principle, the wiretapping story revealed nothing new at all. From that perspective, the wiretapping scandal didn't surprise me in the least: the Bush administration's approach has been consistent for a long time.

In May of last year, I wrote an essay titled, Understanding the Significance of Guantanamo: The Symbol of Omnipotent Power. After excerpting a Jacob Hornberger article about the Jose Padilla case and its relationship to certain issues implicated by Guantanamo, I wrote:
And that, in brief, is why Guantanamo is so crucial to the Bush's administration's goals in its war, a war that will be never-ending if it has its way: Guantanamo symbolizes the Bush administration's desire for omnipotent power -- for the administration to be able to do whatever it wants, with no oversight or interference by anyone, including the federal judiciary and including those restraints imposed by the Constitution itself.

In this manner, especially when coupled with the great danger represented by the Padilla case, the Bush administration seeks to place itself beyond all restraint derived from any source, and to make itself all-powerful. If it is successful, that will definitively and absolutely spell the end of liberty in America -- and the rest is only a matter of time, and of details. In this sense, it is entirely appropriate that Guantanamo is located where another omnipotent dictator already holds sway.


The indisputable desire of this administration for absolute power over every single one of us cannot be denied. Bush and his defenders may refuse to acknowledge them, and our media may fail to discuss them, but those are the facts -- if one is willing to face them, and to admit what they mean.

Whether Bush and his enablers will admit it or not, in fact the policies they seek to implement would make the United States itself into one gigantic Guantanamo: where any one of us can be detained indefinitely merely upon the word or desire of one person, with no charges ever filed against us, and where we can be abused or tortured, and perhaps even murdered, at will. And no one and nothing would be able to stop or even question them. That's the future they want so desperately -- and I suggest that you always keep it in mind and never, ever forget it.
As I say, the wiretapping story represents nothing new in terms of the political principles involved. Earlier this morning, I happened to come across some comments about my Guantanamo essay from last year. Those comments, made shortly after the essay appeared in May 2005, claimed that I was "overstating" the case, and that I was being an "alarmist." Surely, things wouldn't get that bad, would they? I think you can see why such remarks are more than a little frustrating, and more than a little tiring.

Speaking of Guantanamo, a lawyer for some prisoners being held there has written an article for the Los Angeles Times. I'm certain the Bush defenders will happily ignore it, since its title is, "American Gulag":
I represent six Kuwaiti prisoners, each of whom has now spent nearly four years at Guantanamo. It took me 2 1/2 years to gain access to my clients, but now I have visited the prison camp 11 times in the last 14 months. What I have witnessed is a cruel and eerie netherworld of concrete and barbed wire that has become a daily nightmare for the nearly 500 people swept up after 9/11 who have been imprisoned without charges or trial for more than four years. It is truly our American gulag.


The Pentagon's files on the six Kuwaiti prisoners we represent reveal that none was captured on a battlefield or accused of engaging in hostilities against the U.S. The prisoners claim that they were taken into custody by Pakistani and Afghan warlords and turned over to the U.S. for bounties ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 — a claim confirmed by American news reports. We have obtained copies of bounty leaflets distributed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. forces promising rewards — "enough to feed your family for life" — for any "Arab terrorist" handed over.

The files include only the flimsiest accusations or hearsay that would never stand up in court. The file on one prisoner indicated that he had been seen talking to two suspected Al Qaeda members on the same day — at places thousands of miles apart.


Every prisoner I've interviewed claims to have been badly beaten and subjected to treatment that only could be called torture, by Americans, from the first day of U.S. captivity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They said they were hung by their wrists and beaten, hung by their ankles and beaten, stripped naked and paraded before female guards, and given electric shocks. At least three claimed to have been beaten again upon arrival in Guantanamo. One of my clients, Fayiz Al Kandari, now 27, said his ribs were broken during an interrogation in Pakistan. I felt the indentation in his ribs. "Beat me all you want, just give me a hearing," he said he told his interrogators.

Another prisoner, Fawzi Al Odah, 25, is a teacher who left Kuwait City in 2001 to work in Afghan, then Pakistani, schools. After 9/11, he and four other Kuwaitis were invited to dinner by a Pakistani tribal leader and then sold by him into captivity, according to their accounts, later confirmed by Newsweek and ABC News.

On Aug. 8, 2005, Fawzi, in desperation, went on a hunger strike to assert his innocence and to protest being imprisoned for four years without charges. He said he wanted to defend himself against any accusations, or die. He told me that he had heard U.S. congressmen had returned from tours of Guantanamo saying that it was a Caribbean resort with great food. "If I eat, I condone these lies," Fawzi said.


When I met with Fawzi three weeks ago, the tubes were out of his nose. I told him I was thankful that after five months he had ended his hunger strike. He looked at me sadly and said, "They tortured us to make us stop." At first, he said, they punished him by taking away his "comfort items" one by one: his blanket, his towel, his long pants, his shoes. They then put him in isolation. When this failed to persuade him to end the hunger strike, he said, an officer came to him Jan. 9 to announce that any detainee who refused to eat would be forced onto "the chair." The officer warned that recalcitrant prisoners would be strapped into a steel device that pulled their heads back, and that the tubes would be forced in and wrenched out for each feeding. "We're going to break this hunger strike," the officer told him.

Fawzi said he heard the prisoner next door screaming and warning him to give up the strike. He decided that he wasn't "on strike to be tortured." He said those who continued on the hunger strike not only were strapped in "the chair" but were left there for hours; he believes that guards fed them not only nutrients but also diuretics and laxatives to force them to defecate and urinate on themselves in the chair.

After less than two weeks of this treatment, the strike was over. Of the more than 80 strikers at the end of December, Fawzi said only three or four were holding out. As a result of the strike, however, prisoners are now getting a meager ration of bottled water.

Fawzi said eating was the only aspect of life at Guantanamo he could control; forcing him to end the hunger strike stripped him of his last means of protesting his unjust imprisonment. Now, he said, he feels "hopeless."
You should read the entire article.

Some people will continue to minimize these horrors, and to say that things aren't "that bad." For others, the horrors are the only reality of their lives -- and things are worse than any of us will ever be able to imagine.

[See also my series, On Torture.]

February 26, 2006

A Very Stupid Emergency, Dammit

A number of you have been wonderfully generous in making donations recently. As I indicated in the note at the end of this recent post, I can't properly express my gratitude. (And in the last entry, about war propaganda, I extended my thanks to the reader who bought a couple of items from my Wishlist. A few other people have purchased other items, and I offer them my grateful thanks, too.)

So I very much wish I didn't have to mention this, but circumstances force me to. Stupid circumstances, on top of it. I'm in the middle of an increasingly unpleasant dispute with my landlords. I know I'm right and they're wrong, but I may not be able to prove that to their satisfaction. The details are too dumb, boring and embarrassing to go into. Suffice it to say, I've learned a few lessons, and this kind of "misunderstanding" won't happen again.

I've given them the documentation I have that verifies my version of events, but if we're unable to resolve this disagreement, I may need about $500 by the end of the week, to avoid what could become an even more unpleasant situation. As I say, this won't happen again, but unfortunately it's happened this time, so I have to deal with it. As I've explained before, health problems prevent my doing other kinds of work now, so I depend on donations for my writing here (and at The Sacred Moment) for whatever income I have. If my writing is of some value to you and you'd consider making a contribution, I would be incredibly grateful. If my landlords and I can resolve this (please, God), I'll use whatever money comes in for some medical attention that I badly need, which I haven't yet been able to afford.

There are several new posts that I put up over the weekend, and I have a lot of writing planned for the coming week. So I hope to keep things moving around here. And if these very distracting financial woes were alleviated, so much the better. Less time for anxiety attacks, and more time for writing!

My sincere apologies for what I know can be annoying pitches for donations, and especially for this one. If it's any consolation, I feel like an idiot. I should have known better. I've learned my lesson, but I wish I could have learned it less painfully.

My very deep thanks once more for the wonderful kindness so many of you have shown.

(And for any suspicious types who may be out there: all donations go only for basics -- rent, food, electricity, etc. I still have a lousy dialup connection for my computer, and the computer itself is badly out of date and primitive. No scanner, not even a printer. And no broadcast or cable TV. I have a TV and a DVD player, thank God, but I can't get over-the-air reception where I live. So no frills at all, if you consider those items "frills." Can't afford any of them. If you could see my standard of living, you'd be appalled. It appalls me, but I try not to think about it most of the time.)

War Madness, Propaganda, and the "Little Mother"

In doing some reading about World War I, I realize that much of today's pro-war propaganda is almost mild in certain ways, compared to its intensity and viciousness at various times in the past (although I should emphasize it is no less, and perhaps even more, dangerous for that). I just received Robert Graves's memoir, Good-bye to All That (and my great thanks to the reader who purchased it for me). Graves served in The Great War, and his book, first published in 1929, provoked considerable anger when it appeared. It should be noted that Graves demonstrated great courage in combat; he was so badly wounded in the Battle of the Somme that everyone at first thought he had died. Graves's colonel even sent a letter to Graves's mother, expressing his condolences on her son's death. Graves later prevailed upon the London Times to print a brief correction notice:
Captain Robert Graves, Royal Welch Fusiliers, officially reported died of wounds, wishes to inform his friends that he is recovering from his wounds at Queen Alexandra's Hospital...
In his introduction, Paul Fussell (author of the indispensable, The Great War and Modern Memory), writes that, "the world that the war had taught Graves to see is a world of contingency and constant mistakes, not to mention outright fatuity." Fussell continues:
The wide gulf separating Graves's vision from that of the ordinary patriotic British citizen can be measured in one letter from an outraged reader of Good-bye to All That:

"You are a discredit to the Service, disloyal to your comrades and typical of that miserable breed which tries to gain notoriety by belittling others. Your language is just 'water-closet,' and evidently your regiment resented such an undesirable member. The only good page is that quoting The Little Mother, but even there you betray the degenerate mind by interleaving it between obscenities."
The "Little Mother" is an extraordinary example of the madness of war, and Fussell quite rightly notes that "[t]he testimonials earned by this famous letter suggest a society for which the only accurate term would be 'sick' ..."

In introducing this episode, Graves writes:
England looked strange to us returned soldiers. We could not understand the war madness that ran about everywhere, looking for a pseudo-military outlet. The civilians talked a foreign language; and it was newspaper language. I found serious conversation with my parents all but impossible. Quotation from a single typical document of this time will be enough to show what we were facing.
The letter is fairly lengthy, but I set it forth in full so that you can appreciate its full nature and effect:

By a Little Mother

A Message to the Pacifists A Message to the Bereaved

A Message to the Trenches

Owing to the immense demand from home and from the trenches for this letter, which appeared in The Morning Post, the editor found it necessary to place it in the hands of London publishers to be reprinted in pamphlet form, seventy-five thousand copies of which were sold in less than a week direct from the publishers.

Extract from a letter from Her Majesty

The Queen was deeply touched at the "Little Mother's" beautiful letter, and Her Majesty fully realizes what her words must mean to our soldiers in the trenches and in hospitals.

To the Editor of 'The Morning Post'

Sir,--As a mother of an only child--a son who was early and eager to do his duty--may I be permitted to reply to Tommy Atkins, whose letter appeared in your issue of the 9th inst.? Perhaps he will kindly convey to his friends in the trenches, not what the Government thinks, not what the Pacifists think, but what the mothers of the British race think of our fighting men. It is a voice which demands to be heard, seeing that we play the most important part in the history of the world, for it is we who 'mother the men' who have to uphold the honour and traditions not only of our Empire but of the whole civilized world.

To the man who pathetically calls himself a 'common soldier,' may I say that we women, who demand to be heard, will tolerate no such cry as 'Peace! Peace!' where there is no peace. The corn that will wave over land watered by the blood of our brave lads shall testify to the future that their blood was not spilt in vain. We need no marble monuments to remind us. We only need that force of character behind all motives to see this monstrous world tragedy brought to a victorious ending. The blood of the dead and the dying, the blood of the 'common soldier' from his 'slight wounds' will not cry to us in vain. They have all done their share, and we, as women, will do ours without murmuring and without complaint. Send the Pacifists to us and we shall very soon show them, and show the world, that in our homes at least there shall be no 'sitting at home warm and cosy in the winter, cool and "comfy" in the summer'. There is only one temperature for the women of the British race, and that is white heat.
With those who disgrace their sacred trust of motherwood we have nothing in common. Our ears are not deaf to the cry that is ever ascending from the battlefield from men of flesh and blood whose indomitable courage is borne to us, so to speak, on every blast of the wind. We women pass on the human ammunition of 'only sons' to fill up the gaps, so that when the 'common soldier' looks back before going 'over the top' he may see the women of the British race at his heels, reliable, dependent, uncomplaining.

The reinforcements of women are, therefore, behind the 'common soldier'. We gentle-nurtured, timid sex did not want the war. It is no pleasure to us to have our homes made desolate and the apple of our eye taken away. We would sooner our lovable, promising, rollicking boy stayed at school. We would have much preferred to have gone on in a light-hearted way with our amusements and our hobbies. But the bugle call came, and we have hung up the tennis racquet, we've fetched our laddie from school, we've put his cap away, and we have glanced lovingly over his last report, which said 'Excellent'--we've wrapped them all in a Union Jack and locked them up, to be taken out only after the war to be looked at. A 'common soldier', perhaps, did not count on the women, but they have their part to play, and we have risen to our responsibility. We are proud of our men, and they in turn have to be proud of us. If the men fail, Tommy Atkins, the women won't.

Tommy Atkins to the front,
He has gone to bear the brunt.
Shall 'stay-at-homes' do naught but snivel and but sigh?
No, while your eyes are filling
We are up and doing, willing
To face the music with you--or to die!

Women are created for the purpose of giving life, and men to take it. Now we are giving it in a double sense. It's not likely we are going to fail Tommy. We shall not flinch one iota, but when the war is over he must not grudge us, when we hear the bugle call of 'Lights out', a brief, very brief, space of time to withdraw into our secret chambers and share with Rachel the Silent the lonely anguish of a bereft heart, and to look once more on the college cap, before we emerge stronger women to carry on the glorious work our men's memories have handed down to us for now and all eternity.

Yours, etc.,
A Little Mother
Here are a few of the testimonials the letter received:
Florence Nightingale did great and grand things for the soldiers of her day, but no woman has done more than the "Little Mother", whose now famous letter to The Morning Post has spread like wild-fire from trench to trench. I hope to God it will be handed down in history, for nothing like it has ever made such an impression on our fighting men. I defy any man to feel weak-hearted after reading it...My God! she makes us die happy. One who has Fought and Bled.
The "Little Mother's" letter should reach every corner of the earth--a letter of the loftiest ideal, tempered with courage and the most sublime sacrifice. Percival H. Monkton
And this one:
I have lost my two dear boys, but since I was shown the "Little Mother's" beautiful letter a resignation too perfect to describe has calmed all my aching sorrow, and I would now gladly give my sons twice over. A Bereaved Mother
One wonders if the "Bereaved Mother's" sons would agree with her eagerness to see them killed all over again -- in a war that was entirely futile and pointless, that caused untold destruction and eight million dead military personnel, and about 23 million wounded and missing soldiers (there are no reliable figures for civilian casualties) -- and that led directly into the rest of the horrors of the twentieth century. If you had any doubt at all, the "Little Mother's" letter was part of an "infamous propaganda pamphlet," as Fussell describes it in his own book (although it appears that -- "of course," as Graves observed -- many of the testimonials were genuine). Fussell accurately describes the letter as "sentimental, bloodthirsty, complacent, cruel, fatuous, and self-congratulatory, all at once...."

In terms of the war program, its major purpose was to stave off any serious consideration of a negotiated peace short of "unconditional surrender." The propaganda maintained that such a negotiated peace would betray all those who had died before, just as we are told today that leaving Iraq would betray those who are already dead in a futile, horrific and profoundly counterproductive war. The "Little Mother's" letter and many similar propaganda techniques achieved their purpose: the slaughter went on for a few more years.

Yet today, and despite this and much more evidence from history, there are those who would deliberately run the risk of unleashing this kind of barbarism still again. Well, "sick" is one word for it.

Endless War

We are not "spreading democracy" in Iraq, and that was only one of the many fig leaves used to camouflage other goals. But we are most certainly spreading death and devastation:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's defense minister warned on Saturday of a "civil war" that "will never end" and said he was ready to put tanks on the streets as sectarian violence flared despite a second day of curfew in Baghdad.

Extending a traffic ban in the capital to Monday after battles around Sunni mosques and a car bomb in a holy Shi'ite city, leaders scrambled to break a round of reprisals sparked by a suspected al Qaeda bombing of a Shi'ite shrine on Wednesday.

The gravest crisis since the U.S. invasion in 2003 threatens Washington's hopes of withdrawing its 136,000 troops from Iraq.

"If there is a civil war in this country it will never end," Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi, a minority Sunni Muslim in the Shi'ite-led interim government, told a news conference.

"We are ready to fill the streets with armored vehicles."
We've been told by many commentators that we couldn't leave Iraq because, if we did, it would collapse into chaos and civil war. We're still there -- and all of that is happening anyway. Our presence remains one of the major destabilizing forces, in direct opposition to the professed aim.

We might double the number of U.S. troops -- except that we can't. We don't have them. I suppose the administration might propose a draft, but I think many if not most Republicans would vehemently oppose it. The American public is already disillusioned with the Iraq disaster, and becomes more unhappy about it every day. I don't think they would stand for a draft for the fantasy of "saving Iraq," since it appears to be beyond saving at this point, at least by us. Besides, even if we instituted a draft, it would take months before more troops were trained and available.

So that leaves one course of action, the one that those of us who opposed this war before it began have been advocating for almost three years: get out. Set a definite end date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and get them all out in six months at the most.

Of course, it will never happen. That would be "cutting and running." That would be an admission of defeat. Instead, the administration and its supporters will go on pretending that there are just a few more corners to turn, that they can see the light in the distance even if all of those traitorous cowards can't, and they'll continue to spew all the rest of the propagandistic garbage that pollutes our public debate.

But we've lost. Because the administration never bothered to educate itself about Iraq or its history and culture, all of which would have told them this was an entirely futile enterprise, we never knew what we were doing in the deepest sense. This has been a calamity conceived in ignorance, and executed with blind stupidity. We were defeated before the first American soldier set foot in Iraq.

But we will pretend that we can still "win." Many more people will die. And all of it is for infinitely less than nothing.

A Hopefully Temporary Obituary

Because I plan to refer to it in several upcoming pieces, I've reposted an essay I wrote in August 2003. It analyzes in some detail a "neoconservative manifesto" authored by Irving Kristol and published that month: In Service of the New Fascism.

I want to highlight here part of what I added in an introductory note:
When I wrote this article and several related ones almost three years ago, I still thought it might be possible to reach those alleged "libertarians" who support Bush to one degree or another, and who are defenders of his foreign policy in particular. I considered it unlikely that they would alter their views, but I thought it worthwhile at least to try. In the time that has elapsed, I've given up any hope on that score. Nowadays, if these people criticize Bush's foreign policy at all, it is only to say that Bush is not brutal enough, and that he should wage war still more widely. I do not know whether it is ignorance or intellectual dishonesty that makes these "libertarians" cling to the now conclusively discredited Wilsonian delusion of world transformation by means of military force. Whatever factors may be involved in an individual case, it has been indisputably clear for some time that no amount of contrary evidence will cause these people to change their minds.

At one time, libertarianism represented a serious and vital intellectual tradition, one that included thinkers and writers of great significance such as Hayek and von Mises. The faux "libertarians" of today, who are especially and annoyingly numerous among bloggers, have rendered genuine libertarianism unrecognizable. For the moment, libertarianism's reputation has been almost entirely destroyed and deservedly so, if one considers only its loudest contemporary advocates. These phony libertarians have no understanding at all of the principles they claim to be defending, and genuine liberty can find no place in their world view.

Since they have repeatedly demonstrated their unswerving refusal to change their minds even in the face of incontrovertible and overwhelming evidence, they might at least reconsider the manner in which they describe themselves. I would suggest "cheap propagandists" or "fourth-rate hacks" as much more accurate with regard to their approach and methodology. Such terms still fail to capture the depth of their betrayal, but they would be vastly preferable. And at least unsuspecting readers would be warned about the degree of attention that ought to be paid to such people -- which is to say, precisely none at all.
I consider it unnecessary to name names. I think most readers know the bloggers and other writers to whom I refer.

Some might consider these judgments too harsh. I will note only that most of these "libertarians" have been agitating for a war against Iran for some time. Such a military attack could all too easily be the beginning of a genuine world war, one that could witness devastation on an incomprehensibly horrifying scale. Given the stakes involved, I think my conclusion is, if anything, far too kind.

I tend to make that error more often than I should. I'll work on it.

February 25, 2006

Erasing History: "An Official Lie"

Many of you probably know all about this story, but the Guardian has a nice write-up of a blogger's successful efforts to unearth some illuminating documents. They don't tell us anything we didn't already know, but they still make for interesting reading:
Hours after a commercial plane struck the Pentagon on September 11 2001 the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was issuing rapid orders to his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by one of them.

"Hard to get good case. Need to move swiftly," the notes say. "Near term target needs - go massive - sweep it all up, things related and not."

The handwritten notes, with some parts blanked out, were declassified this month in response to a request by a law student and blogger, Thad Anderson, under the US Freedom of Information Act. Anderson has posted them on his blog at outragedmoderates.org.

The Pentagon confirmed the notes had been taken by Stephen Cambone, now undersecretary of defence for intelligence and then a senior policy official.


"The secretary said his instinct was to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time, not only Bin Laden. Secretary Rumsfeld later explained that at the time he had been considering either one of them, or perhaps someone else, as the responsible party."

The actual notes suggest a focus on Saddam. "Best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit SH at same time - not only UBL [Pentagon shorthand for Usama/Osama bin Laden]," the notes say. "Tasks. Jim Haynes [Pentagon lawyer] to talk with PW [probably Paul Wolfowitz, then Mr Rumsfeld's deputy] for additional support ... connection with UBL."
I'm actually quite surprised that Anderson was able to get hold of these documents at all -- even with "some parts blanked out." But efforts have been underway for some time to make certain such "embarrassments" don't occur again:
Those who control the past control the future, Orwell famously wrote in 1984. In the realm of national-security policy, the battle for this control is heating up.

The latest skirmish started last December, when an independent scholar named Matthew Aid went to the National Archives to re-examine some declassified documents that he'd copied several months earlier and learned that they'd been removed from the public shelves and reclassified.

Looking into the matter further, he discovered that, over the last five years, in a program that itself has been a secret, U.S. military and intelligence agencies have reclassified 9,500 documents, constituting more than 55,000 pages, some of them dating back to World War II. And that's just so far. The program under which they've been doing this—which has never been authorized or funded by Congress—is scheduled to continue until at least March 2007.


Quite a few of the papers seem to have been reclassified only because they're embarrassing. For instance, one document reveals that, in the fall of 1950, the CIA predicted the Chinese would not intervene in the Korean War; 12 days later, they did. (Classifying, much less reclassifying documents for this purpose, if that was in fact the reason, is not just stupid but illegal. Federal law states: "No information … shall be classified in order to … prevent embarrassment of a person, organization, or agency.")


In 1998, around the time this campaign got under way, the CIA refused to declassify documents about covert programs dating back to the 1960s. The State Department's advisory committee complained, in a letter to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that without these documents, the official record of U.S. foreign policy was in danger of becoming "an official lie." The reclassification of documents is an escalation of this broader campaign not merely to halt but to roll back freedom of information—to regain control of the past and all that goes with it
Fred Kaplan's article has many more details.

If these efforts to increase government secrecy continue, large parts of history may cease to exist altogether in any meaningful way. Well, I suppose that only makes sense. If the Bush administration leads us directly into Armageddon, as it shows every sign of doing, there won't be all that many people around to study it.

There, now I may have put you in a thoroughly rotten mood for a Saturday night. Sorry. Unfortunately for all of us, the news is what it is. Damn that, anyway. Fantasy is becoming more and more attractive...

February 24, 2006

And We Shall Inherit the Wind

[Please see the Update at the end, where I've added a few important points, as well as a brief excerpt from Paul Krugman's column about the UAE ports story.]

In case you've overlooked it in the rush of recent events, there could be very significant trouble brewing in Pakistan. William Lind explains:
[W]hen rioting continues day after day, it can serve as a sort of thermometer, taking the temperature of a population. Pakistan, it would seem, is running a fever, one that shows little sign of breaking.


[I]n Pakistan, the immediate target of the riots is all too evident: Pakistani President Musharraf and his working relationship with America's President Bush (in Pakistan, Musharraf is often called Busharraf).


If the riots continue and grow, the Pakistani security forces responsible for containing them will at some point go over and join the rioters. Musharraf will try to get the last plane out; perhaps he will find Texas a congenial place of exile. If he doesn't make that plane, his head will serve as a football, not just of the political variety.

A new Pakistani government, in quest of legitimacy, will understand that comes from opposing Bush's America, not getting in bed with it. Osama will be the new honorary president of Pakistan, de facto if not de jure. Our and NATO's operation in Afghanistan will become strategically unsustainable overnight.


The fall of Pakistan to militant Islam will be a strategic disaster greater than anything possible in Iraq, even losing an army. It will be a greater disaster than a war with Iran that costs us our army in Iraq. Osama and Co. will have nukes, missiles to deliver them, the best conventional armed forces in the Muslim world, and an impregnable base for operations anywhere else. As North Korea's Dear Leader has shown the world, nobody messes with you if you have nukes. Uncle Sam takes off his battle rattle and asks Beijing, or somebody, if they can possibly sponsor some talks.
I highlight these developments to underscore the issues I discussed in Part II of my Iran series, The Folly of Intervention.

In that essay, I traced the consequences of the United States' entrance into World War I, through World War II, the Cold War, Afghanistan, and our "humanitarian" interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s. In every instance, just as we are seeing again today, intervention led to unforeseen and uncontrollable results. As I put it:
These are only some of the very bitter fruits of foreign intervention: uncontrollable consequences are always set loose and, all too often, those consequences are directly opposed to what the original stated purpose had been. And yet, like the insane man, we repeat this behavior over and over again, insisting that this time the result will be different, and it will finally work -- and we'll get exactly the result we want, and no others at all.
Among the consequences of the Iraq catastrophe, we have a civil war that, after simmering for a few years, may be finally erupting with full force; a newly empowered Iran, which is the only undisputed victor in this conflict; an increasing number of enraged Arabs and Muslims, some of whom may choose to exact revenge on the United States in ways that may be all too nightmarish -- and we may soon confront a Pakistan run by the forces of militant Islam, and with a nuclear arsenal. I emphasize that this list is far from complete.

Despite all this, and following the infinitely tragic pattern from history, it is most likely that we will not draw back and reconsider our course. Instead, we will broaden the conflict, perhaps with military strikes on Iran. And as I described yesterday, given the cultural atmosphere which is being intensified every day -- an atmosphere which demonizes Arabs and Muslims generally and which, at its worst, portrays the Arab-Muslim world as one which must be largely destroyed before it destroys us -- a wider war will be supported by almost everyone with any influence.

And with regard to the UAE port deal controversy, in addition to the points I covered yesterday, I strongly recommend this post at Booman Tribune. It will show you that every major talking point used to characterize the UAE deal as one that is too dangerous to be tolerated is wrong. I won't excerpt that entry. If you are seriously interested in the specific issues that have been raised, you should read the post in its entirety.

To be perfectly frank, I consider most of the fear-mongering now going on as utterly unworthy of further response. The facts are easily available; the Booman Tribune post is an excellent overview of all the points in contention, but the same information is available elsewhere. But most people are not interested in the facts. It is painfully and transparently obvious that if the situation were reversed -- if the UAE deal had been approved by a Gore administration -- the arguments would simply switch sides. All the Republicans would raise the objections now being made by the Democrats, and the Democrats would easily refute the arguments they now cling to with such fervor. What we are now seeing, as we see all the time in the criminally superficial political debates that drown us daily, is power politics of the worst kind. (It is clear that the same kinds of motives drive those Republicans who are criticizing the deal: they want to distance themselves from Bush simply for their own advantage. If there is any politician who offers these completely unconvincing arguments out of genuine conviction, he is a notable exception -- and he would still be wrong on the merits.)

But in this case, the stakes are unusually high -- and exceptionally dangerous. The cultural atmosphere that I've been discussing in recent posts is one that can easily lead to a conflict that rapidly spreads across large areas of the globe. Literally millions of lives might be at stake.

If I believed in such penalties for intellectual crimes, which I emphatically do not, I would recommend life sentences without parole for all those now treating these issues with such unforgivable carelessness, simply for the sake of electoral advantage and political influence. Great numbers of people are all too likely to die because of the games now being played.

I desperately wish that many of those now engaged in this intellectually dishonest debate would reevaluate their positions. The experience of the last few years leads only to the conclusion that most of them will not. So those now employing these reprehensible tactics can look for forgiveness elsewhere. They will not find it from me -- and they should not be granted dispensation by anyone who gives a damn.

UPDATE: I'm working on a lengthy piece about some further aspects of the UAE deal, but let me add a couple of points here. Some commentators (see Paul Krugman, for example, in a reasonably well-balanced column on the UAE ports deal) have noted that there is a large element of "rough justice" in seeing the Bush administration defeated by the contemptible weapons it has itself used ever since 9/11. Chief among those weapons are an unreasoning fear, and a relentless appeal to people's very worst instincts. But note that Krugman writes: "Mr. Bush shouldn't really be losing his credibility as a terrorism fighter over the ports deal, which, after careful examination (which hasn't happened yet), may turn out to be O.K." Krugman goes on to note that Bush ought to have lost that credibility long ago, for the same reasons I discussed in my first post about the ports controversy.

Under other circumstances, I myself would take considerable pleasure in seeing Bush and his allies and defenders defeated by the same forces they themselves have unleashed. But as I've discussed in a number of recent entries, the current cultural atmosphere -- particularly in light of the generalized demonization of the Arab-Muslim world resulting from the contemptibly phony Mohammed cartoon story (see here and here) -- makes this an extraordinarily dangerous time to engage in "gotcha"'s of this kind. With the propaganda campaign in full swing for military strikes on Iran, we may be nearing the brink of a wider conflict that could lead to large-scale devastation. More on that in the upcoming piece.

Here's another good treatment of the UAE deal and the underlying issues, from a Maryland newspaper, in a column focused on local as well as national and international concerns:
With what has become characteristic overstatement, gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley employed images of Old Glory waving over Fort McHenry as he vowed to fight the Arabs to his death:

"Not so long as I’m mayor and not so long as I have breath in my body. We are not going to turn over the Port of Baltimore to a foreign government. It’s not going to happen."

The mayor’s Arab-bashing stance is good politics. First, he gets to be a Democratic liberal who’s tough on national security. O’Malley is reaching out to the knucklehead vote, xenophobic Marylanders who otherwise dislike his leftist leanings. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Hillary Clinton is adopting the same posture as part of her presidential makeover.

Second, both O’Malley and his Democratic rival, Doug Duncan, are using the port deal to link Gov. Bob Ehrlich to the Bush administration, which is unpopular in Maryland and approved the transaction.

Finally, reinforcing Samuel Johnson’s adage that "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels," O’Malley’s flag-waving handily shifted attention away from his phony crime statistics where Duncan had been kicking the mayor’s behind for days.


As usual, fact and reason were the first casualties in this war against maritime terror. Despite the politicians’ images of wide-eyed Arab terrorists plowing explosives-laden ships into Harbor Place, it’s hard to find fault with the port deal.

The United Arab Emirates is a U.S. ally, one of the nations we defended against Iraq in Desert Storm, remember? Today the UAE serves as a major U.S. naval base, air force base and CIA headquarters in the war against terrorism.

DP World’s top management includes four Americans and the company’s port business is cargo handling using U.S. workers, not security, which remains in the hands of U.S. government agencies.

Well, worry some critics, what if Arab terrorists infiltrate DP World’s ranks and use their corporate cover to obtain drivers licenses? Hello, welcome to Maryland where anyone can get a drivers license, even illegal aliens. Efforts to make drivers license applicants prove U.S. citizenship have been routinely killed by statehouse Democrats, you know, the same folks who oppose the port deal!

And when it comes to foreign companies and our national security, the horse is already out of the barn. At least 90 U.S. port terminals are already operated by foreign companies (including Chinese and Japanese). And almost none of the ships using our ports are American-owned. Likewise, no American companies bid on the now-controversial port deal.


President Bush asks, "...why all of a sudden is a Middle Eastern company held to a different standard than a British company?" Because you, Mr. President, whipped-up anti-Arabism as part of your "wartime president" re-election strategy and because you recklessly invaded an Arab nation that had nothing to do with 9⁄11, thus, creating the impression that America was at war with the entire Arab world, not just Arab terrorists. Having inflamed American jingoism, don’t disown its consequences.

But, hey, in post-9⁄11 America, the Arabs are getting off easy. After Pearl Harbor we rounded-up everyone of Japanese descent and put them behind barbed wire.
For the same reasons, those who now employ Bush's tactics against him-- even if not fully intentionally or by implication -- will not properly be able to disown their consequences. I would urge them, in the strongest possible terms, to think long and hard about just what those consequences might be.

AND: Here's another good Booman Tribune entry, correcting many of the misapprehensions about the UAE deal. As the writer notes, there are indeed legitimate questions about the deal, but they don't concern national security for the most part. They instead arise out of the corruption, criminal carelessness and cronyism that are endemic to the Bush administration itself.