August 31, 2007

The Pathetic Words: Too Late

[Updated at the end.]

This will be short, and very rude.

Ray McGovern asks: "Do We Have the Courage to Stop War with Iran?"

Answer: NO.

Sorry, Ray. Sorry, world. As I have explained at some length, and as the King quote at the conclusion of McGovern's article has it, it is already too late. It may not have been in February of this year, but it is now.

Tragic beyond measure, but it's the truth.

And my God. Is anything more pathetic than the liberal-progressive bloggers who continue to shill for the Democrats? They still are completely without a clue. [Note this comment in particular, about "normaliz[ing] the propaganda" and the "rapprochement with evil."] The functional stupidity which these bloggers cultivated out of their political creationism is now set in stone. Day by inexorable day, their self-willed stupidity consumes them more and more. They have made themselves entirely worthless and completely irrelevant with regard to the most crucial issue in the world today.

And some of the progressive bloggers actually seem to still believe that the Democrats will end the occupation of Iraq.

Stupid, and not paying attention. As I explained in detail before:


And the progressive bloggers, just like the Democrats they service so slavishly, primarily think about the elections of 2008. Try, please try, to get a fucking clue. After we attack Iran -- and read the earlier piece and the numerous other essays linked throughout and at the end -- the world will be changed in countless ways, major and minor. I think the elections will go forward, and the major functions of our now loathsome government will continue as "normal" -- except that none of it will mean anything. And since we may be concluding the first six or eight months of a genuine and spreading world war, it's more than likely that the Republicans will keep the White House, and perhaps even take back one or both houses of Congress. The Democrats try to convince us that their dicks are just as big as the Republicans' (an especially neat trick for Hillary, but then she is so special), but given how this game is played at present, the Democrats' problem is that they always come too late, and not enough. The Republicans will always win this game, and they may well win it again after some nukes go off around the globe and people are dying in the millions.

And keep in mind that with regard to foreign policy, every politician in Washington is Larry Craig.

So. There you are. Have a nice holiday weekend. If the worst hasn't happened a year from now, I will be pleased beyond description to examine at excruciating length what a goddamned idiot I've been. Let it be so.

Unfortunately, I consider that prospect highly unlikely, and probably impossible. But you never know. Even after everything that has happened in the last six years, I still have hope.

So I am an idiot, after all.

PRIORITIES: I just received an urgent email from Media Matters. Like, totally super urgent. A call to action to stop an attack on Iran, and a possible nuclear world war? Oh, my. No, no, no.

A call to action to protest some of Tucker Carlson's remarks about the Craig story, which came perilously close to an endorsement of gay-bashing. And the MSNBC/Carlson story continues to be highlighted on Media Matters' homepage.

Carlson's remarks were reprehensible; so are these related comments from Jonah Goldberg. They both should be severely condemned. I'll have much more about the sources and meaning of these kinds of remarks in the very near future. But, dude, I don't think Carlson and Goldberg are, like, threatening the entire galaxy, know what I mean?

And I realize this is completely amazing, since I'm a freakish faggot and all, but I actually think an attack on Iran and its probable consequences are more important.

Well, there's some freaky faggot thinking for you.

August 29, 2007

Widening War, and the End of the World You've Known

The formal declaration:
US President George W Bush has warned Iran to stop supporting the militants fighting against the US in Iraq.

In a speech to US war veterans in Reno, Nevada, Mr Bush renewed charges that Tehran has provided training and weapons for extremists in Iraq.

"The Iranian regime must halt these actions," he said.


In his speech to the American Legion, Mr Bush hit back, accusing Iran's Revolutionary Guards of funding and arming insurgents in Iraq.

And he said Iran's leaders could not avoid some responsibility for attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi civilians.

"I have authorised our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," he said.

The BBC's Justin Webb, in Washington, says this looks like a conscious effort by the White House to elevate the tension between Washington and Tehran to a new level.

Such an effort might be designed to avoid the need for armed conflict or might equally be an effort to bring that conflict about, our correspondent says.

Shortly after Mr Bush made his address, Iranian officials reported that seven Iranians working for the country's electricity ministry had been arrested in Baghdad by US forces.
Not that the Democrats will do a damned thing to stop it since they're fully on board. And no one else will try to stop it, either.

Just thought you'd want to know.


My fellow very handsome fellow citizens...and I see we have some members of our armed services here this morning, looking so proud and strong in their uniforms, so strong...and taut...and firm...and...oh, yes, yes, of course...a warm welcome to the lovely ladies, too. I must speak to you this morning about the success of our surge. As I'm certain our strong and manly generals will soon tell strong and firm in their taut and...oh...yes, I know they will tell us, our surge is working!

As we forcefully press on, plunging deeper into unfriendly territory, making our will unmistakably plain as we harden our resolve...what? What are you talking about? Why would you ask that? No, I'm not gay. As we press deeper, we claim more territory for...ah...for...damn...oh, yes, for freedom! Nothing can defeat us or impede our progress, just as nothing has ever defeated us when we've been determined, when we've been hard enough, when we've broken through with force and strength...and...and...

What? Why do you keep asking that? I am not gay. Real men don't give up at the first sign of resistance, not even when the resistance goes on, day after day, minute after minute...thwarting our will, which we must make even harder...we must push forward and never give even an inch, only move steadily forward, inch by inch, steadily forward, until we plunge home!

No. No. I'm not gay, and I've never been gay. What the hell is wrong with you?

Some people say we should just stay home, where it's safe and the unknown can't threaten us. But are we ever truly safe? And that isn't the course of real men, of manly men. Real men seek out danger, and look for opportunities to test their strength and make their will known. Manly men realize that we can never be safe until we conquer those who would resist our hard resolve, who try to oppose our firm, unrelenting...hard...never soft...strong...we must never let our will go limp!

Sometimes it takes longer than we think it will. That can take its toll, and increase the dangers even more. But we still must harden our will and resolve! Harden our resolve, and make it firm! We can and must make the enemy submit to our superior strength, and our firm, hard will! No matter how long it takes, no matter how strong the resistance. That only makes the final triumph that much sweeter! When we get all the way in, when we make our determination known, when everyone knows that we are real men, who never give up, and never go soft, then we win! We...we...

No! No! I'm not...never have on...inch by inch...strong...hard...

Oh, no...oh, God...I told Bush, I told that limp-wristed pansy to crush those bastards, just to get it over with. I knew that the longer it went on, the harder the resistance, the more we had to push and struggle, always keeping our will hard and firm, the more I'd like it and never want it to stop. I warned him! He doesn't give a damn. You know what? I think he likes it too, even more than I do! Maybe you ought to ask him all your damned questions.

Oh, God. I'm sorry. But it's not my fault. Don't you see? Iraq made me gay! Iraq trapped me, it pulled me in, it said no over and over again, but I knew it really meant yes, it demanded more and more and more...and now, I don't even know if I can stay hard anymore.

What am I saying? Of course I can stay hard! Harder than ever! Iran! That's the answer! Iran...oh...oh, yes...I'm getting excited again. firm again...hard and strong and firm! Iran! Iran! Oh, yes...

Oh, God...that feels so good...

(Coincidentally...actually, not coincidentally at all...I'm working on a complicated essay that concerns our national conversation about concepts of masculinity and manhood, and how those ideas influence national policy, including very notably foreign policy. As it turns out, this particular national discussion goes back to the 1890s, which was the critical decade for everything that followed, as I've discussed in an article about Thomas B. Reed, in a piece about the annexation of Hawaii, and in several posts about the Philippine occupation, here and here. But before getting to that more serious article, I had this out of my system. Other related posts: "Why I'm Hard for Iraq," and "The Dynamics of Rising American Fascism," the latter of which discusses our murderous and violent "ideal" of "manhood" and its endlessly destructive and deforming effects.

The Larry Craig story obviously involves other issues as well, including the continuing demonization and exclusion of gays and lesbians from mainstream, "normal" American life; see, "We Are Not Freaks." I'll soon have more about the Craig story and those issues, too.)

August 27, 2007

From the Department of Not Going to Happen

I admire Dave Lindorff for his unrelenting opposition to the increasingly authoritarian, warmaking state, and for his tenacity in demanding accountability for the numerous members of the Bush crime gang. And while he is right about what ought to happen, this will remain in the realm of fantasy:
The one good thing that can be said about the Gonzales resignation is that it eliminates the Democratic leadership's latest gambit for attempting to derail the impeachment movement. As support for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney has grown, both among the public at large and in Congress, where there are now at least 20 co-sponsors for Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Cheney impeachment bill, the Democratic leadership in the House scrambled to get behind a purely inside-the-beltway "campaign" to impeach Gonzales - a move that did succeed in dividing the real, authentic impeachment movement.

The interesting thing is that in backing the impeachment of Gonzales, those leaders and senior House Democrats who have been brushing off the broader impeachment movement gave the lie to two of their main arguments against impeachment - that it would be "too divisive" and that there "isn't time" for impeachment. Clearly if it wasn't too late to impeach Gonzales, and if impeaching Gonzales would not be too divisive, neither is it too late to impeach Cheney and neither would impeaching Cheney be "too divisive."

So let's hail the departure of Gonzo, let's demand a thorough vetting of the demonstrably incompetent and unprincipled Chertoff, and most importantly, let's move forward with the campaign to impeach Cheney, starting with a full-court campaign to get all those who so readily signed on to Washington Rep. Jay Inslee's Gonzales impeachment bill to now sign on to Rep. Kucinich's H.Res. 333, a resolution to impeach the vice president.
This Congress will not impeach anyone. Nope. Not gonna happen.

Besides, something else rather more monumental is going to happen. Oh, yes:

It is.

Will the Democrats oppose the next chapter in our endless war? If you ask the question, you haven't been paying any attention at all.

Of course, if the Democrats had any convictions that were genuinely opposed to the corporatist, authoritarian, warfare state, they would begin impeachment proceedings against both Bush and Cheney immediately upon Congress's return in September (and they would have begun them months ago) -- because impeachment is deserved 1,000 times over in both cases, and because such proceedings might make an attack on Iran less likely. That would also assume that the Washington Democrats had some strategic smarts.

Democrats with deeply held convictions that impelled them to principled action that was not guaranteed to be successful, and clever about the implementation of a plan -- one that didn't directly concern an election -- that demanded their careful attention for more than a week or two? Excuse me for a moment.

Sorry. I had to collapse to the floor in helpless laughter for a few minutes, and then slowly pull myself back up so I could get to the keyboard.

The attack on Iran will now almost certainly happen, probably in the next six months or so. All the rest, no.

Time for dinner and a drink!

August 26, 2007

No One Is So Sure as the Man Who Knows Too Little

Andrew Bacevich writes about "Vietnam's Real Lessons":
Finding the debacle of the Vietnam War a rationale for sustaining the U.S. military presence in Iraq requires considerable imagination. If nothing else, President Bush’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars earlier this week revealed a hitherto unsuspected capacity for creativity. Yet as an exercise in historical analysis, his remarks proved to be self-serving and selective.

For years, the Bush administration has rejected all comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. Now the president cites Vietnam to bolster his insistence on "seeing the Iraqis through as they build their democracy." To do otherwise, he says, will invite a recurrence of the events that followed the fall of Saigon, when "millions of innocent citizens" were murdered, imprisoned or forced to flee.


As the balance of the president’s VFW address makes clear, Bush remains oblivious to the history that actually matters.

Here are a few of the lessons that he overlooks.

In unconventional wars, body counts don’t really count. ...

[Bush's] speech had him sounding like President Lyndon Johnson, bragging that, in each month since January, U.S. troops in Iraq have "killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 Al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists." If Bush thinks that by racking up big body counts the so-called surge will reverse the course of the war, he is deceiving himself. The real question is not how many bad guys we are killing, but how many our continued presence in Iraq is creating.

There’s no substitute for legitimacy. ...

As a lens for strategic analysis, ideology distorts rather than clarifies. From Dwight D. Eisenhower through Richard M. Nixon, a parade of presidents convinced themselves that defending South Vietnam qualified as a vital U.S. interest. For the free world, a communist takeover of that country would imply an unacceptable defeat.

Yet when South Vietnam did fall, the strategic effect proved to be limited. The falling dominoes never did pose a threat to our shores for one simple reason: The communists of North Vietnam were less interested in promoting world revolution than in unifying their country under socialist rule. We deluded ourselves into thinking that we were defending freedom against totalitarianism. In fact, we had blundered into a civil war. [That last sentence contains a notably dangerous error; see the P.S. below.]

With regard to Iraq, Bush persists in making an analogous error. In his remarks to the VFW, the president described Iraq as an "ideological struggle." Our adversary there aims to crush "freedom, tolerance and dissent," he said, thereby "imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world." If we don’t fight them "there," we will surely have to fight them "here."


[T]o imagine that Bin Laden and others of his ilk have the capability to control the Middle East, restoring the so-called Caliphate, is absurd, as silly as the vaunted domino theory of the 1950s and 1960s.


Sometimes people can manage their own affairs.
In an essay I wrote in February of last year, "Folly Marches On -- and Seeking a New Direction," I offered the following excerpt from Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly. Bush's invocation of the Vietnam debacle, which is perfect only in the sense that he made the comparison for all those reasons that are supremely wrong, compels me to offer Tuchman's observations once more:
Like Kennedy, Johnson believed that to lose South Vietnam would be to lose the White House. It would mean a destructive debate, he was later to say, that would "shatter my Presidency, kill my Administration, and damage our democracy." The loss of China, he said, which had led to the rise of Joe McCarthy, was "chickenshit compared with what might happen if we lost Vietnam." Robert Kennedy would be out in front telling everyone that "I was a coward, an unmanly man, a man without a spine." Worse, as soon as United States weakness was perceived by Moscow and Peking, they would move to "expand their control over the vacuum of power we would leave behind us ... and so would begin World War III." He was as sure of this "as nearly as anyone can be certain of anything." No one is so sure of his premises as the man who knows too little.

The purpose of the war was not gain or national defense. It would have been a simpler matter had it been either, for it is easier to finish a war by conquest of territory or by destruction of the enemy's forces and resources than it is to establish a principle by superior force and call it victory. America's purpose was to demonstrate her intent and her capacity to stop Communism in a framework of preserving an artificially created, inadequately motivated and not very viable state. The nature of the society we were upholding was an inherent flaw in the case, and despite all efforts at "nation-building," it did not essentially change.

In the illusion of omnipotence, American policy-makers took it for granted that on a given aim, especially in Asia, American will could be made to prevail. This assumption came from the can-do character of a self-created nation and from the sense of competence and superpower derived from World War II. If this was "arrogance of power," in Senator Fulbright's phrase, it was not so much the fatal hubris and over-extension that defeated Athens and Napoleon, and in the 20th century Germany and Japan, as it was failure to understand that problems and conflicts exist among other peoples that are not soluble by the application of American force or American techniques or even American goodwill. "Nation-building" was the most presumptuous of the illusions. Settlers of the North American continent had built a nation from Plymouth Rock to Valley Forge to the fulfilled frontier, yet failed to learn from their success that elsewhere, too, only the inhabitants can make the process work.

Wooden-headedness, the "Don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts" habit, is a universal folly never more conspicuous than at upper levels of Washington with respect to Vietnam. Its grossest fault was underestimation of North Vietnam's commitment to its goal. Enemy motivation was a missing element in American calculations, and Washington could therefore ignore all the evidence of nationalist fervor and of the passion for independence which as early as 1945 Hanoi had declared "no human force can any longer restrain." Washington could ignore General Leclerc's prediction that conquest would take half a million men and "Even then it could not be done." It could ignore the demonstration of elan and capacity that won victory over a French army with modern weapons at Dien Bien Phu, and all the continuing evidence thereafter.

American refusal to take the enemy's grim will and capacity into account has been explained by those responsible on the ground of ignorance of Vietnam's history, traditions and national character: there were "no experts available," in the words of one high-ranking official. But the longevity of Vietnamese resistance to foreign rule could have been learned from any history book on Indochina. Attentive consultation with French administrators whose official lives had been spent in Vietnam would have made up for the lack of American expertise. Even superficial American acquaintance with the area, when it began to supply reports, provided creditable information. Not ignorance, but refusal to credit the evidence and, more fundamentally, refusal to grant stature and fixed purpose to a "fourth-rate" Asiatic country were the determining factors, much as in the case of the British attitude toward the American colonies. The irony of history is inexorable.


Mental standstill or stagnation--the maintenance intact by rulers and policy-makers of the ideas they started with--is fertile ground for folly. ...

In its first stage, mental standstill fixes the principles and boundaries governing a political problem. In the second stage, when dissonances and failing function begin to appear, the initial principles rigidify. This is the period when, if wisdom were operative, re-examination and re-thinking and a change of course are possible, but they are rare as rubies in a backyard. Rigidifying leads to increase of investment and the need to protect egos; policy founded upon error multiplies, never retreats. The greater the investment and the more involved in it the sponsor's ego, the more unacceptable is disengagement. In the third stage, pursuit of failure enlarges the damages until it causes the fall of Troy, the defection from the Papacy, the loss of a trans-Atlantic empire, the classic humiliation in Vietnam.

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. A prince, says Machiavelli, ought always to be a great asker and a patient hearer of truth about those things of which he has inquired, and he should be angry if he finds that anyone has scruples about telling him the truth. What government needs is great askers.

Refusal to draw inference from negative signs, which under the rubric "wooden-headedness" has played so large a part in these pages, was recognized in the most pessimistic work of modern times, George Orwell's 1984, as what the author called "Crimestop." "Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments...and of being bored and repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."
In the earlier essay, I went on to write:
This makes clear beyond dispute the nature and persistence of the problem -- and the repeated refusal of political leaders to learn the obvious lesson. And today, it is literally as if none of this had ever happened, and as if no one with the ability to influence our nation's direction has benefitted in the smallest degree from our tragic past errors -- and so we do it all again.

For our political leaders, in terms of the methodology they bring to bear on questions of foreign policy, it is as if the United States is a country without a history. In this respect, they are like the most dangerous of nihilist revolutionaries: they believe they can make the entire world anew, writing on a blank slate. But when you completely disregard the realities of history and culture, when you set aside facts and the complexities of men and the societies they create, you will achieve only what such revolutionaries have always achieved: destruction. Tragically for all of us, and for the world, they have failed to learn that lesson as well.
As I am documenting in "Dominion Over the World," and as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have made absolutely clear in their recent statements about foreign policy, the bipartisan consensus in favor of the United States' global hegemonic role remains in full force and effect. Our governing class is still fully convinced that the United States is and should be the sole "indispensable" nation, that the entire world is properly our domain, and that it is our "right" to intervene wherever and whenever we choose after intoning the magical phrase, magical because it is purposely meaningless and can be twisted to suit any and every circumstance, "a vital U.S. interest." (I made this same argument from a somewhat different vantage point in, "Battling the Ghosts of Vietnam.")

In terms of the lessons the members of our governing class ought to have learned from the neverending series of wars that has continued since the end of the charnel house of World War II, it is as if Vietnam and all the other interventions never happened. It is still as if Iraq itself hasn't happened, and every critical fact about Iraq remains invisible to them. Our ignorance is, indeed, sacred to those who direct our nation's course. Nothing -- and no pile of rotting corpses, no matter how high -- will be allowed to threaten it.

All the death and all the destruction...for nothing. Absolutely nothing. It is not that our governing class knows merely too little. With regard to the most basic lessons they ought to have grasped after all the carnage they unleashed, they know nothing. Thus, we are guaranteed to do it yet again -- against Iran, or Syria, or North Korea, or China, or some nation yet to be designated as the enemy of the moment, an enemy that threatens a "vital national interest" in a way that supposedly cannot be tolerated.

It is tragic beyond measure. It is absurd in a manner that cannot be described. It is eternally unforgivable.

P.S. I greatly respect Bacevich's work in general, but I must offer a corrective to his statement that, "we had blundered into a civil war." The United States "blundered" into precisely nothing, not in Vietnam and not anywhere else.

Although Bacevich comes at these issues from a very different perspective, and despite the fact that the totality of Bacevich's writing commands admiration and praise, while Irving Kristol deserves only severe condemnation, Bacevich's error comes far too close for comfort to that committed by Kristol for the worst of motives. Almost exactly four years ago, in August 2003, I discussed Kristol's "neoconservative manifesto," in an essay titled, "In Service of the New Fascism." In analyzing what is probably Kristol's very worst lie among many hideous lies, I wrote:
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.
When we come upon a murderer covered with the blood of victims who never threatened him, we do not defend him by appealing to his "good intentions" or by claiming that "he meant well" -- at least, we do not if we seek to remain civilized.

In terms of its foreign policy of aggressive, ceaseless, violent interventionism, the United States has been a murderer of this kind on the world stage for over a century. And our ruling class continues to state repeatedly, in a manner demanding that we credit the assertions, that their infernal and bloody work is far from done.

August 22, 2007

You, Too, Can and Should Be an "Intelligence Analyst"

[Note added August 12, 2010: Welcome to readers from Naked Capitalism. While I appreciate the link to this article, I'm certain the only reason it was noticed is that I mentioned this piece in a recent installment of my series about Wikileaks. These issues are critically related to a very significant aspect of Wikileaks' work and why I consider that work genuinely radical in a way that, in my view, far too few people appreciate.

The article on Wikileaks that discusses this earlier one appeared several days ago: "Good-bye to All That: Good-bye Consensus, Good-bye Establishment, Good-bye Mainstream." So while it's lovely to see an article from three years ago linked today -- better late than never, and so forth -- this subject is of immense importance to a major news story right now. The Wikileaks piece explains why.]

My title is not intended to be at all humorous. It is meant to convey a critically important truth, one that most Americans, almost all politicians, and the overwhelming majority of political commentators (bloggers and otherwise) still do not understand to this day.

Ray McGovern has written an article about our inexorable progress toward military confrontation with Iran. For reasons I've explained, I am not concerned with discussing that aspect of his commentary here, although I recommend you read his entire piece. But a few of McGovern's other points deserve emphasis and further discussion.

I remind you that McGovern worked as a CIA analyst. Toward the beginning of his article, he writes:
The craft of CIA analysis was designed to be an all-source operation, meaning that we analysts were responsible - and held accountable - for assimilating information from all sources and coming to judgments on what it all meant. We used data of various kinds, from the most sophisticated technical collection platforms, to spies, to - not least - open media.

Here I must reveal a trade secret and risk puncturing the mystique of intelligence analysis. Generally speaking, 80 percent of the information one needs to form judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media. It helps to have been trained - as my contemporaries and I had the good fortune to be trained - by past masters of the discipline of media analysis, which began in a structured way in targeting Japanese and German media in the 1940s. But, truth be told, anyone with a high school education can do it. It is not rocket science.
I genuinely do not intend to insult any reader by noting the following: you may think you understand what McGovern says here, but the fact is, you almost certainly do not. It took me a few years and a lot of reading and thinking to understand these issues myself.

I return once again to what I regard as the classic formulation of the most critical point, one that I excerpted in "How the Foreign Policy Consensus Protects Itself." At the conclusion of that essay, you will find links to many other articles I've written on the subject of intelligence, and the ways in which it is misunderstood and misused. Here is Barbara Tuchman, in The March of Folly, writing about the catastrophe of Vietnam:
Acquiescence in Executive war, [Fulbright] wrote, comes from the belief that the government possesses secret information that gives it special insight in determining policy. Not only was this questionable, but major policy decisions turn "not upon available facts but upon judgment," with which policy-makers are no better endowed than the intelligent citizen. Congress and citizens can judge "whether the massive deployment and destruction of their men and wealth seem to serve the overall interests as a nation."


The belief that government knows best was voiced just at this time by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who said on resumption of the bombing, "We ought to all support the President. He is the man who has all the information and knowledge of what we are up against." This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand. It is usually invalid, especially in foreign affairs. "Foreign policy decisions," concluded Gunnar Myrdal after two decades of study, "are in general much more influenced by irrational motives" than are domestic ones.
As I wrote about this passage in one of the first of my essays about the coming conflict with Iran, from November 2005:
This is the critical point that many commentators never grasp, especially those in our mainstream media, and that many others minimize. It may indeed be comforting to think that decisions of war and peace are made on the basis of facts, cold, clear logic, and "secret information" (information that is accurate, I hasten to add) -- but history, including our most recent history, does not support that view. We might think that is the correct method that should be utilized in pondering the fates of many thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians -- and indeed, it is the right procedure, if leaders were amenable to being directed solely by facts and what is in their nations' best long-term interests. But if leaders were ultimately moved by such factors, World War I would not have witnessed years of endless slaughter, it would not have lasted as long as it did, and it might not have begun at all. And if our own political and military leaders focused on those factors that ought to serve as their lodestar to the exclusion of all else, we would not have had the nightmare of Vietnam then -- or the nightmare of Iraq now.

The opposition conclusion -- the one Myrdal was inevitably led to after 20 years of immersion in the subject -- is that "irrational motives" impel foreign policy decisions.
As I have continued to read about and examine this subject, I have come to understand these issues more thoroughly in the last few years. I therefore want to offer a clarification that may help to dispel a particular confusion that can arise.

From one perspective and with regard to one type of analysis, it is certainly true that "irrational motives" lead to catastrophically bad decisions in the realm of foreign policy, including virtually all decisions to go to war. You can read history covering thousands of years, and you will find perhaps a handful of wars out of hundreds and, more likely, thousands that have been fought, that were genuinely necessary, i.e., that were unequivocally dictated by the demands of the very survival of a nation. Almost all wars could have been avoided -- and, in terms of this point, their results were directly opposed to what the stated aims had been. To choose the most notable example from the last century, Wilson proclaimed that he was making "the world safe for democracy" -- but the U.S. entrance into World War I and the resulting prolongation of that awful conflict led to the rise of Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany, thus leading to World War II, a further 60 years of war -- and to the crisis that confronts us today. As I wrote some time ago:
Only a few scant months after winning reelection on a "peace" platform, Woodrow Wilson began a propaganda campaign to convince the American public to swallow his plans for U.S. intervention in Europe that the Bush administration can only look upon with envy. The U.S. entrance into the First World War prolonged that conflict. Among other consequences, it helped lead to the collapse of the Russian government and the rise of the Soviet Union, and it sowed the seeds for the rise of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In all crucial ways, the "war to end all wars" led directly to World War II. As one commentator concisely puts it:
In 1917 the U.S. government decided to embark on another overseas military adventure — entry into World War I, which involved a complex conflict between many European powers. ...

More than 100,000 American men were sacrificed in World War I. One consequence of the war was the Russian Revolution, which brought Vladimir Lenin and communism to power in the Soviet Union. Another consequence, which can be directly attributed to U.S. intervention in the war, was the chaos arising from the total defeat of Germany, which in turn gave rise to Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.
The same overall dynamic is true of almost every other conflict you can name.

But from another perspective and utilizing a different analysis, the motives are not irrational at all. When one considers how these unending wars and devastations affect the primary powers that drive them -- and that benefit from them -- they tragically make all too much sense, even if that "sense" is of a kind that some of us find contemptible and entirely loathsome. Once again, I offer Robert Higgs' comments on this issue. I think the title of my earlier post admirably conveys the point, "Chaos, War, Murder and Destruction Are What They Want." Higgs:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.
It is important to recognize the two perspectives and the two kinds of analysis, and to keep them separate. Almost all of our public debate is conducted on the first level of analysis: what various political leaders say their goals and objectives are. In terms of those stated goals, their decisions in foreign policy are uniformly calamitous, and they lead to results that are the opposite of what they claim they hope to achieve. No public figure will admit the truth of the second kind of analysis and, I regret to note, most Americans are not the least bit interested in hearing such unpleasant truths. Nonetheless, they are truths: a huge swath of our economy is now devoted to preparing for war, making war, and cleaning up after war. To one degree or another, most members of Congress are beholden to the economic powers that drive the obsessive concern with war, and its cornucopia of economic opportunity. Both parties are enmeshed in the War State, and the current corporatist warmaking apparatus devours almost all those who go into public service. Until this intricate and complex system is altered, nothing else will change, except in comparatively superficial ways.

To summarize this point concerning the actual role of intelligence in policymaking, I offer these earlier comments of mine:
The first error is the belief that decisions of war and peace are based on intelligence at all. To excerpt myself still one more time, because of the importance of this point:
Intelligence is completely irrelevant to major policy decisions. Such decisions are matters of judgment, and knowledgeable, ordinary citizens are just as capable of making these determinations as political leaders allegedly in possession of "secret information." Such "secret information" is almost always wrong -- and major decisions, including those pertaining to war and peace, are made entirely apart from such information in any case.

The second you start arguing about intelligence, you've given the game away once again. This is a game the government and the proponents of war will always win. By now, we all surely know that if they want the intelligence to show that Country X is a "grave" and "growing" threat, they will find it or manufacture it. So once you're debating what the intelligence shows or fails to show, the debate is over. The war will inevitably begin.

To repeat: the decision to go to war is one of policy, and the intelligence -- whatever it is alleged to show -- is irrelevant. Don't argue in terms of intelligence at all. If you do, you'll lose. The administration knows that; many of its opponents still haven't figured it out, even now.
There is a second way in which the true role of intelligence is unappreciated; in a sense, it is even worse than the fact that intelligence is irrelevant to major policy decisions, despite all the protestations to the contrary. And that is the fact that, on those rare occasions when intelligence is correct, it is disregarded when it conflicts with a policy that has already been decided upon. McGovern writes:
The above is in no way intended to minimize the value of intelligence collection by CIA case officers recruiting and running clandestine agents. For, though small in percentage of the whole nine yards available to be analyzed, information from such sources can often make a crucial contribution. Consider, for example, the daring recruitment in mid-2002 of Saddam Hussein's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who was successfully "turned" into working for the CIA and quickly established his credibility. Sabri told us there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

My former colleagues, perhaps a bit naively, were quite sure this would come as a welcome relief to President George W. Bush and his advisers. Instead, they were told that the White House had no further interest in reporting from Sabri; rather, that the issue was not really WMD, it was "regime change." (Don't feel embarrassed if you did not know this; although it is publicly available, our corporate- owned, war profiteering media has largely suppressed this key story.)
I have made this point on a number of occasions, often citing Gabriel Kolko, who writes:
It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior--although sometimes that occurs--than to justify a nation's illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.
I therefore repeat my major admonition, and give it special emphasis:
It is always irrelevant to major policy decisions, and such decisions are reached for different reasons altogether. This is true whether the intelligence is correct or not, and it is almost always wrong. On those very rare occasions when intelligence is accurate, it is likely to be disregarded in any case. It will certainly be disregarded if it runs counter to a course to which policymakers are already committed.

The intelligence does not matter. It is primarily used as propaganda, to provide alleged justification to a public that still remains disturbingly gullible and pliable -- and it is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made.

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

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

After all, it is members of the public who pay for it all -- and it is members of the public who die for it, too. Let the public decide. It's only just. And perhaps, one day in the future, we finally will have peace.

Blogging on Request

Last evening, I sent IOZ a link to this Ralph Peters column, which is altogether remarkable for reasons too numerous (and too fatiguing) to list. Several factors caused me to think of IOZ in connection with this Peters study in psychological disturbance, pretentiousness and related sins. This passage especially caught my eye:
I came out of my tent cranky, having failed to sleep between the two massive civilian-contractor trolls who had an Olympic snoring face-off on the bunks on either side of me. And I still didn't know when I'd have a seat on a flight for the last leg into Baghdad.

Then it hit me. Proust had his why-bother cookies, but it's the smell of mess-hall grease in the morning that takes me back. As more soldiers and Marines materialized from the transit-camp tents, headed for the funky latrines or lining up early for chow, I was home again, back in the world in which I'd spent most of my adult life.
Given IOZ's anarchic, Frenchy, and savagely literate ways, I was certain he could work wonders with the possibilities Peters offers so generously and without a trace of self-awareness (which, of course, makes the gifts that much better).

IOZ exceeds my expectations.

Merci, Monsieur!

August 21, 2007

Iraq No Longer Exists

Nir Rosen, in conversation with Amy Goodman (via comments at Marisacat):
AMY GOODMAN: Nir Rosen is an independent journalist and the author of In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. He is a fellow at the New America Foundation and has reported extensively from Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Earlier this year, Nir Rosen wrote a piece, a cover story for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, called "The Flight from Iraq." He estimated up to 50,000 Iraqis were leaving their homes each month.

Nir Rosen joins us now from our firehouse studio here in New York, just returned from Beirut on Sunday night. Welcome to Democracy Now!

NIR ROSEN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk further about the refugee crisis? Again, lay out the numbers that we’re talking about inside Iraq and outside.

NIR ROSEN: Outside Iraq, we’re approaching three million refugees who have left since 2003. There were, of course, refugees who left before then, due to Saddam and other factors.

Inside, I think you have a similar number of internally displaced Iraqis fleeing their homes in mixed areas and going to more homogenous areas. Sunnis from Basra are heading to Sunni neighborhoods, Baghdad, or all the way up to Kurdistan. Shias from Diyala province are going to safer areas for Shias. Kurds from Mosul going up to Kurdistan, as well.

And a family like the one we just saw on the show is never going to go back to their home again, actually, it seems.


NIR ROSEN: Iraq has been changed irrevocably, I think. I don’t think Iraq even -- you can say it exists anymore. There has been a very effective, systematic ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad, of Shias --from areas that are now mostly Shia. But the Sunnis especially have been a target, as have mixed families like the one we just saw. With a name like Omar, he’s distinctly Sunni -- it’s a very Sunni name. You can be executed for having the name Omar alone. And Baghdad is now firmly in the hands of sectarian Shiite militias, and they’re never going to let it go.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Senator Levin calling for the Maliki and the whole government to disband?

NIR ROSEN: Well, it’s stupid for several reasons. First of all, the Iraqi government doesn’t matter. It has no power. And it doesn’t matter who you put in there. He’s not going to have any power. Baghdad doesn’t really matter, except for Baghdad. Baghdad used to be the most important city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled Iraq. These days, you have a collection of city states: Mosul, Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Irbil, Sulaymaniyah. Each one is virtually independent, and they have their own warlords and their own militias. And what happens in Baghdad makes no difference. So that’s the first point.

Second of all, who can he put in instead? What does he think he’s going to put in? Allawi or some secular candidate? There was a democratic election, and the majority of Iraqis selected the sectarian Shiite group Dawa, Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, the Sadr Movement. These are movements that are popular among the majority of Shias, who are the majority of Iraq. So it doesn’t matter who you put in there. And people in the Green Zone have never had any power. Americans, whether in the government or journalists, have been focused on the Green Zone from the beginning of the war, and it’s never really mattered. It’s been who has power on the street, the various different militias, depending on where you are -- Sunni, Shia, tribal, religious, criminal. So it just reflects the same misunderstanding of Iraqi politics. The government doesn’t do anything, doesn’t provide any services, whether security, electricity, health or otherwise. Various militias control various ministries, and they use it as their fiefdoms. Ministries attack other ministries.

AMY GOODMAN: Which is the most powerful militia?

NIR ROSEN: Well, the various Shia ones, such as the Mahdi Army, the Badr Corps, the police, the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army. Of course, the American army is also another militia, and it’s a very powerful militia in Iraq -- maybe not the most powerful. But the Mahdi Army basically controls the police and the Iraqi army. Of course, in the north the police are more in the hands of various Kurdish militias, and the army is in the hands of Kurdish militias. So it sort of depends where you are.
More about the monumental crimes and idiocies of U.S. policy generally, and of Carl Levin in particular, from IOZ:
Now Carl Levin, a Democrat, has become the first major politician to publicly propose an idea formerly floated by right-wing war supporters. A coup! My goodness, it's almost as if there's a certain bipartisan foreign policy consensus, grounded in American exceptionalism, committed to imperial aims, that renders any claims that Democrats constitute an opposition ridiculous on their face. The idea here is that somewhere in Iraq there is a Pharaoh who will unite the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. He would speak a language of national unity that would appeal to American domestic necessity. He would be staunchly opposed to Iranian influence. He would be willing in certain circumstances to act as an American proxy in the region. He would be able to train and equip a military that could maintain domestic order and police Iraq's borders. He would be Saddam Hussein, if we hadn't lynched him already. Whoops. Guess we really are screwed, Carl.
There is considerably more at both links.

For much more about the bipartisan foreign policy of global hegemony, see "Dominion Over the World."

No More Mister Nice Guy

Well, it's coming up to the end of the month. And I am, uh, perilously close to broke. No money for rent, no money for an overdue electric bill, just enough money for food for a week or so.

If you want to see me abase and humiliate myself, you can read this. I'm pretty much in the same place now financially. Not a nice place.

And I'd beg and plead and stuff, but honestly. I mean, honestly. And that woman now has a gig at The Atlantic. (Right side, where the blaghsters are listed.)

The writing here over the last week or so has been not bad, I think. I'm feeling a bit better physically at the moment, and there's lots more coming, on all kinds of subjects. I'm just getting started again.

So okay, consider this begging. But let me just say, with regard to many (most? probably most) of the more prominent "libertarians" who so self-identify online these days, I'd almost sooner be a Stalinist. One of the reasons I say, "Call Me 'Lefty.'" With a heavy emphasis on the anarchism as far as theory goes, and none at all on the whole, you know, communist thing. I'll have a lot more on that soon.

I have no idea what's wrong with some of these "libertarians." Actually, that's not true. I think I have a very good idea what's wrong with them, and I'll get around to that at some point.

In the meantime, the cats need to eat, too. And we've all been hot as hell the last week, although it's beginning to cool off now. We don't have any airconditioning, and couldn't afford to run it even if we did. So the cats pant, and I sweat.

And no money. Your move.

(P.S. I am enormously grateful to all those who support my writing here, in whatever manner and to whatever extent. I hope you all know that, although events over the last couple of months have left me woefully and inexcusably behind with thank-you notes. I'm trying to put all the energy I have into writing here. I'll do my best to express my gratitude individually to some extraordinarily kind donors in the very near future.

But honest to God. I mean, honest to God: "Moreover, as a class, the old and sick have some culpability in their ill health." At least the nausea helps to keep my appetite fact, I may not eat now until next week. Some money saved right there. And after all, the nausea is obviously my fault.

So, there you are. And here I am. Or, as IOZ occasionally likes to observe, with a grateful nod to Groucho:
Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... now you tell me what you know.
Ah, Groucho: infinitely wiser than "libertarians" any day. Scans better, too.)

The Unspeakable Horror, and the Immense Evil

Via Chris Floyd -- whose post you will read right now -- I see the following news, which is close to being literally ungraspable, so immense is its horror:
The high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers returning from Iraq is one of the many "inconvenient truths" of this war. Inconvenient largely because it is costly: The most effective and humane means of treating PTSD are time-intensive and long-term.

The military, however, has changed the terms and given many thousands of enlisted men and women a new diagnosis: "personality disorder." While the government would be obliged to care for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma, a personality disorder – defined as an ingrained, maladaptive way of orienting oneself to the world – predates a soldier's tour of duty (read: preexisting condition). This absolves Uncle Sam of any responsibility for the person's mental suffering.

The new diagnostic label sends the message: This suffering is your fault, not a result of the war. On one level, it's hard not to see this as another example of the government falling short on its care for Iraq war veterans. Yet there's another, more insidious, bit of sophistry at work. The implication is that a healthy person would be resistant to the psychological pressures of war. Someone who succumbs to the flashbacks, panic, and anger that haunt many former soldiers must have something inherently wrong with him. It's the psychological side of warrior macho: If you're tough, you can take it. Of course, we know this is not true. Wars forever change the lives of those who fight them and can leave deep scars.


The switch in terms from trauma to hysteria (during World War I) or PTSD to personality disorder (today) is far from trivial. Rather, the new labels allow the government and society at large to do two things: 1) attribute symptoms after serving to individual psycho-pathology; and 2) disown the problem of the former soldiers' suffering. We needn't question the system that sends young people to war – merely the stability of those who bear the emotional brunt of battle.
I may have more to say about this in a day or two. At the moment, the degree of evil this represents is a bit more than I can deal with.

And I have already written about many of these issues at length. See in particular, "When Acknowledging the Pain Is a Weakness to be Condemned," and the other essays linked there. You might want to read, "Let Us All Become Cowards."

The American Way of Doing Business

In a number of essays, I've examined the astonishing, dangerous and comprehensive ignorance of history that afflicts most Americans, including very significantly our governing class. As I remarked just before last fall's election -- and I emphasize, still one time, that my estimate of just how remarkably awful the Democrats would be if they took back Congress was hugely overgenerous by any standard of measurement (see here for the latest example):
It helps to perpetuate the charade -- one that encompasses every aspect of domestic and foreign policy -- that most people know nothing of history, either our own or that of other countries. It's as if none of it ever happened before. For most of these people, it's as if nothing ever happened before. No wonder they so easily believe that this time will be different. For them, there are no other times at all. Everything is new to them, even and especially their own iniquity.
Among the most tiresome and predictable features of our national debates are the recurrent bouts of false moral outrage. They are as drearily regular as the latest instance of governmental stupidity and cruelty, and as devoid of further meaning. Governmental abuse of the citizens the state purports to "serve" (hmm) and public announcements of our offended moral sensibilities both signify the emptiness of our national conscience. We commit atrocities every day and murder on an ungraspable scale -- so we must pretend that we are "better" than our actions would reveal to any sentient being.

Janet Jackson exposes a nipple for a microsecond, and the stars stop in their spheres. (That's because most people view sex and the body, and woman in particular, as inherently corrupt and evil, but it wouldn't do to discuss that.) Partisans leap into battle to stop the exploitation of young adult Congressional pages -- and such exploitation assuredly does deserve condemnation -- yet while they bleat about "protecting the children," they entirely ignore the widespread practice of corporal punishment in public schools. If the sainted new Democratic Congress has made any effort to eliminate that especially reprehensible and destructive evil -- one practiced on the most helpless of all human constituencies -- the news appears to have been omitted from all those sources that usually report such developments, however badly.

I note in passing that almost everyone is quick to condemn the torture and murder of dogs, but the casual, daily, virtually universally accepted cruelties visited upon children elicit almost no one's concern. I will be writing much more in the near future about Alice Miller's critically important work, but pay very careful attention to this further instance of the fundamental displacement of our moral priorities. We rush to protect animals, but not children. Curious, that. With much more to come on this subject, I'll give you a very brief indication of why this happens: fortunately, most of us are not implicated in cruelty to animals. The absence of guilt makes the condemnation easier; because we are so anxious to establish that we still have some vague sense of right and wrong, we are quick to take up the cause. But most people are implicated in numerous cruelties to children, all of which are defended as being for the children's "own good." That is a lie with particularly terrible consequences -- and it is the identical rationalization used by many to "justify" the invasion and occupation of Iraq (as it was the justification for any number of horrors, going back at least to the Mexican-American War: "To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor"; see below for further details). What we learn and internalize as children, we reenact as adults.

A revealing example of these periodic witch burnings is the widespread condemnation heaped upon Stu Bykofsky for this instance of everyday, unremarkable stupidity. How awful, everyone cried, that anyone would suggest that another 9/11 could serve any good end! How despicable to wish for the murder of 3,000 Americans for some allegedly important goal like national "unity"! How loathsome is any individual who would have such thoughts, much less commit them to paper!

There, does everyone feel better now? Have you managed to convince yourselves that you're still decent, caring human beings?

If such an argument is to be condemned when advanced by one insignificant man -- and I fully agree that it is with regard to the argument itself, although the man is of no importance at all -- how much worse is it when a government does the same thing, and when a government does the same exact thing repeatedly?

No, I am not talking about unproven (and unnecessary) theories that the Bush administration engineered the attacks on 9/11. I'm talking about historical matters which are beyond dispute. In his reviled column, Bykofsky writes:
Turn back to 9/11.

Remember the community of outrage and national resolve? America had not been so united since the first Day of Infamy - 12/7/41.

We knew who the enemy was then.
I'll get to that "first Day of Infamy" in a moment, but let's begin earlier in our national narrative.

Leaving aside the genocide of the Native Americans, and the importation, enslavement and genocide of the slaves -- a lot to leave aside, but we don't have a month or a year to contemplate all our transgressions -- let's begin with a very clear instance of how the United States has practiced the intentional provocation of another government to justify its own wars of aggression. From an earlier essay, "Conquest and Murder for God and Civilization," an excerpt from Hampton Sides' book, Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West:
The war with Mexico was a complex affair with many tentacles of grievance, real and imagined, reaching back many years. Most immediately, the war had to do with Texas. Late the previous year, 1845, the United States had officially annexed the Lone Star Republic, which, a decade earlier, had declared its independence from Mexico after the bloody battles at the Alamo and San Jacinto. But Mexico had never recognized Texas's claim of independence and certainly was not prepared to see it pass into United States possession. ... Realizing that neither diplomacy nor outright bartering would achieve his expansionist ends, Polk was determined to provoke a war. He dispatched Gen. Zachary Taylor to disputed territory, between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, in southern Texas. It was an unsubtle attempt to create the first sparks. In April 1846, Taylor's soldiers were fired upon, and Polk was thus given the pretext he needed to declare war.

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

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

Perhaps to dignify the nakedness of Polk's land lust, the American citizenry had got itself whipped into an idealistic frenzy, believing with an almost religious assurance that its republican form of government and its constitutional freedoms should extend to the benighted reaches of the continent then held by Mexico, which, with its feudal customs and Popish superstitions, stood squarely in the way of Progress. To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor.
We now move along to half a century later, and an episode with which you are probably familiar:
When William McKinley became president in 1897, he was already planning to expand America's role in the world. Spain's Cuban troubles provided the perfect opportunity. Publicly, McKinley declared: "We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression." But within the U.S. government, the influential cabal that was seeking war and expansion knew they had found their man. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge wrote to Theodore Roosevelt, now at the Navy Department, "Unless I am profoundly mistaken, the Administration is now committed to the large policy we both desire." This "large policy," also supported by Secretary of State John Hay and other key figures, aimed at breaking decisively with our tradition of nonintervention and neutrality in foreign affairs. The United States would at last assume its "global responsibilities," and join the other great powers in the scramble for territory around the world.


In order to escalate the pressure on Spain, the battleship U.S.S. Maine was dispatched to Havana's harbor. On the night of February 15, the Maine exploded, killing 252 men. Suspicion immediately focused on the Spaniards — although they had the least to gain from the destruction of the Maine. It was much more likely that the boilers had blown up — or even that the rebels themselves had mined the ship, to draw America into a war the rebels could not win on their own. The press screamed for vengeance against perfidious Spain, and interventionist politicians believed their hour had come.

McKinley, anxious to preserve his image as a cautious statesman, bided his time. He pressed Spain to stop fighting the rebels and start negotiating with them for Cuban independence, hinting broadly that the alternative was war. The Spaniards, averse to simply handing the island over to a terrorist junta, were willing to grant autonomy. Finally, desperate to avoid war with America, Madrid did proclaim an armistice — a stunning concession for one sovereign state to make at the bidding of another.

But this was not enough for McKinley, who had his eyes set on bagging a few of Spain's remaining possessions. On April 11, he delivered his war message to Congress, carefully omitting to mention the concession of an armistice. A week later, Congress passed the war resolution McKinley wanted.
From these despicable events sprang the monstrous occupation of the Philippines. All of it was a calculated and deliberate course of action -- one explicitly designed to set America on its course for Empire (for which a preview had been provided with the annexation of Hawaii just a few years before).

I will soon have much more about the United States entrance into World War I, and the arguments used to advance that calamitous end; for the moment, I recommend you read all of Ralph Raico's invaluable series, especially Part 4 and Part 5.

Now let us examine the mythologized and largely misleading version of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I turn to Robert Higgs, whose critically important work I have cited before. About the events leading up to the U.S. entrance into World War II, Higgs writes:
Ask a typical American how the United States got into World War II, and he will almost certainly tell you that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Americans fought back. Ask him why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and he will probably need some time to gather his thoughts. He might say that the Japanese were aggressive militarists who wanted to take over the world, or at least the Asia-Pacific part of it. Ask him what the United States did to provoke the Japanese, and he will probably say that the Americans did nothing: we were just minding our own business when the crazy Japanese, completely without justification, mounted a sneak attack on us, catching us totally by surprise in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

You can't blame him much. For more than 60 years such beliefs have constituted the generally accepted view among Americans, the one taught in schools and depicted in movies—what "every schoolboy knows." ...

In the late nineteenth century, Japan's economy began to grow and to industrialize rapidly. Because Japan has few natural resources, many of the burgeoning industries had to rely on imported raw materials, such as coal, iron ore or steel scrap, tin, copper, bauxite, rubber, and petroleum.


In June 1940, Henry L. Stimson, who had been secretary of war under Taft and secretary of state under Hoover, became secretary of war again. Stimson was a lion of the Anglophile, northeastern upper crust and no friend of the Japanese. In support of the so-called Open Door Policy for China, Stimson favored the use of economic sanctions to obstruct Japan's advance in Asia. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes vigorously endorsed this policy. Roosevelt hoped that such sanctions would goad the Japanese into making a rash mistake by launching a war against the United States, which would bring in Germany because Japan and Germany were allied.

Accordingly, the Roosevelt administration, while curtly dismissing Japanese diplomatic overtures to harmonize relations, imposed a series of increasingly stringent economic sanctions on Japan. In 1939 the United States terminated the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan. "On July 2, 1940, Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act, authorizing the President to license or prohibit the export of essential defense materials." Under this authority, "[o]n July 31, exports of aviation motor fuels and lubricants and No. 1 heavy melting iron and steel scrap were restricted." Next, in a move aimed at Japan, Roosevelt slapped an embargo, effective October 16, "on all exports of scrap iron and steel to destinations other than Britain and the nations of the Western Hemisphere." Finally, on July 26, 1941, Roosevelt "froze Japanese assets in the United States, thus bringing commercial relations between the nations to an effective end. One week later Roosevelt embargoed the export of such grades of oil as still were in commercial flow to Japan."[2] The British and the Dutch followed suit, embargoing exports to Japan from their colonies in southeast Asia.

Roosevelt and his subordinates knew they were putting Japan in an untenable position and that the Japanese government might well try to escape the stranglehold by going to war. Having broken the Japanese diplomatic code, the Americans knew, among many other things, what Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda had communicated to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31: "Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas."[3]

Because American cryptographers had also broken the Japanese naval code, the leaders in Washington knew as well that Japan's "measures" would include an attack on Pearl Harbor.[4] Yet they withheld this critical information from the commanders in Hawaii, who might have headed off the attack or prepared themselves to defend against it. That Roosevelt and his chieftains did not ring the tocsin makes perfect sense: after all, the impending attack constituted precisely what they had been seeking for a long time. As Stimson confided to his diary after a meeting of the war cabinet on November 25, "The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves."[5] After the attack, Stimson confessed that "my first feeling was of relief ... that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people."
Bykofsky, thy name is Henry L. Stimson.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the propaganda and lies that led to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, and you ought to be familiar with the lies that led to Clinton's "humanitarian interventions" in the Balkans (about which, I will also have much more shortly). But let us move ahead to the present.

Today, as the inhumane and monstrous occupation of Iraq continues on its horrific, bloody daily course, we pursue the same overall policy in pursuit of further war, and to ensure America's global hegemony. After examining the Military Commissions Act, the ease with which Bush can now declare martial law, and the long-planned and long-desired attack on Iran, I wrote about this further calamity that lies in wait, in "Living Under the Guillotine's Blade":
The fourth blade is, of course, the unending occupation of Iraq. As I explained yesterday, it will be unending, even if the number of American troops is reduced to 50,000 or 70,000 in the next few years. We will be there for decades into the future; no prominent politician, Democrat or Republican, opposes that plan, which was the plan from the outset. As a number of knowledgeable people predicted prior to the Iraq invasion, Iran has been the primary victor in this imperial disaster. The episode with the British sailors recently demonstrated, as have any number of other incidents, that the longer we remain in Iraq, the greater the likelihood that some incident, real or manufactured, will lead to open conflict with Iran, and to the attack on Iran that every leading politician seems to long for. Our ruling elites are determined to effect "regime change" in Iran in any case, but a border incident or one of some other kind might hasten the schedule, and make a U.S. attack easier to "sell" to a gullible American public.

So we see how the fourth blade connects to the third, and how all the blades interconnect and multiply the dangers. We have already destroyed Iraq, and we may yet destroy Iran and much of the Middle East. We may cause an international economic collapse, or severe economic dislocation at a minimum. We may see the final end of liberty here at home, and the installation of a dictatorship via a declaration of martial law.
Consider the path of destruction and death that the United States government has pursued -- from the Mexican-American War, through the Spanish-American War and the Philippines, on to World War I and a century of unending war, through Vietnam, Latin America and Yugoslavia, and on to Iraq and the Middle East today.

Consider the number of people the United States government has murdered in the last four years.

And tell me again why Stu Bykofsky is unique, and why his views are to be condemned -- while the overwhelming majority of Americans have yet to protest in any meaningful way their government's actions for more than a hundred years.

When we remember that the course of Empire, war, death, chaos and global dominance admirably suits the goals of the ruling elites, we can see that what Bykofsky proposes is nothing new at all. Bykofsky is a pathetic amateur. The United States government is the professional, and its ambition is matched only by its lethality. The government and its actions are what ought to concern you, and all of us. But of course, that is precisely what most of us do nothing to oppose -- and it appears that we can look forward only to more of the same, perhaps on an even greater, incomprehensibly awful scale.

But as we have briefly reviewed, this is, in every sense, the way the United States does business -- and the end of this hideous course of action is not yet in sight.

See also: The United States as Cho Seung-Hui: How the State Sanctifies Murder

War, Corporatism and Torture Forever, or: Hillary the Awful

A few years ago, when I was young and beautiful and still had a few illusions to burn, I might have believed that people who recoiled in horror at the Bush administration's systematic and comprehensive use of torture (or at least said they did) would similarly reject a candidate of the party with which they identify, if that candidate also supported "'some lawful authority' [for the president] to use torture or other 'severe' interrogation methods." Those particular illusions are now reduced to ash, and I realize that most of the self-proclaimed liberals and progressives will fall dutifully in line for Hillary Clinton, who appears more likely by the day to be the Democratic presidential candidate.

All of which is odd and curious, in the manner of an especially disturbing psychology experiment. I assume most of these same people are rightfully sickened and disgusted by the torture and murder of dogs -- but propose to do the same and worse to human beings in an utterly fictitious ticking bomb scenario, all to ensure the expansion of the increasingly All-Powerful State, which will regularly indulge in sadism and cruelty for their own sake just to remind you how All-Powerful it is, and they'll make you president of the world's only superpower. Well, at least it's an ethos. [*]

Support of State torture is a foundational issue concerning the possibility of civilization itself, if that term is to have any meaning. Endorsement of State torture renders the continuation of civilization impossible, if one is capable of raising one's eyes beyond the horizon of the next election. It is not legitimate or even decent to weigh other competing factors and vote for the "lesser evil." When evil is so basic and so pervasive, it must be rejected. Thus, for instance, if the "choice" is between Clinton and Giuliani or Romney, the only honorable and civilized choice is to vote for neither, or to vote for a third party candidate who has not rejected civilization altogether. Of course, if the goal is simply to get a member of one's tribe into the White House, such principled concerns will not arise, since those concerns did not exist in the first instance.

While we're at it, let's increase the cognitive dissonance a bit more. For example:
Clinton said she wanted to restore America's image abroad.

"People have to root for America," she said. "They have to want to be on our side."
Translation: when I engage in wars of choice and bomb and murder people who don't threaten us, I'll make sure everyone is convinced we're actually killing Bad People, whether we are or not. Bush forgot the PR; I won't.

And let's remember Clinton's paeans to unilateral, offensive American military action. If Bush doesn't attack Iran first -- don't worry, he almost certainly will, with most Democrats cheering him on with regard to the critical points -- Clinton will do the job.

Furthermore, Clinton cannot and will not give up the following detestable kind of commentary:
In Iraq, she said, the government must take responsibility for itself and its people.

"I do not think the Iraqis are ready to do what they have to do for themselves yet," she said. "I think it is unacceptable for our troops to be caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war while the Iraqi government is on vacation."
As I have discussed, this kind of racism has a long and despicable history in American politics, and in American warmaking. In terms of the basic perspective, there is no daylight between comments of this kind and remarks from over a century ago about "our little brown brothers." She should be deeply ashamed -- and she should be shunned. But such racism is so engrained in our national discussion that almost no one even notices it.

Well, it's an ethos.

I would have thought that Bill Kristol's approving observation that Clinton "is becoming the responsible Democrat who could become commander in chief in a post-9/11 world" would cause serious second thoughts, or I would have thought that if those illusions hadn't been incinerated. And now comes Bruce Bartlett with similar commentary, in a column entitled, "Hillary: the right's choice?" Bartlett writes:
Sen. Clinton is rapidly becoming not merely acceptable to many right-wingers but possibly even their candidate of choice.

Listen to Kathryn Lopez, editor of National Review Online, who was blogging live during the AFL-CIO Democratic debate Tuesday in Chicago: "In response to more than a few answers tonight -- on Iraq, on China -- I've said, 'She sounds reasonable.'"


Her boss, National Review Editor Rich Lowry, also has had strangely respectful thoughts lately about Clinton. In a July 27 column, he expressed genuine admiration for her political skill, especially in managing to placate the left wing of the Democratic Party on Iraq without repudiating her vote for the war nor making herself patently unacceptable as a potential commander in chief. It was "brilliant politics," Lowry conceded.
Oh frabjous day, when all points on the American Imperium's spectrum of opinion can unite! Here you had been worried that the twentieth century's hundred years of unfathomably destructive war represented only glories of the past, never to be recaptured. Fear not!

Bartlett also observes:
On economics, Clinton seemed likely to be a rerun of her husband's administration: fiscally conservative, free-trade-oriented, pragmatic. She confirmed my conclusion in a May 29 speech on economic policy. In it, Clinton said, "There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets." That's about as good as any conservative can hope for from a Democrat.

Clinton's voting record also shows that she is far from the most liberal member of the Senate. According to the National Journal, she ranked 32nd last year, with a rating of 70.2 (100 being perfectly liberal). Obama, by contrast, was significantly more liberal, with a rating of 86.
We see why Bartlett concludes by noting that a Hillary Clinton presidency "is something [conservatives] can live with." When Clinton says "free markets," what she means is markets rigged and controlled by the State on behalf of the ruling elites and the corporate interests they serve. The elites know they have nothing to fear from Clinton; to the contrary, she is one of them, and their interests are hers.

But Clinton is a progressive! Historically at least, she's got that right. Honestly, though, what a revoltin' development.

The diminishment of women and curtailment of their rights are terrible, deep-seated historic wrongs -- but is this a desirable or even sane method of correcting them?

What the hell. War, the destructive and oppressive corporatist-authoritarian state, and torture. Cool. An ethos, and all that.

August 19, 2007

What I'm Not Writing About

[The proposed labeling of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)as a "terrorist organization"] is a giant step toward war with Iran, irrespective of how well, or poorly, it is thought of, particularly in terms of its immediate and long-term implications, let alone the timing of it.


With the window of opportunity for Bush to use the "military option" closing because of the US presidential elections next year, the administration's hawks - "it is now or never" - have received a huge boost by the move to label the IRGC as terrorists. It paves the way for potential US strikes at the IRGC's installations inside Iran, perhaps as a prelude to broader attacks on the country's nuclear facilities. At least that is how it is being interpreted in Iran, whose national-security concerns have skyrocketed as a result of the labeling.


[T]he stage is now set for direct physical clashes between Iran and the US, which has blamed the death of hundreds of its soldiers on Iranian-made roadside bombs. One plausible scenario is the United States' "hot pursuit" of the IRGC inside Iranian territory, initially through "hit and run" commando operations, soliciting an Iranian response, direct or indirect, potentially spiraling out of control.

The hallucination of a protracted "small warfare with Iran" that would somehow insulate both sides from an unwanted big "clash of titans" is just that, a fantasy born and bred in the minds of war-obsessed hawks in Washington and Israel.
See also: "The Worsening Nightmare."

And, this.