January 31, 2012

Distancing Evil, and Searching for Rescue

Patrick Cockburn is frequently an unusually perceptive and reliable commentator. I've cited his work on a number of occasions.

In his latest column, Cockburn writes:
The way in which the growing confrontation with Iran is being sold by the US, Israel and West European leaders is deeply dishonest. The manipulation of the media and public opinion through systematic threat exaggeration is similar to the drum beat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion in 2003.

The supposed aim of imposing sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and central bank, measures officially joined by the EU, is to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program before it reaches the point where it could theoretically build a nuclear bomb. Even Israel now agrees that Iran has not yet decided to do so, but the Iranian nuclear program is still being presented as a danger to Israel and the rest of the world.

There are two other menacing parallels between the run-up to the Iraq war and what is happening now. The purported issue is the future of the Iranian nuclear program, but, for part of the coalition mustering against Iran, the real purpose is the overthrow of the Iranian government.


In reality, sanctions are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonization of Iran.
I obviously agree with all of this: it's what I said just the other day, as well as a few days before that.

But note what else Cockburn says, which is most definitely not similar to anything I've written. Writing about U.S. neoconservatives, the Likud Party and the Israel lobby in Washington, Cockburn states:
These are very much the same people who targeted Iraq in the 1990s. They have been able to force the White House to adopt their program and it is now, in turn, being implemented by a European Union that naively sees sanctions as an alternative to military conflict.


It is this latter policy [of toppling the Iranian government] that has triumphed. Israel, its congressional allies and the neoconservatives have successfully bamboozled the Obama administration into a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran.


It is difficult not to admire the skill with which Netanyahu has maneuvered the White House and European leaders into the very confrontation with Iran they wanted to avoid.
Let me see if I understand this correctly. Obama was strapped down, blindfolded, deprived of all food and water for weeks on end, and tortured in numerous ways. Perhaps Netanyahu screamed at him nonstop for 10 or 12 days. (It would unquestionably work on me.) And then, on top of that, Obama was tricked. Tricked!!! How unbelievably dastardly.

Thus was Obama -- who happens to be the goddamned President of the United States, who happens to be the goddamned Commander-in-Chief of all the U.S. military forces -- "forced," "bamboozled" and "maneuvered" into taking actions he doesn't begin to understand and doesn't actually intend.

Poor, poor Barack. To be exploited, taken advantage of, and grossly abused in such a horrifying manner. Let us all bow our heads for several moments of contemplative compassion.

I repeat: Cockburn is often an unusually perceptive writer, and much of his work is of considerable value. But not when it comes to comments of this kind. I also have to say, if I may speak more informally, that I am absolutely exhausted by this kind of shit.

In addition to the arguments provided in the recent posts (here and here, in case you missed them before), let's hit a few highlights. It was Barack Obama who, in a major foreign policy address in the spring of 2007 -- five years ago -- proclaimed that America was still "the last, best hope of Earth," and that "the American moment" is to extend for "this new century." I described Obama's speech as the undiluted embrace of American exceptionalism, and discussed it at length in "Songs of Death."

Obama emphasized his worship of American exceptionalism in numerous utterances, none more famous (or infamous, in my own view) than his heralded speech on race. I analyzed that speech as well. In "Obama's Whitewash," I said:
Almost every politician lies, and most politicians lie repeatedly. Yet in one sense, Obama's speech is exceptional, rare and unique -- but not for any of the reasons offered by Obama's uncritical, mindless adulators. It is exceptional for this reason: it is rare that a candidate will announce in such stark, comprehensive terms that he will lie about every fact of moment, about every aspect of our history that affects the crises of today and that has led to them, about everything that might challenge the mythological view of America. But that is what Obama achieved with this speech. It may be a remarkable achievement -- a remarkable and detestable one, and one that promises endless destruction in the future, both here and abroad.
I seem to have been correct. Imagine.

For still more on these issues, see this essay, including the numerous links provided near the beginning.

Now, seriously. Seriously, godfuckingdammit. After all this -- and after the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and on and on and on -- an intelligent writer is going to tell me that Obama is being forced, bamboozled and maneuvered into a course of action that very probably will lead to regime change in Iran? And that result has nothing whatsoever to do with what Obama himself intends? That gentle, kindly, big-hearted Barack has been tricked?

What interests me about this kind of mental contortion -- and where I think its significance lies -- is what it achieves, and what unspoken premises it reveals. Among other things, it accomplishes a distancing from evil. If we acknowledge that Obama knows exactly what he's doing and that he intends the likely outcome of the events he sets in motion, we are compelled to conclude that he is engaged in a plan which can only be described as deeply, unforgivably evil. The effects of regime change, most likely accompanied by air strikes or military action(s) of some other kind, will include the widespread deaths of innocent human beings and vast destruction. As Cockburn points out, those same effects can be terrible and awful with notably harsh sanctions alone, but there can be no question that the results of sanctions followed by military action will be still worse.

This resort to "oh, poor Obama" argumentation also implies that, if only Obama were delivered from the clutches of those who "force" and "bamboozle" him into acting against his will, Obama would be free to follow his "true" convictions. It is further implied that those "true" convictions are far preferable, and more humane and just (and, it appears, more in line with Cockburn's own beliefs).

So I have to ask, keeping in mind even the brief recitation of Obama's own declarations as to his beliefs given above as well as his own record to date, where in hell is the evidence for those "true," better beliefs? Is there any evidence for them at all? All of the evidence to date supports only one conclusion: what Obama is doing comports fully and precisely with what he himself believes. The evidence permits no other conclusion.

To speak of Obama being "forced" and "bamboozled" in this manner may be regarded by some (although not by me) as a touching article of faith, but it cannot be considered a serious point of view, not if one is focused on the facts.

Another element of this form of denial merits mention. The implications of the "poor Obama" argument can be stated in a different way: if only we had a leader not subject to such wicked trickery and manipulation, we would be set on the right course. The policies of the U.S. Government would be vastly improved, perhaps even good -- and we will be saved!

To which I respond, as emphatically as I can: Absolutely not. You are not going to be "saved," not that way.

These issues -- distancing ourselves from evil, and the endless search for rescue by a savior (on a national and international scale, no less) -- are very complex and worthy of more detailed examination. And in fact, I'm planning such a discussion in the near future (and I've begun it, in part). So there will be more to come on these subjects.


Listening to Limbaugh this morning. (Don't ask. Shut up.) He just said -- I swear to God, this is, like, totally fackshual, I'm not making it up -- that, "contrary to what most people think, I don't have much of an ego."

And he went on: "Frankly, I wish I had more of an ego."

Allrighty then. This constitutes ironclad, conclusive proof of what I've long suspected.

We're all dead.

This is Hell.

January 28, 2012

Seeming Madness: The Suffocating Unreality that Kills

I occasionally remark that the most compelling reason for which I write about politics and foreign policy is that "the lives of countless people are affected because of the decisions we make." As I went on to say, in the first of my articles about the devastating effects of tribalism generally, and in politics more particularly: "[T]he final significance of all these issues is intensely personal: these questions matter so desperately because of how they affect me, and you, and all of us."

I recalled these earlier observations because I was searching for a different way of highlighting a particular aspect of the seeming madness that threatens to lay waste to much of the world as we know it today. I use the phrase "seeming madness" deliberately and with care, as I hope to make clear shortly. The two words convey different aspects of the problem I view as of critical significance.

To underscore the personal meaning of events of international scope, I offer three scenarios on a small scale. These events don't involve countries and entire peoples. The players are a few individuals, and the setting is a single neighborhood.

It's your neighborhood, and you're one of the players.

Situation One:

Several of Sam's friends are viciously murdered. Sam says he knows who did it, and he can prove it. Most people, including Sam, think that the suspected murderer is hiding in Tom's house. Sam demands that Tom surrender the alleged killer. Tom responds that he'd be happy to do so; Tom requests only that Sam show him the evidence that the suspected killer is, in fact, guilty. Sam insists he has the evidence, so Tom can't imagine why the request would be problematic.

Sam refuses Tom's offer and repeats his demand that Tom surrender the supposedly guilty man without conditions. Tom says again that he'd be glad to comply with Sam's demand; he only asks that Sam offer the evidence that Sam says he has. This back-and-forth continues; neither Sam nor Tom will alter his position. In frustration, Tom finally declares: "Look, I'll do everything you demand. You say you have evidence proving he's guilty. So show it to me. Then you can have him. You can have everything you say you want."

At that point, Sam yells: "THIS MEANS WAR!!" Sam means it. He kills Tom and his entire family, destroys Tom's house, murders several of his neighbors and wrecks much of the neighborhood.

Situation Two:

It's a short time later. Sam thinks that one of his neighbors, Henry, is hiding a huge stock of weapons. Many people aren't entirely sure why Sam believes this, but Sam never liked Henry very much. Maybe that's the explanation. (Sam would occasionally use Henry to cause harm to other neighbors Sam liked even less, but Sam still never liked Henry himself.) Sam regularly adds, in an especially threatening tone of voice, that Henry has a lot of weapons that are illegal. It's not clear to anyone why Sam believes this, but Sam repeatedly says it as if it's a fact beyond dispute. A lot of people are additionally puzzled by the fact that everyone knows Sam himself has the biggest collection of weapons in the neighborhood, in the entire city in fact.

Sam keeps repeating his accusations about Henry, and he keeps making them sound more and more ominous. Even if Sam's accusations were true, it's not readily apparent why that would represent a problem. What would Henry do with his weapons? It doesn't appear Henry could do much of anything. Despite all these questions about Sam's views and his reasons for them, Sam repeats the accusations over and over again -- and he regularly adds that something needs to be done.

Henry just wants to avoid trouble. So he tells Sam that Sam can send people to his, Henry's, house and search it from top to bottom. Henry knows they won't find anything. Sam takes him up on the offer; none of the dreaded weapons are found, and certainly no illegal ones, just as Henry had said. But Sam says that's not good enough. He knows that Henry's hiding something! So Henry says: "Then send the people to inspect my house again! You won't find anything. Inspect it as much as you like! You can have everything you say you want!"

At that point, Sam screams: "THIS MEANS WAR!!" Sam means it. He kills Henry and his entire family, destroys Henry's house, murders several of his neighbors and wrecks more of the neighborhood. This time, Sam also destroys part of the surrounding city.

Situation Three:

A few years have passed. These events are almost an exact replay of Situation Two. This time, Sam believes that a different neighbor, Charlie, has a secret weapons store. Sam again insists that some of Charlie's weapons are illegal. Just as before, many people have no idea why Sam believes any of this, but Sam keeps saying he has evidence! (That's just like Situation One, too.) All the other elements are the same, as well. Even if Charlie had the weapons, what could he do with them? Not much, it seems -- except perhaps use them to defend himself if somebody decided to attack him. Maybe someone like Sam.

Sam didn't like Henry, but he hates Charlie. No one knows why exactly, except that Charlie goes his own way. Most of the other neighbors follow Sam's lead in almost everything (remember Sam's own huge supply of weapons, bigger than anyone else's -- and Sam uses it). Charlie doesn't do whatever Sam says. Maybe that's why Sam hates him so much.

But Charlie saw what Sam did before. He knows what happened to Tom and Henry. Charlie desperately wants to avoid trouble if he possibly can. So he encourages Sam to send as many people as Sam wants to inspect his house. Sam sends a lot of people, many times. They don't find anything that could possibly cause serious concern. Despite this, and just as he did before, Sam keeps voicing his dark suspicions over and over again. And Sam always adds, "Something will have to be done." By this time, everyone knows what that means.

Because he doesn't know what else he can do, Charlie tells Sam many, many times that he will comply with all of Sam's demands -- and Charlie points out that he already has complied with those demands. Charlie says again: "You can have everything you say you want!"

As on the other occasions, Sam yells: "THIS MEANS WAR!!" Everyone knows Sam means it. And Sam gets ready to murder Charlie and his entire family. Sam also makes plans to destroy Charlie's house, to murder some of his neighbors, and finally to destroy the neighborhood entirely.

No one doubts that, this time, the neighborhood will no longer exist. If Sam should attack Charlie, they wonder if the city will survive.


How would you describe Sam's behavior? Note that, in all of these scenarios, Sam's victim repeatedly assures Sam that he can have whatever Sam says he wants. Every time, despite the fact that Sam can have everything he says he wants -- and despite the further fact that Sam gets everything he says he wants -- Sam's only response is: "THIS MEANS WAR!!"

We can certainly conclude that what Sam says he wants is not what he actually wants. The scenarios compel a further conclusion, an especially terrible one: what Sam actually wants can be achieved in only one way -- the destruction of his victim. And as I've indicated, the destruction always encompasses more than just a single victim: other people are destroyed as well.

It is tempting to say that Sam is a homicidal maniac. In one sense, that's true, and I will not argue the point. But the full truth is far worse: what if Sam isn't "just" a homicidal maniac? What if he knows exactly what he wants and has set in motion a plan to achieve it? Note this: so far, Sam's plan has worked.

You realize, of course, that the scenarios I've described follow events of the last decade. In Situation One, Tom is the Taliban; the neighborhood is Afghanistan (and Pakistan). (Here is one story out of countless stories documenting what happened.) In Situation Two, Henry is Saddam Hussein; the neighborhood is Iraq. (Here is one story out of countless similar stories describing some of what happened.) In Situation Three, Charlie is the leadership of Iran, and Iran is the neighborhood, as I discussed this past week. The destruction that would almost certainly follow an attack on Iran would be ungraspably horrifying; while Iran would be the immediate neighborhood, the full effects of such an attack would be felt throughout much of the world.

I offer the above scenarios to highlight an additional element: the suffocating air of unreality that suffuses all these events, past and present. It is that unreality that makes it so difficult to grasp what is happening. What can you do when, in the course of a heated argument with an acquaintance, you keep repeating, "But I've told you and told you: you can have whatever you say you want!," and the acquaintance will only respond: "Then I'm going to kill you!" It may be insane -- on one level, it unquestionably is -- but you also know that he means it. You also know he'll do it -- for he's done it before.

Obama and the U.S. Government repeatedly insist that punishing sanctions against Iran are intended to avoid war, that they are meant as an alternative to war. The purpose, we are told, is to compel Iran to cease its attempts to develop nuclear weapons -- attempts which Iran denies it has ever made or is making now, and for which no evidence exists -- so that Iran may rejoin "the world community." This is exactly what the U.S. Government said about the sanctions against Iraq. It was a lie then and it's a lie now. What the U.S. says it wants is not what it actually wants.

In addition to the arguments in the recent post, here is a passage I wrote in October 2009:
It is at this point that I must remind you of one issue which most people remain determined to deny, even as the world plunges into agony and death:
A sanctions regime is not an alternative to war: it is the prelude to attack or invasion. Moreover, sanctions murder a hideous number of innocent people as surely as more overt acts of war.
This is the exact pattern that unfolded with Iraq, where the Clinton administration's loathsome sanctions regime inevitably and necessarily led to the invasion in 2003. And now, possibly encouraged by this obscene Nobel Prize, the exact same pattern is likely to be repeated with Iran.
(In that same article, I said, commenting about the Nobel Peace Prize that Obama had just received, that "this Nobel may, if anything, make active military confrontation with Iran more likely, not less." As I discussed, that was not the view commonly held at the time.)

Clinton's "loathsome sanctions regime" is detailed in a post which also answers the critical question: "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?"

The lies about the Iranian sanctions and their purpose are starkly revealed in this recent New York Times story, which opens with this:
As the Obama administration and its European allies toughened economic sanctions against Iran on Monday — blocking its access to the world financial system and undermining its critical oil and gas industry — officials on both sides of the Atlantic acknowledge that their last-ditch effort has only a limited chance of persuading Tehran to abandon what the West fears is its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

That leaves open this critical question: And then what?
The story goes on to make painfully clear that the sanctions will not work, and that everyone involved knows they will not work -- that is, they will not work with regard to what the U.S. and the West say they want. It's even worse than that. The story also establishes that sanctions may very well make it more likely that Iran will conclude it should develop nuclear weapons, and the sooner the better:
In debates at the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, administration officials say they have gamed out several possibilities, including an alarming one: that tougher sanctions and increased global isolation might compel Iran to decide that the only way to get the West off its back is to speed up its program and become a nuclear power.
The article offers the wan hope that the only way out of the dilemma would be if the West, i.e., the U.S., was able to "trust[] the regime." The hope is not only wan, but non-existent, for everyone knows that nothing Iran does will cause the U.S. to declare such "trust." ("You can have everything you say you want!" "THIS MEANS WAR!!")

And the article grimly concludes:
Mr. Takeyh ["a former Obama administration official and an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations"] warned that at some point soon — maybe in a year, maybe two — tightening the noose in the hope that Iran decides to negotiate could give way to a military strike or a nuclear Iran, or both. “At some point,” he said, “the song stops playing and you’re in a different, and more dangerous, place.”
The New York Times is far too "respectable" to state the only possible conclusion: that "more dangerous place" is precisely where the United States wants to be.

What does the ruling class of the United States actually want? On this point, the ruling class has been hugely cooperative: they have stated their ultimate goal repeatedly, and with great clarity. What they want is "Dominion Over the World," which is why I chose the phrase as the title for that series of essays. In the linked article from that series, I included comments from William Pfaff. Here are some of Pfaff's observations (the full article has longer excerpts, and much more on the general subject):
Militarized or otherwise, American policy remains under the influence of an unacknowledged and unjustified utopianism. This is the unanalyzed background to the work of all Washington's foreign policy agencies. It permeates the rhetoric and thinking of Republicans and Democrats alike. It is the reason Americans can think that history has an ultimate solution, and that the United States is meant to provide it.
And also from Pfaff:
The Washington political class remains largely convinced that the United States supplies the essential structure of international security, and that a withdrawal of American forces from their expanding network of overseas military bases, or disengagement from present American interventions into the affairs of many dozens of countries, would destabilize the international system and produce unacceptable consequences for American security. Why this should be so is rarely explained.
In an earlier age, when the U.S. made the decision to embark on empire, political leaders spoke more plainly about their motives and attitudes. Here is Senator Albert Beveridge, addressing the Senate on the subject of the necessity for subjugation of the Philippines:
MR. PRESIDENT, the times call for candor. The Philippines are ours forever, "territory belonging to the United States," as the Constitution calls them. And just beyond the Philippines are China's illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world. And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength and thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world.


It has been charged that our conduct of the war has been cruel. Senators, it has been the reverse. I have been in our hospitals and seen the Filipino wounded as carefully, tenderly cared for as our own. Within our lines they may plow and sow and reap and go about the affairs of peace with absolute liberty. And yet all this kindness was misunderstood, or rather not understood. Senators must remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals. We are dealing with Orientals who are Malays. We are dealing with Malays instructed in Spanish methods. They mistake kindness for weakness, forbearance for fear. It could not be otherwise unless you could erase hundreds of years of savagery, other hundreds of years of Orientalism, and still other hundreds of years of Spanish character and custom.
We may fervently wish that such sickening and despicable views had altered in the hundred years that have passed. In what represents one of the most terrible of crimes against all of humanity and against history itself, they have not. As just two examples out of so many that we must recoil in horror, consider these typically vile comments from Hillary Clinton (which I coupled in that post with a different passage from Beveridge's speech, to stress the continuity) -- and consider that what Beveridge said is what Obama means when he declares that "the American moment" is to extend for "this new century."

For this is the view of the ruling class: "America is God. God's Will be done."

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

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

January 25, 2012


The State laughs at you:
However, yesterday, a new theory surfaced that indicates Megaupload’s demise had less to do with piracy than previously thought. This theory stems from a 2011 article detailing Megaupload’s upcoming Megabox music store and DIY artist distribution service that would have completely disrupted the music industry.

TorrentFreak first reported about the service in early December 2011. ... Things were getting vicious in December but the quiet launch of Megabox might have been the straw that broke the millionaire’s back.

Dotcom described Megabox as Megaupload’s iTunes competitor, which would even eventually offer free premium movies via Megamovie, a site set to launch in 2012. This service would take Megaupload from being just a digital locker site to a full-fledged player in the digital content game.

The kicker was Megabox would cater to unsigned artists and allow anyone to sell their creations while allowing the artist to retain 90% of the earnings. Or, artists could even giveaway their songs and would be paid through a service called Megakey. “Yes that’s right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works,” Kim Dotcom told TorrentFreak in December. Megabox was planning on bypassing the labels, RIAA, and the entire music establishment.
Lemme see. In a corporatist State -- where vastly powerful and wealthy companies and institutions form alliances with government precisely for the purpose of shutting out competitors and increasing their own power and wealth -- one group of vastly powerful and wealthy companies uses the State to eliminate a competitor and increase their own power and wealth.

Gee, think of that. How fantastically unexpected.

You know what's even better? This is an example of how things often aren't this or that. They're both. In this instance, the State puts into play one of its most cherished weapons -- fear -- as I discussed last week in "The State Is Not Your Friend":
When the State is intent upon controlling its population, when the State wants to end certain kinds of behavior, it doesn't need to punish everyone who engages in the disapproved behavior. It need only choose a few particularly visible and popular targets, which is precisely what it did when it chose Megaupload. Fear will do the rest.

This principle can be applied to all of the intrusions on personal liberty that are widely discussed at present ...

It is not the execution of State power that does most of the work. It is the fear of the execution of State power.
And the State confers an enormous benefit on its favored friends. Two for one! Such a deal.

We probably don't want to talk about this too much, for some of you might begin to wonder whether "the law" itself isn't worth a damn. And maybe "the rule of law" isn't the great defense of liberty most people think it is. Then you might get upset. I wouldn't want that.

But since I brought it up, perhaps I should confess my own view. How do I say this politely, in my constant efforts to observe the estimable norms of propriety and civility? Let's see, how's this:
To arrest your perhaps wandering attention, I announce my own perspective on this issue. With regard to what most people mean when they talk of the "sanctity" of "the law," I shit on it.

I shit on it repeatedly.
That's not very polite, I suppose. Gosh, I'm sorry. If you should want to see the reasons for my view, you can consult this article, and in particular the second part, entitled "Additional Means of Enforcement: The Law and the Rules."

And that's the point, you see. For the ruling class, "the rule of law" isn't a means of protecting you or your liberty. It's a means of enforcement, a critical way of protecting their own power and wealth.

But but but, someone challenges me, what about the Constitution and the ideals of the Founders? This might be rude, too:
What killed "democracy" in America? What gave the government over to the wealthy and powerful?

The Constitution. Of course.

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


The Constitution created a government of, by and for the most wealthy and powerful Americans -- and it made certain (insofar as men can make such things certain) that their rule would never be seriously threatened. The most wealthy and powerful Americans were the ones who wrote it, after all.
For much more on the topic, including excerpts from Terry Bouton's valuable book, Taming Democracy: "The People," the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution, see my article, "Concerning the American Change in Management."

I sincerely hope none of this causes any discomfort. I would never dream of challenging anyone's cherished ideals.

Anyway, everything is going perfectly according to plan. But whose plan?, you might wonder. Ah, well...

January 24, 2012

The Easiest Thing in the World

Chris Floyd writes about the European Union's decision to impose an embargo on Iranian oil:
The embargo will have serious, perhaps disastrous effects on many of Europe's sinking economies, which are heavy users of Iranian oil. This is particularly true in Greece ...


[T]he effects will be even more catastrophic for millions of innocent people in Iran. Already the lives of these innocent people -- including all of the dissidents supposedly so cherished by the West -- are being diminished and degraded by the series of sanctions imposed by the United States and its pack of tail-wagging Europuppies. But who cares about that? After all, it is glaringly obvious that our Euro-American elites are more than happy to see their own rabble go down the shock-doctrine toilet; it is inconceivable that the ruin of a bunch of dirty Mooslim furriners would disturb them for even a nano-second.

The ostensible aim of all these sanctions, we are told, is to "force Iran back to the negotiating table" on its nuclear program. This is patent nonsense. Innumerable "negotiations" -- including major concessions by Iran -- have been rejected by Washington and the puppies.
What are the actual reasons for the actions of the United States and the EU? Floyd explains:
[T]he current strategy here is two-fold.

First, while long-running sanctions do not in themselves overturn a regime, they do make the entire country much weaker. Infrastructure falls apart, society crumbles, communities wither, families fray, the people themselves become physically weaker -- indeed, they can die in droves, in multitudes, as in Iraq. All of this makes for a much softer target when you finally decide to pull the trigger on military action.

Second -- and I think much more relevant to this case -- there is the hope that ever-tightening sanctions will provoke a violent response from the victim, thereby "justifying" a war of "self-defense" against the "unprovoked" attack. The series of escalating provocations being carried out by Washington and its allies, chiefly Israel -- including an increasingly open program of assassinations -- is clearly designed to goad the Iranians into a casus belli retaliation.
To anyone who knows even a smattering of history -- which group decidedly does not include most Americans or their leaders -- all of this is horrifyingly familiar. I've described this pattern before. I beg your indulgence for offering the following passage once more, but I cannot express these ideas any more effectively than I did three years ago. In "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals" (the title is a reference to a harrowing scene from the film Hud, and the post explains the relevance), about Israel's ongoing torture of the prisoners of Gaza, I said:
For a very long time, the United States government has specialized in the pattern pursued by Israel. The vastly more powerful nation wishes to act on a certain policy -- almost always territorial expansion, for purposes of access to resources, or to force itself into new markets, or to pursue the evil notion that economic and ideological success depend on brutality and conquest -- but a specifically moral justification for its planned actions does not lie easily to hand.

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

The United States government has utilized this tactic with Mexico, to begin the Spanish-American War, even, dear reader, in connection with the U.S. entrance into World War II, most recently in Iraq, possibly (perhaps probably) with Iran in the future, and in numerous other conflicts. It's always the fault of the other side, never the fault of the United States itself. Yet the United States has always been much more powerful than those it victimizes in this manner. The United States always claims that its victims represented a dire threat to its very survival, a threat that must be brought under U.S. control, or eliminated altogether. The claim has almost never been true. This monstrous pattern is "The American Way of Doing Business."
If this pattern remains unchanged, the U.S. will initiate a much broader and more overt attack on Iran at some point (that is, much broader and more overt than the covert operations already ongoing). A decade passed between the first Gulf War and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but the bipartisan agreement on regime change and American control of the Middle East arrived at outright war in time.

If the pattern holds, the same will be true of Iran. The timing will depend on events, many of which are unforeseeable with the requisite degree of specificity. I will offer one far from consoling thought. This coming fall, if the presidential race appears to be very close, perhaps even with the Republican nominee enjoying a lead in the polls, it is entirely possible that the Obama administration will accelerate the timetable. In this manner, Obama and his fellow criminals will hope to ensure his reelection. As even the compressed history above demonstrates, it's frighteningly easy to manufacture a reason for military action (which I would expect to take the form of continuing air strikes, over a period of weeks or even months). Perhaps Iran sinks a U.S. ship; at least, our government will say it was Iran that did it. Or Iran kills some U.S. soldiers; at least, our government will say it was Iran that killed them.

Whatever the U.S. Government might claim, history should teach you one thing, if nothing else at all: the truth of the claim will not matter. The facts will not matter. The U.S. Government and its compliant media have been preparing this ground for years. Most Americans already believe that Iran has nuclear weapons, or is determined to get them. Most Americans will vengefully embrace the notion that Iran is evil incarnate; many Americans believe that now. The atmosphere of growing hysteria will do the rest. And Obama and his supporters will repeatedly declare that it is far too dangerous to change leaders in the midst of a military crisis. Besides, Obama will welcome the opportunity to kick some serious ass. Many Americans, even many Republicans, will heartily enjoy that aspect of his performance.

A few of our political leaders, as well as many commentators, say that Americans are exhausted by a decade of bloody war and death. (It's odd that the same thought seems not to occur to them with regard to Iraqis, or the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc. The wars are being fought in their countries, not ours. Of course, we are superior to all other peoples in all respects, including in our capacity for exquisite suffering.) These leaders and commentators insist that Americans would reject another conflict, that they are not "prepared" for it. This pays Americans a compliment they have done nothing to deserve.

And it is simply not true. An American plane is shot down, an American ship is sunk, American soldiers are killed -- and the government says, "Iran did it!" They have conclusive evidence that Iran did it! They won't show us the evidence, but they have it! Or Iran takes some action which the criminal Obama gang declares "absolutely unacceptable," an action that threatens our "national security" in some bone-chilling manner. Americans will rend the heavens with their screams for revenge, retribution and murder.

I leave the final words on this question to the superbly perceptive and wise Robert Higgs. In a long-ago post which also discussed the sheer idiocy of appeals to the wise, gentle, peace-loving "American people," I excerpted Higgs as follows:
No one should be surprised by the cultural proclivity for violence, of course, because Americans have always been a violent people in a violent land. Once the Europeans had committed themselves to reside on this continent, they undertook to slaughter the Indians and steal their land, and to bullwhip African slaves into submission and live off their labor—endeavors they pursued with considerable success over the next two and a half centuries. Absent other convenient victims, they have battered and killed one another on the slightest pretext, or for the simple pleasure of doing so, with guns, knives, and bare hands. If you take them to be a "peace-loving people," you haven’t been paying attention. Such violent people are easily led to war.
After Iraq, after Afghanistan, after Libya, after all of these horrors and many more, can the American people be led into another war? Why, it's the easiest thing in the world.

January 23, 2012

Relocating Original Sin: The State Is Not Your Friend

I wrote last week about the SOPA-PIPA controversy. My major point -- in a post written before the Megaupload raid occurred -- was that this discussion is essentially an irrelevant distraction given the massive powers already held by the federal government. I argued that we appear to possess some small remaining slivers of liberty only because the State has not chosen to utilize and consistently apply the powers it already has -- at least, not yet. Then the Megaupload story broke, an event I briefly referenced in a post mainly about other matters.

Much of the commentary about SOPA, and concerning the allegedly significant "victory" of the legislation being set aside for now (none of which matters for the reasons I set forth), continues to be wildly out of touch with the realities of State power -- and with the nature of the State itself. This article offers an interesting discussion of the nature of the evidence the government relies upon to demonstrate the persuasiveness of its indictment. Many of the writer's contentions are valid and valuable within the narrow limits of the argument, but I must repeat that I consider all such discussions to be sideshows, while most people don't even see the main attraction.

After a detailed discussion of highly questionable and suspect aspects of the government's approach, the final paragraph states:
But the bigger overall issue is why this action and why now? Companies in the US have filed civil cases against Megaupload in the US and the company was willing to come to the US and deal in US courts. Taking it up to a criminal "conspiracy" and racketeering charge seems like overkill, with tremendous collateral damage and chilling effects.
Everything was working fine! Companies that felt they had been damaged had legal recourse, and Megaupload made itself available to those legal proceedings. So, aw, gee, why would our nice government, a government solely committed to justice, fairness and proportionality in all matters, decide to make such a big deal about it? And why would our nice government do this especially when it leads to "tremendous collateral damage and chilling effects"?

I could simply say, "Talk about the missing the point," and the comment would be entirely accurate. But I urge you to consider the premise underlying this approach. Most people -- and I dare say, many of you reading this -- commit the identical error in different forms. During the long nightmare of the Iraq occupation, one of my constant themes was the unforgivable inaccuracy and moral blindness of those who maintained that the United States had committed a terrible "blunder," that the invasion and occupation of Iraq represented a failure of judgment, or a monumental "mistake."

It was none of those things. It was a hideous crime, in fact, an unending series of crimes. It still is. When commentators ask, "Why is the State doing this?," in the manner of the article about Megaupload, their question assumes that the government is making a mistake in some form, that the government has "bad" information or has failed to appreciate the consequences of its actions. (You'll find a detailed examination of this topic in "'Regrettable Misjudgments': The Shocking Immorality of Our Constricted Thought.")

I should mention here another hugely costly variation of this error, one that continues unabated today. Most people still argue that the "mistake" of Iraq resulted from "faulty" intelligence, that if only the intelligence had been correct (or if those in power had paid attention to the accurate intelligence), the invasion and occupation would never have occurred. This, too, is completely wrong. I've written about this at enormous length, and it has made absolutely no difference (even, I deeply regret to note, in the case of writers who I know have read some of my articles on this subject, and still argue about the importance of "getting the intelligence right"). You can start with "Played for Fools Yet Again: About that Iran 'Intelligence' Report," or "You, Too, Can and Should Be an 'Intelligence Analyst'," and follow the numerous links. To state the argument very briefly: "intelligence" is always irrelevant to major decisions of policy. If you're arguing about the intelligence and what it allegedly shows, you're going to lose. This matters so crucially because the precise error is now being repeated with regard to Iran. If the U.S. Government decides to attack Iran, it will not be because of what the "intelligence" shows. It will be a decision of policy -- in brief, as still another means of attaining and consolidating American global hegemony. The "intelligence" will not matter.

The correct view of the problem, and events that occur every day continue to prove it is correct, asks a very different question: What if actions that you might consider a "mistake," or a decision that you think results from incorrect information and/or analysis, are precisely what the State intends? What if all the consequences that you view as so negative or even horrific are exactly what the State wants? The article about Megaupload excerpted above notes the "tremendous collateral damage and chilling effects" of the government raid and indictment, and implicitly says: "Oh, the government can't possibly want any of that to happen!"

Think again:
The shock waves of the case appeared to be spreading among Web sites that offer file sharing. FileSonic, which provides online data storage, said in a statement on its site that it had halted its file-sharing services.

“All sharing functionality of FileSonic is now disabled,” it said. “Our service can only be used to upload and retrieve files that you have uploaded personally."
When the State is intent upon controlling its population, when the State wants to end certain kinds of behavior, it doesn't need to punish everyone who engages in the disapproved behavior. It need only choose a few particularly visible and popular targets, which is precisely what it did when it chose Megaupload. Fear will do the rest.

This principle can be applied to all of the intrusions on personal liberty that are widely discussed at present: warrantless surveillance, detention without charge or trial, and the rest of the awful list. The State doesn't have to keep tabs on everyone; it need only keep a few victims firmly under its thumb. The State doesn't have to ship very many people to detention camps; it need only "disappear" a (comparatively) few individuals here and there. Word gets around; people talk; stories are written (and the State isn't in the least concerned about those stories: those stories help the State). I'm reminded, and not for the first time, of something I read several years ago about the Stasi in East Germany. After previously secret records were made available, some analysts concluded that the Stasi spied "only" on about one in ten East Germans. But no one could ever know who that one person was, if they were among those watched, or if they might be among them tomorrow.

It is not the execution of State power that does most of the work. It is the fear of the execution of State power.

On a deeper level, questions about the State's reasons for acting, when those questions implicitly rely on the view of the State as an essentially benign actor, forget the nature of the State itself, including its origins. On that question, I refer you to "The State and Full Spectrum Dominance." In that article, I excerpted Albert Jay Nock's Our Enemy, the State. Nock wrote:
The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner. On the negative side, it has been proved beyond peradventure that no primitive State could possibly have had any other origins. Moreover, the sole invariable characteristic of the State is the economic exploitation of one class by another. In this sense, every State known to history is a class-State. Oppenheimer defines the State, in respect of its origin, as an institution "forced on a defeated group by a conquering group, with a view only to systematizing the domination of the conquered by the conquerors, and safeguarding itself against insurrection from within and attack from without. This domination had no other final purpose than the economic exploitation of the conquered group by the victorious group."
Thus, the essence of the State is domination, oppression, brutalization and exploitation. This is true even of these glorious and free United States of America, as I discussed in "Concerning the American Change in Management" (the phrase which properly should replace "American Revolution").

From time to time, the State may act in ways that benefit, at least temporarily, those who are not members of the ruling class. It is critical to see that such actions are only another means of control. They are the means of momentarily placating those who might threaten the ruling class's hold on power if events were allowed to run out of control. As just one example, I discussed some time ago the "benefits" of the health "care" bill: "Concerning Those Who Manufacture and Eat Shit." As I argued, every law in every regime, even under a totalitarian system, benefits some people. When we analyze the operations of the State, such issues are a distraction and a camouflage. But it works almost every time.

The naive questioning of the State's rationale for acting raises one further issue. Also implicit in the kind of questioning about the Megaupload case discussed above is an odd kind of presumptuousness and arrogance. The idea is that, if only the government understood these issues the way I do, if only the State had all the information I do, then it would act in the ways I suggest (or it would cease acting in the ways I criticize). We see this kind of commentary on a regular basis on most blogs, whether on the right or the left (it's especially popular on liberal and progressive sites). When you think about it, it's a very peculiar perspective. Does the author of the Megaupload column truly believe that he can see and understand with wondrous clarity the "tremendous collateral damage and chilling effects" of the government's action, but the government itself does not? Or, to choose the most extreme of current State policies, do you think that you comprehend how deeply evil it is to murder a human being simply because someone in power decides to do so, on the basis of a reason he need never disclose or even perhaps for no reason at all -- but that those who direct the State's actions do not understand that it is evil?

As for the belief that, if only people like you directed the State's operations, everything would be infinitely better and perhaps wonderful ... well. Keeping in mind even the brief comments on the nature and origins of the State set forth above, that means that everything would be much better, even great -- if you ran what is, in essence, a system of domination, oppression, brutalization and exploitation. That's what the State is. The purpose of the State is power. Full stop. Not the power to provide health care, or full employment, or education, or or or or or or ... Power for its own sake. Power itself.

Do you still want to run the State? If you do, and I genuinely say this with the kindest of intentions, go to hell.

Helping Each Other

Many, many thanks to those who responded to my request for help in making next month's rent and my very minimal living expenses. I now have just enough to cover the basics, so the cats and I are all right for the next little while. ("All right" is a strictly comparative term nowadays.)

If you can -- and I realize that times are very hard for many of us -- I urge you to send something here, too. Two people and four wonderful dogs badly need some help. In looking over the donations I've received over the last few days, I realized that I could send a little bit myself, so I did. I hope that doesn't upset anyone who sent me a donation, but I couldn't read that post and not send something if I possibly could. I decided I could, so I did.

I worry about not being able to pay rent and facing eviction and homelessness every single month. It takes a terrible toll. I've stopped trying to figure out exactly what it's done to me emotionally and psychologically; at this point, I'm probably better off not knowing the details of the damage. Just as I realized a few years ago that, given my seriously deteriorating health and my inability to get medical care, I couldn't remember what it was like to feel "normal" physically, I realize that I have no idea what it's like to feel "normal" about most other fundamental aspects of my life (feeling secure in a home, knowing that money for food will be there next week and next month, and so on).

And what is "normal" in these times, anyway? For more and more people, it's what Sasha and I go through. This is normal.

Awful doesn't begin to describe that terrible fact. What is additionally awful is that for untold millions of Americans, this has always been normal. (And for especially disfavored Americans, this is normal on a good day.)

Well, please do what you can. I absolutely believe we must help each other to whatever extent we can, and perhaps even when it seems we can't. No one else is going to.

My deepest gratitude once again to all of you who are so wonderfully kind and generous.

January 20, 2012

You Probably Owe Me a Million Dollars! For Serious!

Yesterday morning, I wrote:
If I had a million dollars, I'd bet all of it on the proposition that the U.S. Government has the power right now to shut down any and every website, internet provider, etc., etc., etc., etc. it wishes, and to do so permanently. And they could throw a whole lot of people in jail because they "threaten national security" or violate some statute, regulation, administrative rule, whatever.
God loves me. He doesn't love these folks. And people arrested -- in New Zealand. So much for those getaway plans. (Despite what follows, there is nothing remotely funny about the actual story.)

So I won the bet. Oh, yeah, there was an actual bet. If you read the rest of yesterday's post (and I know you did!), you saw my musings from several years ago on the subject of all the powers granted to government buried in statutes, regulations, administrative rulings, and all kinds of other crap that you've never heard of. That maybe no one has ever heard of. But those powers are there somewhere. So, as I said, "the U.S. Government already possesses the power to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants."

But that's not true for the government alone. Oh, no. Nyuh-huh.

I have right here in my hot blogging hands a law from 1851. It's just part of a bill titled: "Protection of Our Open Parks and Safety of the Home and Interstitial Trellises." They had an acronym for it: "POOPSHIT." They had a sense of humor then. They weren't like today's pompous Washington assholes, at least not completely. And they knew words like "interstitial"!

You're probably wondering about the "trellises" part. There's a whole section about the crucial importance of trellises for displaying flowers and vines and stuff, and how trellises bring beauty to our towns and cities. I don't get it either, but them was different times, my friend. I guess trellises were a big deal to them. I'm just telling you what's in the goddamn bill. I didn't say I understand it.

But I understand this:
Section 2381, subsection A, subsubsection ccd94(v)(viii)(fff72a12): POOPSHIT also codifies the general understanding at common law (at least the general understanding as we understand it) that a binding contract shall have been formed between the author of any public proclamation of intent to form an agreement between said author and any other party who peruses said proclamation. This shall be true even when such intent to form an agreement is expressed in hypothetical or conditional form, typically designated by the employment of terms such as "if," "I wish...," "were it to be the case...," and so on. All parties to such binding contract formed in said manner shall be entitled to enforcement of the contract's terms.

It is the intent of this section that its provisions shall be applied to public proclamations that fall under the ambit of POOPSHIT, as well as all other public proclamations of any nature.
Applying this section from POOPSHIT to the instant case, we can say:

1. The blog post at issue is a "public proclamation."

2. I'm the author of said public proclamation.

3. The relevant language in the first paragraph of my post yesterday stated, "If I had a million dollars, I'd bet all of it..." The agreement is thus "expressed in hypothetical or conditional form" within the meaning of the statute.

4. If you read yesterday's blog post, you are "any other party who peruses said proclamation."

5. Applying the plain meaning of the statute to the public proclamation of which I am the author and where you are "any other party who peruses said proclamation," a binding contract was formed between us.


You can be a person of honor and just send it to me. Or, you can make me sue you. You know you'll lose. This statute is still on the books, and it is good law.

But because I'm such a nice guy, I'll give you an out. It's nearing the end of the month. As regular readers know, I have no source of income other than donations to this blog. This blog WHICH UNERRINGLY PREDICTS THE FUTURE. I only have one-quarter of what I need to pay next month's rent. And I have some other bills that have to be paid (Department of Water & Power & Trellises, phone, internet, blahblahblah, FOOD).

That is, I'm, like, close to broke. So if you want to send a donation, even a small one, that would be wonderful. Maybe I can pay the rent, keep blogging, and continue to PREDICT THE FUTURE. (Of course, maybe you don't want to know the future, which I would completely understand. In that case, I'll see you in court.)

But if you send a little donation, I'll consider that the terms of our BINDING CONTRACT have been fulfilled. I'll even send you a notarized email saying that. (Okay, not notarized.)

Or, you know, you can feel HORRIBLY GUILTY for years and years and years. You'll have welched on a BINDING CONTRACT!! What kind of person are you?

But I know you're a great person and an all-around fabulous human being. I know you'll do the right thing.

Now the cats and I have to consult our crystal ball (Will the cats ever eat again? YOU have the answer!), so that we can write more posts PREDICTING THE FUTURE. Thank you for reading, and for being such a wonderful person.

P.S. That is a real statute. No shit. Haha. A little legislative humor there.

January 19, 2012

It's the End of the World! Again! And Again! And Again!

I tell you this with profound seriousness. And I'm completely sober! (For the moment.) If I had a million dollars, I'd bet all of it on the proposition that the U.S. Government has the power right now to shut down any and every website, internet provider, etc., etc., etc., etc. it wishes, and to do so permanently. And they could throw a whole lot of people in jail because they "threaten national security" or violate some statute, regulation, administrative rule, whatever.

I'd win that bet.

Look, protests against the ever-metastasizing warfare-surveillance State are jake with me. So kudos to Google, Wikipedia, et al. -- as well as all you "ordinary" peepuls -- for making a big stink, and causing some Senators to interrupt their power lunches to say, "Oh, oops, haha, forgot there were human beings out there! Actual people with actual lives! Who knew? But okay, my bad!" And they set aside the latest power grab -- for the moment. [singing] They haaave a seeecret ...[enough singing] They know this latest power grab doesn't matter a damn, as we'll see in a moment.

Still, awesome protest! Um, was there protest on a similar scale about the NDAA? I guess I missed it. But heck, that only means the government can throw any of us or, you know, a million of us in jail forever, without charges or trial, without recourse to an attorney, without telling anyone what they've done with us or why. So I think this has worked out fine. I mean, we can all have a great time on the internet, which will make it that much easier for our overseers to identify the ones that need to be disappeared. Forever. See how that works? That is AWE SUM, dude! It's, like, synergy. But before you're hauled away, you can watch movies and teevee and stuff. Party on!

What's that crazy guy yelling from way out there, where nobody can hear him? WHAT? It's all kind of moot, since they can murder any of us anyway? Whenever they want? And ... huh, what? They don't even have to have a reason -- to murder us? He really is nuts! Seriosomente, man. WHAAAAT???? Oh ... mebbe not so nuts. No problem. Like The Man said, in the long run, we'll all be dead. Google it! You can!!

You know what is totally keen about, ta-da, "this time in history"? It's like there never were any other times at all. No history! No past, no future, barely even a present. This moment is all th -- ah, gone. Can't even finish a sentence! Pixel time! You'll have to read the rest of this really fast. Or skip it. Teevee!

I did a quick search of my archives to locate earlier posts on The End of the Internet, and I immediately found two. (I think there are more, but two makes the point.) One is from November 2009, "The Internet as You Know It Will Cease to Exist." Many of the same issues arose with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

One of the points I raised is the claim, repeated an endless number of times in endless variations, that this invention will change everything! As regards the internet, the claim is: when information is free, tyranny is dead forever! To which, I replied: Shit, man, no -- but (heh) with more words:
[I]f you understood the possibilities that might be realized by the internet, do you seriously think those people and interests possessing the most power and wealth did not? Yes, we're all special and unique and all that keen stuff, but the ruling class is people, too (revolting thought, I understand, but also true). And the ruling class is not stupid. It is certainly not stupid about this kind of thing. So our betters will do everything in their power to harness and redirect every advance to their own purposes. Again, consult history. This is always the pattern.
But that same post had good news. It did! Check it out. I also mentioned the critical importance for the future (for the future of us "ordinary" schmucks, anyway) of going local, and included some comments about how to do that on the internetz! And I ended on an upbeat note. (It was the drugs. Where the hell is that phone number?)

The other post about The End of the Future Forever and Ev-- (haha, thought it had ended right there) is from June 2009, "You're on the Battlefield Right Now." Ah, shades of the NDAA. See how the same themes come up again and again? That began with a discussion of how the Pentagon and the military generally regard cyberspace as part of the battlefield they want to control, and what that means for you and your 'puter. (Nothing good.)

But -- and this is what I truly wish you would fasten your bleeding eyes on -- I then referenced an earlier discussion of mine about FISA. What I said about FISA applies with full force to all the debates about the NDAA, and about internet "piracy" bills. My ongoing theme was and is: "The selective focus on FISA misses the crucial larger picture in a way that ensures that the ruling class's hold on increasingly tyrannical power will never be consistently or seriously challenged -- which is, of course, precisely what the ruling class wants."

My argument was this, and I repeat that the identical argument can be applied to indefinite detention or control of the internet:
With regard to FISA and issues of liberty and privacy in general, let me now ask you a few questions. How long do you think it would take you to identify, read, and understand every provision in every statute, regulation and other authorization that gives surveillance powers to the government? Furthermore: Would you know each and every place to look, or how to determine what those places were? Additionally: With a staff of 20, or 50, could it be done, even if you were provided with limitless time and limitless funds?

I submit to you, without qualification or reservation, that you could not do it. No one could. Consider that most legislators in Washington aren't even aware of much of what's in the bills they so eagerly vote on. Consider the prohibitive length and complexity of legislation that comes before Congress. That's true of what is going on now. If you tried to track down every piece of legislation, every regulation, every administrative agency ruling, and every other pronouncement still in effect that allows the government to surveil and otherwise keep track of you, me, the guy down the street, the woman next door and the man in the moon, based on alleged concern with and the need to protect us all from the ravages of drugs, "illicit" sex, any and all other suspected criminal activity and, natch, terrorism, how on God's green earth would you do it? You couldn't. I further submit to you that the only reason you appear to have some precious remnants of freedom left, and the only reason you remain at liberty, is that the government hasn't comprehensively focused on all the powers it already possesses and hasn't come anywhere close to utilizing them fully and consistently. This is the moment you should fall to your knees and thank whatever gods may be for the miraculous, close to perfect incompetence of the pathetically ineffectual blockheads in Washington.
The conclusion of the argument is one almost no one chooses to face squarely. Nonetheless, it is the truth: the U.S. Government already possesses the power to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants.

Of course, it's not only incompetence that allows you to continue to believe you have some small remnants of liberty, although the incompetence of government generally is entirely staggering to behold. It is also the degree of determination of the ruling class in implementing the powers they already possess, which in turn is related to how much they think they can get away with. From that perspective, protests have great value, and the bigger and louder, the better. But wide-scale protests, especially if they become genuinely threatening to the ruling class, then trigger another element: the desperation of the ruling class to maintain control. If they feel sufficiently threatened, the crackdowns will begin, and their scale will at least match the scale of the protests.

Tragically enough, there's an additional factor. It's horrifying to think about, in multiple ways, but consider the following. What if there were another series of attacks here in the U.S., on the scale of 9/11 or even worse? What if attacks occurred in several major cities on the same day, or within a week of each other? What if five or ten thousand people were killed? Do you have any doubt, any doubt at all, that the government could haul in very large numbers of people (with no charges, or very vague ones concerning "threats to public safety"), shut down websites, and exert "control" in a multitude of other ways -- and that very, very few people would protest? Even after everything that's happened in the last ten years?

It's impossible to predict the particular form of future events. Liberty might continue to vanish slowly, in small increments, with the worst excesses targeting "those" people and not anyone you know, so that the illusion of freedom may continue for the majority of people. Or a cataclysm might occur, either by way of attacks as I described, or widespread financial collapse, or a series of natural and/or human-caused disasters, or ... The general direction cannot be disputed: liberty is vanishing. At some point, it will be gone entirely.

But my point, the point I've been making for years, is that it's gone now. Most people have simply rendered themselves incapable or unwilling to acknowledge and accept the fact. Read Jonathan Turley's recent column, "10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free." The reasons he discusses are assassination of U.S. citizens (yeah, they can murder you and anyone else they choose, but...teevee!), indefinite detention, arbitrary justice ... you know the list.

In my view, the most critical paragraph in Turley's article is this one (my emphasis):
An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.
That's the authoritarian state we live in now. Compare that to this passage I wrote in April 2006 (yes, six years ago; just kill me now -- oh, you will? thanks!):
To put the point the other way, which will hopefully penetrate the wall of resistance erected by so many people: the only reason you aren't in a concentration camp right now is because Bush hasn't decided to send you to one -- yet. But he claims he has the power to do so -- and there are almost no voices of any prominence to dispute the contention. What is even worse than the loss of liberty is the fact that most Americans aren't even aware that the loss has occurred.
My very serious suggestion, which I humbly submit to you, is: You still have your life. Live it.

Go local, in every area of your life, to the fullest extent possible. Seek out alternative arrangements beyond the bounds of the State, invent them as needed. Live your life, with all the joy and happiness that you can -- and not on their terms.

Politics, certainly politics in the modern State, is about control, force and violence. Politics is not going to save you. It never was.

Live your life. More than that: live it ecstatically.

January 17, 2012

Ordinary Evil (I): Just Admit that You're Voting for Hitler, Okay?

Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.
-- W.H. Auden
I view the following comments as of special significance with regard to one critical issue, and that is the reason I have transcribed them. Here is Rick Santorum speaking recently about the threat to the United States that he believes Iran represents (the emphasis is mine):
And now they're in the process of developing nuclear weapons, and it appears obvious to me that the administration is doing little to nothing. Now, I'm hopeful that some of the things we're seeing with respect to the nuclear program that the United States is involved with, which is on occasion scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that's a wonderful thing, candidly. I think we should send a very clear message, that if you are a scientist from Russia or from North Korea or from Iran and you're gonna work on the nuclear program to develop a nuclear bomb from Iran, you are not safe.

And if people say, "Well, you can't go out and assassinate people," well, tell that to Awlaki. Okay? We've done it. We've done it for an American citizen. We can certainly do it for someone who's producing a nuclear bomb that can be dropped on the state of Israel or provides a nuclear shield for a country that will spread terrorism with impunity and change the face of the world.
You can watch the video at Sibel Edmonds' site. In the video, at 0:28 (immediately after Santorum says, "scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead"), a bubble appears with this editorial comment: "He just admitted that the U.S. has a program to covertly kill Iranian scientists." It appears (by implication, although not by explicit statement) that this is Edmonds' view as well.

Imprecise argumentation of this kind is not helpful to those of us who strongly criticize the innumerable criminal actions of the United States Government. The inaccuracy of the comment is easily deflected. Moreover, it is the kind of remark that is often characterized by opponents as "hysterical," and it serves as what opponents regard as a valid reason to disregard your arguments in their entirety.

Santorum is speaking extemporaneously; he is not reading a prepared speech. The sentence is awkward and ungrammatical, but the strong sense of it is that Santorum is "hopeful" that the U.S. "is involved with" "some of the things we're seeing" -- and one of "the things we're seeing" is that "on occasion scientists ... turn up dead." Santorum is not saying that he knows the U.S. has ordered and caused the deaths, and he has not "admitted that the U.S. has a program to covertly kill Iranian scientists." He hopes that is what the U.S. is doing, but he doesn't know it.

Besides, Santorum isn't in the Obama administration, and he doesn't speak for the government in any capacity about these events. He is not in a position to "admit" anything that the Obama administration or the U.S. Government do. One person who is in such a position, Defense Secretary Panetta, categorically denies the charge: "I can tell you one thing: The United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That's not what the United States does ... We have some ideas as to who might be involved but we don't know exactly who was involved ... we were not involved in any way, in any way, with regards to the assassination that took place there."

That is the official, public position of the U.S. Government: it is not "involved" in these deaths "in any way." We may not believe the denial -- there are, in fact, many reasons to disbelieve it -- but the denial of involvement is what is on the record from the government itself.

The imprecision matters because this is typical of how public attention to matters of momentous importance is diverted onto comparatively trivial issues. Santorum can easily respond to the notion that he has "admitted" an assassination program by insisting that he only said he was "hopeful" that such a program was in place, and that if he were president there would be such a program. And then we're off into the weeds of what Santorum said or didn't say, what he actually meant, what he's claiming and why, etc. and so on. Meanwhile, the far more important point is ignored altogether.

Analytic imprecision is a constant in our public debates, and I just discussed another instance of this phenomenon in "The Varieties of Pissing." When the ruling class of the United States pisses on the entire world and on every human being who is not among those who are privileged and powerful, some Marines pissing on three dead bodies is barely worthy of notice. To be sure, it remains thoroughly sickening, but it is a third-order crime. The first crime is that the Marines are in Afghanistan; the second crime is that they are there to murder human beings. All our public energies are devoted to the crime of least significance, while the meaning and significance of the first two remain unchallenged.

The real killer in Santorum's remarks -- in more ways than one -- is contained in the second paragraph. Read those comments again:
And if people say, "Well, you can't go out and assassinate people," well, tell that to Awlaki. Okay? We've done it. We've done it for an American citizen. We can certainly do it for someone who's producing a nuclear bomb that can be dropped on the state of Israel or provides a nuclear shield for a country that will spread terrorism with impunity and change the face of the world.
You may view Santorum as a murderer without conscience on the basis of his "hope" that the U.S. Government has instituted a program of assassination. You might argue that Santorum is a genocidal killer in embryonic form when he maintains that the U.S. can "go out and assassinate people" (and Rick: so much for your "sanctity of human life," buddy) -- for one obvious implication of his remarks is that the U.S. Government can murder any and all of those human beings it regards as "threats" to our "security." Why, if the government determines that ten thousand, or a million, or even, say, six million people constitute a serious threat to our "national security," the U.S. Government can kill them all!

"We've done it," Santorum says. He's right. I well understand that the one form of argument that is absolutely prohibited in our public debates is to identify the meaning of a principle. Nonetheless, for the ten or twelve of you who resist the fatal corruptions of our "public discourse," I state that the "legitimacy" of wide-scale murder, even of millions of human beings, is the meaning of the operative principle.

But -- and here's the additional killer in Santorum's remarks -- note where Santorum correctly locates the "justification" for his view: the murder of al-Awlaki, an American citizen. Santorum is a "crazy" Republican nutjob, right? He's not the one who ordered the murder of al-Awlaki. You know who did: the "enlightened," "nuanced," Nobel Peace Prize-winning Democrat in the White House. Many liberals and progressives claim to be sickened and terrified by the prospect that some "crazy" Republican might be the next president -- and they forbid themselves to acknowledge that it is a Democratic president who has provided the moral sanction and "justification" for what could, in principle, become a genocidal, worldwide campaign of murder.

But at least he's not crazy! I'm reminded of a brief passage I wrote in what was almost a throwaway post from a year and a half ago:
Oh, President Obama! What a visionary! What a leader! Such momentous change from the dark days of evil, crazy Bush!

I always especially enjoy that argument from liberals and progressives. "Oh, the Democrats might be doing most of the same things, well, practically all the same things, and maybe some of the things Obama's doing are even worse ... but the Republicans are crazy!"

Yeah, I see how that works. Obama and the Democrats do all this -- and they're entirely sane. They know exactly what they're doing, why, and even what the effects will be.

This, we are repeatedly assured, is a notable improvement, for which we should be properly grateful.
What Americans desperately need to face, and what most of them adamantly refuse to acknowledge, is that to vote for either the Democratic or Republican nominee for president later this year is to vote for these horrors. It is to support them. (I consider it impossible that Ron Paul will be the Republican nominee, whatever your view of his candidacy might be. If by some miracle he were, he would never be elected. The ruling class, including its indispensable ancillary component, the media complex, will not permit it. I don't consider this an arguable point, not in this world.)

At this point, because the great majority of Americans will not allow themselves to understand it, I must repeat the meaning of the most important gift of the admirably "normal," "knowledgeable," and sane Democratic administration:
Obama and his administration claim the "right" to murder anyone in the world, wherever he or she may be, for whatever reason they choose -- or for no reason at all. Obama and his administration recognize no upper limit to the number of people they can murder in this manner: they can murder as many people as they wish. And they claim there is nothing at all that may impede their exercise of this "right."

This is the game entire. Understand this: once Obama and his administration have claimed this, there is nothing left to argue about. They can murder you -- and they can murder anyone else at all.
Tens of millions of Americans will vote for the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. They will not understand that they are thereby supporting evil. They refuse to consider withdrawing that support. If a sufficiently large number of people refused to vote at all, then my fable might even become true in some form: "The Tale that Might Be Told." I've said a few times that that is only a fable, and that I never intended it to be a projection of events that could actually occur. I've changed my mind on that point. Since I have spent the last five or six years documenting developments that I never expected to see transpire in my lifetime, including in this post, I now think that "tale" is not so farfetched after all. Suffering and death do not exhaust the possibilities for human transformation, not in my view. And I freely acknowledge that I unconditionally love that little story.

Most Americans are like badly damaged children: they expect evil to announce itself in advance, with the aid of thundering, ominous music on the soundtrack of their increasingly desperate lives. But that is not how evil most commonly arrives. It comes with a gentle, reassuring smile. It insinuates itself with soothing platitudes. It speaks of "threats" to our "security" that cannot be countenanced. It says it only wants to make you "safe."

And the murders go on, and they increase in number. Later on, those who manage to survive will be heard to say, "But we never knew it would come to that." Or they insist that most people "went along," and ask: Who was I to stand against that tide? Yet they will not be able to say they were not warned, or that no one had ever seen such horrors before. Consider this:
"You know," he went on, "when men who understand what is happening--the motion, that is, of history, not the reports of single events or developments--when such men do not object or protest, men who do not understand cannot be expected to. How many men would you say understand--in this sense--in America? And when, as the motion of history accelerates and those who don't understand are crazed by fear, as our people were, and made into a great 'patriotic' mob, will they understand then, when they did not before?

"We learned here--I say this freely--to give up trying to make them understand after, oh, the end of 1938, after the night of the synagogue burning and the things that followed it. Even before the war began, men who were teachers, men whose faith in teaching was their whole faith, gave up, seeing that there was no comprehension, no capacity left for comprehension, and the thing must go its course, taking first its victims, then its architects, and then the rest of us to destruction. ..."
You will find more passages from Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free in my essay from September 2006 about the passage of the Military Commissions Act: "Thus the World Was Lost."

As I wrote, just one year ago:
Obama will not renounce his claim to the "right" of ultimate violence. Who will be next on his kill list? Who else is on it now? With the dutiful acquiescence of the courts -- so much for your vaunted "rule of law" -- we will never know. But wait: you may know to some extent, when the "disappearances" can no longer be explained by coincidence, or you see the corpses pile up.

Oh, that could never happen here!, you exclaim in a petulant whine. This is America! That, too, is a critical part of the mythology Obama burnished for you last night. Consult history: all peoples in all places always believe it can't happen here.

Last evening, Obama also said: "Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world." He should know.
No, evil does not come to us proclaiming its true nature. Evil is not committed only by screaming, psychopathic maniacs. Most of the time, and certainly in the beginning, it seems completely ordinary. It is, as Auden said, "unspectacular and always human." It appears to be entirely normal. The greatest danger is not the person whom you view as obviously "crazy." The greatest danger is the person you regard as normal, thoughtful and well-spoken, the person who claims to be opposed to the horrors and who says he's on your side. This is precisely why Obama (and the Democrats generally) constitute a singular threat to those of us who genuinely value the sanctity of a single life -- and this is what a few of us said before the last presidential election: see, from May 2008, "The Fatal Illusion of Opposition."

No, we will not see evil for what it actually is. We invite it into our home. We ask it to eat at our own table.

To be continued, very soon.

January 12, 2012

The Varieties of Pissing

Here is William Blum describing the destruction of Iraq by the United States (offered by Chris Floyd in a recent post; emphasis added):
"Most people don't understand what they have been part of here," said Command Sgt. Major Ron Kelley as he and other American troops prepared to leave Iraq in mid-December. "We have done a great thing as a nation. We freed a people and gave their country back to them."

"It is pretty exciting," said another young American soldier in Iraq. "We are going down in the history books, you might say."
(Washington Post, December 18, 2011)
Ah yes, the history books, the multi-volume leather-bound set of "The Greatest Destructions of One Country by Another." The newest volume can relate, with numerous graphic photos, how the modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state; how the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly, ... how the people of that unhappy land lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lying anywhere in wait for children to pick them up ... a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again …
The facts set forth by Blum are simply that: facts. These issues are not open to dispute, and one can discover the truth of what Blum says by reading numerous articles from many sources. Despite this, Blum notes that Barack Obama once again proclaims this all-encompassing destruction of an entire country and its peoples to be "an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making."

This complete inversion of the truth is the consequence of centuries of unending lies. The result is day turned into night, life transformed into death -- and all of it is, must be, good. These are the perverse demands of American mythmaking, as I described it in "The Blood-Drenched Darkness of American Exceptionalism" from July 2010:
[T]he U.S. invasion and occupation represent an ongoing series of war crimes. This is not an arguable point in any respect. Since it cannot be argued, it is ignored altogether.

And it is not just ignored, as malignantly evil as that would be by itself. The American exceptionalist myth tells us that the United States is unique and uniquely good. It is not sufficient to ignore negative consequences of our actions: we must transform any and all negative consequences into a positive good. This process has been rigorously followed for every American intervention ever undertaken (going back to the Philippines, then with the American entrance into World War I, on into many interventions after World War II, on into Iraq and Afghanistan today), and the identical process has been well underway for several years in connection with Iraq in particular.


Such is the limitless power of delusion on this scale: a blood-drenched tragedy of world-historical proportion becomes "an extraordinary achievement," and a criminal war of aggression is transmuted by the alchemy of cultural myth-making into a "success." This is the evil to be found at the rotted heart of the myth: whatever the United States does, it will lead to good and only to good.

And all of it -- all of it -- is a damnable, unforgivable lie.
In January 2012, we begin another year that will be filled with pain, terror, blood and death. The monstrous bearer of these terrible gifts will again be the government of the United States. The trail of suffering extends through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. Perhaps Iran will be yet another recipient of the United States' magnificent generosity.

The ambition of the United States ruling class extends far beyond what is suggested by this list. As I noted in "The Face of the Killer Who Is Your President," quoting Nick Turse:
This global presence -- in about 60% of the world's nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.


In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans.
One further element must be added to the list of horrors:
Obama and his administration claim the "right" to murder anyone in the world, wherever he or she may be, for whatever reason they choose -- or for no reason at all. Obama and his administration recognize no upper limit to the number of people they can murder in this manner: they can murder as many people as they wish. And they claim there is nothing at all that may impede their exercise of this "right."

This is the game entire. Understand this: once Obama and his administration have claimed this, there is nothing left to argue about. They can murder you -- and they can murder anyone else at all. What in the name of anything you hold holy remains to be "debated" once a vile, damnable "right" of this kind has been claimed?
We recoil from understanding the nature and breadth of the horror that surrounds us. That is understandable, to some extent. Survival sometimes requires a certain degree of selective focus. (I had originally written "denial" instead of "selective focus." But denial is never advisable; it is especially not advisable in matters of life and death.) Yet if we wish to resist evil, we must be able to contemplate the enemy we face with dispassionate, even clinical detachment.

Perhaps this passage will help to make the issue clearer:
The highest levels of the United States Government have told you -- repeatedly, at great length, always emphasizing the critical significance of their conviction on this point -- that the lives of Americans are worth less than shit. Your life, the lives of all those you love and all those you know, the lives of everyone in your city and state, the lives of all Americans are worth absolutely nothing.


There is no power greater than that of life and death. This is absolute power. This is the power claimed by every slaughtering monster in history. You know this. You refuse to understand what it means.
As the condensed factual recitation above demonstrates, the United States Government recognizes no difference between the lives of Americans and the lives of anyone else anywhere on Earth: all human beings anywhere are to be brutalized, terrorized and murdered as the United States Government chooses.

The repeated actions of the U.S. Government over more than a hundred years -- and its actions today -- place this fact beyond all question. This is the horror that greets you upon waking in the morning; the screams of the victims are the lullaby to which you fall asleep. The horror is the air you breathe. It is the cultural atmosphere that surrounds you. It is the knock on the door.

In the parlance of the day, or what would be that parlance if we spoke more plainly, we can say with accuracy and precision:
The ruling class of the United States pisses on the entire world, just as it pisses on every human being who is not favored by privilege and power.
This is the ultimate foundation of our lives today. This is the truth that will almost never be spoken.

Since we resolutely refuse to acknowledge the actual horror, we neurotically displace our outrage onto matters of comparative triviality. It is certainly disgusting that U.S. Marines pissed on the bodies of several dead Taliban -- but isn't it more disgusting that the Taliban are dead in a criminal war of aggression waged to advance American global hegemony? Rank these items in terms of the disgust you think they merit:

* The systematic destruction of a series of nations and their peoples over a period of many decades.

* The murder of more than a million innocent people in a criminal war.

* The ongoing murders of people who do not (and most commonly could not) threaten the U.S., in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and on and on and on -- in 120 countries around the globe.

* The claim that the U.S. Government has the "right" to murder anyone in the world for whatever reason it chooses -- a "right," I remind you, which the U.S. Government has actualized.

* Pissing on three dead bodies.

We refuse to speak about the first four items, but the guardians of our culture insist that they are sickened and outraged by the last one. Displacement of this kind is never innocent. The purpose is to help those who claim to be disgusted and outraged convince themselves (and us) that they (and thus "we") are "moral," "good" and "decent." They are not. If they were, they would speak about the other items -- and they would speak about them all the time. But they almost never mention them, except to justify them.

The statement from a "Media Officer" for the Marine Corps is a genuine obscenity: "the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps." Under the pressure of the interminable lies of American exceptionalism, joy becomes suffering and life is turned into death, and it is demanded that these perversions be regarded as good. The "Media Officer" engages in another variant of these sickening inversions: "the actions portrayed" are the perfect embodiment of their "core values." The Marine Corps is a key instrumentality used by the United States Government in its wars of criminal aggression against innocent human beings. Nothing they do can be anything other than an obscenity. The fact that they are in Afghanistan at all is an obscenity. The fact that they murder human beings there is an obscenity. That they pissed on the dead bodies is a detail in the context of the policies and actions which give rise to the American presence in that country in the first place.

A further truth, a particularly ugly one, should be noted. Although many commentators have feigned outrage and disgust about this incident, what actually concerns them is not that it happened, but that the incident has become known. They are worried that public knowledge of the incident is bad PR. I heard a local Los Angeles radio host (this moronic fuck) express this despicable point of view with unusual clarity yesterday. I made notes during his comments, so this is very close to exact: "I'm upset because of what it does to the country [the U.S., that is] and what it does to the Marine Corps. I really don't care that they urinated on dead Taliban. I have no sympathy for the dead guys, maybe that makes me a terrible person, I don't know [it does] ... but this is really bad, that this story is out there."

The same host read an email from the father of a man who is currently in the U.S. military. The father exulted in the desecration of the bodies and said that is the least "they" deserve. The host wondered if the son would agree, thinking the son might take the Media Officer's line that such behavior is "not consistent" with the "core values" of the Marine Corps. The father wrote a followup email, which the host proceeded to read as well. The father had immediately written to his son and asked him what he thought. The son -- who, I repeat, is in the military today -- said, "Good! That's exactly what they deserve. My guys would be [bleeping] on them!" I assume the son had written "shitting," although the host declined to read that word on the air. We are so good and decent!

This kind of attitude is not uncommon among Americans in general, and it certainly cannot be uncommon among those in the military. This must be true given that the U.S. has not used its military overseas in a genuinely defensive war for decades. The U.S. military is sent overseas in offensive wars of aggression, or in preparation for wars of aggression. This isn't secret, specialized knowledge; it is knowledge easily available to anyone with minimal knowledge of recent history and current events. Moreover, this fact must be blindingly clear to a member of the military who travels many thousands of miles, to somewhere on the other side of the globe. A person who is capable of the most basic thought must wonder: "What the hell am I doing here, and how can these people possibly be a threat to the United States?" At this point in time, I do not think there is any legitimate reason for an individual to join the U.S. military. You will find my argument in several essays; you can start here and here, and follow the links. In the past, I did not offer as definitive a judgment on this question as I do now. If you join the U.S. military today, you are volunteering to be part of a vast, worldwide killing operation. Period.

One final point must be mentioned. I said that what actually concerns most of the "outraged" commentators is that this incident has become known, not that it happened. What I meant, of course, is that it has become known to the American public. It is not possible that an incident of this kind is unusual or perpetrated only by "a few bad apples." As was true of the horrific abuses at Abu Ghraib, it must be the case that incidents like this occur with considerable frequency. You cannot be part of a vast, worldwide killing operation -- you cannot travel across the globe and murder (or be prepared to murder) innocent human beings who otherwise could not possibly threaten you -- and remain a "nice," "decent" human being. I repeat: it is not possible. Since horrors like this must occur with hideous regularity, it must also be the case that the people who live in the countries victimized by the U.S. know of them. The horrors of Abu Ghraib were not news to Iraqis. Incidents like the one to which we Americans devote so much time today cannot be news to the people of Afghanistan.

But Americans live in the cocoon of the myths that are reinforced every day by almost every voice in the media, and by the majority of "ordinary" Americans themselves. Videos like the current one threaten those myths, and they throw into question our cherished belief that we are "good" and uniquely so. Pissing on dead bodies is not an image that can be reconciled with our desperate self-flattery, with our unquestioned and unquestionable belief that we are inherently superior to all other peoples and entitled to our way in everything, in all corners of the world. So it must be explained, and minimized, and excused. When it is condemned, it is condemned as an outlier, an extraordinary event that is "not consistent with our core values."

We will not acknowledge or come to terms with the fact that the U.S. Government has declared war on the world -- what else can it mean that the U.S. has ongoing operations in 120 countries? -- and that the ruling class maintains it has the "right" to murder any human being it chooses. So I state again:
The rulers of the United States piss on you, and on every other human being on Earth not favored by privilege and power.
You need to protect yourself as best you can.