March 31, 2007

The New Barbarians of the Middle Ages, and the Living Dead

In some of my entries about torture, and also concerning the enormous popularity of the television series, 24, I excerpted an unusually enlightening article by Slavoj Zizek about the moral and cultural significance of the acceptance of torture, even as a topic of "respectable" debate: see "The Road to Depravity and Dictatorship," and "At the Bottom of the Abyss: 24 as the Basis of National Policy" (the concluding part of which is "The Torturers Take Over").

A week ago, another article by Zizek was published in The New York Times, and then reprinted at Truthout: "Knight of the Living Dead." Here are some key excerpts:
Since the release of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's dramatic confessions, moral outrage at the extent of his crimes has been mixed with doubts. Can his claims be trusted? What if he confessed to more than he really did, either because of a vain desire to be remembered as the big terrorist mastermind, or because he was ready to confess anything in order to stop the water boarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques"?

If there was one surprising aspect to this situation it has less to do with the confessions themselves than with the fact that for the first time in a great many years, torture was normalized - presented as something acceptable. The ethical consequences of it should worry us all.

While the scope of Mr. Mohammed's crimes is clear and horrifying, it is worth noting that the United States seems incapable of treating him even as it would the hardest criminal - in the civilized Western world, even the most depraved child murderer gets judged and punished. But any legal trial and punishment of Mr. Mohammed is now impossible - no court that operates within the frames of Western legal systems can deal with illegal detentions, confessions obtained by torture and the like. (And this conforms, perversely, to Mr. Mohammed's desire to be treated as an enemy rather than a criminal.)

It is as if not only the terrorists themselves, but also the fight against them, now has to proceed in a gray zone of legality. We thus have de facto "legal" and "illegal" criminals: those who are to be treated with legal procedures (using lawyers and the like), and those who are outside legality, subject to military tribunals or seemingly endless incarceration.

Mr. Mohammed has become what the Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls "homo sacer": a creature legally dead while biologically still alive. And he's not the only one living in an in-between world. The American authorities who deal with detainees have become a sort of counterpart to homo sacer: acting as a legal power, they operate in an empty space that is sustained by the law and yet not regulated by the rule of law.


Reality has now surpassed TV. What "24" still had the decency to present as Jack Bauer's disturbing and desperate choice is now rendered business as usual.

In a way, those who refuse to advocate torture outright but still accept it as a legitimate topic of debate are more dangerous than those who explicitly endorse it. Morality is never just a matter of individual conscience. It thrives only if it is sustained by what Hegel called "objective spirit," the set of unwritten rules that form the background of every individual's activity, telling us what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

For example, a clear sign of progress in Western society is that one does not need to argue against rape: it is "dogmatically" clear to everyone that rape is wrong. If someone were to advocate the legitimacy of rape, he would appear so ridiculous as to disqualify himself from any further consideration. And the same should hold for torture.

Are we aware what lies at the end of the road opened up by the normalization of torture? A significant detail of Mr. Mohammed's confession gives a hint. It was reported that the interrogators submitted to waterboarding and were able to endure it for less than 15 seconds on average before being ready to confess anything and everything. Mr. Mohammed, however, gained their grudging admiration by enduring it for two and a half minutes.

Are we aware that the last time such things were part of public discourse was back in the late Middle Ages, when torture was still a public spectacle, an honorable way to test a captured enemy who might gain the admiration of the crowd if he bore the pain with dignity? Do we really want to return to this kind of primitive warrior ethics?
Yes, dear reader: we are the New Barbarians of my title.

Related essays: Lies in the Service of Evil

On Torture

The Politically Dispensable Faggot

I recommend that you read all of this article by Elizabeth Schulte. I want to highlight the following parts, which parallel one of the arguments I made in "We Are Not Freaks," concerning the profound damage done to the cause of genuine acceptance and equal rights by "nice liberals" and similar types.

Schulte writes:
The comments by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Peter Pace speak volumes about the bigotry against gays and lesbians that flourishes in the upper ranks of U.S. military.

Speaking about the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays and lesbians, Pace offered this in an interview with the Chicago Tribune: "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe that the Armed Forces of the United States are well served by saying through our policies, 'It's okay to be immoral in any way.'"


The "Don't Ask" policy went into effect in 1993 as one of the first acts of the newly elected Clinton administration.

When Clinton ran for election in 1992, he promised he would repeal the existing policy of excluding gays and lesbians from the military. He made this promise after several veterans of the first Gulf War broke their silence and made public announcements of their sexuality to protest the existing antigay policy.

Expectations were high that there might be significant progress made on gay rights. But Clinton broke his promise almost immediately after winning. Instead, he introduced "don't ask, don't tell" in 1993.

He tried to explain it away by arguing that, "Because [the military] is a conservative institution, it is right for the military to be wary of sudden is also right for the military to make changes when the time for change is at hand."

Clinton's duplicity didn't stop there. In 1996, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred the federal government from giving any legal recognition to married gay couples. DOMA denies lesbians and gays some 1,000 federal rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples have--ones with often life-altering consequences, like being able to sponsor a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen for permanent residence.

In the absence of any real pressure from gay rights activists and comfortable in the calculation that he would have the support of the liberal gay and lesbian organizations whose focus is elections, Clinton decided to satisfy his supporters on the right.

"In retrospect, 'don't ask, don't tell' was an astonishing act of political cowardice," Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone magazine. "Telling gay men and women that they had to hide who they were in order to earn the privilege of getting shot at for our idiot military adventures was almost worse than open bigotry. It essentially institutionalized the Closet."

Today, the first instinct of the leading Democratic presidential contenders is to skirt the issue of gay rights.

Hillary Clinton initially responded to questions about whether she agreed with Pace that homosexuality was "immoral" by telling ABC's Jake Tapper, "Well, I'm going to leave that to others to conclude."

She quickly readjusted, saying she opposes "don't ask," but used the most conservative arguments to do so. "This policy doesn't just hurt gays and lesbians," she told a meeting of the Human Rights Campaign, "it hurts all our troops, and this to me is a matter of national security, and we're going to fix it."

Sen. Barack Obama followed Clinton's dodge when a Newsday reporter asked him whether he agreed with Pace. "I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters," he said. "That's probably a good tradition to follow."

Later, he cleared up his position (sort of), stating, "I don't think that homosexuals are immoral any more than I think heterosexuals are immoral" in an appearance on CNN's Larry King Live.

But the incident is telling about who leading Democrats see as their audience. Neither Clinton nor Obama want to anger social conservatives.

John Kerry took the same attitude in the 2004 election. At the time, he was getting advice from Bill Clinton, who suggested he support ballot initiatives that would ban gay marriage from state constitutions in order to get the conservative vote, according to Newsweek.


When it comes to fighting for gay rights, the Democrats may want to sit on the fence. But there's no room on that fence for anyone committed to equal rights for lesbians and gays.
Read the entire piece.

See also: George W. Bush: Traitor

We Are Not Freaks

The "Visionary" Obama: As Rotten as the Rest of Them

Of Thicker Skins, and Sucking It Up

[UPDATE: As I thought about these issues further, I realized there is much more relating to this general subject that is worth exploring in greater detail. This brief summary, and even the earlier essays that I reference, don't address a number of critical points. So there will be more to come about all this in the coming week or two.]

Yesterday, a friend pointed me to a comment thread about a recent post of mine. Some comments were very complimentary about my writing -- but there were much longer comments that were highly critical of what I had said, often in ways that were very personal and occasionally exceptionally cruel. I consider the person who directed me to this discussion a very good friend; he has treated me with immense kindness and generosity, for which I shall always be deeply grateful. He genuinely thought I would find the debate about the merits of my post interesting.

For reasons that would require too much time to explain, that debate was not of much interest to me. It was entirely clear that those who disagreed with what I had said would remain unconvinced by my arguments, no matter how lengthy I made them and regardless of how detailed my proofs were. But the criticisms were deeply painful to me. I sent my friend an email, asking him please never to direct me to such comments again. I told him they had a devastating effect on me, which is entirely true. I received an email in return, which began: "I think you need to develop a thicker skin..."

I stopped reading the message at that point. (I will read it in its entirely, but only after several more days have gone by.) After considering the matter for a while, I sent the following email in reply. Because these issues connect in many ways to themes I have written about at length, and because they have much broader meaning and many further implications, I reproduce it here. The subject line of my email was the same as the headline here, "Of thicker skins, and sucking it up":
"Suck It Up": The Denial Continues, and Kills Once More

And here, with links to further related essays:

When the Pain Can Be Borne No Longer

Ask yourself this: if I developed a "thicker skin," would I be able to write an essay like "We Are Not Freaks," or my many essays about the suffering of innocent Iraqis, or my Alice Miller articles...or indeed most of my essays? I would not. Perhaps some people could, but not me. But I strongly doubt that even some people could: when your skin becomes thick enough, such subjects no longer concern you -- they are too threatening, and they bring up precisely those memories and emotions that we seek to avoid by such means.

In "We Are Not Freaks" (and in many other pieces), I spoke of the emotional repression that is a hallmark of our culture. Telling people to "develop a thicker skin," to "suck it up," and all the rest, is one of the primary ways that such emotional repression is created and maintained. It is one of the major messages most parents deliver to their children: you have to be "tough" to survive in this world. You might also consider the numerous ways in which those attitudes are related to traditional, conventional views of "masculinity."

Among the final results of such messages are war, and endless death and suffering. I understand those are not the results that *you* intend...but there it is, nonetheless. (And no: such attitudes cannot be "compartmentalized," and one cannot simply use a "thicker skin" to get through the day. Like any psychological mechanism, once in use, it either grows or diminishes: it does not stay the same, and it does not remain localized.)

I read only the first line of your message, about my needing "a thicker skin." I stop reading such messages after a phrase of that kind. It comes from a world that is not mine, and that I fight against every day, as I have all my life. In the end, my battle is not about politics at all: it is about culture, and psychology, and the endless barrage of destructive messages that inundate us all every single day. Implemented to any significant degree at all, such messages ultimately cripple people's souls, just as they destroy many people's lives.

Fighting this battle will probably kill me in the end; I've expected that for some time now. But whenever I die, my soul will still be completely alive and vital -- capable of profound joy, and also able to experience almost unbearable pain. In the end, that is the only victory that matters to me, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
From a very different perspective, my essay about Maria Callas touches on many of these same concerns. Because that article focuses on those subjects that are of deepest concern to me, it remains probably my personal favorite among all the pieces I have written over the last several years. In a very different world, I would write about culture, literature and music, and opera most of the time.

If they are of interest to you, I've listed below the various referenced essays:

For Maria Callas, Now and Always: All Things Are Connected

We Are Not Freaks

"Suck It Up": The Denial Continues, and Kills Once More

When the Pain Can Be Borne No Longer

The Indifference and Denial That Kill

When the Demons Come

When the Deaths of the Innocent Do Not Matter

The Suicide Taboo

The Dynamics of Suicide, Revisited

The Ignored Casualties of War

The Alice Miller Essays

March 29, 2007

When the Deaths of the Innocent Do Not Matter

Matt Taibbi describes with highly accurate precision the true nature of the pathetic, stinking charade that has just taken place in Congress:
As for everyone else -- specifically, the Democrats who sponsored and passed the timetable measure -- they benefited from the bill most directly, riding a crest of antiwar sentiment and setting the Democrats up as the party that will look the best in the eyes of frustrated, war-fatigued voters in 2008. But lost amid all of this antiwar posturing were a series of inconvenient truths. One was that the bill was always going to be meaningless because Bush was always going to veto it, there were never going to be enough votes to override the veto, and everybody knew there were never going to be enough votes to override the veto. The second is that the timetable measure was buried in an emergency spending bill to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bill that ended up authorizing $122 billion in spending when the supposedly evil, warmongering, politically isolated Bush White House only asked for $103 billion. In other words, the outwardly combative Democratic leadership not only refused to do anything substantive to bring the troops home, it actually tossed Bush an extra $20 billion for the war effort without prodding.

In my visits to Washington in the past few months I've heard different stories from Democratic congressional aides about what the party's intentions are. Some say they think the leadership is just going to stall and pass a bunch of non-binding, symbolic, Kumbayah horseshit to help propel whoever the Democratic candidate is into the White House two years from now. Others claim with a straight face that all of these non-binding resolutions are only a start, that the strategy is to really end the war via a death-by-a-thousand-cuts type of legislative grind, with the leadership sending to the floor bill after bill after bill designed to eat away at either war policy or war funding. They claim that all of these votes are exercises in coalition-building, necessary steps to gathering the support needed to pass real biting measures later on.

But I'll believe that when I see it. Right now, it all looks too convenient.


My sense of this whole ballet from the start has been that with each passing season, as the antiwar rhetoric increases both among the public and in Washington, we'll see a corresponding increase in both financial and personnel commitment in the Iraq theater. The logic here is irresistible; Bush will not preside over what he perceives to be a surrender, and the Democrats will not cast a vote "against the troops" in an election season. So what we'll get is a lot of what we just saw -- non-binding antiwar votes hitched to troop increases and/or "short-term" funding boosts. It's worth noting that the same political logic that led the Bush White House to fund the war as an emergency long after it ceased to be an unexpected expenditure will now appeal to the Democrats, and for the same reason; so long as the money is in an "emergency" bill, they will be able to pretend, before voters, that the commitment is temporary.

What worries me about this state of affairs is that presidents don't like to see military losses land on their watch. If a Democrat wins in '08, bet on it, an excuse will be found to keep the troops there. The first day after her inauguration, when Hillary Clinton wakes up with a champagne hangover to hear Mark Daley (or whoever her chief of staff ends up being) tell her that 67 Marines have been slaughtered in a raid outside Ramadi, she is going to be powerfully tempted to prove that she has the stones to deal out the necessary payback. She'll ask for 10,000 extra troops and six months to "stabilize" the situation before initiating a withdrawal.

And once that happens, we'll be right back where we are now -- pretending we're against it, but without a way to actually make it happen while covering the requisite number of Washington asses. That's always what it comes down to, after all.
One of the primary ways in which evil advances is by means of people's refusal to see the connection between their actions and their ultimate results. As I have often pointed out, those results are felt by specific, individual human beings. These are not finally abstract questions of "policy" or of intentionally unenforceable "timetables": these are people's lives -- and people's deaths. So let's make the connection that almost everyone struggles to avoid. Here is the approximate tally for only a single day, yesterday:
Heavy violence continued overnight in Tal Afar where retaliatory attacks for yesterday’s massive twin bombing left scores dead. Overall, at least 166 Iraqis were reported killed or found dead and another 146 were wounded throughout the country. Also, a Marine was killed in Anbar province yesterday, another GI died of non-combat related illness, and three British soldiers were wounded in separate incidents in Basra.
And Dave Lindorff wrote, about the non-binding "timetable" in the House bill:
Despite polls showing that 6 in 10 Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap, the best that this crew can come up with is a call-not binding, of course-for the president to pull out the troops by next spring or even summer. That would be over a year from now, and more than five years (!) into this criminal and incredibly stupid war.

At the rate things have been going, it would also be perhaps 1000 more dead Americans, 14,000 more gravely wounded Americans, and 100-150,000 more dead Iraqis later.
As I suggested once before, try to make those figures real to yourself: remember the five-year-old Iraqi girl. Remember her family, and her friends. Make fully real to yourself all the lives that have been irrevocably shattered, all the bodies that have been ripped apart, all the souls that have been turned to cinder.

That is what this Congress has chosen to fund for at least another year. Endless death, endless maiming, endless slaughter, dismemberment, and putrid, rotting flesh, countless lives destroyed and deformed forever. Could you vote to pay for this? If you could, I pray we never meet.

And all in a war that we never had any right to begin, and that we have no right to continue for even a single second more. Congress could simply choose not to fund the war any further at all (there is sufficient money already allocated to bring U.S. troops safely home) -- but that would require that they have courage, that they have moral confidence in the rightness of their cause, and that they are able to offer an argument in response to the entirely predictable smears that will be thrown at them. But they have none of those traits, so these stinking, repugnant sloths try merely to position themselves for maximum electoral advantage in 2008. And every day, more people are murdered, and more lives are destroyed.

I offer you two examples of profound courage from our own past: Robert La Follette, and Thomas B. Reed. There is no one today who begins to approach the stature of those men. One such person could begin to change our nation's course, even now.

There was more I had planned to include in this entry, but I don't have the heart for it at the moment. Perhaps later today, or tomorrow.

How many more people will be killed and maimed today, and tomorrow, and the next day? And there is not even one prominent national voice that regularly, forcefully, and passionately identifies the immense evil that we continue to commit every hour of every day.

It is inconceivable that anyone can still honestly wonder "why they hate us." In view of what we have done around the world for the last several decades, the answer is starkly obvious. And we continue to do it today, we will do it tomorrow, and we will do it for the years that stretch out ahead of us.

God Almighty, I hate us, with regard to our foreign policy and the unforgivable suffering we have inflicted and continue to inflict on entirely innocent people, all for the detestable goal of ensuring our global hegemonic role. We have become a loathsome nation, one that murders and tortures all day, every day, somewhere in the world. And almost no one even tries to stop it.

Enough for the moment. I can't bear to think about it any longer right now, and you probably can't either.

March 28, 2007

Pffft! Now You're Marginalized, Too!

[Update added.]

Here's a sight you don't see every day, although, sad to say, it isn't as rare as it once was: Henley -- trees -- and no forest.


This reminds me of a brief episode from an early chapter of my life, when I was a young, fetchingly handsome lad. At a party suitably drenched in cocktails, necessary to place the two or three attending generations in a rough approximation of strained toleration for one another for the duration, mercifully short though it was, a mysterious man approached me. He insisted that he had an indispensable and invaluable piece of advice for me, if I cared about my future at all. It varied from the version with which you might be familiar in only one particular:
Mysterious Man: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Me: Yes, sir.

Mysterious Man: Are you listening?

Me: Yes, I am.

Mysterious Man: Munitions.
If only I had heeded his advice. I'd be a multibillionaire today. Starting a war is the easiest thing in the world. Even many self-proclaimed libertarian non-interventionists offer precious little opposition, if only by necessary implication. In these circumstances, implication is more than enough.

What is the forest to which I refer above? Part of it is explored here; more of it is explained in my current series, "Dominion Over the World," and in my earlier series on Iran (see here, here and here), and in the first part of my "Dispatch from Germany" series. Then there's the reporting of Seymour Hersh and others about the covert operations the United States has been running inside Iran for some time now, undoubtedly with Britain's full knowledge if not its actual assistance (although that too might well be in play).

And then there's the fact that we have loudly and repeatedly made very clear that the next item on our menu of world transformation is regime change in Iran. Everyone knows that, including the leaders of Iran.

One more fact, mentioned by Henley's first commenter. As Craig Murray explains:
The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.

But there are two colossal problems.

A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.

None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position.
Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. There is one additional fact, in two parts.



I do believe we have some evidence relating to this last fact, of recent vintage.

There are many other parts of the forest, which I leave you free to color in during your otherwise unoccupied hours.

UPDATE: Pepe Escobar, writing in Asia Times:
This correspondent has been to the Shatt-al-Arab. It's a busy and tricky waterway, to say the least. Iraqi fishing boats share the waters with Iranian patrol boats. From the Iraqi shore one can see the Iranian shore, flags aflutter. These remain extremely disputed waters. In 1975, a treaty was signed in Algiers between the shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein. The center of the river was supposed to be the border. Then Saddam invaded Iran in 1980. After the Iran-Iraq War that this sparked ended in 1988, and even after both Gulf wars, things remain perilously inconclusive: a new treaty still has not been signed.

The British are adamant that the sailors were in Iraqi waters checking for cars, not weapons, being smuggled. It's almost laughable that the Royal Navy should be reduced to finding dangerous Toyotas in the Persian Gulf. Some reports from Tehran claim the British were actually checking Iranian military preparations ahead of a possible confrontation with the US.

Western corporate media overwhelmingly take for granted that the British were in Iraqi or "international" waters (wrong: these are disputed Iran/Iraq waters). Tehran has accused the British of "blatant aggression" and reminded world public opinion "this is not the first time that Britain commits such illegal acts" (which is true). Tehran diplomats later suggested that the British might be charged with espionage (which is actually the case in Khuzestan province in Iran, conducted by US Special Forces).


Not surprisingly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had to take the side of the occupiers who installed him in his post: he said the British were in Iraq invited by the Iraqi government and were operating in Iraqi waters.

This doesn't stop people, especially in the Islamic world, questioning what business the British, as an occupation force, had in the Shatt-al-Arab to start with.

From the depths of their abysmal, recent historical experience, even the Arab world - which is not so fond of Persians - sees the US-orchestrated UN sanctions on Iran for what they are: the West, once again, trying to smash an independent nation daring to have its shot at more influence in the Middle East. More sanctions will be useless as China and India will continue to do serious business with Iran.

Tactically, as a backgammon or, better yet, chess move - in which Iranians excel - the Shatt-al-Arab incident may be much more clever than it appears.


If the Tehran leadership decides to drag out the proceedings, the Shi'ites in southern Iraq, already exasperated by the British (as they were in the 1920s), may take the hint and accelerate a confrontation. Strands of the Shi'ite resistance may start merging with strands of the Sunni resistance (that's what Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has wanted all along). And this would prove once again that you don't need nuclear weapons when you excel at playing chess.
I'll probably have more on this and related issues later today (Thursday).

March 27, 2007

Sleepwalking to the End of the World

Almost nine months ago, on July 3, 2006, I published "Our Date with Armageddon." In part, I wrote:
The overall pattern at work here is exactly the same one utilized for Iraq: phony diplomacy, then U.N. action which will similarly make compliance by Iran impossible, then a few speeches accusing Iran of defying the will of the "civilized world" and of being too great a threat to be tolerated -- and then the bombing. And almost no one will be heard to say that the "crisis" was created out of thin air, and that in fact no crisis exists at all.


Let us state the final conclusion boldly and unmistakably, so we may appreciate its full horror: the Bush administration has already decided, and probably decided some time ago, that it will attack Iran. They want a wider war. Everything that is now going on is simply the cover for the moment when the bombing begins, intended to provide what will be accepted as "justification" for the attack by the American public and the world.

And all of it is a lie from beginning to end.

We must note one additional critical point. Up to this moment, there is not one major public voice identifying this madness for what it is. No one will say that the crisis is a completely phony one. No one will say that an attack on Iran would be completely unjustified and unprovoked, and that it would be a blatant act of aggression by the United States.

There is not even one person offering significant opposition to the Bush administration. Not one. And so we proceed to our date with Armageddon.

If there are any historians who look back on this period in years to come, they will wonder in astonishment at the nation of unthinking, obedient, herdlike animals we have become. We challenge our government on nothing of any importance. Most Americans aren't even aware of what is happening. The lunatics who lead us are taking us straight into incomprehensible catastrophe -- and we say and do absolutely nothing to oppose it.

Do we even deserve to be saved from our own madness at this point, and from our love affair with death and destruction? In the complete absence of significant public opposition to the insanity and unmistakable evil of this administration, I don't know any longer. I honestly don't know.
Here is just one part of today's Iran-related news:
The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

The maneuvers bring together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than 100 U.S. warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes.

The U.S. exercises come just four days after Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines who Iran said had strayed into Iranian waters near the Gulf. Britain and the U.S. Navy have insisted the British sailors were operating in Iraqi waters.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters.

He declined to specify when the Navy planned the exercises.

Aandahl said the U.S. warships would stay out of Iranian territorial waters, which extend 12 miles off the Iranian coast.


Overall, the exercises involve more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy shipping with aircraft and ships, hunting enemy submarines and finding mines.

"What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior."
On that last point, Aandahl is unquestionably correct -- for we know that the United States is eternally on the side of Good, and that those we have designated as enemies -- even when they constitute no serious threat to us whatsoever -- always embody Evil at its most absolute.

I suppose I should remind you, since many people appear never to have understood this point despite history's multiple proofs, that war is and has always been the primary and necessary source of the greatest evils committed by governments. All of the Bush administration's major depredations -- its unrelenting assault on civil liberties, including the destruction of the very basis of liberty (an immense evil which the Democrats appear unable and unwilling to correct in the required manner), its profound and likely irreversible damage to America's economy, probably for the rest of our lifetimes and far beyond, to say nothing of the destruction of an entire country that never threatened us and the murder of over half a million innocent human beings -- are founded on war, and war provides the alleged "justification" for the ceaseless train of evils we have witnessed.

Despite all these horrors, and in a further demonstration of another of history's lessons, we have learned absolutely nothing. For all their supposed opposition to the Bush crazies, most of the liberal and progressive blogs have virtually nothing to say about the prospect of an attack on Iran -- or, to be more precise, nothing to say that impels them to act (or even to encourage others to act) in a way that might actually matter and prevent the ultimate nightmare from descending upon us, and upon much of the rest of the world. In the political calculus of these carrion-feeders, the most urgent story is the Bush administration's politicization of the Justice Department. Needless to say, before the installation of George W. Bush in the White House, misdeeds of this kind never soiled the intact virginity of the morally perfect American republic.

Take the lesson: murder hundreds of thousands of people for no reason at all, completely destroy a virtually defenseless country, and do everything possible to begin what could turn into a nuclear Armageddon that would murder millions -- and the worst that will be said about you is that you are an incompetent and stupid bumbler. That we are well on our way to becoming one of the most monstrous nations in history is the thought that cannot bear serious contemplation by our governing class, or by those bloggers who serve as its ignorant and/or corrupt apologists. But threaten the prerogatives of the privileged ruling elites themselves, and hellfire shall devour your soul. Never mind the suffering and death of "ordinary" people: trampling on the inalienable "rights" of those who already possess immense power is the unforgivable sin. Priorities, indeed. The final destruction of the American republic may be almost upon us, and the Republicans and Democrats and their respective blogger-enablers fight like disease-infested rats over the rotting, bloated, already stinking flesh of the doomed, permanently corrupted corporatist state.

I could point you to my essay from a month ago, outlining some critical steps that the Congressional Democrats and the rest of us could take if we genuinely cared about preventing what appears almost certain to unfold before Bush finally leaves office. There; I pointed you to it. Of course, the national Democrats and the Bush crazies share the identical assumptions that drive our foreign policy, one dedicated to ensuring world hegemony by and for the United States. Hillary Clinton speaks of "'remaining vital national security interests in Iraq' that would require a continuing deployment of American troops" -- "continuing" as in indefinite or permanent, phrases that could have been lifted from one of Crazy Cheney's speeches -- or from one of Crazy McCain's. And all the prominent Democrats agree that a potentially nuclear-armed Iran -- lying at least five or even ten years in the future -- would be the greatest threat "we" face. For these unapologetic, murdering imperialists, this possible future danger necessitates that we leave "all options on the table" now -- which means only that we reserve the "right" to launch yet another unprovoked war of aggression against another non-existent threat.

Shortly before last November's election, I wrote an essay which I deliberately had not reread until a few days ago. I remembered it as being very sour and bitter, and I recalled writing it in an especially bleak frame of mind. Considering that article now, "An Election Conceived in Nausea," and in light of recent events, I see that once again I was far too kind. I periodically note that error of mine, and swear that I won't do it again. And then I do it again. I prefer not to believe that so many people are so entirely rotten -- and then they proceed to demonstrate that they are rotten on a scale that is almost inconceivable to me.

In that piece, I mentioned three momentous issues on which the Democrats would unquestionably fail to take the correct actions: the repeal of the torture-dictatorship bill (also known as the Military Commissions Act), the ending of the loathsome occupation of Iraq, and the prevention of an attack on Iran. The Democrats have made a few feints about the Military Commissions Act, but it is hardly the urgent and vital matter for them that it should be -- and they are fighting this battle in exactly the wrong way.

The open secret about the Iraq occupation is that the Democrats could end it in a matter of months if they chose to, as Feingold, Kucinich and one or two others have made absolutely clear. Instead, and please let us state the critical fact accurately, the Democrats have chosen to fund the continuation of the Iraq occupation for the indefinite future. The Democratic apologists can spew and spit and slander their critics as much as they wish, but the further fact is that the Iraq abomination is now theirs as much as it is the Republicans'. In a particularly vile, fact- and logic-obliterating turn, one that in my view reveals an intellectual and moral corruption that is as irreversible as it is despicable, certain alleged "progressives" inform us that principled opponents of the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq are the ones prolonging this catastrophe -- while those who provide the money required for its continuance are actually those who are ending it. When the truth reveals you to be a contemptible, unprincipled coward, lies become your friends. Orwell would be proud. Most of the major "progressive" blogs echo this nauseating effluvium in various ways; liars, all of them. Since almost everyone who works in politics lies much of the time, I might overlook this unremarkable fact -- but it is impossible to overlook the fact that they're such lousy liars. For a glimpse of the truth, read John V. Walsh, or Dave Lindorff.

My ongoing series, "Dominion Over the World," analyzes the premises and goals that inform the foreign policy shared by Democrats and Republicans alike. A scroll through posts here over the last couple of months will turn up a number of entries concerning how the Democrats are even more hawkish about Iran than the Bush thugs (or start here). Beginning with Woodrow Wilson, the Democrats have embroiled the United States in more unnecessary and hugely destructive wars than the Republicans, a warmongering tradition the Democrats cherish and apparently are devoted to continuing in the future.

In that earlier pre-election piece, I also commented on a related issue that continues to tempt too many people onto the path of ignorance, even intelligent people who ought to know better:
Ah, but the Democrats will investigate the Bush administration's endless crimes. The investigations will restore honesty, decency and "true" American values to government. All the universes will be saved! Do people actually believe this nonsense? All such investigations will be exactly like all other government investigations of itself. People seem congenitally incapable of grasping that all politicians are now part of the same corrupt system, which aims only to protect itself and its existing prerogatives, as it simultaneously seeks to expand them. (The exceptions in the political class are so few that they don't matter.) In the end, all such investigations and committee hearings will conclude just as the 9/11 investigation concluded (and any other investigation you care to name): some criticisms will be made, general fault will be found but no one in particular will be condemned in terms that might cause distress, and some new guidelines and regulations will be proposed and enacted. Neither party wants to judge the other too harshly or cause irreparable harm: they don't want to, because they count on the same consideration in return. Both parties are happy to accede to this deal, for it is precisely how their system continues on its merry course, guaranteeing their lives of immense comfort and privilege, together with their hold on power. Many of the rest of us, both here and abroad, will be screwed, maimed or dead -- and just when exactly did that concern the governing class?

And then, in a year or two or five, and as on every other similar occasion, inventive ways will be found to circumvent the brand spanking new guidelines and regulations -- and the corruption and dishonesty will continue pretty much as before, via new routes and avenues. It's all a charade, by means of which politicians, the major media, and "serious" commentators (and bloggers) can convince themselves of their own virtue, that this time they really mean it, and that everything will be different now. An interesting question is how many times people can fall for such complete bullshit, and still be regarded as serious, credible or intelligent to any degree at all.

It helps to perpetuate the charade -- one that encompasses every aspect of domestic and foreign policy -- that most people know nothing of history, either our own or that of other countries. It's as if none of it ever happened before. For most of these people, it's as if nothing ever happened before. No wonder they so easily believe that this time will be different. For them, there are no other times at all. Everything is new to them, even and especially their own iniquity.
Let me spell out a further painfully obvious point that should be entirely clear, but apparently isn't. Anyone who feels any confidence whatsoever in the alleged benefits of investigations into government misdeeds has failed to grasp the primary motivation behind all such investigations in the current system. That motivation is only to damage the other party and to deprive it of power -- power which will then flow to the party conducting the investigation. The purpose is not to challenge even one element of the system itself -- for it is that system that makes possible their own exercise of vast power, and their own privileged lives. There is a handful of uncorrupted politicians in Washington -- but when the system itself has grafted corruption onto its every organ, artery and molecule, those few cannot exercise any influence of consequence. When an atypical politican appears on the scene -- say, a Dennis Kucinich -- the major liberal and progressive writers either ignore him, or they treat him as an object for cheap, adolescent mockery and ridicule. They certainly do not support him on any significant policy matter, such as ending the immoral and criminal occupation of Iraq, or preventing an attack on Iran. To do so would be to threaten the system, and that cannot be permitted.

As I suggested in "Building an Effective Resistance," opposition to the insanely murderous and destructive plans of the ruling elites will have to come from ordinary Americans -- perhaps like some of you who happen to read this. It will not come from the political class, from the media elites, or from the blogging elites of any political stripe. The system as it now exists confers benefits on all of them that they are not prepared to surrender.

I will continue writing, and I will even continue writing about politics. But I will do so from a very different perspective in the future, for I am now entirely convinced that a sufficient number of Americans required for a meaningful resistance movement does not exist. It perhaps would only take a few hundred courageous and dedicated people to begin to build such a movement, but it appears that such individuals are nowhere to be found. In a profound sense, I now feel largely detached from what may happen in the coming months and years, even as I recognize that the horrors may well touch me very personally, as they may touch all of us. There are many subjects and issues that are of great interest to me, and I still find many sources of pleasure in the world. But I feel no sense of urgency about any of it any longer. Given my own circumstances, there is nothing more I can do myself about the growing horrors that are likely to engulf us.

As for the rest of you, I leave you with the conclusion of an earlier essay, "Thus the World Was Lost." I wrote this about the Military Commissions Act in particular, but the same can be said about the criminal, ongoing destruction of Iraq and the likely coming attack on Iran:
So, take the time to be sure to understand the momentous nature of the battle. Speak out about it, wherever and as often as you can. Make clear to everyone you know what is at stake, and convince them to fight, too.

For the present, we have the certainty of the Military Commissions Act -- and the hope that we may still prevent its most ghastly eventualities. I pray that hope will be realized. The most terrible and terrifying thing of all, for those of you who will still be alive in forty or fifty years, will be to look back on this time, and to have to say, "Thus the world was lost" -- and to know that, because you did not do everything you could, you helped to lose it.
Most of you expend unceasing energy to barricade yourselves from the truth, you surround yourselves with trivialities and ultimately inconsequential controversies, and you seek to discredit those who criticize you with pathetically limp and obvious lies. Yet some of you will ultimately acknowledge the truth, but only when it is too late and when it can't possibly matter: with every hour that passes, you also help to lose the world.

For my own part, you are no longer any concern of mine.

March 16, 2007

For My Sister: The Farewell

There's an essay that might go here, but probably not for at least several days. My sister, Virginia -- "Gina" to all those who knew her -- died early this morning. The end came much more quickly than anyone expected.

Gina's death prompts a great many emotions and thoughts. Most importantly to me in certain ways, especially in light of world events at present, Gina was exceptionally gentle and loving. I never knew her to cause harm or pain to any living being. More than anything else, she wished for peace, and for an end to senseless suffering and killing. If a critical number of people shared Gina's perspective, the world would be a vastly different place, and an infinitely better one.

Her own suffering has ended now. I wish I could believe that her spirit continues in some form, blissfully unencumbered by the cares that afflict the rest of us. I think I will choose to believe that, at least for a few days. It makes the sudden loss easier to bear.

I've been thinking about and listening to Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth") for much of the last week. It has been one of my very favorite works of art for several decades now. If you don't know this masterpiece, I suggest you listen to either the classic Klemperer recording, or the Bernstein version (and many thanks, D.C., for sending that to me). I especially love the final section, "The Farewell," which is -- to employ the cliche in a way that is perfectly and wonderfully accurate -- so exquisitely beautiful that it hurts in the most sublime way imaginable. Simply reading the English translation of the poem for the conclusion of this work does not come close to providing you with the full experience of this musical miracle, but I'm afraid the poem itself will have to do here:
The sun departs behind the mountains.
In all the valleys, evening descends
with its cooling shadows.
O look! Like a silver boat,
the moon floats on the blue sky-lake above.
I feel the fine wind wafting
behind the dark spruce.

The brook sings loudly through the darkness.
The flowers stand out palely in the twilight.
The earth breathes, full of peace and sleep,
and all yearning wishes to dream now.
Weary men go home,
to learn in sleep
forgotten happiness and youth.
The birds crouch silently in their branches.
The world is asleep!

It blows coolly in the shadows of my spruce.
I stand here and wait for my friend;
I wait to bid him a last farewell.
I yearn, my friend, at your side
to enjoy the beauty of this evening.
Where do you tarry? You leave me alone for so long!
I wander up and down with my lute,
on paths swelling with soft grass.
O beauty! O eternal love - eternal, love-intoxicated world!

He dismounted and handed him the drink
of parting. He asked him where
he would go, and also why it must be.
He spoke, his voice was choked: My friend,
on this earth, fortune has not been kind to me!
Where do I go? I will go, wander in the mountains.
I seek peace for my lonely heart.
I wander to find my homeland, my home.
I will never stray to foreign lands.
Quiet is my heart, waiting for its hour!

The dear earth everywhere
blooms in spring and grows green
afresh! Everywhere and eternally,
distant places have blue skies!
Eternally... eternally...
For you, my dear sister. Now you reside where spring is the only season, and where peace prevails uninterrupted -- and eternally.

Bless you, always.

March 15, 2007

The "Visionary" Obama, as Rotten as the Rest of Them

Barack Obama, widely regarded as "uplifting," "visionary," rising above the nasty political fray, etc. ad nauseam, charmingly offered these recent remarks:
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) slipped in a compliment — of sorts — about a fellow 2008 hopeful during his appearances on the Iowa stump last weekend.

"I want to wait and hear what John Edwards has to say, he’s kind of good-looking," Obama envisioned Iowa caucus-goers from the small town of Clinton telling themselves. During an appearance in West Burlington, Iowa, the phrase appeared again, this time with Edwards as "kind of cute."

One Edwards supporter was nonplussed by the reference, coming as Obama stresses rising above petty politics and chafes at press attention to his own good looks.


Obama’s campaign declined to comment on his curious praise for the 2004 vice presidential nominee.
Employed in this manner, these are well-known coded phrases, used to demean, to diminish, and to feminize the male opposition. They rely on our culture's unquestioned assumption that to be feminine is to be weak; in this sense, Obama is engaged in the identical kind of character assassination that Ann Coulter recently utilized.

Therefore, two very brief notes. First, to those of you who bought the campaign propaganda and hype about Obama being a "new" and "better" kind of politician -- this with regard to a man who uses more utterly empty, meaningless, vacuous phrases per speech than any politician in recent memory (and if that's the kind of "achievement" you want, knock yourselves out): you really will fall for anything, won't you? That must be why almost none of the libloggers dare criticize the Democrats for doing all they can to lead us straight into Armageddon. Among other problems, serious cognitive impairment would appear to be implicated here: most of these people wouldn't recognize Armageddon even as nuclear clouds drifted over their heads. And/or, to the extent Armageddon was unleashed by Democrats, it would be, you know, the good kind.

Second, and I say this with all the respect due, Mr. Obama: God damn you to hell, too.

March 14, 2007

It Must Be Syphilis: "Mother, give me the sun"

In the mainstream columnists' Championship for Supreme and Unsurpassable Inanity, Richard Cohen may finally have provided a winner. I came across this thought-obliterating blob of sentimental twaddle via the otherwise highly estimable Justin McCarthy, who has provided all the commentary necessary. In very different circumstances, I might thank Justin. As it is, I have begun my program of serious self-medication earlier than usual.

The column is titled, "Please Don't Take My Sunshine Away." It concerns what is indisputably the most urgent issue of our time: the advance of daylight savings time by three weeks. Cohen offers us cherishable prose of a sublimity to which the rest of us plodders can merely aspire, and even that only on the rare occasion:
I look forward to the arrival of spring when the sun wakes me. It's a better way to get up. No jarring alarm. Just the sun sort of caressing my face. It is nature's alarm clock. What was intended.
"Just the sun sort of caressing my face." I do like that "sort of." We're so stupid that, had Cohen omitted those words, we might have thought the sun actually caressed his face. We are just that dumb.
Sometimes I'd sleep in a bit and let the sun do its work, but even if I arose in the dark, by the time I made coffee . . . there it was! Such a beauty! My friend. My pal.


My sun, my sun -- you've taken my sun.
This is all inexpressibly charming and touching, but the following is my favorite passage:
I know the government has regulated daylight saving time (on and off) since the First World War, but this latest modification strikes me as unnecessary and somewhat -- I know no better word -- socialistic. Here's the government, the government for crying out loud, deciding on its own when the sun should come up. I mean, it's bad enough that the feds tap our phones and keep changing the definition of torture so that even the rack would not apply, but now they just come in (without a warrant or anything) and take away an hour of morning sunlight. It's enough to make a conservative out of a person. I'm thinking of subscribing to the Weekly Standard (How's the war going, boys?) or joining one of those right-wing Christian groups that hate the government, evolution and, I suppose, me. On second thought, maybe not.
I like this, because oppressive government surveillance, torture and war (and the very war for which Cohen himself endlessly pimped) are always so funny. But, Richard, I very seriously doubt that anyone hates you. There isn't any you there deserving of such a strong emotion, or of any other that comes to mind.

Since this is Cohen we're discussing, and given his willingness to be a propaganda dupe for the criminal Bush gang in the runup to the Iraq invasion, what we ought to be talking about is the terrible price exacted by an intricate web of public lies, and by the strictures of conventional "morality" (which only maintains its grip by means of those same lies). That, in turn, reminded me of a genuinely excellent, taboo-breaking play, Ibsen's Ghosts. It also made me realize that the original version of Cohen's column is infinitely superior, especially, when it is well-acted, in the play's shattering conclusion:
OSWALD. [Sits in the arm-chair with his back towards the landscape,without moving. Suddenly he says:] Mother, give me the sun.

MRS. ALVING. [By the table, starts and looks at him.] What do you say?

OSWALD. [Repeats, in a dull, toneless voice.] The sun. The sun.

MRS. ALVING. [Goes to him.] Oswald, what is the matter with you?

OSWALD. [Seems to shrink together to the chair; all his muscles relax; his face is expressionless, his eyes have a glassy stare.]

MRS. ALVING. [Quivering with terror.] What is this? [Shrieks.] Oswald! what is the matter with you? [Falls on her knees beside him and shakes him.] Oswald! Oswald! look at me! Don't you know me?

OSWALD. [Tonelessly as before.] The sun.--The sun.

MRS. ALVING. [Springs up in despair, entwines her hands in her hair and shrieks.] I cannot bear it! [Whispers, as though petrified]; I cannot bear it! Never! [Suddenly.] Where has he got them? [Fumbles hastily in his breast.] Here! [Shrinks back a few steps and screams:] No. no; no!--Yes!--No; no!

[She stands a few steps away from him with her hands twisted in her hair, and stares at him in speechless horror.]

OSWALD. [Sits motionless as before and says.] The sun.--The sun.

"The End." If only we could say the same about your op-ed columns, Mr. Cohen.


Via Eric Garris, Carah Ong writes:
[Monday] night, Rep. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership decided to pull language from the Supplemental Appropriations bill which stated that no funds may be authorized for military operations in or related to Iran unless specifically authorized by the Congress.

We DO have a chance to reverse this in committee, but we urgently need you to send action alerts to your constituents and make phone calls TODAY.

(800) 828-0498
(202) 224-3121

The Supplemental Appropriations bill is scheduled to be marked up in full committee Thursday (MARCH 15) at 9 am.

Please send action alerts to your constituents, encouraging them to write and, more importantly, call their members of Congress. Click here for a list of Members of the full Appropriations committee. If your Congressional representative is not on the committee, urge your Representative to tell Committee members to reinsert language back in the Supplemental Appropriations bill.
I have the very strong sense that the Democratic leadership has made its decision on this, and nothing will change their minds with regard to this particular bill.

HOWEVER, if they were to receive, say, 40,000 or 50,000 phone calls, and if the callers said they would not be voting for any of these pusillanimous weasels in 2008 unless this changes, they might have second thoughts...

Take 15 minutes. It certainly can't hurt. Do it.

I still think that the much broader educational effort I outlined here is absolutely critical. As I've said on several occasions since posting that entry, I don't view my suggestions as exactly rocket science. Anyone who genuinely wants to prevent what would be a regional or even a worldwide catastrophe, as well as a war crime on a scale that will place us forever among the ranks of the most monstrous nations in history, and what would also probably be a disaster for our remaining liberties here at home, could probably come up with any number of better ideas in an hour or less.

Still, when particular bills come up that are especially objectionable, and since the amount of time involved per individual is so minimal, these narrower questions need to be addressed, too.

UPDATE: Via Jon Schwarz, here's an email form you can use, too.

March 13, 2007

To the Liberal and Progressive War Managers: "This madness must cease"

Norman Solomon writes:
Pelosi and Reid have a job to do. The antiwar movement has a job to do. The jobs are not the same.

This should be obvious -- but, judging from public and private debates now fiercely underway among progressive activists and organizations, there's a lot of confusion in the air.

No amount of savvy Capitol-speak can change the fact that "benchmarks" are euphemisms for more war. And when activists pretend otherwise, they play into the hands of those who want the war to go on... and on... and on.

Deferring to the Democratic leadership means endorsing loopholes that leave the door wide open for continued U.S. military actions inside Iraq -- whether justified as attacks on fighters designated as Al Qaeda in Iraq, or with reclassification of U.S. forces as "trainers" rather than "combat troops." And an escalating U.S. air war could continue to bomb Iraqi neighborhoods for years.

The position being articulated by Reps. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and others in Congress is the one that the antiwar movement should unite behind -- to fully fund bringing the troops home in a safe and orderly way, while ending the entire U.S. occupation and war effort, by the end of 2007.

We're urged to take solace from the fact that Washington's debate has shifted to "when" -- rather than "whether" -- the war should end. But the end of the U.S. war effort could be deferred for many more years while debates over "when" flourish and fester. This happened during the Vietnam War, year after year, while death came to tens of thousands more American soldiers and perhaps a million more Vietnamese people.

Pelosi is speaker of the House, and Reid is majority leader of the Senate. But neither speaks for, much less leads, the antiwar movement that we need.

When you look at the practicalities of the situation, Pelosi and Reid could be more accurately described as speaker and leader for the war-management movement.


On Capitol Hill, most Democrats seem to have settled on a tactical approach of simultaneously ratifying and deploring the continuation of the war. The approach may or may not be savvy politics in a narrow sense of gaining temporary partisan political advantage. But it is ultimately destructive to refuse to do the one thing that the Constitution empowers Congress to do to halt a U.S. war -- stop appropriating taxpayer money for it.

In retrospect, such congressional behavior during the Vietnam War -- while attracting sober approval from much of the era's punditocracy -- ended up prolonging a horrific war that could have ended years sooner. Now, as then, pandering to the news media and other powerful pressures, most politicians are busy trying to pick "low-hanging fruit" that turns out to be poisonous.

"Somehow this madness must cease," Martin Luther King Jr. said 40 years ago about the Vietnam War. "We must stop now."

Was the situation then essentially different from today? No.

"We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy," King said. And: "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late."
With only a few exceptions, most liberal-progressive blogs are "war managers," just as Pelosi and Reid are. Just like the Washington Democrats whose triumph in November they heralded as the second coming and whom they will not now seriously challenge, so in thrall to power are they, these bloggers have revealed themselves not to be opposed to our criminal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq in any fundamental way: they are opposed only to the Bush administration's "incompetence" and "bad management." If only our war of conquest had been executed efficiently, all would be well with the Democrats' Empire.

And they are doing nothing to oppose the drive to war with Iran, which the Democrats want at least as much as the Republicans.

All such people, including most of the prominent liberal bloggers, are murdering imperialists, with American hegemony as the ultimate goal that animates them. The rest is for show, and to consolidate and expand their grasp on power domestically, just as the United States acts in an identical way abroad.

This is your "progressive" movement in the world of political blogs, and a contemptibly sad and miserable thing it is.

March 12, 2007

War Criminals, (Almost) Every One

Permit me very briefly to excerpt myself, because I have already expressed these particular points as well as I can. First, with regard to the monstrous, unforgivable crime that an attack on Iran would represent:
Any military attack by the United States on Iran within the foreseeable future -- even an attack using only conventional weapons -- would be profoundly immoral, and eternally unforgivable.


These central facts lead to only one conclusion: an attack on Iran would represent a blatant, naked act of aggression against a country that does not threaten us. It would not be an act of self-defense, if that term has any meaning at all: there is nothing at present or in the immediate future to defend ourselves against. Of course, the same was true of Iraq. We refuse to learn any lessons at all.

So an attack on Iran, even if confined to the use of conventional weapons, would confirm beyond the point of any remaining dispute that we have abandoned all the constraints on military action that the world has accepted for some time. We would make indisputably clear that we believe we have the "right" to make war on any nation, at any time, and on the merest whim. The existence of a threat to the United States is irrelevant and unnecessary to our actions. In effect, we will have declared war on the entire world, at least by implication. No one will be able to view themselves as safe: those we consider allies today might be viewed as enemies tomorrow. All concepts of "right" and "morality" would be jettisoned forever. We will have entered a world where brute force and military superiority are all that matter. Since no other nation can view itself as safe from our wrath, we can expect the rest of the world to make plans accordingly.

When the unprovoked, aggressive and non-defensive use of nuclear weapons is added to this picture, we will have entered a world of potential global holocaust.
About the Democrats' responsibility:
I indicated the other day some crucial actions the Democrats in Congress could take to stop these events, which are already gathering terrifying momentum. I repeat those suggestions here. ...

It simply is not true there's nothing the Democrats can do to stop the drive toward a wider war. For God's sake, they control Congress now. There's plenty they can do -- if they want to, and if they want to lead. The actions outlined above are critical; all of them together would throw a huge roadblock in the path of this criminal administration.


If, several months or a year from now, we are in the middle of a catastrophic and ever-widening war triggered by an attack on Iran (by either the U.S. or Israel), let no Democrat be heard to say: "But there wasn't anything we could do! We didn't want this to happen, but there wasn't anything we could do to stop it!"

It's absolutely not true. If this nightmare should come to pass, they will be its co-equal creators together with the executive branch.
Please remember one of the major points I made before about the meaning of these facts:
This is our posture and strategy toward Iran: the posture and strategy of Nazi Germany toward Poland. But we are America the Good. We cannot commit evil of this kind. Many Germans believed the same thing about their country.

Germany, in the summer of 1939. Like most Germans then, most Americans will do nothing. In the hysteria combined with national triumphalism that will almost certainly follow a U.S. attack on Iran -- aided in significant part by many hawkish Democrats with their eyes on 2008, and by our criminally propagandistic media -- it is more than possible that martial law may be imposed. Perhaps only in several major cities to begin with, but a start is all they need. All the mechanisms are already in place for such action by this administration -- and the Democrats still have not learned how to fight this battle, either.
Now, in yet another display of colossal, contemptible, utterly sickening spinelessness, the Democrats completely cave in still one more time:
Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.


The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Bush did not launch an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last week.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said in an interview there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state.

"It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran," she said of the now-abandoned provision.

"I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York.
It would thus appear that making "sure Bush did not launch an attack [against Iran] without going to Congress for approval" isn't such a burning concern for the Democrats any longer, if it ever was. Good to have that cleared up, in the admittedly unlikely event these bastards are ever rounded up for trials arising out of their crimes against peace and against humanity.

"The most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran." What's that? The threat to launch a second unprovoked war of aggression AGAINST A NON-EXISTENT THREAT in a manner that would make Nazi Germany proud?

And in this context, Ackerman has a hell of a nerve to speak about "normalizing" the behavior of others "in a civilized way." We have already entered the ranks of barbarian, pariah nations. We are hardly in a position to be lecturing anyone about this particular subject.

Given this latest evidence, we are now justified in drawing one stark conclusion. There are only two requirements for serving in Congress or in the executive branch of our government. These requirements apply to everyone who serves today, with only a handful of exceptions. First, you must be among the very stupidest and most cowardly of Americans. And second, you must be a war criminal -- an actual war criminal, or eager and willing to become one.

No, I will not be remotely polite about any of this from this moment on. The stakes may be as high right now as they have ever been in our lifetimes; given the nature of the criminal gang that runs the executive branch, they are probably higher. And still, most of you lazy, fat-assed, self-satisfied sons of bitches won't do a goddamned thing. Not a single thing. As I have said, if there is the slightest sliver of a chance to avoid a catastrophe that may be worse than the most horrifying science fiction nightmare, IT IS UP TO YOU. And most of you do nothing.

I honestly don't know why I bother to write even one more word. With the exception of a couple of hundred of you, you're not worth it. For the most part, you are relentlessly, unforgivably trivial and superficial. At a moment that may well turn out to be one of the major turning points of history, the majority of you DO NOTHING. You fill me with contempt, and you make me sick.

I don't think I'll be trying to convince anyone to do anything from now on, since it's obviously entirely hopeless. I'll write only about what especially interests me personally, and I'll say what I want in whatever form I feel like. I've explained many of the issues related to these subjects from an historical perspective, in terms of the political and moral principles involved, and from many other angles. I've tried to provide copious supporting evidence for my themes and arguments, and I've often presented my ideas as dispassionately as I can. None of it has made even a dent.

I guess I'll have to start hurling the shit, very hard and very crudely. That seems to be about the only thing most of you understand, idiots that you are.

And, NO, I will not apologize for one word I've just written. Not ever. That is a solemn promise.

Please Do This -- RIGHT. NOW.

We the undersigned call on each and every United States Senator to participate in a filibuster to end the war in Iraq. It only takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster and prevent funding requests from the Bush administration from coming to debate or a vote. The Bush administration would then have to return with a funding request that is satisfactory to the 41. That bill should include funds to bring all U.S. forces home quickly and safely but no money to prosecute the war in Iraq. Pro-war Senators used this tactic twice in February to stop non-binding resolutions condemning the so-called "surge." If pro-war Senators can use this tactic, then anti-war Senators should use it also. Right now the filibuster is the only way to end the war in a veto-proof fashion. We call upon each and every Senator to join a filibuster effort to end the loss of life and save our country.
I just signed this new petition. No matter how small, each individual action can combine with many similar actions. They could add up significantly. (And John Kerry might recall his statement from 1971 that appears on that page: "We should start now to talk about filibustering for the saving of lives and of our country.")

Do it -- to stop an immoral and criminal war that kills and horribly wounds more and more people each day that it continues. It only takes a minute.

(Many thanks to Scott Horton for the pointer.)

March 09, 2007

Get Your Next War On

I probably won't be back to regular posting until next week at some point. I feel too lousy physically myself, and I'm beset with anxiety about my sister. The latest news is even worse than it had been. Please allow me to offer my most sincere thanks to those who have made donations in response to that post. I'm more grateful than I can say, and I'll be sending out individual thank you notes in the next week. Arranging to get up to Berkeley is proving a bit problematic at the moment, both because of my own health and also due to additional difficulties I have in traveling, especially by plane. I'm trying to work out all of that, so that I can get up there in the next week or two, at the very latest. You will have helped make that possible, and I shall never forget it.

Above and beyond all of that, I am more discouraged by national and world events than I can express in words. Since I'm unable to string together more than a few coherent thoughts at the moment, let me turn this over to Chris Floyd:
Stopping the coming war with Iran is the imperative of our day. In addition to all the other horrors such a new war would bring, it would also prolong and intensify the nightmarish war crime in Iraq. Anyone concerned with the long-term interests of the United States -- its security, its prosperity, its constitutional liberties -- should be standing up right now in fierce and implacable resistance to the launching of another act of aggression.

So naturally, the national Democrats -- who were returned to power on a wave of public revulsion against the radical militarism of the Bush Regime -- are now trying to raise the war fever against Iran to the boiling point, in a bellicose bid to "outflank both the Bush administration and the United Nations with the toughest set of sanctions against Iran that have ever been proposed," as that right-wing calliope, the New York Sun, approvingly notes.

With legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos, the Fightin' Dems propose to slap harsh new sanctions on any and every firm and nation in the world that dares do business with Iran's energy sector, with no waivers allowed for anyone, not even close American allies.


We want Iran to keep developing its nuclear program, so we can use it as an excuse to bomb them. We want the people of Iran to suffer from crippling sanctions, as did the people of Iraq (while, as in Iraq, the leaders continue to live in luxury), because we want Iranian society to deteriorate to the point that its leaders feel compelled to take some action that we can seize upon as a casus belli and launch a "retaliatory" attack whose real aim is "regime change." Both the Democrats and Republicans have very publicly committed the United States to this course.


Anyone who expects the Democrats to stand up against the coming war against Iran will be bitterly disappointed. The Democrats, again with a few exceptions, are abetting the Bush Regime's drive toward war. With every step, they are bringing us closer and closer to the abyss.
You should read Chris's entire post. As he very kindly notes there, I've suggested six practical steps that could be taken to try to halt the growing momentum toward an attack on Iran. As I've said in other entries, I don't view my suggestions as especially noteworthy, nor do I feel the least proprietary interest in them. Anyone who genuinely cares about this issue could probably figure out five or ten better ideas in half an hour. I've also indicated and I now repeat that, should anyone find any of my writing on this subject of help in this battle, they should feel completely free to steal, cannibalize or do anything else with any or all of my writing in this connection.

I don't care at all if anyone ever reads even one of my posts on this subject, nor do I give a damn about getting "credit" for anything. My sole concern is only this: AN ATTACK ON IRAN BY THE UNITED STATES OR ISRAEL MUST BE PREVENTED, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE.

As I have been documenting in the Dominion Over the World series, the Democrats and Republicans agree on every fundamental issue with regard to foreign policy. And as Chris notes yet again, the Democrats will not slow down the drive to another war of aggression. To the contrary: many Democrats are being even more bellicose and provocative than the Bush crazies, as close to impossible as that is to believe.

Faced with this looming possibility -- and the potential deaths of millions, as well as the beginning of martial law here at home -- and following the contemptible example of the national Democrats, the liberal-progressive blogs, again with only a few exceptions, are largely silent, thus making this nightmare that much more likely. In terms of action on the required scale, most liberal-progressive blogs are doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

For the most part, these bloggers, who are so proud of their ability to mobilize email, phone, fax and mail campaigns at a moment's notice, and who have done so more than once over the past year, are doing NOTHING. The major liberal blogs together could probably prompt action by HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE in a day or two, if they chose to do so.


At this moment in history, one is justified in wondering what exactly it is that these people genuinely care about. I will have a number of thoughts on that topic beginning next week. For now, I will only note that at least some of the major liberal bloggers are unquestionably determined to be the new Robespierres, may God help us all.

I admit that I feel overwhelmed by this combination of personal grief, and grief at what may soon overtake this country and the world. I am almost out of hope and, as I said in the first part of my "Dispatch from Germany" series, I think we will finally learn what people in Nazi Germany learned: what "this experience" is like -- "in its entirety, all the way to the end." If we manage to escape this hellish nightmare by some miracle, and as things now stand, the liberal-progressive blogs themselves will have done next to nothing to prevent it.

And that is where I am on this Friday afternoon -- in a desolate and barren place. With the impregnable narcissism and fat complacency of Americans in general and of especially privileged Americans in particular, I think most of you believe that this nightmare, should it arrive, will not touch you personally, or at least not that much. You ought to read more history, for I deeply fear that on this score as well, you may soon learn the truth -- but only when it is far too late to do anything about it.

March 07, 2007

Perspective, and Values

Mohammed and Omar Fadhil, who write the blog, Iraq the Model, in an article published at Opinion Journal:
BAGHDAD--The new strategy to secure Baghdad has been dubbed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "Operation Imposing the Law." After weeks of waiting and anxiety it is finally under way, and early signs are encouraging.

The government information campaign and the news about thousands of additional troops coming had a positive impact even before the operation started. Commanders and lieutenants of various militant groups abandoned their positions in Baghdad and in some cases fled the country. ...

This indicates that both the addition of more troops and the tough words of Prime Minister Maliki are doing the job of intimidating the militants. The extremists understand only the language of power, and any reluctance or softness on the part of the Iraqi or U.S. government would only embolden them. In this way the clearly voiced commitment of President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki was exactly the type of strong message that needed to be sent.


So after only a couple weeks we can feel, despite the continuing violence, that much has been accomplished. Many Baghdadis feel hopeful again about the future, and the fear of civil war is slowly being replaced by optimism that peace might one day return to this city. This change in mood is something huge by itself.

The brightest image of the past two weeks was the scene of displaced families returning home; more than a thousand families are back to their homes under the protection of the Army and police. This figure invites hope that Baghdad will restore its social, ethnic and religious mosaic.

Marketplaces are seeing more activity and stores that were long shuttered are reopening--including even some liquor stores that came under vicious attacks in the past. This is a sign that extremists no longer can intimidate people and hold the city hostage. All of this gives the sense that law is being imposed.


It is true that not all of Baghdad has seen the same amount of progress, but we realize that patience is necessary.
Patrick Cockburn:
Iraq's minorities, some of the oldest communities in the world, are being driven from the country by a wave of violence against them because they are identified with the occupation and easy targets for kidnappers and death squads. A "huge exodus" is now taking place, according to a report by Minority Rights Group International.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says 30 per cent of the 1.8 million Iraqis who have fled to Jordan, Syria and elsewhere come from the minorities.

The Christians, who have lived in Iraq for 2,000 years, survived the Muslim invasion in the 7th century and the Mongol onslaught in the 13th but are now being eradicated as their churches are bombed and members of their faith hunted down and killed along with other minority faiths.

The report, Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003, written by Preti Taneja, says that half of the minority communities in Iraq, once 10 per cent of the total population, have fled.

One of the worst affected minorities is the small, 35,000-strong Palestinian community, many of whom had been in Iraq since 1948. Seen as being under the special protection of Saddam Hussein, they have suffered severely since his fall. Umm Mohammed, a 56-year-old grandmother, said the militias "are monsters, they killed my two sons in front of my house and later shouted that we Palestinians are like pigs."

A suicide car bomb exploded yesterday near the College of Administration and Economics killing 40 and injuring more than 30, mostly students. The college is part of Mustansariyah University, which Sunni insurgents denounce as controlled by the Shia Mehdi Army.
Yifat Susskind, Communications Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization:
Last week, Houzan Mahmoud [the international representative of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, a partner organization of MADRE] opened her e-mail and found a message from Ansar al-Islam, a notoriously brutal Sunni jihadist group. The message read simply, "we will kill you by the middle of March." Houzan is an outspoken Iraqi feminist. The 34-year-old journalist and women's rights activist believes that hope for Iraq's future depends on building a society based on secular democracy and human rights. For this, she has been condemned to death.

Houzan is hardly alone in this regard. Since the US invaded Iraq, women there have endured a wave of death threats, assassinations, abductions, public beatings, targeted sexual assaults, and public hangings. Much of this violence is systematic-directed by both Sunni and Shiite Islamist militias that mushroomed across Iraq after the US toppled the mostly secular Ba'ath regime. We've heard about the brutality of the Sunni-based groups, but much less about the Shiite militias that are the armed wings of the political parties that the US boosted into power. Their aim is to establish an Islamist theocracy and their social vision requires the subjugation of women and the elimination of anyone with a competing vision for Iraq's future.

The "misery gangs" of these Shiite militias now patrol the streets of Iraq's major cities, attacking women who don't dress or behave to their liking. In many places, they kill women who wear pants or appear in public without a headscarf. In much of Iraq, women are virtually confined to their homes because of the likelihood of being beaten, raped, or abducted in the streets.


[Houzan Mahmoud] has seen first-hand that for all its talk of bringing democracy to Iraq, the Bush Administration has traded the rights of more than half of the population-Iraq's women-for cooperation from the Shiite extremists whom it wagered could deliver stability. With those hopes dashed, the Administration is now backing a different horse-one that is just as woman hating and anti-democratic. As Houzan said, "Perhaps Bush's speeches about bringing democracy to Iraq made people in the US feel better about the war. But the US has only replaced Saddam's secular tyranny with an Islamist tyranny. Iraqi women are paying the heaviest price for this and genuine democracy is still a distant dream."

The next two weeks are bracketed by International Women's Day and the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Dedicate this period to listening to Iraqi women like Houzan and you will hear a re-telling of the Iraq war-one that amplifies the truth that women's human rights and democratic rights go hand-in-hand and that the Bush Administration-for all its talk-has only contempt for both.
Patrick Cockburn again:
The Iraq conflict is the great crisis of our era, but television has found it impossible to cover it properly. The dangers to correspondent and crew are too great, and the limitations of being embedded with the US or British armies subvert balanced coverage.

Watching Tony Blair claim progress in Iraq as he announced a partial withdrawal of British troops last week, I was struck for the hundredth time by the favour done to him and President George Bush by the Iraqi insurgents and militias. By killing and kidnapping journalists - and thus making so much of Iraq a media-free zone - they have ensured that the White House and Downing Street can say what they like and get away with it.

Blair spoke of British achievements in security and economic development in Basra, but there were almost no journalists on the ground to check the truth of this. One of the infuriating aspects of covering Iraq in the past three years has been to hear the US and British governments claim that there are large parts of Iraq that are at peace and know it is untrue, but to prove that they are lying would mean getting killed oneself.

Iraq has become almost impossible to cover adequately by the old system of foreign correspondents, cameraman or woman, and crew. It is simply too dangerous for a foreigner to move freely around Baghdad and the rest of the country. It is bad enough for print journalists like myself but cameramen, by the nature of their trade, have to stand in the open and make themselves visible.


Iraq is worse than previous wars. The Sunni insurgents kill or kidnap cameramen just as they do any foreigner. They regard an Iraqi cameraman as a possible spy. Important events now go unrecorded in a way that has not been true of any other recent conflict.


It has never been true that foreign journalists in Baghdad spend their time cowering in their hotels or in the Green Zone. If this was correct, far fewer would have been killed or suffered terrible injuries.


The Iraq conflict should be the turning point in television coverage of events abroad. Because of the hostility to foreign journalists, battles are being fought of which only vague reports and rumours reach the outside world. The only way the vacuum of information can be filled is by using local cameramen on a full-time basis.
And from Baghdad further posts since February 20. I noted her most recent entries here.