LIFE DURING WARTIME
September 11, 2007
by William Johnney
FOR THE FIRST TIME the anniversary falls on a Tuesday.
Tuesday six years ago was a crisp, clear day in New York. Today the Pall of Mordor has issued forth, oppressing the city, and one daydreams of the Shire.
SERVANTS, in observance, from the White House to City Hall, are pounding their podiums as they celebrate our freedoms. It seems that September 11 has supplanted July 4 as our national day.
What then has supplanted the Declaration of Independence?
The Patriot Act?
Has the country been born again?
What does its future look like, when the hearts & minds stray from the day the Declaration was signed to embrace a martial defeat that breeds ever more momentous defeats?
Shades of modernity's lugubrious Serb nationalists -- who still venerate and make war in the name of the Battle of Kosovo, 1389, where people they cleave to as ancestors were trod to dust by a more competent enemy.
The Maiden of Kosovo
LINCOLN DARED call for "a new birth of freedom" as he dedicated the fresh graves at Gettysburg, but only after recalling the enlightened Declaration's revolutionary proposition that all are equal before god and law. The war of the moment was about enforcing that contract, and, its outcome undecided, the president concluded with an appeal that weary people rededicate themselves to the effort.
All those efforts produced a revamped state where the instantiation of the idea of equality had been broadened by law, at some cost to primal freedom and political liberty -- a dialectic and a historical progression that Lincoln had been careful at Gettysburg to note in his opening line:
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
One must keep the biological sense in mind when reading "brought forth" and "conceived." Political equality then enters as a callow youth on the stage of history, looking forward to change with a hand to his lapel.
Lincoln often cited the Declaration in public speech, and made it the aegis beneath which he waged war. Some writers accuse him of distorting it, however, to suit an eccentric personal ("nigger loving") taste for equality. And some write of freedom/liberty and equality as Mighty Opposites of the same kind -- the polar Ideas of the American experiment.
But freedom/liberty and equality are not of the same kind. And if Lincoln, whom only Jefferson may challenge as the greatest writer to ever work out of the White House, had used "but" in place of the second "and" in his opening line, he would have more forcefully argued his cause.
That is: Freedom is a condition, a state of nature, in which people may enter politics, in part (as Hobbes and Locke agreed) to leave it and the jungle behind. Having entered politics, equality before law is an ideal a people might pursue, if so minded, and if they have the guts.
THE MISDEEDS THE BUSH FAMILY has authored with the word freedom go back at least to 1991, when Bush pere launched the Gulf War with a hackneyed, blasphemous speech that four times called upon Americans, as if from Lincoln's shoulders, to undertake "the hard work of freedom" in the oil fields of Mesopotamia.
Ten years later, the sheepish black-sheep scion of the family stood on the smoking pile of the Trade Center, not over graves but amid human fumes, bullhorn in hand but unprepared to speak, and squawked some roadhouse words about revenge, having months before instructed his lieutenants to prepare war plans for Iraq and Afghanistan.
HISTORY sez: Armies destroy countries -- often their own.
The Roman republic, for one -- put to sleep by a famous general and his loyal army. Writers have been comparing the United States to ancient Rome, across the full range of cultural life, since the early 19th century.
Or Germany and Japan, sixty years ago -- each burnt to cinders after provoking with its martial successes and crimes the remainder of the industrialized world into alliance.
Or the Soviet Union -- crushed by an elephantine military-industrial complex poised upon the backs of a subsisting working class -- an inverted pyramid -- a strikingly unstable equilibrium nevertheless held in place for three generations by secret police, radio and television.
The American republic built a big army to help win the world wars. That hard work done, the monster turned on its Doktor Frankenstein.
"Army" means, of course, that complex organism which Eisenhower warned in his day was busy giving birth to what now lies where the republic once stood. Three years later it killed its first president, crossing the Rubicon.
Not that the owner-operators of the United States are a corporate whole. They have been divided since before the Civil War into Yankees and Cowboys. Internationalists and Nationalists. Northeastern bankers/lawyers and frontier planters/industrialists.
Carl Oglesby's seminal The Yankee and Cowboy War (1977), one of the best conversations about American politics written in the postwar era.
Cowboys killed JFK, his brother and Martin Luther King. These were blows to the Internationalist trend, and meant that the Cowboy campaign to conquer Asia (the new frontier, continuing our businesslike westward expansion), which began in the Philippines in 1898 and blossomed over Hiroshima in 1945, would persist until beaten in battle. Korea had been a draw (with China). Vietnam would be final defeat.
(Looking back it seems clear that the most effectively patriotic foreign policy in the world since 1937, when the second war began with the invasion of China, has been conducted from Peking.)
GEORGE H. W. BUSH was a pure-bred Yankee Internationalist, which explains why, both as Reagan's Vice President and as President, he cooperated with Gorbachev and Yeltsin, why he launched the Gulf War (to restore the designated order), and why at its conclusion he refrained from dismantling the Iraqi army and deposing Saddam Hussein (to maintain the designated order).
The Jewish-American Nationalist Cowboys who had also been part of the Reagan administration (Caspar Weinberger, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Douglas Feith et al.) -- memorable for calling Bush pere a "wimp" and a "lap dog" during their feuds over foreign policy -- were furious that he allowed Hussein and Iraq's army to stand in 1991.
Then, as the suicide bombing campaign erupted in Israel circa 1992, these lobbyists of the Likud Party's visions in Washington went into overdrive. Wolfowitz, as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, authored (with help from his deputy Scooter Libby and protege Zalmay Khalilzad) the Pentagon's first post-Soviet master plan, entitled Defense Policy Guidance: a call to unilateral militarism across the globe, in defense of a militarist's dreams and interests -- and of our "friends" in the mideast.
The DPG was strange for a number of reasons. Apparently the passing of the Cold War meant not peace dividends but a new and even bigger perpetual struggle.
But also: It was an expression of radical nationalist militarism coming out of an administration headed by a phlegmatic Eastern Establishment fellow who had reacted to the stumbling of the Soviet Union by doing nothing. It now seems indicative of things to come that Cheney, as Secretary of Defense, was the broker between the DPG's furious author and his lap dog President.
The DPG was leaked to the New York Times in March 1992, raised a scandal reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, but then was forgotten outside the Beltway when Bill Clinton dismayed the military-industrial complex by defeating Bush pere in the fall election.
The handful of so-called Neo-conservatives who had survived the fabulous Bush & Baker boys now lost their White House jobs.
But inside the Beltway the DPG was not forgotten -- and almost immediately the new president came under faux legal assault, a right-wing conspiracy to be sure if less than vast. As Whitewater flourished, and gaping floozies popped up like mushrooms, the DPG's themes gathered gravitas in think tanks and became known in grave discourse as the Wolfowitz Doctrine.
And then became the basis of U.S. foreign policy under Clinton's successor.
GEORGE W. BUSH is an emotionally disordered son of a famous Yankee who found some ground beneath his feet when he was turned into a millionaire by genuine Texas Cowboy financiers and told he could ride with them and wear a Stetson.
Baby Bush's wack at war in Iraq, chiefly the work of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney, was designed in the mid 90s by Perle, Feith, and Meyrev and David Wurmser, who post Clinton inaugural were working as advisors to the Likud leadership. (See Peter Bamford's Pretext for War.) Their "Clean Break" war plan memos, produced in 1996 through a Jerusalem think tank, include suggestions for false pretexts including weapons of mass destruction as a way to keep the Americans on board.
But the Clean Break idea in its first incarnation was that Israel, not Uncle Sam, would lead the charge -- would abandon its nice-guy (?) Cold War behavior and launch a regional war to pacify Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Bibbi Netanyahu perhaps smiled: Great idea! But the Americans'll never go for it.
Perle then founded in D.C. with Wolfowitz, baby Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan et al. a new lobby organ, The Project for the New American Century. Their opening blasts -- open letters to President Clinton and Congress in early 1998 signed by twenty true believers including Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, Rumsfeld, Khalilzad, Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, William Bennet, Francis Fukuyama, Vin Weber, James Woolsey and Robert Zoellick -- were strident demands that the U.S. invade Iraq and execute regime change.
SO NOW it was the Yanks who were to make the Clean Break war, phase one Iraq rather than Syria. The Wolfowitz Doctrine had found its application, which one imagines was clear and center in its author's mind while scribing the DPG as the Soviet Union sank.
While many were still gaping at the otherworldliness of the PNAC letters -- Iraq, after all, had been reduced by war and harsh sanctions to a paper tiger -- Bush pere and his old National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, published a history of their administration of foreign policy, 1989-1992.
During those years the Berlin Wall cracked, Iraq invaded Kuwait, Germany reunited and the Soviet Union dissolved. Thus the book's title: A World Transformed. (1998)
Scowcroft and Bush pere discuss the Gulf War in detail -- then argue that the new Iraq war proposed by the PNACkers is a very bad idea -- would crack open chaos on Iran's western border and so on -- the very things Cheney was pointing out in the early 90s before he hitched his wagon, as Haliburton chairman, to the Likud Lobby train.
DESPITE A World Transformed -- or because of it perhaps -- baby Bush hired a passel of PNACkers, including Wolfowitz, Perle, Zoellick and Dov Zakheim, to advise his 2000 campaign on foreign affairs.
They then published under the PNAC umbrella, two months before the failed election, their manifesto of world conquest. Rebuilding America's Defenses elaborates upon the DPG with glossy corporate photos and the blind bloody-minded megalomania of Mein Kampf.
Like the Pentagon brass whom Kennedy inherited in 1961, the PNAC big brains in 2000 are looking foward to nuclear war with China (p7).
But first the mideast must be stabilized -- and the Clean Break template is clear between the lines. Saddam Hussein's is the only name in the review of the Persian Gulf (p17), his "passing from the scene" is anticipated twice, and it's remarked that when he's gone, over "the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has."
The saliva flows in RAD when discussing high-tech weapons and the "RMA" -- Revolution in Military Affairs -- they will bring about. New nukes. New Star Wars. The internet is to be seized by the Pentagon, unilaterally controlled and exploited militarily. Likewise outer space: no allies allowed; an entirely new service -- the U.S. Space Forces -- will do the job.
Yet militarist revolutions are hard to pull off. Particularly in a well off democracy that has not been attacked on home soil since 1814. Hence the forlorn yearning in RAD for something to kick the American people in the pants, and to instill enough fury and confusion in their minds to steamroll thoughts of peace dividends (p2). Make way for the RMA:
[T]he process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor. Domestic politics and industrial policy will shape the pace and content of transformation as much as the requirements of current missions. (p51)
The anxious compulsion to transform the world fast by building even bigger and badder armies twitches on every page of this brief -- and betrays its alien soul. The Likud Lobby's fingers are everywhere:
-- The mideast needs a re-do. Even though oil costs $20 a barrel and Iraq lies paralyzed.
-- A high-atmosphere anti-missile system again needs building. Q: Which mideast nation other than the Iraqis and Palestinians lives in fear of falling missiles?
-- Saddam is Satan and Uncle Sam's enemy. Yet was also our best paid friend in the region for years and harmless to us long since.
The RAD's 27 contributors included Wolfowitz and Libby (the principal authors of the DPG), Alvin Bernstein, Eliot Cohen, David Epstein, Robert, Donald and Fred Kagan, baby Kristol, Phil Meilinger, Steve Rosen, Abram Shulsky and Dov Zakheim.
Zakheim pops up all over the place. An old family friend of Moshe Arens (Likud leader and three times Defense Minister of Israel), Zakheim at the time he contributed to RAD was a top executive at System Planning Corporation, which makes avionics systems that allow the Pentagon to fly jets by remote control. He left SPC shortly after RAD was published to serve as Comptroller of Rumsfeld's leaky Pentagon, where he dedicated himself to quietly rearming Israel with the latest in the American arsenal, then abruptly resigned. He is one of the most underpublicized actors in the New American Century disaster movie.
SO. Bush-Cheney hired a posse of these fellows to run foreign policy.
(Libby became Cheney's chief of staff and national security advisor, with Wurmser on hand as the VP's top thinker on mideast affairs. Bolton was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control before heading to Manhattan to terrorize the U.N. Zoellick began as Trade Representative then abruptly shot to the number two slot at State under Condoleeza Rice, then, after stopping to punch his meal ticket at Goldman Sachs, replaced Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank.
The largest cluster of PNACkers gathered behind Rumsfeld in the Department of Defense, where Khalilzad headed the new administration's (aptly dubbed) transition team. Perle was named chair of the Defense Policy Board, and resigned a week after the invasion of Iraq, mission accomplished. Khalilzhad's mentor Wolfowitz was named the Deputy Secretary, directly behind Rumsfeld. Feith became number three, as Undersecretary for Policy (from which chair the DPG had issued nine years before). Shulsky was made chief of the Office of Special Plans, a brand new Defense intel unit from which with the help of William Luti would emanate much of the disinformation with which the Iraq war was sold, including the fable of Ahmed Chalabi. Meanwhile arch propagandist Michael Rubin was brought in to consult on Iran. Zakheim's tour has been noted. Recall too Rummy's hatchetman, Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, focus of the torture faux pas at Gitmo and Abu Grahib.
Khalilzad himself first served as Special Advisor to Rumsfeld, then as same to Rice on her NSC staff. Then travelled as Bush's Special Envoy to his native Afghanistan. Then as same to Iraq. Then was named Ambassador to each broken state in succession and then to the U.N. to replace the broken Bolton.)
Strange fruit of the election of a Compassionate Conservative.
Feith, for one, with his radical curriculum vitae, would seem to have been disqualified prima facie for any U.S.G. work that required security clearance. But apparently the heart of the matter became plain only when his Pentagon lieutenant Larry Franklin was sent up the river for passing secrets to Israel.
How and why such an eccentric team was put in charge of U.S. policy remains a mystery. The mainstream media never draw near the question.
But as a result, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill were each shocked to find (as recent books report) that war with Iraq was on the agenda at baby Bush's first National Security Council meeting, in January 2001. By summer the Pentagon and select foreign leaders had been told to prepare for war in Afghanistan.
IN HIS JANUARY 2002 State of the Union address, the buoyant boy president declared victory in Afghanistan and looked forward to more mayhem by nominating new enemies -- Iraq, Iran and North Korea -- the "Axis of Evil." The word freedom appeared fourteen times and whatever it may have been meant to refer to now seemed to have replaced the American people as sovereign:
History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight. ...
Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on. We have known freedom's price. We have shown freedom's power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory.
The salesmanship included a grotesque aping of President Kennedy and his Peace Corps:
My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years -- 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime -- to the service of your neighbors and your nation. Many are already serving, and I thank you. If you aren't sure how to help, I've got a good place to start. To sustain and extend the best that has emerged in America, I invite you to join the new USA Freedom Corps.
"The best that has emerged in America ..." Since 9/11, seems the sense. Since the New Pearl Harbor misbegat The Patriot Act. One recalls Bush pere crowing in public in 1991 about the "new spirit of America" on display in the Gulf War and declaring his joy that "the Vietnam Syndrome" was dead and buried.
BABY KRISTOL, it was bruited, penned a good deal of the Axis of Evil speech. However that may be, days later (2/7/02) he consented to advise the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as to "What's Next in the War on Terrorism?"
Kristol, who held no public office yet spoke repeatedly that day on behalf of the president, opened his remarks (p 18) by informing the senators that Iraq was next:
I do not think there is any controversy that we need to roll up the al Qaeda network and convince states that have provided safe havens either willingly or sort of inadvertently to aspects of that network and allies of that network that they should stop doing so.
So the real question I think is what is next in the sense of what is next in phase two of the war. I think that what is next is Iraq. I am not simply saying that because I think that should be phase two, but I think it will be. I think that is the implication of the President's State of the Union speech last week and really the implication of the logic of the war as the President understands this war.
It seems to me that the President sees the threat of the nexus of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and hostile dictatorships ... differently from the way our European allies see that threat. I was just at the Werkunde conference in Munich this weekend with several of your colleagues, Mr Chairman, and I think we were all struck by how differently the Europeans see the situation we are in.
I think this President sees the threat differently from the way his predecessor or even his predecessor's predecessor -- his father -- might have seen it. This President understands the challenge of September 11 to require, I think, that he build a new world or a new world order ...
What struck me most about being in Europe is that, that is, I think, the mainstream European view of where we are: We were attacked, we are entitled to respond, we should obviously do our best to rip up the terrorists, but basically the world has not changed and basically we are going to go back to the way things were on September 10 and the way things were in 1999 and 2000 and 2001 and the same policies more or less would and should stay in place vis a vis Iraq and Iran and North Korea and other parts of the world. I think the meaning of the President's State of the Union speech last week was that he does not agree ...
As Kristol eblaborates it becomes clear he is speaking not from Washington but from Tel Aviv, where his paranoia and militarism may perhaps be at home.
Rants against Europeans, to begin, are a staple of Likud Lobby rhetoric, fairly rooted, no doubt, in the genocidal assault of the 40s, but aimed in our day at promoting the shift in U.S. alliance foreshadowed in the DPG and implicit in Rebuilding America's Defenses: cutting ties with Europe, cleaving unto our colony in the Levant, and charging out from there with guns ablaze, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, to embrace our endless Kampf for global resources.
The party line: Washington neglected Israel's interests during the Cold War for fear of triggering armageddon with Moscow. But the fall of the Soviet Union means the gloves are now off. It's time to clean up the mideast once and for all. And for Uncle Sam to finally stand up for his friend in a rough neighborhood.
These notions and emotions, expressed in scores of writings by American lobbyists since the Berlin Wall cracked, are a primary cause of the Bush-Cheney War on Terror. The same is true of Samuel Huntington's celebrated agitprop, "The Clash of Civilizations," which fifteen years on still blares from the loudspeaker at Foreign Affairs.
Before the Committee on Foreign Relations that day, when pressed by Senator Joseph Biden (pp 32-34) about the likely ill effects of an invasion of Iraq, Kristol acknowledged the potential for chaos -- yet repeatedly asserted that any possible outcome was preferable to Saddam's status quo:
"Well, I think [the President] has made it clear that we prefer a united Iraq, but I would say this. Look ... one lesson of Afghanistan is it is very hard to know ahead of time exactly. ... [I]s it better if we have a united Iraq than a partly disunited Iraq? Sure. Is it better if we can manage it incredibly smoothly than if it is a messy chaos? Sure.
I would still say that my own judgement is that the disasters, as you called them, or the problems of even a very messy situation post-Saddam in Iraq, with potential decentralizing forces, with unrest in the Kurdish area, with unrest in Saudi Arabia, is still less, the danger of that in my view is still less than letting the status quo continue. ...
I have debated this many times and people have these cliches -- and we all use them, of course -- 'the cure would be worse than the disease.' I really do not think that is the case here. I think the current 'disease' is sufficiently grave that, even if Iraq is a mess and even if the region is something of a mess, that I think is manageable by an engaged and powerful United States, and I think the disease of letting Saddam continue to develop weapons of mass destruction is worse than almost any outcome resulting from removing Saddam from power.
Kristol's persistent prescription for perpetual war crystalizes the essence of Likud policy: Arabs in rubble -- just the way we like them.
PUBLIC DEBATE about attacking Iraq peaked in August 2002, when a blue-ribbon team of Republican strangeloves, led by Scowcroft ( Bush pere's surrogate!) and including Kissinger, launched a campaign to defuse the idea. Newspaper op-eds. The Sunday talk shows.
It was an unprecedented break of clubhouse rules for the Republican Party -- to publicly contest the policy of a sitting GOP president -- and thus a measure of how radical Bush-Cheney had become.
It seems that the Pentagon was also for the most part opposed, quite publicly. Rumsfeld had a heck of a time finding somebody to sit on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs' stool, and then, post Mission Accomplished, appointed generals to run the show on the ground who had little (Sanchez) or no (Casey) command experience. A parade of brass since has published its indignations.
Reports including those in Bob Woodward's baby Bush books also have made it clear that the President himself wavered on the Iraq thing throughout 2002. The foot dragging got so bad as to (mysteriously) provoke CIA Director George Tenet to declare the specious intel on WMD a "slam dunk."
But it seems that when the anglo-american Oil Mafia, for reasons of its own, grudgingly said yes to the war after coming to agreement with Wolfowitz & co. about how Iraq's oil infrastructure would be handled, enough pressure came to bear to have the button pushed. See among others the relevant chapters in Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse.
And recall the gossip of March 2003, that the button was actually pushed by Cheney, after a meeting with the anxious Saudi ambassador, who felt that ten months of public debate and no war had brought the region to an intolerable edge. Bush then got on the tube with Tommy Franks and wished him well.
And when asked by Woodward if he'd consulted his father before giving the general the green light, the less than prodigal son replied, "There's a higher Father that I appeal to."
(i) Bush pere and baby George are a curious pair of presidents.
(ii) History is not dead and Cowboys die hard.
FIVE DAYS AFTER his bullhorn moment in New York, Dubya launched his War on Terror -- Operation Enduring Freedom -- with a speech before Congress that used the f-word thirteen times: "Freedom is at war with fear." The most effective speech of his miserable public life.
On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars -- but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war -- but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks -- but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day -- and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.
Different, indeed. Six years later, the nation reconceived in fear, and dedicated to the proposition that the Executive Branch is above the law, is the new Nazi Germany in the eyes of the world.
Even those of our retreating allies.
Excepting of course our friends in the mideast.
FIVE WEEKS AGO, August 13, 2007, baby Kristol nodded with a sparkling smile as he assured Jon Stewart that attacking Iran was "not a bad idea."
The boys have made the boast before, but one dares say most Americans had assumed at this point, what with Donkeys running Congress and Rummy in the dumpster and Wolfie bounced from Defense and the World Bank, that the "Real Men Want to Go to Tehran" bumperstickers had been blown up & buried behind PNAC HQ.
Not so fast. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi snappily reassured her new nationwide constituency about impeachment ("Not in my House!"), a redux Attack Iran movement rose from the ashes of the 2006 elections. It seems April 2008 has been marked on certain calendars.
Are they mad? Madness is hard to measure. It may help to recall how madly, yet seriously, the boys sang about remaking the middle east with a big war back when they sat in the catbird seat, before Freedom's Fight fagged out so fatally in Baghdad.
Michael Ledeen, on the invasion's first dawn, March 19, 2003,
a day that will live in infamy, laid out the plan in The New York Sun -- a new local rag which like Murdoch's Fox News Channel was created, quite specifically, to sell the Clean Break war:
The war is a regional war, and we cannot be successful in Iraq if we only do Iraq alone. ...
Once upon a time, it might have been possible to deal with Iraq alone, without having to face the murderous forces of the other terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh, but that time has passed.
The Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi tyrants know that if we win a quick victory in Iraq and then establish a free government in Baghdad, their doom is sealed. It would then be only a matter of time before their peoples would demand the same liberation we brought to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, they must do everything in their power to tie us down in Iraq, bleed us on the ground, frustrate our designs, and eventually break our will."
PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan managed to publish a comprehensive war cry in The Washington Post six years ago today precisely:
September 11, 2001 -- the date that will live in infamy, the day the post-Cold War era ended, the day the world for Americans changed utterly.
In the coming days, as rescuers pick through the rubble in New York, in Washington, in Pittsburgh, and who knows where else across the besieged United States, ... we may begin to hear analyses as to why this "tragedy" has befallen us. ... After Pearl Harbor, almost exactly sixty years ago, there were those who argued, with perhaps even more persuasive- ness, that then, too, the United States had somehow invited the Japanese attack. ...
We are at war now. We have suffered the first, devastating strike. Certainly, it is not the last. The only question is whether we will now take this war seriously, as seriously as any war we have ever fought.
Let's not be daunted by the mysterious and partially hidden identity of our attackers. It will soon become obvious that there are only a few terrorist organizations capable of carrying out such a massive and coordinated strike. ... It will become apparent that those organiza- tions could not have operated without the assistance of some governments, govern- ments with a long record of hostility to the United States ...
That Friday evening, September 14, Wolfowitz declared perpetual world war on the PBS NewsHour:
We .. have to, I think, understand that what we've saw on Tuesday completely transforms the problem. We have got to think anew about this. The policies of the last 20 years, whether you think they were carried out effectively or ineffectively, obviously don't work. This is not going to be a problem solved by locking somebody up and putting them in jail. It's not going to be solved by some limited military action. It's going to take, as the President has said and Secretary Rumsfeld has said, a broad and sustained campaign against the terrorist networks and the states that support those networks. ...
I can tell you that at the Defense Department, both his senior civilian advisors and senior military advisors are really thinking, I hate to use the Pentagon jargon, but thinking outside the box, recognizing that the assumptions that went into military plans on September 10 just don't apply anymore and that one has to think about, if necessary, larger forces. One has to think about accepting casualties. One has to think about sustained campaigns. One has to think about broad possibilities. And we're trying to present that full range of possibilities to the President. He is the one, and I must say I've been very impressed in the discussions I've heard him in in the last few days, at his grasp of the breadth of the effort that's required.
In Bamford's A Pretext for War (must read) we find David Wurmser in January 2001, as Dubya was swearing to uphold the Constitution, promoting an even broader Pax:
America's and Israel's responses must be regional, not local. Israel and the United States should adopt a coordinated strategy, to regain the initiative and reverse their region-wide strategic retreat. They should broaden the conflict to strike fatally -- not merely disarm -- the centers of radicalism in the region: the regimes of Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Tehran and Gaza.
That would reestablish the recognition that fighting with either the United States or Israel is suicidal. Many in the Middle East will then understand the merits of being an American ally and of making peace with Israel. (p268)
And who can forget Richard Perle jumping the gun three days after the invasion of Iraq with an arch declaration of the imminent demise of not only Terror but the very World Order?
Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony he will take the United Nations down with him.
Well, not the whole United Nations. The 'good works' part will survive, the low-risk peace-keeping bureaucracies will remain, the looming chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die in Iraq is the fantasy of the United Nations as the foundation of a new world order.
As we sift the debris of the war to liberate Iraq, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions.
As free Iraqis document the quarter-century nightmare of Saddam's rule, as we hear from the survivors able to speak from their own soil for the first time, let us not forget who was for this war and who was not, who held that the moral authority of the international community was enshrined in a plea for more time for inspectors, and who marched against "regime change".
Oh that's Rich. Let us never forget indeed.
Perle's old-world nationalism -- in an age when the West is owned and operated by a loose affiliation of milliionaires and billionaires, baby, who buy and sell elected leaders like pork bellies -- is remarkable and has proven itself dangerous. Bush-Cheney hired these guys to run the world.
Listen as Ledeen works himself into a lather for freedom and (which?) fatherland:
It would be a terrible humiliation for America and Britain to fall prey to needless bloodshed because we blinded ourselves to the larger war in which we are now engaged. Iraq is a battle, not a war. We have to win the war, and the only way to do that is to bring down the terror masters, and spread freedom throughout the region.
Rarely has it been possible to see one of history's potential turning points so clearly and so dramatically as it is today. Rarely has a country been given such a glorious opportunity as we have in our hands.
But history is full of missed opportunities and embarrassing defeats.
We'll know soon which destiny we will achieve.
Der ist mein Kampf.
We were taught growing up to righteously wonder how the nazis came to power and why the German people never stopped them. Now we know.
It ought to be inconceivable that in this modern era, and in the face of experience, any nation could be so foolish and ruthless as to run the risk of plunging the whole world into war by invading and violating, in contravention of solemn treaties, the territory of other nations that have done them no real harm and which are too weak to protect themselves adequately. Yet the peace of the world and the welfare and security of every nation is today being threatened by that very thing.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937
Few Americans seem to have heard of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is the nexus of resistance to the Bush-Cheney warmongering -- often referred to as an Asian NATO, consisting of Russia, China and four central asian Istans between them.
Pushing back U.S. inroads during the 90s into the energy-rich Caspian basin, formerly Soviet property, was the prime motive for the SCO's foundation in 2001. Bush-Cheney then declared themselves possessed of the right to launch preemptive wars on Terror wherever they imagine it to be, and with that the SCO found a raison d'etre to last a century.
Iran, which ships much of its oil to China, was invited to attend last year's SCO summit as a special observer.
This past summer, for the first time, Chinese troops played war games on Russian soil with their SCO comrades.
And this past May Vladimir Putin gave perhaps the most remarkable speech of his own public life: a call to the industrial powers of the world -- consciously echoing FDR's declaration at Chicago in 1937 -- to gather together in the name of international law to quarantine the aggressor.
The future of baby Born Again America begins to look like Berlin.
READING OF LIFE IN BERLIN between the wars has been fruitful ever since it became clear that the U.S. had embarked on a program of Frankenstein militarism.
Walter Benjamin's journals and lit bits from the era deftly paint the picture of a distracted society losing its mind as the currency collapses and the stomp of approaching brownshirts vaguely echoes in the streets:
A curious paradox: people have only the narrowest private interest in mind when they act, yet they are at the same time more than ever determined in their behavior by the instincts of the mass. And more than ever the mass instincts have become confused and estranged from life.
Whereas the obscure impulse of the animal (as innumerable anecdotes relate) detects, as danger approaches, a way of escape that still seems invisible, this society, each of whose members cares only for his own abject well being, falls victim ... as a blind mass to even the most obvious danger, and the diversity of individual goals seems immaterial in the face of the identity of the determining forces.
Again and again it has been shown that society's attachment to its familiar and long since forfeited life is so rigid as to nullify the genuinely human application of intellect and forethought -- even in dire peril.
It was one of Erich Fromm's accomplishments in The Sane Society, sifting the ashes of the second war, to persuasively argue that not only people but societies may go mad:
To speak of a whole society as lacking in mental health implies a controversial assumption contrary to the position of sociological relativism held by most social scientists today. They postulate that each society is normal inasmuch as it functions, and that pathology can be defined only in terms of the individual's lack of adjustment to the ways of life in his society.
Today we come across a person who acts and feels like an automaton ... Two statements can be made about this person. One is that he suffers from a defect of spontaneity and individuality which may be incurable. At the same time it may be said that he does not differ essentially from millions of others....
For most, the culture provides patterns which enable them to live with a defect without becoming ill. It is as if each culture provides the remedy against the outbreak of manifest neurotic symptoms which would result from the defect produced by the culture.
Suppose in our western culture movies, radios, television, sports events and newspapers ceased to function for four weeks. With these main avenues of escape closed, what would be the consequences for people thrown back on their own resources?
I have no doubt that even in this short time thousands of nervous breakdowns would occur, and many more thousands of people would be thrown into a state of acute anxiety ... If the opiate against the socially patterned defect were withdrawn, the manifest illness would make its appearance.
Benjamin at his window sill, watching Berliners beer- barrel polka through life with their socially patterned defects, anticipated
the appearance of withdrawal symptoms as early as 1928,
in One Way Street:
Among the stock phrases that lay bare the stupidity and cowardice of the way of life of the German bourgeois, the locution referring to impending disaster -- "Things can't go on like this" -- is worthy of note.
The helpless fixation on notions of security and property deriving from past decades keeps the average citizen from perceiving the remarkable stabilities of an entirely new kind that underlie the present situation.
Because the relative stability of the prewar years possessed him of benefits, he feels compelled to regard any dispossession as unstable.
But stable conditions need by no means be pleasant conditions, and even before the war there were strata for whom stabilized conditions amounted to stablized wretchedness.
To decline is no less stable, no more surprising, than to rise. ... The assumption that things cannot go on like this will one day find itself apprised of the fact that for the suffering of individuals as of communities there is only one limit beyond which things cannot go: annihilation.
A bit much, perhaps.
A more likely destiny is that America becomes the Soviet Union of the 21st century, where a beastly military-industrial complex shall feed on an increasingly impoverished and policed working class that in turn spends its meagre liesure and treasure on gadgets designed to kill time.
Or perhaps another Athens, which fell to a league of its Major Power enemies after getting drawn into a dispute between one of its colonies in far flung Sicily and the angry dispossesed neighbors. As the Athenian navy sank, the democracy of Pericles, which he famously spoke of as a beautiful woman, the place where Phidias, Aeschylus, etc., came to work, gave way to a series of oligarchical tyrannies, one of which put Socrates to death for corrupting the young with questions. There and then Plato's bleak politics were born, reactions to decades of public treachery and strife.
Whether or not the Clean Break war becomes a world war may depend on whether the other industrialized powers decide that Bush-Cheney are (i) an aberration -- playthings of a passing Israeliocentric clique that empowered itself with Straussian guile -- or, rather, (ii) the true face of the corporatocracy that consumed the American republic in the latter half of the 20th century.
It seems it would encourage the world to conclude the latter were we to install another White House GOPher in 2009.
FRANK ZAPPA is often said to have observed:
The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre.
Certain owner-operators of the American state began to clear the theater on November 22, 1963. The curtain was pulled back on Election Day November 2000. And the pace of constitutional corruption since has been breathtaking. There is no reason to think the 2008 presidential elections will be any more legitimate than the two preceding.
Leaving the two elections aside. While recalling the harassment and impeachment of Clinton. And the deceitfully conceived and disastrously prosecuted Clean Break war. One thinks of the attendant financial corruption. And recalls with fury and shame the negligent, incompetent non-reaction to Hurricane Katrina. And the bestial crimes of our soldiers and "private contractors" in Iraq (Blackwater=brownshirts). And notes that the scope of the warrantless wiretapping is expanding as we breathe.
A trunkload of offenses more impeachable by far than those of Jackson and Clinton have breezed by, without so much as a censure from Congress, or a Molotov cocktail or a tossed cream pie.
ALDOUS HUXLEY, looking back in Brave New World Revisited (1958) to his dystopic vision of 1931, already sensed that perhaps we have seen freedom's enemy and he is us:
In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society, the scientific caste system, the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning, the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically induced happiness, the orthodoxies drummed in by nightly courses of sleep-teaching -- these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren. ...
Twenty-seven years later ... I feel a good deal less optimistic. ... In the West ... individual men and women still enjoy a large measure of freedom. But ... this freedom and even the desire for this freedom seem to be on the wane.
The italicized worry recalls Erich Fromm's famous thesis that authoritarianism seems to have come in lockstep with industrialism, as the fear generated by the latter's economic convulsions propels the new proles (erstwhile peasants) to Escape from Freedom by empowering technocratic tyrants. Offering up their children, generation after generation, to businesslike wars on the far side of the world:
Oh God will save her, fear you not --
be you the men you've been
Get you the sons your fathers got
and God will save the Queen
Thus spake Houseman. Much too long ago to remain so real.
Television of course by 2000 had long ago provided the owner-operators of the U.S. the means to buy and thus neuter the Congress, and to sell any nonsense at all to the taxpayers.
Nevertheless, it remains something of a mystery here, as it seems to have been for Huxley, why so very few free citizens of intellectual ilk seem to give a damn.
One thing however seems clear: the retreat of best & brightests into Academia post 60s -- post assasinations, Vietnam, Watergate -- cost the country dearly, setting the stage for a coup d'etat a la mode Leo Strauss. The dirty business of politics was left to dirty men.
T.V. GUIDE suggests that Forrest Gump, the film, is a spiritual foundation of our new and perhaps most criminal war. Forrest neutralizes the lessons of Vietnam with a heartwarming argument for ignorance. And what with A&E and AMC, and TBS and TNT, it seems not more than fourteen days ever escape without a featured presentation of Forrest Gump on the tube: couch therapy that frees young working class Americans, never much for history, to again proudly kill and be killed by foreign peasants.
But what of the rising rich? Our spirit-poor, ill educated but well trained elite?
One perceives in their words and policies the growing godlike guess that the center cannot hold, Fordism is dead, and the devil may therefore be permitted with clean conscience to take the hindmost nine out of ten. Catastrophes of all sorts disturb the horizon. Most people seem unlikely to make it. So why fund their pension and health plans? Why not monetize their water instead?
Thus moralize the conservative children of the Reagantime, in the Wall Street Journal and in sexy TV commercials and shows where the mob mentality stomps triumphant.
Show Business Kids.
One wonders how long one can remain among them, here in the scoured Shire.
LINCOLN SPENT almost all of his political life speaking cautiously about slavery. In his late teens on a trip down river to New Orleans he was shocked and, it seems, spiritually wounded by the sight of slaves at work en masse. Early on in politics he was a supporter of the Missouri Compromise and then a Free Soiler.
When southerners controlling the Senate led by Stephen Douglas broke the compromise by passing the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, war was in the cards. And, despite talk by revisionist historians about States' Rights, slavery was the palpable cause.
The broken compromise provoked Lincoln to leave his comfy corporate law practice to contest in national politics. He won the presidency in 1860 with a moderate position, calling in essence for a restoration of Free Soiling. His rhetoric henceforth was dominated by the principle that the Union must be preserved.
Desperate in mid war, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a temporary writ of martial law that applied only to non-border rebelling states. He suggested founding a homeland for black Americans in Africa, doubting they could live with whites amicably here.
All this left Lincoln wiggle room to work with the plainfolk bigots with whom he shared power, and has left historians plenty of text with which to paint him no enemy of slavery, no true friend of equality or freedom.
Months before he died, however, he delivered his second inaugural address: the angriest words ever spoken to the American people by a president. Perhaps only Eisenhower's farewell was more momentous, for looking forward in warning. Rather than back in mourning.
With the trying '64 election past, and the war's outcome no longer in doubt, Lincoln finally told the pious American people, north and south, what he thought of them. The axe is raised in the third paragraph and falls in the final two.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.
"Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
THE TRANSFORMATIONS of American society under industrialism have been charted in a piece by R.G. Price posted at a place called Rational Revolution. The summary conclusion:
The Enlightenment era of the 18th and 19th centuries created a whole new world of ideas for mankind. The new ideologies that developed out of the Enlightenment, combined with the sweeping changes ushered in by the development of democracy, science, and industrialization, resulted in a highly ideologically polarized world in the 20th century.
All of these changes challenged traditional world-views and institutions. Laissez-faire capitalism had expanded rapidly in America during the late 19th century, but laissez-faire capitalism reached a world-wide stage of crisis in the early part of the 20th century, both moral and practical, resulting in two primary outcomes: The rise of the socialist movement to overthrow capitalism, and the development of fascism to use the State to prop it up.
Fascism, though, embodied more than just that, because the once revolutionary institution of capitalism had now become the potential "victim" of the next revolution. Capitalism, once independent from the State and aligned with liberalism, then became aligned with elements of conservatism. The State and Capital together reached back into the Old World, grasped onto the Church, and called on the name of God Almighty to save them from revolution.
This is fascism. The rejoining of Church, State, and Commerce into a unified and mutually supportive relationship for the maintenance of power.
The rise of fascism took a different, non-revolutionary, path in America than it took in Europe. European fascism was certainly more extreme and malignant, but it has to be repeated that the term "fascism" has an unfairly negative connotation today because of its association with the Axis powers
Describing the post Second World War American State as fascist isn't an attempt to stigmatize it, but rather to understand the qualities of the modern American State, for better or for worse, and to understand the many different factors that contributed to the establishment of the greatly more powerful American Federal Government during World War II and to what ends that power would be wielded in the second half of the 20th century.
The story seems dated only for not noting that power to control the organs of the American Federal Government continues, since 1947, to migrate into the private sector.
These are days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires, baby
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby, don't cry, don't cry, don't cry
Back to top
Please post comments here.