Posted by: quiscus | June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010

1.  “From Great Man to Great Screwup: Behind the McChrystal Uproar

Like their counterparts at media outlets across the United States, members of the Times editorial board are clinging to the counterinsurgency dream.

But none of such pro-war handwringing makes as much sense as a simple red-white-and-blue bumper sticker that says: “These colors don’t run . . . the world.”

Fierce controversy has focused on terminating a runaway general. But the crying need is to terminate a runaway war. ”

2.  “War Makes Us Poor

Far from rescuing the economy from recession or depression, needless conflicts drain capital from productive uses.

In a 1953 speech, President Dwight Eisenhower noted, “The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.” His point, quite simply: money not spent on the military could be spent elsewhere.

This also applies to human resources. The more than 200,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan could be doing something valuable at home.

Why is this hard to understand? The first reason is a point 19th-century French economic journalist Frederic Bastiat made in his essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” Everyone can see that soldiers are employed. But we cannot see the jobs and the other creative pursuits they could be engaged in were they not in the military.

Whatever other reasons there may be for war, strengthening the economy is never one of them.”

3.  “CIA hires Xe, formerly Blackwater, to guard facilities in Afghanistan, elsewhere”

4.  “Israel Draws Up Plans for Next Gaza Invasion

5.  “Israel Air Force (IAF) Landed at Saudi Base, US Troops near Iran Border

The Israeli Air Force recently unloaded military equipment at a Saudi Arabia base, a semi-official Iranian news agency claimed Wednesday, while a large American force has massed in Azerbaijan, which is on the northwest border of Iran.

Both reports follow by less than a week the Pentagon’s confirmation that an unusually large American fleet sailed through the Suez Canal Saturday. Several reports stated that an Israeli ship joined the armada.”

6.  “The Permanent Dehumanizing of Humanity?

Our moral sense finds this legal argument repugnant, and insists on calling a spade a spade:  a man was unnecessarily killed as a result of obsessive consumerism in which human beings acted less than human.

Damour’s death is horrific enough in itself as an example of the potential consequences of the  manipulation of human nature into what film maker Adam Curtis terms “the all-consuming self.” [2] But a mind-boggling video interview with a customer after the incident raises the hypothesis of our deterioration into a subhuman species.  A transcript follows, but Footnote 3 gives the link to the You Tube video, which is even more chilling to watch.

Yeah, I was here on Black Friday.  Let me tell you about that guy that died.  About two thousand  of us [were] outside in a…nasty, cold…parking lot — compressed into a small space….That is not  a humane way to treat 2,000 people; they should have set up something like a tent for us to sit in  and possibly eat pancakes….That is terrible thing to do to people….And on the inside there was a  lot of good deals….He didn’t get out of the way.  He opened the door and he stood there.  This was  the one obstacle we had between us and the deal of a lifetime….They said “y’all got to leave.”  Most of us said, “unh, unh” [the man gives the finger at this point].  This is Wal-Mart.  I can do what I  want here.  Always.  You seen the sign outside?  It says I can do what I want here.  Actually, I think  it says “Low Prices Always,” but I equate low prices to freedom.  Eagles.  Bald ones. Everywhere…. On this particular day, the most holiest of days, Black Friday, [a Wal-Mart employee is meant to  help people] buy things much cheaper than normal.  And he kept getting in the way….Serves him  right, that’s all I have to say.  I bought a whole set of silverware for eight…for $7.00.  If that guy  hadn’t been standing in my way, I could have gotten it much faster….I bought a bunch of presents  for my children…[including] a Barbie…and for Susie…just… a bunch of flannel shirts; I’m pretty  sure Susie is going to end up being a lesbian.  She’s always doing weird things; she’s always sawing  wood up out in the yard….For my wife I got a shotgun in the hunting section and a tent; she might  also be a lesbian, I don’t know — all the girls in my family are fucked up.  If that guy wasn’t there I  could have very easily gotten in and gotten out a little quicker.”  [3]

How did we get to this point?  To a juncture in which humans are not only capable of mindless killing in their all-consuming narcissism but are also exhibiting an apparent descent of their very species?

Yet we can also see, in our own populace, evidence of psychological impoverishment, diminished self-regard, a brutalization of feelings and customs, and an absence of vital instincts.  The ruling class has been working calculatingly and patiently over a very long period to restructure human nature to its liking, and has succeeded alarmingly in reducing our capacity even to notice this agenda.

This lack of noticing, so opposed to our inherent animal instinct to remain alert to danger on all sides, is due in large part to psychopathogy’s  greatest  survival mechanism and greatest asset in achieving dominance:  the inability of good-hearted humans to conceive of evil on that scale.  In Lobaczewski’s words, “the pathocratic world, the world of pathological egotism and terror, is so difficult to understand for people raised outside [its] scope that they often manifest childlike naiveté, even if they have studied psychopathology and are psychologists by profession.”

7.  “Right-wing self-delusion

National Review‘s Jay Nordlinger cites a truly repellent (and false) comment made this week by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “A million and a half people are living in Gaza, but only one of them is really in need of humanitarian aid,” Barak said.  Nordlinger points out that Barak was referring to Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage for years by Hamas, which refuses to permit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to him.  After observing that neither “the Cuban dictatorship or Chinese dictatorship permit the Red Cross to see prisoners,” Nordlinger then claims — with the needy victimization that typifies the Right — that “there’d be mass demonstrations in [Shalit’s] behalf all over Europe, and on American streets, too” if “Shalit were other than Israeli.”  In other words, Nordlinger believes that the Western World would never tolerate the denial of ICRC access to detainees except when the detainee is Israeli.

I’m asking this literally:  is Nordlinger ignorant of the fact that the United States of America denied ICRC access to non-Israeli prisoners for years during the prior administration?

All of this raises a tangentially related point:  I spent the first three years or so of my political writing focused on how extremist and odious America’s Bush-supporting Right is (I even wrote three books with that as a central theme).  I don’t write much about them these days — largely because I’m much more interested in writing about the faction in power than out of power, and because there are countless Democratic blogs and other venues devoted to reflexively spouting the “GOP-is-Evil” talking points on a daily basis — but it is worth being reminded now and then, with episodes like this one, exactly why the faction that still dominates the American Right is as loathsome and irrational as ever, if not more so.”

8.  “Making It McChrystal Clear

The war system’s response to Gen. McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview is instructive. It is a reminder that every Memorial Day should begin by honoring the first victim of every war: truth. But as all wars are grounded in lies – the bloodier the war the more enormous the falsity of its foundation – truth becomes not only a casualty, but the enemy itself.

Whether McChrystal’s assessment was correct is not the point: it is the threat to the war racket of having insiders purporting to address the reality of war that so disturbs the state. Men of the general’s stature are expected to have greater access to evidence supporting their opinions, thus enhancing their credibility. The public acceptance of war is the default position that perpetuates its insanity. “Truth” is the input that “does not compute” within the logic of the war system, and the state undertakes every precaution – such as censorship, labeling documents and other discomforting facts as “top secret” – to silence any doubts that might be raised as to the validity of the propagandized campaign on behalf of death and destruction.

The annual ritual of gathering at the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” – is there even a body within it? – is a convenient way of reinvesting popular commitments to hazy purposes. The uncertainties and contradictions that attend the “fog of war” are more easily overlooked – or ignored – when the fallen soldiers, themselves, can be enshrouded in the cloak of being “unknown.” If the soldiers who die are unfamiliar to us – fungible nonbeings who, like ourselves, have been conditioned to serve the state – how can the rest of us be expected to cut our ways through the cloudiness? As long as we are prepared to insist upon the protection of our ignorance; to wave our flags when the cheerleaders so direct us; and to regard war as but the expression of some imagined sense of “human nature,” this evil, institutionally-profitable racket will continue unabated. The entire mess can then be synthesized into such an incoherent hodgepodge of confusing complexity that no one can be expected to make any sense of it. As in trying to unravel the causation of recessions, depressions, and other dislocations – an effort that requires a basic understanding of economic principles that most of us have learned to dismiss as the “dismal science,” whose intricacies and subtleties are best left to institutional wizards and czars – Boobus can take comfort in his ignorance of the critical events in his life.”

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