Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mr. Williams' Strange Fruit

On first reading, I don't even know what to say about this bit of decayed tripe, but I know I've got to say something.

Let's start with ol' Walt's depiction of himself as part of the generation that whupped the Nazis in WWII ("my generation"): "Today's Americans are vastly different from those of my generation who fought the life-and-death struggle of World War II."

Now, why does ol' Walt begin in this fashion? Why does Walt begin a screed on nuking the Middle East with an association of himself with WWII? According to his bio, Williams was no more than nine years old at the end of WWII. He was no more a direct functionary in that conflict than Howdy Doody. Maybe he can take credit for pitching in a dented pot toward a scrap metal drive, but that's about the extent of his contribution in that war. His generation? No. His parent's generation did that heavy lifting, not his.

But, he wants you, his reader, to think that his personal experience in that war was somehow sufficiently adult and mature in nature to inform his judgment now about the current situation in the Middle East. It's a rhetorical sleight-of-hand trick to convince the reader that his conflation of WWII and current events is based on his intimate and personal knowledge of war in that historical context--about which, as a nine-year-old, he could have known nothing in the way of actual personal combat.

Throughout, Williams avoids two salient points which would induce sensible people to differentiate current conditions from WWII. The first, of course, is that our participation in WWII was initiated by the actions of two nation states--Japan and Germany. We declared war on Japan shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Germany declared war on us on Dec. 8th, 1941. Notable difference there with regard to world war declared by nation states on one another and terrorism as it is currently expressed in the world. The second point to be made is that the experience of WWII has informed the world of the horrors of precisely the sorts of conflagrations which Williams suggests are not employed today because of "handwringing" and "appeasement." If there are attempts to avoid them today, it is exactly because of that dark knowledge.

And, yes, let's just bring color into this for a moment, because it bears on Williams' conclusions. In that war which Williams thinks defined American principles, U.S. troops were largely segregated when stateside. Japanese-American volunteers (those that weren't confined in internment camps--I guess one of the values we were fighting for in WWII was, therefore, xenophobia) were shunted into units such as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, while black folks, like Williams' kin, were only allowed to fly in segregated units such as the Tuskegee Airmen. The services weren't desegregated until Truman's order after the war. And Truman was a Democrat, not one of Williams' current racist brethren in the right wing. If Williams' current friends had been in charge of the government from then to now, he'd still be drinking from "Colored Only" water fountains and getting the shit beat out of him if he didn't look down when a white man's wife passed him on the sidewalk.

Williams' political allies are racists, closeted and otherwise. And he thinks he'll obtain their friendship (and, perhaps, some of their power) if he parrots their racist screeds against other people of color--which, face it, is exactly what nonchalantly describing wiping out much of the Middle East with nuclear weapons is. Uncle Tom is too kind a description for someone advocating--or, at the very least, dismissing the moral implications inherent in--nuclear war against countries, full of brown people, which have not attacked us, and do not have the ability to attack us with such weapons. (Williams writes with certainty of "Iran's... nuclear weapons program" and yet, there is no definitive evidence to date that they have a nuclear weapons program. Nuking millions on the basis of unproven assertions and misapprehension of threats on the part of the far right hardly qualifies as a morally justified act in any rational person's book.)

What a fuckin' putz. What he's saying here is that it's really okay to kill millions of people with nuclear weapons because the people in power in this country may want them killed--as an expression of sheer will and expediency. (Though he says, "I'm sure there are other less drastic military options," the inference to be drawn throughout is that the only reason we haven't already done so is because "today's Americans" are afraid and weak.)

Backhandedly, he wishes to validate the view that the winners are never tried for war crimes. If Williams had given even a moment's thought about Dresden and Tokyo and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he would have remembered Curtis LeMay's words: "I suppose if we'd lost the war, we would have been tried as war criminals." Instead, he says: "Such an argument would have fallen on deaf ears during World War II when we firebombed cities in Germany and Japan. The loss of lives through saturation bombing far exceeded those lost through the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki." This is his way of saying that it would be okay to kill innocent people with atomic weapons. We've done worse, after all, he intimates, in an equally good cause (precisely the sophistry necessary to conflate WWII with terrorism today). Ol' Walt may find fine moral distinctions between exterminating millions of innocents with atomic weapons instead of mass incendiary bomb attacks, but, alas, I do not. Neither do those who lived through such attacks.

Implicit in Williams' argument is that we can engage in war crimes if we assert, with some firmness, that we are right, and that, if we bury central Asia in nuclear explosions, we'll win and we won't be war criminals, because we were not weak and won. Does ol' Walt pretend to the same logic as Gen. LeMay? It seems so.

Okay, let's say that Williams is right and terrorism disappears (for a few years) after we expend a few hundred nukes on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and China. Let's say, for argument's sake, that we obliterate the people inhabiting a third of the world in doing so. Who are the war criminals? The millions of innocents who did nothing overt to us... or us, who killed millions because the right-wing crazies in our society (along with good, dependable, loyal Walt) thought that striking in speculative, preventive fashion with massive nuclear force was the same thing as being morally correct? Does that somehow change the nature of a war crime of incalculable proportions? It does not.

One would think (wrongly, apparently, in Dr. Williams' case) that a black man in America would understand that there's no difference between a lynching noose and a nuke, except for scale, and that the higher moral ground depends not at all upon who's on which end of the rope.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Portnoy's Posner's Complaint

It seems that, as Election Day approaches, all the loonies on the right are trying to outdo each other in the attempt to find ever more absurd and dangerous ways to sabotage the Constitution, and thereby, the country.

The latest totalitarian nightmare proposed is for yet another intelligence service--this time an internal spy shop--offered with a grand flourish by Judge Richard Posner (the very same who found such delight and satisfaction in Tony "The Fixer" Scalia's use of torture on the 14th Amendment in Bush v. Gore).

Posner is so thoroughly pleased with himself and his idea that he even suggests that Bush could create an American version of the UK's MI5 by executive order, thus encouraging Bush and Cheney to further subvert civil rights and usurp power. (I wonder if he's given any thought to who will be paying for that little number. Maybe Bush can skirt the Congressional appropriations process by taking the money out of the White House housekeeping budget.) Posner also has a lot of other neat ideas to make Bush the King of the United States, as Glenn Greenwald outlines here.

Maybe it's time for some review. When the Bushies rammed the PATRIOT Act down the terrified collective throat of Congress in near-record time, a few weeks after 9/11, the rationale given was that it was needed to better fight terra and that it would improve information sharing between the FBI and the CIA. In fact, it was a wish list of the law enforcement community to skirt Constitutional rights that had been in the works for some time, and introduced us all to sneak-and-peek searches without prompt notification, the accelerated use of warrantless National Security Letters and gag orders for just about everything the government does to someone.

At virtually the same moment, the Bushies began using the NSA to listen in on anyone they pleased, without warrants from the FISA court, although we didn't know it at the time.

Not long after the passage of the PATRIOT Act, we found that Adm. John Poindexter (of Iran-Contra infamy) was busy as a bee working on the most massive database of citizen data ever and data-mining tools to accompany it, collectively known as "Total Information Awareness." The truly Orwellian and creepy name was only outdone by the agency logo.

Then we're subjected to Tom Ridge's coded terrorist threat warning system with a color scheme borrowed from a kid's xylophone.

Then, minutes later (or so it seemed), Ashcroft announced his TIPS program, which was short for the "Be A Snitch Bitch For Bush Club."

Then, even though, as we were told by Congress, the problem with the 9/11 attacks was that the CIA and the FBI weren't talking to each other, the Bushies decided to launch the Nazi-sounding Homeland Security Department (after dissing Congress for suggesting it first), which was supposed to consolidate agencies with territorial responsibilities and make communication better. In fact, the Bushies created the biggest corporate boondoggle in history, making communications so much better, in fact, that the White House could ignore the drowning of New Orleans. But, along with Homeland Security came new intelligence capabilities embedded in agencies such as the Transportation Security Agency (which gave us no-fly lists which caused known terrorists such as Ted Kennedy to be searched repeatedly at airports--all the while making the reasons for adding names to the lists and the means to get off such lists a secret).

Then, we got an invasion of Iraq, which we were told would reduce world terrorism, and actually made it worse, and which set off a whole host of intelligence agencies--local, state, and national--spying on peace activists and anti-war demonstrators.

Then, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided to listen to yet more bad advice from the independent 9/11 commission and passed the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, which created yet another new intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Directorate, with the director of the Directorate to be a cabinet officer (nah, that wouldn't politicize intelligence gathering and analysis, now, would it?), currently headed by the chief Contra spook, John Negroponte; it also added yet more items from the law-enforcement Christmas list that they couldn't get passed in the PATRIOT Act, and set up yet another layer of bureaucracy onto an intelligence system already over-buttered with same. Did it consolidate all intelligence operations under one umbrella--as was the intention? Well, no. Various intelligence agencies living in the dark corners of the basement of the Pentagon aren't affected--some of which are spying on U.S. citizens.

Meanwhile, the bribers and the bribees have been doing everything they can to privatize intelligence functions because intelligence appropriations are secret, y'know.

Then we find, with all this new cooperation between agencies and better flow of communication and nifty new agencies, that we're torturing the mentally ill to get leads on terrorists which have sent all the wonderful agencies above, and especially the FBI, scurrying around on wild-goose chases.

Then, we find that the NSA is collecting everyone's phone logs and looking for interesting tidbits in those--without warrants, of course. Gee, after all, they're just business records... or so the complicit phone companies assert.

And now, after all of that officious and intrusive rigamarole--which was put in place to "stop" terrorism, Judge Richard A. Posner, he of the "give the President all the power he desires" branch of government, wants a brand-new domestic spy service modeled after Great Britain's MI5.

Seems Posner has forgotten a few things in his haste to further enslave the population. The basic legal structure of Great Britain hasn't changed a whole lot since the English Revolution, and some of the things they do were the reasons why we fought a war of independence. They have an Official Secrets Act--which we don't, because we have a Constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press, which they don't (although there's a certain Judge T.S. Ellis III who's doing his damnedest to change that by, gasp, legislating from the bench). They also have an MI5 because they don't have a Constitutionally-guaranteed Bill of Rights regarding simple civil rights which prevent the government from acting without the concurrence of the courts and without adhering to due process. Quaint, I know, but that's still the law here, however much the authoritarians in government have sought to chip away at those rights.

Posner's reason (poor word for what he's suggesting) for his recommendation is that, well, darn, the FBI would be much more interested in catching real criminals, such as--as Posner offers helpfully--eco-terrorists who make corporations look bad, instead of doing the disappointingly boring work of intelligence-gathering, which might lead to dead ends instead of criminal prosecutions. (Gee, did Posner think, even for a moment, that they might actually be tired of chasing down Abu Zubaydah's delusional fantasies extracted by torture? See link above.)

What this train wreck of a thought process suggests to me, however, is that Posner, like his cohorts in the Bush administration, wishes to elevate terrorists to some exalted position far above that of criminal in order to justify both international military action in the "war on terra" as a cover for neo-colonial operations and to further diminish civil rights at home as a means of intimidating dissenters and inflating the power of the Executive Branch.

The people who struck this country on 9/11 are terrorists, and they are criminals. They are not a sovereign state upon which the military can be set with any hope of doing anything but increasing their ranks. They have engaged in criminal behavior. Even before 9/11, we had all the tools necessary to find, capture and convict such criminals. Some in the FBI even then were doing the intelligence work to divine the particulars of the criminal plot and were thwarted by their superiors in the FBI. Even then, there was signals intelligence to suggest an imminent strike against our territory, but which the NSA--despite its massive computer power and equally massive budget--was too slow in translating and communicating to other authorities. On the day of the attacks, the most complicated and expensive early warning/air defense system in the world couldn't communicate quickly and efficiently with officials in other agencies such as the FAA, and couldn't discern reality in the air from its own drills underway at the same time. Even in early August, the CIA was predicting near-future, if not imminent, attacks on targets in the country, and the President, the very same President whom Posner believes should now have even more unlimited power to spy on citizens, told the CIA, "fine, you've covered your ass."

Posner cites as further necessity for a new spy agency the fact that the FBI has wasted $100 million on a computer system intended to streamline its data collection and data sharing abilities. This is yet another non-reason, and is completely unrelated to the matter of needing more spies--it is, rather, a sign of the need to end corruption in the procurement processes of government (which Congress has been loathe to do, because the root of that corruption is in the Congressional appropriations process) and of an even greater need to throw out the top management of the FBI (something which should have been done by the President when it was revealed that FBI officials did not act on actionable intelligence from its field offices--especially from its offices in Arizona and Minnesota). Instead, the offenders were promoted.

What we have here, as the warden of the prison in "Cool Hand Luke" says, "is a fail-ya to commu-na-cate." Every action the Bush administration and Congress have taken after 9/11 has complicated this effort, principally by creating a new intelligence bureaucracy and, equally, by imposing new standards of secrecy which are politically motivated and have little to do with actual security--these are actions which will make us less secure and will cause us to lose essential rights as citizens--the foremost of which is knowing what our government is doing in our names.

To correct that, Judge Posner wants yet another domestic agency spying on us. Yeah, that'll help a whole helluva lot. Judge, you'd better hope your smiley-faced Stasi spooks never have a reason to spy on you. Of course, you can never be sure about that in a secret police state, can you?

Watching the Canaries

I, as with others, am uncertain about the Bushies' timing and techniques for the end game with Iran. As with another (ongoing) military conflict, Bush has said he wants to use all available diplomatic tools regarding Iran's nuclear program (snickers here, as required).

Thus far, the agency with the most information on that program is the IAEA, and they've been pretty clear, from report to report, that they've found no hard evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran's facilities. Nevertheless, the Bushies tried to create a set of circumstances where Iran would have to suspend activities it can legally pursue under the NNPT before any negotiations could begin, i.e., it would have to give up all its negotiating points first.

Sort of a sure way to be able to say, later, "we had to do something militarily. Iran wouldn't negotiate in good faith." In its effect, that predictable response will be founded on the same logic which Bush used in stating that "Saddam wouldn't disarm."

The extreme right has been getting into quite a lather about bombing Iran, lately, and Fox News has been doing its part to stir them up.

The only way to bring the rest of the population into the frenzy, however, is via the broader news media. Bush was able to do this before the Iraq invasion because he had the AUMF from Congress in his pocket. He, Rummy and Cheney have been hitting the airwaves in the last few days trying to gin up enthusiasm for their war in Iraq in particular, and for the "war on terra" in general. But, they haven't exactly been trying to specifically promote war against Iran--yet.

Will they begin that process immediately after Labor Day, as with the last war (Iraq's WMDs available to attack us on forty-five minutes' notice)? I don't know--the crystal ball's in the shop for a tune-up. But, given how badly wrong Iraq has gone, the Bushies might get their collective head handed to them if they try to push through yet another AUMF, this time against Iran, before the election. No Republican in Congress in his or her right mind would jump onto that bandwagon close to an election which will hinge on war so completely as the upcoming one--unless there's public opinion to support such a move. (Note, though, that there are any number of Republicans, and not a few Democrats, who are not in their right minds and would support such a resolution, but likely not nearly enough to force it through, if the majority thought such was politically iffy).

That eventuality would leave Bush with the choice to wait for public acceptance of yet another war to build, or to act on his own without the approval of Congress. The former would provide the Republicans with no bounce before the election, and the election might bring in a change of control of either House or Senate, or both, which would effectively bring to an end any prospect of Bush obtaining his new war from Congress without his first finding some resolution of the situations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and perhaps, not even then.

The latter option would require Bush (read Cheney) to either ignore the War Powers Act, or to manufacture some fig leaf of an imminent threat from Iran (and a difficult task that would be--simply arguing that Iran didn't roll over on demands for it to end its nuclear power program wouldn't cut it). Bush (read Cheney) could likely count on a dead-duck Republican Congress to roll over on the issue--as they have done on every other matter of Bush exceeding his Constitutional and legal authority, but that would only last until the 110th Congress was called to order. Then, hopefully, all hell would break loose.

If we assume, for the sake of hypothesis, that Bush/Cheney decide to attack Iran before the election, without an AUMF, what happens to public opinion? The Bushies had already begun softening up Iraq in August, 2002, with the bombing of strategic targets (the news of which, with the complicity of the media, did not appear until more than a year later), and had almost seven months to soften up the American public before the invasion began.

No such options exist today with regard to Iran. There aren't any no-fly zones in Iran to disguise the actions of the military ahead of an attack, as with Iraq. Neither Bush nor Cheney nor Rumsfeld could depend upon the military agreeing to an invasion of Iran (given the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan), and available reporting on the matter consistently suggests that only a massive air bombing campaign is being contemplated and it is that for which planning proceeds.

Bush would necessarily have to spring the news of such an attack on the nation as it was happening--to avoid alerting Iran's air defenses--or after it had taken place. If it were kept secret until that time, there would be no media coverage until after the fact. Without the media to provide the spin background, what on earth might the public think, left as it were to draw its own conclusions? The White House--and the military--can't depend alone upon military briefings from that expensive PR set in Qatar--with no reporters in the audience, or on a few videos of satellite-guided bombs striking Iranian dirt (which is about all one would see, since the prime targets are said to be deeply buried).

No, what's needed are reporters secretly embedded on aircraft carriers, providing color commentary for film of the night-time launches of aircraft, full of afterburner flames, on missile destroyers to get videotape of cruise missiles being launched, in England and Diego Garcia to record the B-52s and B-2s taking off, all of which can be used as a backdrop for the networks' military experts to expound on the precision and efficacy of and necessity for the attack. There will be no tanks speeding to Teheran, or pictures of ground artillery exploding, or interviews of grunts saying, "hi," to the folks back home to add a human touch.

The press has been extraordinarily cooperative with the Bushies to date when it comes to covering their wars, so one can't rule out their complicity in the secrecy necessary to pull off such a stunt, but, one thing's for sure--Bush can't get away with an unprovoked war without the help of the press. If there's nothing to counter the inevitable pictures of dead civilians, Bush will appear to even the western nations as an aggressor and a war criminal. (He will, anyway, but American public opinion is what counts to this bunch.)

Yes, a last couple of possibilities exist. The Republicans could retain Congress despite the lack of a war-fever bounce, and could pass an AUMF at any time, giving Bush the latitude to have his war at the time of his choosing, and with the press singing his praises beforehand in four-part harmony. Second, yes, even if the Repugs lose in November, they can come back to Washington and ram through an authorization for an attack, which could be completed well before the new Congress was sworn in, and public opinion be damned.

So far, the Bush war cohort has just been making vague noises about "Islamic fascists" and, maybe, that will be enough to rouse the faithful and pull them into the voting booths in November. But, that's a big gamble, given public sentiment at the moment. It's no accident, though, that the ultimatum given Iran comes due on August 31st, four days before Labor Day, Andy Card's "launch date" for "new products."

If the rhetoric coming out of the White House doesn't change substantially in September, it will be up to the people watching the media to see if there are reassignments of reporters, above and beyond the usual, to places such as Bahrain (Fifth Fleet headquarters), Qatar (Air Force Middle East headquarters) and the UAE (short-notice US Navy dock facilities), because when it comes to war, Bush can't do it without the press. In this instance, reporters and news teams from the networks will be the canaries in this particular coal mine, and there would be some doubt we're going to see any other indications, other than perhaps some vague and unstructured talk, that an attack is imminent.

Bush thinks his legacy is at stake (little does he know that he's already buggered himself as far as the historians are concerned), and Cheney knows his fortunes are tied to those of the oil companies, to which Cheney owes his only true loyalty. If the Repugs don't pull off an election win in November, both Bush and Cheney will spend their last two years in office fending off all manner of Congressional investigations and living with the prospect, as more and more dirt is revealed (as it will be), of impending impeachment. They may come to believe that a surprise attack on Iran is politically vital, fabricating a win for themselves out of the whole cloth of the flag. But, without the press to add the pizazz, the rah-rah commentary and flashes of red, white and blue, Bush could end up just looking like a war criminal to most of the voters in November.

If, though, after Labor Day, they send out all their minions to the four winds and all the Sunday talk shows to make unverifiable statements such as, "Iran will not give up its programs of weapons of mass destruction," or, "Iran is currently resupplying Hezbollah with long-range missiles capable of hitting the U.S.," then, all bets are off. In that case, they'll be trying to work up public opinion as fast as they can and they'll try to force an AUMF in early- to mid-October. These assholes are nothing if not predictable--their cynicism about their ability to manipulate the public mind knows no bounds.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Knuckleheads on Parade

The Georgie, Donny and Dickie Show is in full swing (or, more accurately, in a full frontal assault on logic and sensibility).

In back-to-back appearances at the VFW national convention in Reno (good place for talk about gambling on war), both Cheney and Rummy made death-defying leaps from the high board of unilateral war-mongering into a bathtub full of bullshit.


This enemy has a set of beliefs -- and we saw the expression of those beliefs in the rule of the Taliban. They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to a narrow and hateful ideology. This ideology rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of our society. Such beliefs can be imposed only through force and intimidation, so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants will be brutalized or killed -- and no person or group is exempt.

This enemy also has a set of clear objectives. The terrorists want to end all American and Western influence in the Middle East. Their goal in that region is to seize control of a country so they have a base from which to launch attacks and to wage war against governments that do not meet their demands. The terrorists believe that by controlling one country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and ultimately to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia.

This sounds so much like psychological projection that it's scary. Substitute "U.S." for "enemy" and "terrorists" and you've got the Bush/Rummy/Cheney game plan to take over the world.

Rummy (in his warm-up at NAS Fallon):

"The important question is not whether we can win. Of course we will win," he said. "The real question is will we have the will to persevere. Whether we have the grit to carry on."


"The constant drumbeat of things they say, all of which is not true, is harmful, it is cumulative," Rumsfeld said. "It does weaken people's will, and lessen their determination, and that is worrisome."


"We should have no illusion … how Iraq fits into the war on terror," Rumsfeld said. "How can so many be debating this issue? It strikes me the answer is there for all to see."

Rummy has really hit the militarism trail, visiting NAS Fallon (Top Gun school) in Nevada and the VFW convention in Reno on Monday, along with the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, splashing ever more delusional bs out of that tub he landed in:

We are truly fortunate to have a leader of resolve at a time of war. Through all the challenges, he remains the same man who stood atop the rubble of lower Manhattan, with a bullhorn, vowing to fight back; the leader who told a grieving nation that we will never forget what was lost; and the determined President who works every day to fulfill his vow to bring the enemy to justice or to bring justice to the enemy.

Oh, please.... President Pull My Finger is just so fucking serious-minded. Yeah, right.

Rummy goes on to blame the press for everything bad in Iraq, and asserts that the terrorists--gee, why don't we all realize it?--are totalitarian fascists out to run the world.

At NAS Fallon, he proved that he fell off the reality bus a long time ago and landed on his head:

"It would be unfortunate if other countries thought that because we have 136,000 troops in Iraq today, that we're not capable of defending our country or doing anything that we might need to do," he said in response to a question about military options for dealing with Iran.

Sure, we can, Don, but what happens the day after we bomb Iran? And the days and weeks after that? We're calling up inactive reserves, the equipment in Iraq is worn out from three years' worth of sand and IEDs, and so are the troops. And, what is this "doing anything that we might need to do" bullshit? I guess that means we also do things that don't have a damned thing to do with defending the country (like making Iraq safe for ExxonMobil and Halliburton).

In the meantime, Bush's White House has nevertheless pushed out its latest product for mindless consumption a little early, through the back door of the House Intelligence Committee. Too bad the wheels came off as it rolled off the assembly line.

All this loose talk is meant to stir up some terrorism fear from its current relative dormancy, and to get the sheep, er, public worked up about attacking Iran. It's not much of a prediction to say that there will be lots more talk about freedom and democracy in the coming weeks, as Election Day approaches, even as the military and the FBI start working on new ways to subvert the Constitution.

Well, knuckleheads, if it's all about freedom and democracy, why didn't we practice on our erstwhile friends in the region, first?

You'd think it would be easier to persuade people we get along with, right? Saudi Arabia. UAE. Bahrain. Qatar. Jordan. Kuwait (hell, you'd think they'd be receptive, at least a little bit, since George's father ranted and raved about the Gulf War being about fighting for democracy, though there is none in Kuwait, then or now).

It would have at least given the Bushies a chance to buff the rust off of some long-unused diplomatic skills.

Georgie's boys and girls have been ranting and raving about the ongoing war in Afghanistan being about women's rights--but have they said word one about women's rights in Saudi Arabia? (Well, apart from Karen Huge's disastrous "listening tour," in which she did a lot more lecturing and hectoring than listening.)

/sound of crickets/

Maybe they've just forgotten completely that bin Laden is a product of the radical religious establishment in... [dopeslap to the Bush forehead] Saudi Arabia. And that it was bin Laden who was happy to see the Taliban take control of Afghanistan--and the Saudis who helped finance that effort.

Well, of course, they've forgotten. Just as they've been trying to get the American public to forget that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis.

But, it seems a reasonable question to ask: if we're all hot to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, why aren't our presumed friends jumping on the bandwagon?

The obvious answer is that we don't give a shit about freedom and democracy. Those terms have become code words for getting our way, corporately and militarily, wherever in the world we choose. Our friends in the region let us have our way (even Saudi Arabia made a few halting gestures toward defending Israel as it was blasting the shit out of most of Lebanon, until the cousins there decided that there was no sense in creating the conditions for their own demise).

They let us have our way, as long as they keep getting their lion's share of the goodies and get to keep the status quo rolling along.

So, the next time someone (Bush, maybe, probably) says that we're in Iraq fighting for freedom and democracy, or that we're defending freedom and democracy by bombing yet another country that hasn't attacked us, ask yourself why we didn't start with the easy stuff. Ask why we aren't interested in convincing our friends to adopt democratic systems of governance before we started trying to impose it elsewhere at the end of the barrel of a gun.

The answer to that question might answer a whole lot of other questions, too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Your Order, Please? I'd Like a Dozen Bitchslaps To Go, Thank You... And Hold the Bipartisanship....

Word is that Joe Lieberman is campaigning with Connecticut Republican candidates for governor and House of Representatives today in Groton. And yet, his campaign guru, Dan Gerstein, assures us all that Harry Reid has affirmed that Joe will keep all his committee positions if he wins in November. What's wrong with this picture?

Nothing that a nice firm bitchslap wouldn't address. A couple for you, Joe.

At this moment, any Democratic attempt at "bipartisanship" is wasted effort, and the average nine-year-old can figure that out. Republicans, ever since the so-called Reagan Revolution, have been playing for blood and treasure, and in the last five years, the average kindergartener knows that they don't work and play well with others. The Repugs are counting on Democrats giving in, offering as little resistance as possible to that date rape they know is coming. Predictably, the DLC types have been spreading their legs, feigning horror and whispering in mock alarm, "oh, please, don't do that."

Maybe Al From has some unfulfilled rape fantasies slithering around in his psyche, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to entertain them, too. Bitchslap for you, too, Al dear.

When Rahm Emanuel was interviewed recently by New York magazine and was asked if bloggers were "too powerful," he answered: "Do I think the [bloggers] and Al Sharpton alone are the future of the Democratic Party? No! Welcome in, contribute, but it's about winning in November and moving the country forward, not about a firing squad in a circle."

What chutzpah--translated, that means "give us your money, vote for who we tell you to and get out of our fucking way, peons."

Pretty cute, Rahm. Nobody fucking asked you about Al Sharpton. Nice underhanded jab at Lamont, there, as if no one would notice. Maybe you've forgotten, but Lamont won the Democratic primary, and Lieberman didn't. Bitchslap you until your DLC/corporate money-stuffed cheeks burn, Rahm.

It annoys the living shit out of me that big money controls the governmental processes of this country, top to bottom. It irks me no end that the people controlling the government are the ones that want it that way. And I go absolutely bugfuck at the realization that Democrats (as epitomized by DLC members) think they have to grease themselves up and bend over for the likes of the Koch brothers to keep their jobs. That's not bipartisanship. That's the height of self-interest.

From the most podunk town council to the national seat of government, there ought to be one standard for legislation: does this help or hurt ordinary people? Instead, the standard is: will this be perceived as a favor to XXXX corporation and will they keep on donating to my campaign chest? Can I use this to get more money?

Virtually every politician will tell you that those huge chunks of money don't influence them. It's about time to stop believing in the tooth fairy, fellow voters. It does, and anyone who says it doesn't is a liar. If it doesn't, why are they working so hard for it? Most politicians spend 50-80% of their time on getting contributions for reelection. That may be one of the reasons why they never seem to have time to actually fucking read the legislation on which they vote.

The truth is that people like Lieberman, From, Emanuel and their ilk aren't interested in moving the country forward. They're interested in themselves and the corporate interests they represent. Sure, big egos go with big political office. However, that's not a reason (hell, it's not even a convincing excuse) to turn the public treasury into an ATM for the Fortune 500.

The reason why all that's true is simple--if they really did believe in the Constitutional mandate to "promote the general welfare," then they would write Constitutionally bulletproof legislation for public financing of all campaigns. And they won't, because that might mean they'd lose their jobs to someone who wasn't part of that corporate money merry-go-round. So might all those DLC types lose their campaign consulting jobs--the same people that have been costing Democrats national elections lo these many years, the same people who have been lobbying for judges that will do the corporate world favors. (Let's not forget that some prominent Democrats--including Lieberman--handed over the right to filibuster to the Republicans, when the filibuster is the only emergency tool left to a minority party. They said they would only use it in extreme circumstances, and left about three-quarters of Democrats whomper-jawed when they opted not to use it to prevent either Roberts' or Alito's nomination for the Supreme Court from leaving committee--extreme circumstances, by definition. That wasn't bipartisanship--it was a gross capitulation.)

Now, lest one think this is just another rambling, undifferentiated rant, this business of bipartisanship (as espoused by all of the above-mentioned twits) only works when both sides are directed to that end, and Republicans surely are not. When you're a kid, and someone always demands that you share with them--but they never share with you--you eventually get the message that the person is a selfish prick and you ignore him. Now, if the DLC types continue to behave as if they're reasonable and the rest of us aren't, that can mean only one or both of two things: they're stupid and gullible (and in that case, shouldn't be holding public office) and/or they're as corrupt as their Republican counterparts (and want the continuance of same system the Repugs have set up to enrich themselves and their corporate pals).

When campaign law, confirmation of judges and political rhetoric are all geared toward giving big business what they want, one finally has to make a determination: it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck. So, what is it?

One thing for goddamned sure, it isn't traditional Democratic principles at work. With the country's direction leaning harder right, further and further toward authoritarianism, one-party rule, greatly more entrenched Executive power and with more and more of the public treasury going to tax breaks, grants, subsidies, defense spending and war, which principally benefit large corporations and the wealthy--and with a firm majority in polls saying that the country is headed in the wrong direction--why are deeply-incumbent Democrats lobbying and campaigning for the maintenance of the status quo?

Yeah, no question about it, the voters are to blame for the situation--probably a third of them are so out of it that they can't even identify what an issue is, let alone the different sides of that issue and which politicians represent those opposing sides. But, Democrats who see that as an electoral advantage are no different than the Republicans they are enabling. By now, the Iraqi war has been revealed to be a mistake of staggering proportions and which was promoted on the basis of a towering stack of highly partisan lies. Outright bald-faced lies conjured up by the White House and sold by the Republicans. It was, regardless of the AUMF vote, a war dreamed up and forced through by Repugs. They own it. What a gift to any honest Democrat! Instead, the DLCers are saying, "stay the course," just like Bush.

Any Democrat who can stand before the voters and tell the truth, in so many words, that Bush is a lying, mean-spirited, lazy, corrupt, inept, psychotic dumbfuck, and that that Democrat is running to undo the damage Bush and the Republicans and big business have done to the country, that candidate will win in 2006. Why not say, "if Bush is your daddy, and he says he's keepin' you safe, why did 9/11 happen in the first place? After all, he was in office for eight fucking months when it happened, and he barely noticed the signs and signals." The Republicans think they own national security. Democrats haven't yet figured out that national security owns the Republicans.

The DLCers (and their Fortune 500 contributors) are pissing their pants just thinking about the prospect of someone actually saying such things out loud, let alone in front of a campaign microphone. Winning Democrats should be pointing at the growing puddles and laughing out loud.

It's hypocritical to say that you're a real Democrat and then play kissy-face with a lame partisan hack who loves the rich and hates the poor, such as George W. Bush. People in the Democratic Party who call out Bush and his toadies in both parties for what they are will win, in 2006, and 2008. Bush and the Repugs are fuck-ups who are doing the country damage, as are any Dems stroking these incompetents in the hope of a campaign money reach-around. Any Dem running against that status quo and has even a semblance of a plan to undo the damage they've done (like repealing bad legislation) is going to do well.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hammer, Meet Nail

Jonathan Alter (via TPM), wrote last month in Newsweek that the members of Congress voting to sustain Bush's veto on stem cell research should take the following pledge:

“Because of my strong opposition to embryonic-stem-cell research, I hereby pledge that should I, at any point in the future, develop diabetes, cancer, spinal-cord injuries or Parkinson’s, among other diseases, I will refuse any and all treatments derived from such research, at home or abroad, even if it costs me my life. Signed, ______”

M'self, I don't think that goes nearly far enough. It ought to read:

"Because of my strong opposition to embryonic-stem-cell research, I hereby pledge that should I or any member of my family, present or future, at any point in the future, develop diabetes, cancer, spinal-cord injuries or Parkinson’s, among other diseases found to be treatable through methods derived from stem cell research, I will refuse any and all treatments derived from such research, on my behalf or on behalf of any family member, at home or abroad, even if it costs me my life or the life of a loved one. Signed, ______”

And it ought to be signed by not only the idiots in Congress, but by Bush, as well--because that's exactly what he and these bozos have decided for all the rest of us for no other reason than political pandering to an extremist religious minority. This proposed pledge will be an excuse for the wackadoos on the political and religious right to scream PERSECUTION in all caps at the top of their lungs, anyway, so, might as well nail `em to this cross with the big spikes.

President Hedgehog

Billmon pretty much nails it again, but I wonder if Bush might have been a hedgehog, all along. He's always been overly prickly about public criticism (which often brings out the frat boy towel-snapping of questioners), but he's also been this way about virtually every issue.

God in government? You betcha. To Bush, that's the only way it should be. Don't dare question the assumption.

Terrorism, pre-9/11? A bunch of overheated, overwrought bullshit. Don't bug me about it ("okay, you've covered your ass").

Privatizing Social Security? No matter how many holes the experts punch in my scheme, it's great, and I'll spend every day on the road to convince you to buy my fuckin' swampland.

Katrina clean-up? No matter what I do, no matter how long I sit with my thumb up my ass, "[message] I care." A year later, while the Ninth Ward still looks like Godzilla had a psychotic episode there, Bush is still saying, "[message] I care." Don't dare say I have my thumb up my ass, despite my awkward posture.

Pick almost any issue, and Bush is rolled up in a ball with his spines sticking out, protecting his ego. After a life of privilege and having others attend to his messes, I doubt it could be any other way. Maybe it's just human nature--after all, if you had gone through life with nothing more to show for it than bag money from Daddy's friends, a head full of extraordinarily destructive ideas, a couple of stolen elections and a presidential path strewn with wreckage, bodies and official corruption, you'd be defensive, too.


1. lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain
2. in a state of progressive putrefaction
3. decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation)
4. moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles; "the luxury and corruption among the upper classes"; "moral degeneracy followed intellectual degeneration"; "its brothels; its opium parlors; its depravity"
5. destroying someone's (or some group's) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity; "corruption of a minor"; "the big city's subversion of rural innocence"
6. inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by commiting a felony); "he was held on charges of corruption and racketeering"

Now, corruption is, as the above suggests, a bit difficult to define when we're talking about the political classes. But, for over five years, we've been seeing glimpses of how it works, and many parts of the definitions above have applied to Washington in general, and the Republicans in particular, including the neo-conservative and ultra-conservative pundit classes--the people who defend to the rest of us the corruption which has overtaken the nation's political nerve center.

Featured prominently, according to definition, has been Tom DeLay's so-called "K Street Project," which has caused the round-up and jailing of a number of Republicans and their lobbyist enablers--Jack Abramoff (who's still not through talking apparently, in hopes of yet ameliorating an eight-year sentence), "Duke" Cunningham (who is, apparently, not talking much, even though already in jail for demanding bribes in return for appropriation favors), and others (who can be found--in various states of investigation, litigation and plea bargaining--here).

So, we've got bribe-making and bribe-taking already, as part of a plan to use corporate money, funneled through lobbyists, to transform Congress into a permanent Republican institution. One of DeLay's tactics was to force Republican lawmakers to do business only with Republican lobbyists, and to threaten the lobby shops themselves with denial of access to Congress unless they hired only Republicans. Anyone desiring to look broadly at the RICO statutes would probably come to the conclusion that such a plan involved all the elements necessary to invoke the statutes--extortion, bribery, collusion, conspiracy, racketeering--all for the primary purpose of exchanging legislation and appropriation earmarks for campaign cash (sometimes including percentages of campaign cash going to their wives) and extravagant travel perks for Republicans, thus enabling them to live beyond their means and ensuring their continued reelection and their continued ability to enjoy the good life of power and prominence without much thought to the obligations of public service implicit in public office.

Brothels are in there, somewhere, too--as defense contractors or their lobbyists are alleged to have supplied some legislators (Cunningham, for sure) with call girls procured by a limousine service in the employ of the contractors, a limousine service that then suddenly got on the taxpayer gravy train to provide transportation services to the Homeland Security Department (and this was no small potatoes, either--one contract in just the DC area was worth something like $22 million).

Democrats (notably William Jefferson of Louisiana and Alan Mollohan of West Virginia) have gotten their gold-plated tits in a wringer, too, but more or less independently of the K Street Project. Think of them as outsiders--Democrats--trying to get to be insiders.

Then, there's the President himself, who comes from a family the motto of which is: "Public service for private gain." No one seems to give a second thought to the ex-President taking money from convicted felons like the very irreverent Rev. Sun Myung Moon, or acting as a "special consultant" to the then-largest privately-held firm contracting to the military, the Carlyle Group. No one thinks much about George the Younger's brother's intemperate use of the family name to make deals worldwide with some occasionally unsavory characters, or his other brother's use of the family connections to shield himself from inquiry about some, uh, bribery (there's that word again) of Nigerian officials. Nor do the American people think much about the time Dubya has spent raising campaign cash during his tenure in office.

Some has been written about Bush the Younger's vacation habits (especially while the most culturally-distinct city in the country drowned), but little has been said about the total amount of time he's spent mostly fucking around and not paying attention to the country's business. If twenty percent of his time has been spent on vacation, then thirty percent, easily, has been spent prying fistfuls of cash from wealthy Republicans at fundraising events and flying back and forth from those events. Another twenty percent of his days have been spent jogging, riding his bicycle and working out in the White House gym. Now, there is the arguably sensible proposition that if Bush had been devoting much more of his time to the operation of the country, he would have really fucked us up--much worse than already--in a considerably shorter period of time, but, still, one has to ask if the CEO president hasn't quite put in the time necessary to earn his money. It seems that his time in office remarkably resembles his time on the board of directors of Caterair (a company coincidentally owned at the time by the Carlyle Group, for which his father was "consulting"). Bush watchers will certainly find that, in 2009, George Bush will be "consulting" for a number of companies which want something from legislators or do business with the government.

In an interview years ago, Gore Vidal said that the principal job of public office was oversight of the spending of the taxpayer's money, and suggested that all else was diversion to keep the citizen from seeing how tax money was being spent, and I suspect that he is right. If one were to do man-in-the-street interviews, asking people to explain how an earmark worked, I doubt that five in a hundred could detail that part of the spending process, and yet, it (along with the refusal of Congress to remove money from the political process) is central to the kind of corruption going on in national government today.

It shouldn't be necessary to have to say that when the public policy and appropriations process becomes an auction, government is corrupt, but it is necessary now. It's been that way for some time and the situation is now getting measurably worse. The pundit class doesn't talk much about that, because they've been ignoring it as assiduously as is possible. They are attracted to money and power, and by stroking money and power, they get invited to the best parties, and the best parties have the best cocktail weenies. They may get their tidbits of news to pass on to the rest of us that way, but it means, quite plainly, that their view of the world of power is blindered and myopic--and almost always laudatory. Say bad things about the people in power and of power and the cocktail weenie circuit is closed off to you. Then you have only your imagination to work with, and that would put a whole raft of columnists in the unemployment line.

I often hear the phrase "speaking truth to power," as if it were an end-all, be-all. It isn't. Speaking truth to power is meaningless to the powerful--it might piss them off, but that's the full measure of its effect. What really makes change is the kind of writing and reporting that makes them look like the thieves, thugs and goons that they, in fact, are. Because once the voter sees Mr. Moral-and-Upstanding-and-oh-so-Christian Congressman or Mr. I'm-So-Fucking-Humble-And-Sincere President as corrupt, power-mad and dictatorial, it's over for them. There's nothing quite so marvelous in politics as seeing voters amend their views of politicians based on the facts. Of perhaps all the things that can turn a voter, being deceived about a politician's character is right up there at the top of the list. The larger newspapers used to be a lot less reticent about that sort of thing, but their livelihood is now intimately entwined with the actions of the people they write about (media consolidation and profits being what they are). The editors and publishers, not just the columnists, are on the cocktail weenie circuit, too. Call it the Clare Booth Luce Tour of Washington.

The reason why the New York Times' editors anguish over the words "lie" and "President" in the same sentence is that they know that the voters, having their own suspicions validated, will want Bush's head on a platter. They know that isn't good for the corporate world, of which they are a part. That's part of the pattern of corruption. The easy explanation that reporting the news shouldn't involve "value judgments" is part of that corruption. The operators of the New York Times or the Washington Post know that, for example, when one can't even find out the names of Cheney's staff in the White House, such secrecy is in furtherance of a power grab--or worse. But, they won't make an issue of it, just as they won't allow the straightforward use of the word "liar" to describe George Bush, even though it is demonstrably true and repeatedly so. We all know that the power behind the throne, Karl Rove, is, beyond a reasonable doubt, an amoral weasel who could only possess scruples by stealing them from someone else. But, he's described in entirely different terms for the general public, because no one wants to incur his wrath. Someone might be denied the hallowed and sought-after "access."

It's not that it hasn't always been this way. It has. Now, it's just immeasurably worse than usual. We've gone from politicians who at least paid lip service to the need for open government to a bunch that have closed off government access, and bludgeoned reporters with denial of access and threatened them with criminal charges to get, if not favorable coverage, then not-unfavorable coverage from their papers.

The reality today is that the country is being run by a crook and a liar whose courtier-class dealings, and whose obdurate and hard-headed approach to governance resembles that of an Ottoman-era potentate, is being enabled by a sycophantic press and a corrupt political party in charge of the rest of government, in which law-breaking at all levels is rationalized away. The view in the popular press, however, is that of a government in full charge, operating at the Constitutional margins in time of war, with the best of intentions, and that disputes about Constitutional issues are simple legal arcana.

If the latter were the case, then, why are legislators stuffing their pockets with both cash and chits for more power? Is that operating with the best of intentions? Why are legislators avoiding their responsibilities of oversight of spending and rule-making? Why are Bush and Cheney intent on preventing those remaining few honest legislators from doing so?

The answer is abject corruption. Money has been going out of the Treasury at an extraordinary rate in the last five or so years, and finding out where it went and why and if it was spent well is the last thing this bunch wants the public to know. When corruption becomes widespread, so does the belief that it's business as usual and okay to do, and okay to lie about.

As the President says, it's your money debt.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

This Week's Bozo....

If you want to play with the neo-cons, you have to get suited up.

There's always a crowded field for the honor (so many idiots, so little time). But, who gets to wake up in the clown suit, the floppy shoes and the big, red nose?

  • Dick Cheney: Yes, he phoned reporters from his undisclosed location and uttered a now-familiar theme--Democrats are terrorist-loving scum. But, for Cheney, this is just business as usual. When he finally gets limber enough for fellating himself, we'll hear less from him. He's working on it.
  • George Bush: See Cheney above. Except that Bush has likely perfected the self-fellating part. What do you think he's been doing with all that vacation time, after all? You know, by now, this is all about him.
  • Joe Lieberman: Joe is certainly beginning to sound a lot like his friends (well, it's worked politically for them so far). His latest on the morning talk shows: "If we just pick up as Ned Lamont wants us to do and get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England, and it will strengthen them and they will strike us again." Well, Joe, when your country's fiends-in-charge and their only fucking friend invade another country, militarily occupy it for three and a half years, steal their money, try to put the bite on their only source of income, describe their religion as a world scourge and induce civil war because you're absolutely fucking clueless, people tend to get upset. Joe's got a very bad case of divided loyalties, in any number of ways, but he's just hopeless and hapless. Not even clown material.
  • Michelle Malkin: Doesn't need another clown suit. Has a closet full of `em.
  • Alan Dershowitz: Nope. But, given his recent remarks, he might be looking at a fitting for different kind of suit.
  • Bill Kristol: By Jove, I think this fellow has the makings of a first-rate Bozo. To wit:

WALLACE: Bill, after the events of this week--and I know you’re not going to like this question--but can you argue that the working class neighborhoods in Britain are a bigger threat to the United States than what happens in Baghdad?

KRISTOL: No. Look, there are lots of threats. It is a global war. The Bush administration, I think, is deeply correct about this. And what you do on one front affects what happens on the other front. Cheney’s statement is indisputably correct. It doesn’t mean that Ned Lamont likes al Qaeda or wants al Qaeda to win. But the notion that a retreat in Iraq would not embolden terrorists elsewhere in the Middle East, and terror recruiters in the suburbs of London, is ludicrous. Of course it would. Now, if you want to say we should get out of Iraq anyway because we can’t win and this is the price we have to pay, fine. But it’s just factually true that our pulling out of Iraq will be bad for us in the global war on terror.

Saying that Dick Cheney is "indisputably correct" on anything is a bit like saying that Wrong Way Corrigan was an ace navigator. Or that the Titanic still is indestructable. Or that the Edsel was Ford's best idea ever. That George W. Bush is a Middle Eastern scholar. That Jeffrey Dahmer was a vegetarian. Just ain't true, and after listening to Cheney mumble on for years now, ascribing truth to long-disproved lies, it's positively hilarious that Kristol once again jumps into the rhetorical fray in a vain attempt to salvage Cheney's non-existent reputation for veracity (and his and Newtie's hopes for WWIII).

Beyond that, Kristol is doing his damnedest to hike up his skirts and sashay around the fact that Cheney was, indeed, doing his best to make political hay of Lamont's primary victory by juxtaposing that win and a "loss" in the war on terra, just as Cheney (and Kristol) have tried to juxtapose Iraq and all terrorist activity in the world. That's what's known as starting from a false premise, and it's such an old rhetorical trick that it's funny.

And, that, folks, is real clown material--being so stupid that it's silly and entertaining. Here's your clown suit, Bill, and, hey, you've kind of got the face for it:

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Unconditional Surrender

This day always has much significance for me. It seems to define the age in which I came to adulthood. Like so many of my generation, we lived with "the bomb."

Now, the 61st anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima seems anachronistic, part of another age. And, yet, it's not. Better and much more destructive weapons are still with us, and, thanks to George Bush, are still firmly imbedded in our consciousness. George Bush (at the likely urging of Cheney and the cabal around him) wants more of such weapons, made tactical and therefore, in the collective military/civilian mind, more capable of being used. This is not pure conjecture. It's codified in the White House's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.

I lived with that bomb, perhaps more than the average kid subjected to "duck and cover" drills in elementary school, because my father was in the Air Force, and was the commander of a nuclear weapons maintenance squadron. Living on SAC bases in the early days of the Cold War was like living with a target painted on one's back. One became inured to it, forgot it. Otherwise, how could one function, day to day?

By the time I reached high school, I lived on one of those nondescript bases that sat on the northern border, ringed with missile silos, and with 14,000-foot runways a mile or so away from my house, in order to handle the heavily-laden B-52s and the KC-135 tankers that kept them airborne. It always seemed, to me, life as usual. But what reminded me, most often, of where I was and why such a place would be of keen interest to the Soviet Union's nuclear war planners, was the small, cylindrical radiation film badge that sat on my father's dresser when he was home and out of uniform.

There were times I thought about Hiroshima, though it was never a subject for conversation in the house. I thought about Hiroshima a lot in October, 1962. The rest of the country was glued to the television for news of the Cuban missile crisis. On base, it seemed everyone wanted out of the house. The bowling alley and the base theater and the gym were full, every night during the tensest of those days. No one wanted to think about what everyone knew could happen. Everywhere one went there were crews on alert, and a lot of hollow stares. (Every time I hear the phrase "people walkin' around with tombstones in their eyes," from Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher," I think of October, 1962, not of burned-out self-destructive types. Somehow, I'd seen that look in people, in a way that only imminent mass destruction can induce. It's just one of those cultural disconnects caused by one's personal experience.)

The difference between that time and that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that there was some warning (little good such might have done) and, of course, that the bomb did not fall in 1962. In a macabre sense, Hiroshima served as an early warning signal, echoing forward through the intervening years. The images of Hiroshima's destruction informed the people of 1962. If there is any honor in the deaths of the 140,000 civilian inhabitants of Hiroshima, it is by prescriptive example. The previously incomprehensible manner of their deaths ought to be forever proscribed in the future.

I was about to say that one day, perhaps hundreds of years from now, historians will describe this time as one of mass paranoia, where every nation with the financial and technological capability to do so armed itself with the ultimate terror weapon, and that at the center of that paranoia was the United States, urging on its friends to build more weapons (well, how else can one describe the latest nuclear technology deal with India?) and threatening its adversaries with those very same weapons if they try to bring themselves to nuclear parity with their quarrelsome neighbors or if they resist the economic demands of the U.S.

But, the assumption that there will be future historians to analyze these times is one we ought not make just yet. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, most people assumed the end of the Cold War, and with it, the end of the nuclear threat. In fact, despite the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the threat of nuclear weapons continues to dominate the political landscape (most recently, through the particular efforts of Messrs. Bush and Cheney). As the two largest nuclear powers continue to find the most efficient and economical balance of nuclear weapons in their inventory, other countries have pursued them with all the intensity of purpose as was shown in the Manhattan Project of WWII.

WWI showed us how easily local antagonisms can blossom into a war enveloping a continent. WWII showed us the scope and developmental speed of technology in warfare and the capacity for truly mass destruction (the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden each killed about the same number of people as in Hiroshima, but involved hundreds of planes dropping thousands of incendiary bombs, whereas, in a scant couple of years, that same level of destruction could be compressed into one plane delivering one bomb).

The WWIII for which the neo-conservatives today are pleading may show just one thing--that we did not learn the lessons of WWI and WWII. Just as the lessons about asymmetrical warfare in Vietnam have been lost on the politicians and generals now managing the war in Iraq, they, and we, may discover that they've given no thought to unintended consequences (which is, after all, their metier).

Nor have they given much thought to what Hiroshima actually means. To them, I'm sure, it was a glorious victory, saving many lives (so the propaganda of the time went), as the means of obtaining an unconditional surrender from the Japanese. More importantly, the neo-conservatives see Hiroshima as an example of the sheer will necessary to impose a distinctly American order on the world. They see nuclear weapons as just another means to an end. That they have been so consistently wrong about everything they've proposed doesn't enter into their thinking. They can only imagine the end they desire. (Remember the throngs of cheering Iraqis throwing rice and candy and flowers? Remember the "cakewalk?") Anyone with their track record shouldn't be in charge of nuclear weapons, period.

It is inconceivable to them that things could turn out other than as they intend. That is precisely why whomever it is inhabiting the White House in 2009 has the obligation to begin the process of undoing the proliferation that the Bush administration has encouraged--either by policy, neglect or through subterfuge--and to change the nuclear equation for the better, to lead by example, however difficult the task may be and however improbable the current prospects for success. It's time to acknowledge that nuclear means can only deliver a nuclear end. It is no longer 1945, when the number of nuclear weapons could be counted on one hand. We live in an age in which the threat of nuclear conflagration is still great, and growing.

It's time for the world to unconditionally surrender the means of its destruction, to finally heed that early warning signal sent down the decades by the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's past time to break the sword of Damocles.

(The image above is of a pre-Guernica pencil sketch by Picasso)

Friday, August 04, 2006

New Paradigm, or Ancient Blood-Lust?

War has become commonplace in the 20th century. More people have been killed in war in the 20th century than at any other time in human history--probably more have died during the lifetime of the oldest currently-living world citizen than in all previous centuries of human existence combined. The highest technology of each decade in the last hundred or so years is likely the principal means of that dubious accomplishment, but not exclusively--wars in Cambodia and Rwanda and the Congo have killed several million people through simpler means: sticks and stones, starvation, clubs, machetes and simple unfeeling brutality expressed through the most creative of elementary instincts and for the most puerile of reasons.

However, with the Rapture for Lunch Bunch, it is something else entirely. It is to be the fulfillment of several thousand years of biblical prophecy. It will bring on the return of Jesus. They said the same thing about attacking Iraq, and Jesus apparently hasn't made an appearance, so now they are saying, in effect, that the Iraq war just wasn't big enough to kick off the main event, and so didn't manage to attract Jesus' attention. For that, it's going to take a world war (hint, hint, one that befits the age, i.e., a nuclear one), one in which Israel is prominently involved.

Now, I was raised to show some manners, and to believe that it's not a proper thing to do to question someone's faith (leave that sort of thing to the devil, etc.).

But, lordamighty, these people are stone-cold, barking-mad looney tunes. Gonzo. Over-the-edge lemmings on crystal meth. Wacko. Berserker.

There have been instances of millennial apocalyptic movements before--especially at the turn of the previous Millennium--but compared to the present, it was the equivalent of the guy walking the sidewalk with a sign saying, "The End is Coming." Global communications, nuclear weapons, immensely large and technological armies (along with a panderer to both the Christian right and the neo-conservatives slouching in the Oval Office) make such movements much more suspect and considerably more dangerous today than at any time in the past.

What makes the dispensationalist crowd even more dangerous is their political savvy--they've hooked up with the right wing in the U.S. political think tanks, the right wing in Israel, and the Republican Party, in particular, and that dominance has influenced public opinion. Though the neo-conservatives may have their own reasons for wishing war on the planet, their objectives dovetail neatly enough with those of the Christian right--often domestically and internationally--that the neo-conservatives likely see the Christian right as, in Lenin's term, useful idiots. In that way, the two factions tend to act synergistically, even though their anticipated end results are likely different.

In all likelihood, each group sees the other in the same way. The neo-conservatives will seek to use the wacko Christian right, certain that once they've been used to precipitate the desired conflagration, they'll get to run the world. The Christian right, on the other hand, will depend heavily on their faith, certain in their own minds that once the properly large conflict is initiated, biblical prophecy will play out, and they, as Jesus' minions, will run the world. Both groups essentially want to reshape the world to ensure their control over it.

But, for those of us on the outside looking in, this cooperation is much like one group at the front of the wagon, pulling, with the other group behind, pushing, with the intention of getting the wagon to and over the cliff as quickly as possible, even though the wagon is carrying the future of the rest of us.

At the heart of this is a neo-con belief in forced escalation. Once the U.S. and Israel are pushed toward a multi-front war by these crackpots, because neither has the ground forces available to invade and occupy all of the Middle East, the inevitable strategic policy--to prevent a series of Iraqs from coming into being and thus ruining the intent of world war--will be escalation to more air power and more intense bombing. When that fails to produce the desired result (unconditional surrender of the Muslim hordes), someone (Cheney, perhaps?) will say, "guess we gotta nuke `em. Yup, then they'll surrender, just like those Japanese." If such attacks kill a bunch of the Russian technicians now in Iran, or Chinese workers in Iran's oil fields, what happens then? Can we then count on civility and restraint from Russia or China? Can we expect their hard-liners to stand by, knowing that they could be the next ones on the chopping block? After all, those countries certainly have their share of knuckleheads in positions of power, too, that think diplomacy is appeasement.

Anyone with the notion that tactical nuclear (or as Bush insists, "nuke-you-ler") weapons can be used to good effect and in controlled fashion has more than a couple of screws loose. When the smoke clears after the WWIII that everyone on the right is pleading for, praying for and doing their subversive best to make happen, the invisible clouds of radiation will remain. And Jesus won't be anywhere to be found. Neither will be Mohammed. Perhaps, neither will Israel. And the rest of us will be much worse off.

Einstein said once, "I do not know with what weapons WWIII will be fought, but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones." The right-wing knuckleheads in charge now, both here and elsewhere, still think of world war as something glorious and uplifting, as a means of getting what they want. To them, superior weaponry is the same as moral rectitude. If they get what they want, and if they live through it, you can bet they'll be stumping for more defense spending on better sticks and stones.

If there are any wise men left in the power centers of Israeli government, and there's some doubt about that, they'd best think long and hard about U.S. neo-cons trying to make Israel the stalking horse for their worldwide fusion-fueled auto da fe.

Anyone who thinks there can be no such thing as institutional insanity hasn't been paying attention, lately.