Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Enemy of the State

I've been avoiding these gawdawful presidential-candidate "debates" like a pious Catholic a near occasion of sin.

I know perfectly well what both men "stand for", as much as they "stand for" anything in this age of cash-infused politics where a principled position is as rare and as tenuous as a truthful statement and about as welcomed.

The massive, weapons-grade avoidance of history and common-sense on display - largely from the Republican candidate, but that is the necessary and unavoidable consequence of his entire political party having descended into gibbering madness - is both revolting and irritating.

The past week's episode - which I understand was based largely on "foreign policy" - was perhaps the worst of the lot largely because of what was NOT discussed.

Both candidates apparently agree that my nation should be involved in constant low-grade warfare against shadowy Islamic groups in the least-stable portions of the Third World, apparently on the fact-unsupported belief that killing people and wrecking things in these fetid and festering hives of scum and villainy will have a salutary effect on the locals instead of being the geopolitical equivalent of tossing gobbets of raw flesh into an open sewer in hopes of attracting rats to smash one by one with a ball-peen hammer.

No hint of re-evaluating the U.S. voracious appetite for petroleum, it's purblind embrace of Israel, it's knee-jerk embrace of unproven techniques of human destruction such as drone assassinations, it's monstrous "defense" edifice or the attendant incestuous entanglement of warfare, cash, politics, and the economy (otherwise known as the "military-industrial-congressional-complex") was on display. In this both men were practically reflections of one another, and both were a noxious display of the vile consensus that comprises the "Washington Rules". Charlie Pierce put it best when he said:
"In no area have we as a self-governing nation so abandoned our obligations as we have on foreign policy. In no area are we so intellectually subservient to expertise, and to the Great Man Theory of how things should be run. In no area are we so clearly governed, rather than governing ourselves. The president, at least, occasionally seems to be aware not only that this is true, but also that it puts the whole experiment of self-government in mortal peril, just as the Founders knew it would when they lodged the war powers in the Congress, which has spent the last 225 years giving them back, in one way or another, to the Executive, which is presided over, always, by One Great Man. He at least seems self-aware enough to appear troubled by the power he nonetheless wields."
That is combined with an almost surreal capability to either ignore or forget our nation's history. This was perhaps best presented by Romney's statement: "America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators."

I read that and thought: Jesus Fucking Roosevelt Christ on a milking stool, do you want me to start geographically or fucking chronologically?

Fulgencio Batista, the Duvaliers, Somoza, Rios Montt, Micheletti, Pinochet in Chile, the Greek colonels, Mubarak, the Marcos disaster, the Shah, the sad attempt at foisting Chalabi on the Iraqis that failed only because the sad bastard turned out to be incapable of leading four bazaar ruffians to a kebab shop, the Diem coup, god knows how many satraps and tinhorn strongmen we're propping up in the former Soviet stans because we need their airfields and roads...

We - the imperial we, the we that is We the People - hide behind the idiotic refrain of American goodness and democracy. And within our borders we have, indeed, a fairly enviable record for probity and political honesty. But our goodness has traditionally ended at the water's edge, and we would do ourselves a huge favor to be honest with ourselves and each other about that.

But we have not, and the evidence suggests we will not, and therefore the evidence also suggests that we will continue on this blundering path of inadvertent empire, spending blood and treasure in search of a ghost we ourselves have raised, all the while tormented by the unquiet spirits of the evils we have worked on others in our ignorance and strength.

Update 10/25: And the hidden reality of what this is doing to my country appears even more dangerous than the open stupidity. Read Glenn Greenwald's summary of the recent efforts by the current administration to organize this apparently-limitless expenditure of armed force in the global hustings:

As Greenwald concludes: "...what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out."

I'm reading a very breezy account of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian by Lindsey Davis ("Master and God", for those of you who enjoy your historical novels with a touch of modern British snark). And the takeaway lesson is that polities, ALL polities, have to be VERY careful about setting up procedures and agencies that are capable of applying force unconstrained by law.

Even when those laws are there they are not ironclad; the Soviet Union had lovely laws prohibiting things like judicial murder and false imprisonment - they just never bothered to use them.

But when a republic allows its agents to act in secret, and without public accounting for their acts, it almost guarantees its own destruction.


Lisa said...

My, this is good:

" ... the fact-unsupported belief that killing people and wrecking things in these fetid and festering hives of scum and villainy will have a salutary effect on the locals instead of being the geopolitical equivalent of tossing gobbets of raw flesh into an open sewer in hopes of attracting rats to smash one by one with a ball-peen hammer.

Ah, that poor schlump Chalabi ...

FDChief said...

Even that infamous bureaucratic infighter Donny Rumsfeld knew that he - and we - haven't the faintest idea what the hell all our time, labor, and money is doing in these places, Lisa; his snowflake said, in effect, that this was an known unknown. We knew that we didn't know whether all these people we were killing and capturing was the geopolitical equivalent of "mowing the grass" that kept the Islamists down to a low rumble, or whether it was sowing grass seed, and for every blade we cut another grew in its place...

I'm not trying to say we're NOT having some effect in suppressing the Islamists, just that we don't really know one way or the other. We thought that we were doing this awesome trick arming the muj in Afghanistan back in the Eighties - and we were, in the sense that it backfooted the Soviets - but eventually that business came around to bite us on the ass. This, may, too, but you'd never know it for the lack of discussion we're having...

Pluto said...

This is good stuff, Chief. You should cross-post it on the Milpub, it needs a shot in the arm right now.

On the muj:
As you'll recall, we didn't talk about whether or not the muj were going to bite us in the ass eventually either. We just knew that they were the good Muslims (who did what we wanted) as opposed to the bad Muslims in Iran, whom we suspected were in cahoots with Soviets (which is ridiculous in hindsight).

FDChief said...

Yeah, Pluto, the whole "Charlie Wilson's War" was based on the ridiculous preconception that we could arm and aim a bunch of homicidal 11th Century-inspired religious loonies and once they'd done what WE wanted them to they'd just go away and that whole thing would work out slicker'n water off a cat's ass.

Wonder why that didn't work out so good? Wonder if what we're doing now will work out that good, too? Wonder if anyone involved either knows or cares?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being coherent, when I walked out of the living room after hearing that bit of bullshit spoken aloud, I was INcoherent.

Because it didn't begin with Charlie Wilson alone. WE sent CIA operatives in to make sure the socialist uprising in Afghanistan failed so that the Russians WOULD invade.

And we lie about it, even to ourselves.

FDChief said...

"WE sent CIA operatives in to make sure the socialist uprising in Afghanistan failed..."

Syrbal: Now I have to say - that's a new one. And I put a lot of credence in what you say because I know your background in Intel. But...that's a damn serious bit of backstory.

The timelines I've read have the Saur Revolution in April '78, the Soviet incursion in December '79 and Carter authorizes the first covert work some time in early summer (July?) of '79.

I'll buy the idea that the CIA/NSA was working against the PDPA in '78, but I've never seen or heard anything concrete. Sounds like you have, yes?

That'd be a huge counterfactual. If the U.S. was meddling in Afghan internal affairs prior to the Soviet invasion it makes the whole "story" of the Evil Empire and its designs on poor innocent Afghanistan so much bullshit...

Syrbal/Labrys said...

Chief...I only recently ran across that one and yes, it shocked me to my boots as well. I will try to find the thing again before the week gets too old and get it to you to read in some form or other.

Course, the thing is, the dumb bastards were still operating "Domino Theory" crap, they thought "Oh, holy crap, we can't have a socialist minded democracy in Afghanistan....lets fuck that up." And it went cock to wall crazy (gee, kind of like when the CIA saw to it Iran's Mosedegh (sp??) was assassinated so the Shah could be enthroned)...and now they don't want to talk about the sowing that reaped us the current whirlwind!

Anonymous said...

Ok, came from a piece from here, but the operative paragraph was this one:

" Recently declassified Intelligence reports also reveal that the “official history record is false”.[26] Contrary to the “official record“- - that the United States involvement in the Afghan civil war began following, and as a response to, the Soviet Union's invasion of the country- in truth, United States involvement in the Afghanistan Civil War began a full six months before the Soviet Union ever invaded Afghanistan.[27] In an interview given to a French reporter in 1988, Brezinski confirmed this “little known fact” of history, admitting that the CIA had begun providing covert aid to Afghan resistance fighters fully six months before the Soviet invasion.[28] Even more revealing and shocking is Brezinski's admission, later on in the interview, that the U.S. intention in providing this aid was to "draw the Russians into the Afghan trap." [29] When, in this same interview, the reporter, shocked at having discovered that the United States intentionally provoked the Soviet Union to enter into the war, asked Brezinski whether he harbored any regrets for doing this, Brezinski’s reply was: “Regret what? The secret operation was an excellent idea... The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”[30]"

So, Carter's Presidency put in motion the act that would financially crash the Soviet Union, and Reagan boasted and took credit for something he did not begin. And now...the mess may crash us ALL.