Fox "News": Fair...
We wouldn't be where we presently find ourselves -- mired in a pointless foreign war, looking down the barrel of undisguised executive despotism, and teetering on the precipice of national insolvency -- were it not for the capacity of Americans to believe passionately in things that are patently untrue.
I refer to a specific form of dogmatic credulity, the kind displayed by those who accept as truth -- or at least a suitable substitute -- practically anything that is said by a political official or apologist, as long as the figure in question is "on the same team," however that "team" is defined. In the Bush Era the most common manifestation of this mind-set takes the form of "Talk Radio Bulimia" or "Fox News Reflux"; those who suffer from such afflictions earnestly regurgitate the pre-chewed soundbites fed to them by the media organs of the Bush Regime, convinced that by doing so they are imparting genuine wisdom and insight.
Most who suffer from those afflictions -- and I say this in utter sincerity -- are good and decent people. They are not depraved or consciously dishonest. They simply don't understand the extent to which they have surrendered control over their opinions to paid professionals in the art of manipulation.
The people I'm describing have had their synapses scrambled through prolonged exposure to high-potency indoctrination of the sort depicted here:
An otherwise estimable fellow who suffers an acute form of the disorder I describe sent me a long and detailed letter in response to a recent essay. In the interest of promoting public understanding of this condition, I'll reproduce his salient points and briefly comment about them.
"[F]rom my perspective, we are where we should be in Iraq. It is unfortunate that we are in the first decade of a war that will most likely last, at varying rates of intensity[,] for the next 50 years or so. It is an ideological conflict that no one on the Left seems to grasp completely. Fortunately the conservative heart of the average American seems to grasp [it] as if by second-nature."
Conservatives understand, "as if by second-nature," that neither liberty nor civilization can survive wars that last for generations. Nobody has made this point more forcefully -- arguing from exactly opposing points of view -- than James Madison and Karl Marx.
Warned Madison in 1795: "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. . . . [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and . . . degeneracy of manners and of morals. . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
Writing in 1851 to his disciples, Marx made exactly the same point, celebrating what Madison had lamented and preaching the revolutionary virtue of generational war: "You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."
If this open-ended war against an undefined enemy lasts for fifty years, what remains at its end won't be recognizable to anyone -- conservative, liberal, libertarian or of whatever political conviction -- who understands and appreciates the principles of our Founding generation. This is a point frequently made by the only authentic conservative in the 2008 presidential race, Rep. Ron Paul. And if the intention is to fight a war to destroy all radical Muslims, or to convert them to the Civil Religion of modern democracy, simple demographics and economics demonstrate that we'll lose -- particularly if our rulers make the Iraq war and occupation the model for that campaign.
The Iraq war resulted in the removal of an admittedly hideous dictator who ran a relatively secular regime, and his replacement with a bloody, tyrannical, Shi'ite-dominated government defined by a constitution that enshrines Sharia law as Iraq's ruling ideology. That's "where we are in Iraq": We have tens of thousands of American troops fighting, killing, and dying on behalf of a Koranic despotism.
"The military strategy in Iraq is quite clear and clever.... First, use Iraq as a magnet for the most maniacally-minded terror lovers in the Middle East.... The second part of the Iraq strategy is to put this magnet exactly where the radical Muslims can get to it.... The third part is to protect America by putting the magnet as far from American soil as possible, i.e. Iraq."
This familiar trope, that Iraq is the "flypaper" intended to trap and destroy the world's Jihadi population, is based on what I call the "fallacy of finitude" -- that the world's population of radical Muslims is a static quantity, and that when a Jihadi is killed in Iraq, that population contracts irreversibly.
My correspondent clearly is hostage to that fallacy, insisting that occupation forces in Iraq "are killing 250 Muslims in Iraq for every American or British soldier [who dies]" and that this is having an impact on "the minds of 10,000 or 100,000 more intelligent Muslims."
It is indisputable that the occupation is having a measurable impact on the minds of Muslim people: As the Bush administration has been forced to admit, the war is actually expanding the population of current and potential Jihadis, while giving those that make the journey to Iraq valuable on-the-job combat training.
The logic of occupation dictates that it is the occupiers, not the guerrillas, who are trapped like flies on flypaper, and that occupation degrades occupation forces while distilling a hardened and very efficient military force out of the armed opposition. It takes a peculiar type of military genius to ignore this amply demonstrated fact of history. Lamentably, our politicized general staff has just the right skill set for that challenge.
Furthermore, the Bush junta now informs us that after more than four years of bloodshed, frequently turned "corners" in Iraq, and the creation of an immense and invasive Homeland Security apparatus at home, the threat to the United States today is at least as acute as it was in the Summer of 2001. In fact, the general heading Northern Command (which covers the continental United States) has said that new al-Qeada cells are forming here right now. If this is true, we will soon be fighting "them" both here and "there." (See the salient points in the most recent National Intelligence Estimate here.)
Of course, my correspondent invokes the inscrutable historic insight of the Great Visionary in the White House, insisting that we won't fully understand the elegant wisdom of his strategy "until it is all over and we are explaining to our great grand-kids how the West defeated radical Islamic terrorists." If we simply have childlike faith in the Dear Leader, our victory is assured; the sacrifices will be vindicated, and the present perplexities and contradictions will all be reconciled.
"The fact that Bill Maher and Michael Moore among thousands of others can say what they say without censorship, punishment or worse is testimony to the fact that the Bush/Cheney regime, as you call it, [is] not about infringing the rights of the average American.... [D]o you know of anyone who has suffered materially or physically from the [so-called PATRIOT] Act other than the intended terrorists or terrorist wannabes[?]"
This is also a familiar thought-stopper: As long as we are free to complain, we have nothing to complain about. In fact, summary suppression of dissent is becoming quite common under the Bush Regime.
Matthew Rothschild, author of the documented study linked above, offers the following account of the consequences awaiting those who exercise the right to petition for redress of grievances in contemporary America:
"A man walked up to Dick Cheney, calmly told him he thought his Iraq policy was reprehensible, and walked away. A few minutes later he was arrested by the Secret Service, in front of his 8-year-old son, for `assault.' When he asked what would happen to his child, the Secret Service said, `He can be sent to Child Services.' Luckily, the boy found his mother and was safe. But the citizen who practiced his free speech spent a few hours in jail before he was released."
Even if such things weren't happening, genuine conservatives are inclined to reject that view in favor of Madison's admonition that we "take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties" -- whether it affects us personally or not.
After all, most of the onerous and obnoxious impositions that inspired the drive for American independence had been repealed by the time the war began in 1775. The problem was that the British Parliament explicitly reserved to itself the supposed right to impose such measures on the colonists whenever it seemed appropriate to do so. The American Patriots fought a war for independence not because they were living under unalloyed tyranny, but because their rulers displayed an undisguised intention to impose tyranny.
The same is true of the regime that rules us today. And the PATRIOT (sic) Act is merely part of the architecture of domestic tyranny.
As I've pointed out elsewhere, it wasn't until long after the War for Independence began that King George III suspended habeas corpus for those deemed "unlawful combatants"; Hitler likewise suspended the Great Writ (or the German version of the same) shortly after he came to power. In both cases, the clear intent was to deny due process to those targeted as enemies of the regime.
To the Bushling's abolition of habeas corpus we must add last week's executive decree permitting the expropriation of those designated enemies of the "stabilization" and "reconstruction" of Iraq. Mention must also be made of the adoption of Nazi/Soviet-style torture methods, clothed in exactly the same euphemism coined by the Gestapo ("enhanced interrogation techniques"), which include exactly the same practices condemned by Washington when used by Russian security forces against those deemed "terrorists" or seditionists.
And it's significant that my correspondent, like so many others suffering from Talk Radio Bulimia or Fox News Reflux, assume that anyone seized by the federal government on suspicion of terrorist activities is ipso facto a "terrorist" or "terrorist wannabe." The proper designation, of course, is "suspect."
But then, the whole point of the "war on terror" is that we're all "suspects," and thus subject to the unceasing scrutiny of the State -- through its electronic surveillance capabilities and its growing army of paid informants. And the Regime's official position is that it is not necessary to prove that an American citizen is connected to a specific plot in order to convict him of terrorism.
If one's privacy is violated by a voyeur, the victim need not demonstrate that he or she was "materially or physically" harmed in order for a criminal prosecution to ensue. The same principle obtains when we're discussing illegal scrutiny of our private affairs by government; in fact, the threshold of offense where government actions are concerned must be lower, given the State's unique capacity to inflict death and mayhem on innocent people.
"While my family and I are fully-involved in helping America survive this new cold war, you will be free to blog and do whatever perversions you deem necessary to express your freedoms that we've earned for our family and yours as well, as a by-product."
Given the fact that the U.S. and post-Soviet Russia are quickly mutating into largely interchangeable authoritarian kleptocracies, I'm not willing to stipulate that we actually survived the last Cold War, but let's set that issue aside for the nonce.
The point made in the self-exalting comment above was made in reference to the fact that my correspondent recently saw a daughter graduate from boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. On the strength of this fact -- namely, that he has offered a child to kill and die on behalf of the State, the eternal enemy of freedom and decency-- this fellow asserts a proprietary claim on freedom, while condescending, at least for now, to grant that gift to those of us who are not similarly inclined to feed their children into the maw of the War Machine.
I recently set out some of the reasons why I think that our rulers will soon demand a blood-for-debt swap: Through universal conscription, our children would be used as living collateral for continued financing of Washington's imperial pretensions.
That earlier essay outlined why and how the ruling class would carry out that design. The comment above illustrates the attitudes on the part of at least a segment of the population that make such an abhorrent arrangement a vivid possibility.
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