Saturday, December 2, 2006

A Ductape Fatwa tribute

It has been close to three months since Ductape Fatwa, one of blogtopia's most colorful denizens, last made his presence felt. As a sort of tribute to an individual whom I'd grown to consider a friend over the last couple years, I thought I'd very occasionally repost an essay of his - in part as a form of rememberance and in part as a means to hopefully incite the guy to write again.

Wherever you are mate, I hope you're happy and well. And now to our featured presentation, You Can't Reason With Americans:
It's the only society on earth where remote-controlled torture of their own children is considered acceptable, and as they continue to debate whether people defending their homes from a brutal invading horde of murderers, torturers and sexual predators should be granted "amnesty" for having had the temerity to attempt to protect their loved ones from harm, I notice that my non-western mail speaks increasingly with one voice: You can't reason with Americans.

Why, people ask me, do I continue to participate on forums that while they may consider themselves to be somewhat less right wing than Cheney, Rumsfeld et al, are from a distance, fundamentally ideologically indistinguishable from those forums whose stated purpose is to praise the warlords and their barbaric "policies."

While I myself have frequently pointed out that the self-styled US "opposition" confines its opposition largely to questions of vocabulary, the fact is that in most cases, the same vocabulary is used by the warlords' champions and critics as well, the most obvious examples being related to the US project to destroy the cradle of civilization, an activity that it is hard to argue is anything but consistent with US's general opposition to the very concept of civilization, such as referring to people defending their homeland as "insurgents," and increasingly, anyone who opposes or resists any US policies, regardless of how brutal, how criminal, how contrary to the most basic notions of human decency, much less civilized behavior, as "terrorists."

I am, as the young folks say, "over it."

While I recognize that there are a small minority of individuals in the US, as well as US nationals outside of it, who are sincerely in favor of reform, of modernization and advancement, the fact is that these individuals are not only too few to mount any significant reform movement, they are in just as much danger of being kidnapped or exterminated by US "operatives" as any soul whose native land contains a large quantity of Muslims and sand.

While half my mail takes me to task for my futile attempts to reason with Americans, the other half accuses me of hating them.

The former may have a point, the latter is absurd. How can one hate such poor deluded beings? They truly believe that they are manifestly destined to be some sort of ultimate Master Race, to decree to the benighted rest of the world how they can best serve American corporations, which service is considered to be the only reason for anyone, American or not, to exist, and he who is unable to do so should either have the courtesy to take his own life, or submit meekly to having it taken, either through sadistic slow-death domestic policies, or bombs or bullets or any of the grisly methods funded by the taxpayers for the purpose of exterminating "insurgents" and "terrorists" in the crusade lands.

One does not hate the mental patient who believes he is Napoleon, but one would be advised not to provide him with any weaponry, and to make every effort to contain him, to prevent him from doing harm to others, to himself.

And what can we consider the Americans, with the notable exception of those endangered terrorists previously mentioned, but a large population of mental patients?

If one of the better-known warlords appeared tomorrow on CNN and ordered them all to go out onto the front yard and shoot their first born, there would be none of this dilly-dallying and agonizing soul searching a la Abraham. Within hours of the order, American streets would run with the blood of millions of little Isaacs.

Of course, that has not happened, at least not yet, however far too much of the rest of the world is now dealing with the fact that the warlords have ordered their loving subjects to murder THEIR first-born, and their second-born, and the extraordinarily docile and compliant Hosni, Abdullah and ilk notwithstanding, the population of that increasingly endangered rest of the world does not consider the US to be God and they Abraham.

It matters not how deeply ingrained such a notion may be in the hearts of the American corporation devotees, it matters not that to most Americans, any other view is not only impossible, but literally inconceivable. The belief simply has not caught on outside the US and its native overseers around the world.

I am not even sure if calling it a belief is accurate. Perhaps a mental health professional will know the correct term, but religious faith, at least the only kind worth having or discussing, by its very nature DOES question, does recognize the state of non-belief. A person with religious faith will, like Abraham, struggle with concepts, ideas, tenets.

Americans do not struggle or question, neither the notion of themselves as godlike creatures who own and rule the earth, nor that they exist only to make rich men richer, nor the inconsistency of those two precepts.

They just keep prattling on about insurgents and cutting and running and imposing their wills and bringing stability and security to lands they are blowing up, or paying someone to blow up and whether people protecting their children from men with guns sent to kill them should be "pardoned" for their failure to kneel meekly and place their own and their little ones' heads on the block, murmuring last words of gratitude for the privilege.

That any of this is to say the least, offensive to civilized people, is a file not found. That the US has the inalienable right to invade and occupy any country at any time and slaughter and abuse the occupants right and left is a given.

Though some do object to titling massacres with names like "Iron Fist," one cannot avoid the drawing room elephant that they do not object, or at least not enough to stop the practice, to paying for the massacre.

One does not feel hate for such people, one feels pity, and sadness, and as one does when near a deathbed, one does not try to reason. One readies one's funeral clothes, and hopes that the patient will not suffer, and will find the peace that eluded him in life.
The essay dates to July fifth of this year, and of course was cross-post to a couple of the big box blogs inciting some fairly thoughtful commentary (for the most part) on one and what might well have been the mother of all flamewars on the other.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Looks like the Canadians have found their Tony Blair

“If named the Liberal Party’s leader this weekend, Michael Ignatieff would be a candidate to become [Canada’s] next prime minister.” Read all about it over at the Christian Science Monitor, if you like. Why should you care? Well, this is the same Michael Ignatieff who wrote, in 2004:

To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war.

Mind you, this is the prospective Liberal leader.

Nerdified link. Ignatieff's name comes up periodically in Sherene Razack's book Dark Threats & White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping, and the New Imperialism. What I've read suggests he has been hip to the standard New World Order narrative for quite some time: namely that the "civilized" nations of the north are confronted with savage chaos in the rest of the world and a UN that is all but impotent, hence the necessity of said "civilized" nations to resort to military means to quell the alleged "savage chaos." If he were to become the new Liberal Party leader and sometime down the road become the next Canadian PM, he'd certainly fit in well with the US approach to empire building. Hopefully the Canadian Liberal party folks will have the good sense to find someone else to lead them.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You've gotta be nuts to follow an authoritarian leader

Well, not quite, but it apparently helps:
Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.

But before you go thinking all your conservative friends are psychotic, listen to Lohse’s explanation.

“Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”

The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on.

The study used Modified General Assessment Functioning, or MGAF, a 100-point scale that measures the functioning of disabled patients. A second scale, developed by Rakfeldt, was also used. Knowledge of current issues, government and politics were assessed on a 12-item scale devised by the study authors.

“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.
Naturally I'll be curious to see if the study makes its way through a relevant peer-review journal, and if the basic thrust of the findings can be replicated. If nothing else, we can expect that people suffering from psychotic symptoms appear more vulnerable to the authoritarian ravings of demagogues and despots, and as we've seen from time to time, some of them act out the fantasies of the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs, and Bill O'Reillys of the world.

Food for thought.

Beinart: Still addicted to "The White Man's Burden"

Some words from Arthur Silber are in order:

Beinart was, of course, a major booster of the invasion of Iraq. Let us be precise: Beinart strongly urged the invasion of a country that had not attacked us, and that did not threaten us. This is the advocacy of illegitimate, immoral, and illegal aggressive war. Let us always remember the exact nature of the crime involved.

But now Beinart's heart breaks:

"I can't even imagine Iraq anymore. It exceeds my capacity to visualize horror. In a recent interview with The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid, a woman named Fatima put it this way: 'One-third of us are dying, one-third of us are fleeing, and one-third of us will be widows.' At the Baghdad morgue, they distinguish Shia from Sunnis because the former are beheaded and the latter are killed with power drills. Moqtada Al Sadr has actually grown afraid of his own men. I came of age believing the United States had a mission to stop such evil. And now, not only isn't the United States stopping it – in some important sense, we are its cause."

No, Beinart: not "in some important sense." The United States government and its military are the cause – in every "important sense." And the U.S. government was aided and abetted by Beinart and his fellow warmongers. But the collective "we" is critical to Beinart's purposes, since he is determined to avoid accountability at every turn. That "we" carries profound meaning. As Hannah Arendt observes: "[W]here all are guilty, no one is." The "we" washes Beinart clean of sin, or so he hopes.

Beinart is undoubtedly one of those worthy of Ward Churchill's label, "Little Eichmann." Although a pundit such as TNR's Beinart doesn't make bureaucratic decisions affecting the lives and deaths of countless human beings, he certainly has been among those providing intellectual cover (along with Friedman, Krauthammer, et al.) for those who do. It goes without saying that there is absolutely no way in Hell that any of these pillars of Beltway society will drag me into their "we". The apologists for the very war crimes that our nation has committed are themselves guilty of those crimes, and it is imperative that they are held responsible for the catastrophe for which they advocated so vociferously back in 2002 & 2003.

Silber goes on:

Beinart appears to have become confused about where and when his hero FDR employed the various tactics that Beinart so admires. Beinart is still wedded to his "carrot" that will enable the miracle: "a temporary troop increase and a dramatically larger, World Bank-overseen development effort." If you should think he doesn't mean this, Beinart spells out these details should the Iraqis bow to our demands:

"If the Iraqis really strike a constitutional deal that the prominent leaders in all three major communities publicly support, the United States must try to make it stick. That would mean temporarily sending more troops to secure key Baghdad neighborhoods and then flooding those neighborhoods with public-works programs that put young Sunni and Shia men to work."

Now, I could be wrong about this, and I'm sure someone will tell me if I am. But I don't think FDR used TVA-like projects in Germany and Japan while World War II was still raging across the world. No, I'm certain he didn't. If Beinart's views weren't so repugnant and literally insane, I might give him a point or two for creativity. A New Deal for Iraq! Well, I suppose "creative" is one word for it.

Beinart and all hawks of similar inclination refuse to give up the idea that "we meant well," just as he refuses to surrender the myth that American willpower can still make this work, even at this late date. As I've discussed in detail, one of Beinart's fundamental problems is not that "[he] can't even imagine Iraq anymore." His problem is that the reality of Iraq never was clear to him. Iraq, its own history, peoples, cultures, and aspirations never assumed solid shape before his eyes, so Beinart, just like those driving the Bush administration's foreign policy, deluded himself that we could shape Iraq in our own image. The presumptuousness, arrogance, and colonialist condescension of this view cannot be allowed into Beinart's consciousness.

Kipling's spirit lives on in the likes of Beinart - of that there is little doubt. The presumption that the so-called Western nations can "civlize the great unwashed masses" elsewhere has typically been followed by almost unspeakable savagery by those very nations carrying the the mantle of "civilization." For Beinart and those of like mind, the Iraqi people must merely be fauna - the Iraqis' culture, their civilization, their aspirations don't even seem to enter the minds of our new colonialists as they fantasize about the "New American Century." More troops? More carnage. Put the World Bank in charge of some US-induced public works program? You've got the fox raiding the henhouse. Like the colonizers before our government, there is but one objective in mind: raiding resources - in this case black gold. Forget the drivel about humanitarian missions or noble intentions - that's just the sales pitch - the very same one that Beinart or others like him will use to sell the public on the next war. It's a pitch that should be ignored, as Silber rightly notes.