Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wake-up Call

Via Marisacat, I stumbled on this column by social psychologist Floyd Rudmin:
Preparing for National Suicide: What "All Options are on the Table" Really Means


For more than a year, the USA has been openly threatening to bomb Iran. Some scenarios see the use of nuclear bombs. “All options are on the table” says Bush, Cheney, Rice, and most of the candidates in the 2008 Presidential race.

The reason? They say they feel threatened by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power technology, although they formally granted Iran that right when they ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. The IAEA has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. They say they feel threatened by Iran’s support of the Shia militia, especially those in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran has traditionally played the role of defending Shia communities, even in the Ottoman era. They say they feel threatened by Iran’s opposition to Israel’s expansion and Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, which is against international law and many UN resolutions. The say they feel threatened by Iran’s energy exports and its ability to influence world prices.

In general, they feel threatened by an independent nation in an oil-rich region they wish to dominate. Therefore, they threaten to bomb Iran. “All options are on the table.”


One consequence of these threats is that Iran must prepare to defend itself. On Oct. 20, a top Iranian military commander announced that Iran is ready to retaliate with 11,000 missiles in the first few minutes after an American surprise attack. The missiles are aimed at the military bases, ships at sea, and economic assets of the threatening nations. To launch that many missiles AFTER a shock-and-awe surprise attack means that Iran must have distributed the ability to launch missiles. There is not one launch button and one commanding finger on the button.

There are many buttons and many different fingers on them. War is now on a hair trigger, and the risk of accidental war is now very, very, very high. War might be started by an Iranian religious fundamentalist eager to go to heaven, or patriot eager to defend Iran, or a traitor eager to destroy Iran, or someone depressed or bored or simply misreading a radar screen and thinking a flock of birds are an incoming attack.

The USA has over 300,000 military and support personnel in the region around Iran, all of them now the target of 11,000 missiles on hair-trigger. That is what repeated threats of war have achieved.


War seems inevitable. With war will come thousands of deaths, maybe millions, and whole economies will collapse, the first being that of the USA since it is most dependent on imported oil.


But the USA and other belligerent nations have decided to act contrary to international law and in violation of the United Nations, with the consequence that their military forces and economies are now in jeopardy.

Among all of the options on the table, the most likely are self-destruction and national suicide.
Also stumbled via the same source a cool Studs Terkel interview. He's in the twilight of his life now, but he's had quite a long and illustrious career. My familiarity with Terkel's work as an oral historian began with American Dreams Lost and Found - read that at some point during my teenage years at the beginning of the Age of Raygun (read on recommendation from my mom, who, though appreciative of my interest in Terkel's book would probably have preferred that I had put it down occasionally to focus on homework!). Needless to say, Terkel's street-level, egalitarian, almost populist vibe had a tremendous influence. Later I came to realize that he was among those willing to stand up against the McCarthyites during the 1950s. Among other things he addresses hope and the need for new voices. We are indeed desperately in need of new voices during this dark era, which has made the McCarthyites look like choir boys. One phenomenon that Terkel does finds inspiring is the connections that the internet has made possible:
"Do you see any good ending to Bush's war in Iraq?" "You say 'Bush's war'... I believe he is just an idiot. It's more a matter of those who advised him, looking for oil." "Is there a politician who could make a difference, at this point?" "That's the big question. Hillary Clinton won't. Al Gore I think could – if he ran. Barack Obama might. And I mean, might."
"So where is the hope that you talked about going to spring from?" "From young people, like I said. From their ability to organise. I believe the internet may have an even stronger influence than people have realised. Albert Einstein said that when you join an organisation – and that could be anti-war, anti-pollution, or pro the rights of lesbians and homosexuals – Einstein said that, once you join, you have more individuality, not less. Because you are another person who wants to count."
Terkel's words are italicized, and the salient passages highlighted in red typeface. Thanks to the Internet, we are able to access at our convenience information that would have been difficult to track down just a couple decades ago. That seems to be one of the candles in the darkness. Terkel may be more trusting of the Democrats than am I (neither Gore nor Obama strike me as figures who would stave off disaster). But I digress. This new-ish medium has given us opportunities to try to wake one another up that couldn't have come at a more critical time. There are individuals who have indeed "stopped traffic" and put in the public sphere critical questions that would never get aired via traditional media. Silber highlights one of those efforts:
I don't care if Meyer was rude or abrasive, or even if his motives were awful. He asked the crucial question. For God's sake, writers and bloggers who say they themselves think an attack on Iran would represent a horrific criminal act, and may additionally lead to the final imposition of a dictatorship in the United States, can barely bring themselves to ask the question in articles or on their blogs. And they do nothing to pressure the Democrats in Congress to act to prevent an attack -- and the Democrats are supposedly their representatives from their party, and purportedly concerned with their views. But for the most part, these writers and bloggers do absolutely nothing. At least they do nothing politely. They follow the rules. They are marvelously well-behaved. By such means, they also render themselves utterly useless and irrelevant -- and accomplices before the fact to a monstrous crime.

All I care about is the fact that Meyer asked the question that should be everyone's highest concern right now. Meyer tried to stop traffic and, for a very brief, fragile moment, he did. He tried to wake people up. Most of you are still in a self-induced coma. So much for Meyer's attempt.

And, as this exchange with NBC's Today show indicates, Meyer has a very good understanding of what is at stake here. Consider what he says about his first two questions: Your arrest has sparked a lot of questions about free speech and police brutality, but one of the biggest questions remains your motive for attending the John Kerry event. What was the point you were trying to make?

Meyer: The first question I asked the Senator was about his concession of the 2004 election. Greg Palast, author of "Armed Madhouse," the book I was holding up at the forum, proved that John Kerry won the 2004 election. The ultimate point I was trying to make was to bring up was the heinous way millions of American votes were chucked in the garbage on Election Day. Not only is this a total assault on democracy, but the same tactics used to throw away votes in 2004 will be used again in 2008. Read about the Help America Vote Act and see for yourself. HAVA helps America vote in about the same way the PATRIOT Act patriotically dismantles the Bill of Rights. In other words, it’s completely Un-American.

The second question I asked was why haven’t Kerry and the Democratic Congress made any moves to impeach Bush, considering he has led us into two wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wasn’t even legitimately elected (as Kerry knows since, as he told me, he has read "Armed Madhouse.") If Kerry is so concerned about the aggressive posturing the administration is taking towards Iran, why don’t he and the Democrats running Congress do something about it? They have the impeachment power. Millions of Americans believe they should use it.
As stated above and as I have explained in numerous essays -- see "The Worsening Nightmare," "Morality, Humanity and Civilization: 'Nothing remains...but memories,'" and "Building an Effective Resistance," in particular -- because of the panoply of horrors that will result from an attack on Iran, this is the only issue that matters right now.

Andrew Meyer understands this, and he did something about it. Why -- why, in God's name -- won't more of you do something about it? Why the hell won't you wake up?
I've found Silber to be an especially eloquent voice on the topic of war and war crimes, and the consequences of further escalation - e.g., starting a war with Iran. Certainly he's far from alone in noticing how the US is practically sleepwalking its way to disaster. Gore Vidal keeps coming to mind:
We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality. But we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health: The World Health Organization rates our healthcare system (sic—or sick?) as 37th-best in the world, far behind even Saudi Arabia, role model for the Texans. Our infant mortality rate is satisfyingly high, precluding a First World educational system.
Also, it has not gone unremarked even in our usually information-free media that despite the boost to the profits of such companies as Halliburton, Bush’s wars of aggression against small countries of no danger to us have left us well and truly broke. Our annual trade deficit is a half-trillion dollars, which means that we don’t produce much of anything the world wants except those wan reports on how popular our Entertainment is overseas. Unfortunately the foreign gross of “King Kong,” the Edsel of that assembly line, is not yet known. It is rumored that Bollywood—the Indian film business—may soon surpass us! Berman writes, “We have lost our edge in science to Europe…The US economy is being kept afloat by huge foreign loans ($4 billion a day during 2003). What do you think will happen when America’s creditors decide to pull the plug, or when OPEC members begin selling oil for euros instead of dollars?…An International Monetary Fund report of 2004 concluded that the United States was ‘careening toward insolvency.’
Meanwhile, China, our favorite big-time future enemy, is the number one for worldwide foreign investments, with France, the bete noire of our apish neocons, in second place.
If one is not going to actively "stop traffic", I suppose there are other things one can do in advance of the inevitable collapse. I tried to highlight some of that a few months ago (The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades!). The bottom line comes down to simply not participating or at least reducing participation in the current system. I tend to quote liberally from Dmitry Orlov, who seems to have a pretty good vantage point having survived the collapse of his native Soviet Union. Wars fought for oil - and that's what we're doing, folks - have not only been bloody (at this point well-documented) but, given the amount of petroleum consumed in order to keep fueling these damned wars, are the height of absurdity. This is not a system that's built to last. The best we could do is to stop doing harm. Hoping that additional Democrats in Congress and maybe the White House will make that come to pass is a fool's game. You'd be better off betting the ranch on winning the Lotto jackpot. At the very least we can stop giving any of these goons any inkling of our consent.

If one is into trying to do something constructive in the way of activism with regard to preventing a cataclysm in Iran, I have noted and endorsed some of Arthur Silber's suggestions. To act on any of those suggestions though presupposes one basic assumption: You must be awake!

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