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Spooky Action At A Distance

Unabashed editorial with no partisan prejudice

By Jim Chaffee

assassin bug sucking the guts fraom a stinkbug

I'm not one for writing editorials or their cousins, the blogs, considering them the proclivity of the infinite-mouth-to-brain-ratio herd. Nor do I often read them, given the preponderance of dogma over ratiocination and usual lack of information (sense of Fisher and Shannon, as in surprise, as opposed to Wiener, as in ordered). Face it, your basic editorial writer and most bloggers are tethered to a standard point of view, each a member of a gaggle wearing blinders to ensure proper tunnel vision.

Nonetheless I here break my rule to speak on an issue I am sure no one to few will understand, though this doubtless makes no difference given the ultimate futility of such writings. But then such is life; that is to say, futile.

Two examples stand out among many as pivot points. First, Hilary Clinton telling John Edwards that the war on terror is real. Amazing. Edwards, of whom I am not a fan, pointedly stated that the war on terror is not real, which is true. It is a METAPHOR. Like the war on cancer (you going to drop in the 101st Airborne? fortunately the Pres didn't need burly paratroopers up his ass this time, the polyps being benign) or worse, (anyone remember?) the war on poverty. I remember a standup comedian saying he joined the war on poverty: he threw a grenade at a peasant.

This brand of mushy-headedness is one reason why Hilary ought not be president (easier to see than trying to determine if anyone running ought be president). Anyone seriously running for president is disqualified by disposition, since to run for the job means one is power mad, egomaniacal, and a creep. It is doubtful anyone seriously running for that office is qualified to be a human being. But to aver the reality of metaphors is asinine. Either she lies or she is as stupid as the monster now in office (considering Bush-Cheney a two-headed beast).

assassin bug sucking the guts from a stinkbug

But there is another brand of mushy-headedness just as idiotic and dangerous. It comes with the e-word, dragged into international politics by the current sadness in the White House and a band of aping loonies like the nutty rock n roll musician (can't recall his name; never intentionally listened to anything he performed) recently interviewed on Austin PBS, who spouted gibberish about having a duty to fight evil where you find it. Asking an inane question along the lines of What was the Normandy invasion about, if not fighting evil? Then going on about history and the Bataan death march. Comic book history is worse than no history; this bozo is clearly a purveyor of comic book history. His statement is even lamer than the current actor who would be president (a man of the "old-fashioned ladies," a term used by an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend that scares the bejesus out of me considering what it might actually mean operationally) yapping about evil.

assassin bug sucking the guts from a stinkbug

For the rocker, it might be easy to straighten out his history, if he can read, and his linguistic analysis if he can think. Big ifs. First of all, D-Day was not about fighting evil. Had it been, the US would have joined the fight in Europe a few years earlier. It was most likely about attempting to preserve Western Europe from Soviet domination once it was clear that Stalin's Red Army was kicking the crap out of Hitler single-handedly. If that had run its course, Stalin would have liberated Paris. The US took on the war in Europe after Hitler declared war, but not too quickly. The US and Britain faced four German divisions in North Africa; Stalin face one hundred fifty.

Was the slaughter in fire-bombing Tokyo, likely the most devastating single air attack on civilians ever and a war crime according to the US General who ordered it, an act of Christian charity or good will? Of course, then as now "official" bombing is okay, since it is good for industry (throw away products) and produces few US casualties. Whether indiscriminate bombing of civilians from the air is any less terroristic than from inside a crowded room or on the road via some device not manufactured and stamped by US corporations remains a vital question no one in the US will address.

By the time of D-Day the US knew Hitler's day was over, thanks to Stalin. The Red Army's destruction of Hitler is an amazing military feat not well known inside a US saturated with the myth that the US won the war in Europe.

It sure as hell wasn't about fighting evil. Not by a long shot. But it paid the US huge dividends.

Which brings us to evil. To someone whose home the US has bombed from the air, killing his or her family, the US is evil. This e-word is without a shred of meaning. It has no operational significance. When this rocker uses it, or when the President uses it, or bin Laden uses it, it has likely completely different meanings. But then no one can be sure, since there is no way to determine what the user means by the word. I can tell if the rocker or Pres or bin Laden has mastered the meaning of square root, which is invariant and has operational significance, by asking them for the square root of nine say (and asking them to demonstrate that it is, indeed, the said square root). But evil? Well, to me rock n roll is evil. So is influence peddling. So is propaganda, particularly dressed up as history.

assassin bug sucking the guts from a stinkbug

Drop the e-word and its ilk. Replace it with something concrete, operational. Like bombing innocents without the use of expensive aircraft or cruise missiles built by US corporations. Is that more like it? Shooting an innocent man on the tube in the head repeatedly at point-blank range, then lying about the circumstances publicly until evidence forces officials to recant, later rationalized via fear-mongering. Evil? Nations that act this way are not trustworthy. One cannot believe any of their official statements, whether they come from the executive, the police, the military, all of which have amazingly long records of outright lying. When they repeatedly foil nefarious Rube Goldberg schemes of terrorism and quite publicly prosecute the hapless schemers, it smacks of the venerable old police trick of planting evidence to get people. One cannot believe it is anything but a snow job, show trials to stoke fear, justifying state police powers to spy on citizens and if possible discredit them, arrest them or kill them.

Never believe the military, particularly generals. Historically they are unabashed liars, talking victory until wiped out, and when they aren't lying their grasp of reality is not what one would expect of cogent humans. Worse, they tell such obvious lies one wonders how they have the guts, but maybe that is the point of military training. Bush and crew learned that trick without any military training at all.

Most important of all, generals are nothing but bureaucrats. The military is a huge bureaucracy. And no matter the expressed purpose of any bureaucracy, the real mission is to survive and expand. No bureaucracy is successful in accomplishing any mission except growing in power and funding. As for stated goals, the US military is singularly unsuccessful, though it certainly understands how to collect and spend taxpayer dollars.

Of course, when the US kills someone it is for their own good, just like John Wayne taught. Though it is difficult to do a survey to determine if such benefit is fully appreciated. Perhaps this is also true of the British allies, yet I don't recall Brazil celebrating one recent sanctioned police assassination. Maybe they don't get it. I recall wounded and sick US Marines laughing at and booing John Wayne while watching The Green Berets in Danang, particularly when he walked into the sunset on China Beach at what was supposed to be the HQ located right across the road. I wonder if our rocker learned his history of Vietnam from movies.

assassin bug sucking the guts from a stinkbug

Stop believing in metaphors. Speak in concrete terms that mean the same thing to everyone, not in terms that can be interpreted to the listener's intent so they hear what they want to hear. For example, when someone tells you the troops are fighting for your freedom, what they really mean is the freedom to consume in socially approved ways, particularly to satisfy the rite of conspicuous consumption. There is little freedom of any other sort in the US. Certainly none the Iraqis intend to take away. I mean, how the hell are these "theys" going to follow us home from Iraq? If "they" wanted to attack here, does anyone with an ounce of sense seriously believe that our troops in Iraq could prevent it?

For all the rationalization about why the US invaded Iraq, it sure sounds like Germany's old rationalization for invading Eastern Europe, for their right to Lebensraum and to stop Bolshevik terrorists (bandits). Replace Lebensraum by a right to oil, admitted in public speech by President Bush as the reason to build a "stable" middle east without radical Muslims (didn't he use the word madmen?), and you have the same exact argument. Those Germans who fought for their country were every bit as patriotic as those who fight for the US, both certain of fighting evil. Read the translation of Gunter Grass's memoir in the June 4, 2007 New Yorker. There is no doubt to the objective observer that the US is becoming to the 21st century what Germany was to the 20th.

Norman Davies in his monumental and balanced Europe: a history, writes "Democracy has few values of its own: it is as good, or as bad, as the principles of the people who operate it." Consider that in light of the police state that was the US south, a democratic police state that lasted from the founding of the Republic as a constitutional democracy through apartheid after the Civil War until the Jim Crow laws were forcibly ended with the revolt that began in the 1950s. Remember the state sanctified lynchings, the disappearances, the late night knocks on the doors, all to keep a minority in line, first as slaves and then as "separate-but-equals," a principle upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court. And remember that during the years of legal slavery, if one was black and an escaped slave, the police state could get you no matter where you resided in the US. Remember Dred Scott. Stop spouting democracy as a cure-all. It is entirely possible for a democracy to be an oppressive police state.

The US revolution of the middle of the last century to gain rights promised but never delivered took place hand in hand with an enlightened Supreme Court that actually took the Constitution and the stated goals of the Declaration of Independence at face value for the very first time in US history. They legitimated the struggle for individual rights for all citizens and gave the nation meaningful freedom of speech. Not just "political speech" but ALL speech. The revolution extended beyond the racist south to contest another absurdly colonial war and put some limits on an imperial presidency. It was like the Prague Spring. The nation gave back those hard won limits of presidential powers with their election of Bush and Company to control not only the White House, but Congress and finally, the court system. Now the powers that be intend to roll it all back. And no matter whether Democrat or Republican is elected, they will continue along the same road to empire. They will not give back any presidential power. The revolution of the middle of the last century has been co-opted.

Our rocker ought to read the history by Davies as a counter to the comic books from which he "learned" history. Of course, like most he may prefer to believe in comic books and metaphors.

assassin bug sucking the guts from a stinkbug

© Jim Chaffee 2007