Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Political Delusions, Deadly Delusions




Political Delusions, Deadly Delusions

Peter Schultz


Below are quotes from an article in the Washington Post, today, 7/12/2022, which wants to distinguish those who would not bake cakes for gay weddings from those who would deny service to those who don’t agree with the LBGQT agenda, based on religious beliefs. Of course, this is delusional. And it is quite interesting that the alleged “liberals” are defending those who, in public restaurants, refuse to some people based on their political beliefs or what they assume are their political beliefs. And despite what Ms. Sepper asserts, this is about denying some Christians the rights enjoyed by non-Christians, because that is the only distinguishing characteristic of the group in play here. Certainly, there are people, non-Christians, who share the thoughts of these Christians regarding gay rights. But they, of course, would be served because how would the restaurant know of those beliefs? So, yes, it Christians being singled out here and Ms. Sepper is no more persuasive than was President Bush when he said the war on terror wasn’t a war on Islam, as he attacked several Islamic nations.


In fact, though it is even worse than that. The principle enunciated here by Ms. Sepper and others is the same principle that allows President Obama to assert that he has the right to incinerate any Muslim-appearing young man between the ages of 20 and 30, without any evidence of wrong-doing, assassinations labeled “signature assassinations” by our military. If this isn’t waging war against Muslims, I can’t imagine what you’d call it. Ms. Seppers is asserting that restaurants can make “signature refusals of service” based, not as she claims on “the group’s actions,” but on the fact that they are Christians of a certain type. “Oh, you are a member of that church? Yes. Well, you can’t eat here.” This is as clearly discrimination against certain groups based on their religious beliefs as is Obama’s “signature assassinations.” I wouldn’t be surprised, though, that those who refused to serve these Christians support Obama’s incinerations of Muslim young men and wouldn’t mind serving Obama his dinner.


It’s stuff like this that makes it impossible to take these allegedly “humanitarian warriors” seriously. Their “humanitarianism” is just as biased, just as characterized by rage and hate, as those they consider their enemies. And because of that, their “humanitarianism” leads to totalitarianism, where those who dissent are demonized and ostracized.  


The Quotes and the link:


“In her blog post, Cobb likened the restaurant’s move to establishments that refused to serve Black customers in the 1950s and ’60s, and she decried what she called a “double standard” by liberals who think a Colorado baker should not be allowed to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.”


“Legal experts say neither of those are apt analogies. While it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race or religion, the restaurant’s refusal had to do with the group’s actions, said Elizabeth Sepper, a professor at the University of Texas. “It’s about the overall positions and policies the group has taken — it’s not about Christian vs. non-Christian,” she said.”

Monday, December 5, 2022

Jack Beatty's Age of Betrayal


Jack Beatty’s Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900

Peter Schultz


            Here are some interesting passages from Beatty’s book, showing its relevance for us today.


            “While ‘industrialization adds immensely to national power, and may also promote the long-term betterment of the material conditions of the mass of the population. . . it also involves the creation of structures of power, and, indeed, conquest. This turn requires the economic and cultural subordination of the mass of the population and the redefinition of the terms of their social and cultural existence.’”


            This subordination was difficult in the United States because of democratic politics and mass suffrage, which had appeared before industrialization had achieved full power. Hence, the need for disenfranchisement of the people. New York State tried to do this formally by limiting the franchise, but this failed. But “It wasn’t necessary to assault democracy so frontally.”


            The party system was used to insulate America’s industrializing elites “from democracy through a politics of distraction, based on the manipulation of real hatreds and sham issues. ‘Parties as they exist today are bellowing imposters and organized frauds,’ a former Populist lieutenant governor of Kansas asserted in 1898, when his own party had decayed into an organized fraud. ‘They are either reliable machines of the plutocracy and corporations, or they are the handy tools of hypocrites and harlequins, and are as much responsible, through the deceptions they have practiced and the corruption they have defended, for the servitude of the masses to plutocratic usurpers, as are the lawless exactions of organized capital for their plundering.’ Distraction, deception, corruption – the editor omitted only force.” [pp. 22-23]


            That industrialization “requires the economic and cultural subordination of the mass of the population and the redefinition of the terms of their social and cultural existence,” helps me make sense of Teddy Roosevelt’s intense concern, while was police commissioner of New York City, with redefining the social and cultural lives of the working classes in the city. It also helps explain what our “cultural wars” are all about, viz., redefining the social and cultural lives of the mass of our population. These wars are part and parcel of the informal disenfranchisement of our democracy, a disenfranchisement required to insulate our oligarchic or plutocratic elites from the masses deemed to be “beneath” them.  


Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Essential Nature of the Conflict: Part Two


The Essential Nature of the Conflict: Part Two

Peter Schultz


            In the first part of this essay, I made the argument that the Cold War, for example, was a cover meant to hide the essential nature of the conflict between the global capitalist classes and those opposed to them. By implication, this conflict was and is the real conflict going on in the world, not, for example, “the West” versus “the communists.” So, the Cold War was created to hide this conflict and its implications.


            But there was and is another dimension to the Cold War and that was to help advance the agenda of the global capitalist classes. And this worked as follows.


            It was a criticism of the US’s involvement in Vietnam that the military objective was never clearly stated. As Fletcher Prouty put it, “Gen. Creighton Abrams asked the central question of President Johnson,” viz., “what [is] this country’s strategic objective…in Indochina.” But he got no answer from Johnson or anyone else, which meant “the best men like Abrams and Westmoreland could do was wallow in the quagmire of indecision while counting bodies on both sides.” [p. 239]


            But while there wasn’t such a strategic objective, there were political objectives. That is, with the advent of what was and is called counterinsurgency warfare or limited warfare, “the military would be used to further ‘political stability, economic growth, and social change….’” [Prouty. 183] This was, according to Prouty, “a totally revolutionary role for the US military.” [ibid] And many in the military, especially the Joint Chiefs, wanted no part of being “Cold Warriors.” They wanted to remain military people and did not want the military to become the means of furthering “political stability, economic growth, and social change.” And, of course, these terms, “political stability, economic growth, and social change” are empty terms. What kind of “political stability?” Certainly, not the kind of stability created by traditional village life in Vietnam. What kind of “economic growth?” Again, traditional village life in Vietnam would have to disappear in order to get a growing economy because village life was utterly unconcerned with and even rejected such growth. What kind of “social change?” Of course, these changes would look to displace traditional village life, perhaps replacing that life with a life characterized by workers manufacturing sneakers for the Nike corporation.  


            You can see where this is going. That the military was to be converted from a purely military organization to another kind of organization – one, as Prouty points out, that Mao made famous in his writings – that would serve to advance a particular agenda, viz., the agenda of the global capitalist classes. As the result of such a conversion, wars should be limited and need not be “won.” As Prouty puts it: “In Vietnam the United States won precisely nothing, but that costly war served the primary purposes of the world’s power elites. For one thing, they benefitted splendidly from the billions of dollars that came their way. For example, more than ten million men were flown from the United States to Saigon by contract commercial airline flights, representing more than $800 million in windfall business for those airlines.” [p. 235] And, as Prouty points out, “As the progression of events in Central America has demonstrated, the tactics of Vietnam have become the method of dealing with the problems of less-developed countries in the bipolar world.” [ibid] “Dealing with the problems of less-developed nations,” however, seems less than accurate insofar as the global capitalist classes seek to replace one set of such problems with another set of problems, for example, recurring and great debt that serves the interests of our global capitalist classes. 


            Another result of such an agenda is that the CIA gained power within the US government. Again, Prouty: “The US military establishment was neither designed nor prepared to engage in peacetime covert operations, nor did it wish to. As a result, this type of activity remained with the CIA by default.” Given its limitations though, which are insufficient to wage clandestine warfare on its own, the CIA can only incite incidents that subsequently require further US action, either through the military or through proxies, the latter of which leads to the US joining forces with the likes of jihadists and other less than reputable actors. And so the “New World Order,” the world order the global capitalist classes are seeking to create, begins to look less like a just order and more like an order resting on injustice and repression. It is certainly not a peaceful order, unless of course it succeeds in repressing all its “insurgents,” which seems unlikely.

Wild Stuff: The Essential Nature of the Conflict

Wild Stuff: The Essential Nature of the Conflict

Peter Schultz


            Consider two passages, one from C.J. Hopkins, volume II, and the other from Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy.


First, the passage from Prouty, regarding the cover up of the JFK assassination: “It [the cover up] was designed to make possible the total takeover of the government of the United States…and to make it possible for this cabal to control the series of Presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to the present day.” [p.138]


Second, the passage from Hopkins concerning “the War on Dissent the global capitalist classes have been waging…. It isn’t just a question of delegitimizing dissidents by smearing them as anti-Semites, Russian agents, and conspiracy theorists. The goal is to conceal the essential nature of the conflict itself….The essential nature of the conflict is…neoliberalism versus neo-nationalism [with] the global capitalist ruling classes putting down a neo-nationalist insurgency….”


Leave aside the Kennedy assassination and the current battle between neoliberalism and neo-nationalists for a moment and focus on the essential conflict, viz., that of the global capitalist classes against insurgents. In this light, American politics then may be seen as repeated attempts by the global capitalist ruling classes to maintain their rule against insurgencies as they arise in one form or another. As Hopkins points out, this isn’t easy for the global capitalist ruling classes to do because their cause “is a really tough sell to regular folks.” Therefore, the global capitalist ruling classes have to cover up “the essential nature of the conflict,’ e.g., by turning global neoliberalism into “Western democracy” and nationalism into “Nazism.”


This way of looking at things has some rather important implications. For example, it may be argued that the Cold War itself was created to hide the essential nature of the conflict, to hide the essential character of the conflict between what is now called “neoliberalism” and its enemies. Further, the wars that arose after WW II, for example, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, were also used by the “global capitalist classes” to hide the essential character of their politics and the conflicts that agenda created. Anti-communism v. communism hides the essential conflict between the global capitalist classes and the insurgents resisting those classes.


Further implications include the controversies created by the Warren Commission and the 9/11 commissions. If not by design, the controversies these commissions created would further conceal the nature of the essential conflict because the question of the essential conflict, what is it, never gets addressed. Intense controversies arose over bullets, rifles, falling towers, watchdogs that didn’t bark (as one book puts it regarding 9/11). In fact, the essential conflict never even makes an appearance. And the more intense these controversies become, the better they hide the real conflict. And this would be true of any controversy that arose, e.g., whether Jeremy Corbyn is a Nazi, whether Trump is Putin’s bitch, or whether Obama is a natural born American citizen. And the more controversies like these that arise, the more invisible the real or essential conflict becomes, to the point that if you bring up the essential conflict, you will be dismissed as irrelevant at best or delusional at worse.


Of course, if Prouty’s argument that the JFK cover up made it possible for a “cabal” to “totally takeover” the US government is modified to say that that cover up was in service of such an agenda of trying to take over the US government, then it is feasible to see American politics as what Hopkins calls “the global capitalist classes” trying their best to gain or fortify their rule against various “insurgencies” opposed to that agenda. The global capitalist classes weren’t always successful and perhaps can never be finally successful and so they had to wage political battles, repeatedly, against the insurgents. So, what Hopkins sees going on now has been going on for a long time, only in different dimensions or disguises. The Cold War served the global capitalist classes well, and when it ended with the demise of the Soviet Union a new war was needed. And lo and behold, there arose the war on terror, which, again, has served the global capitalist classes well, while concealing “the essential nature of the conflict itself.” Of course, Trump proved to be another way of concealing this conflict, one which the Democrats were more than happy to use, with the Republicans not far behind. Both parties created “Trump,” as it were, because both parties share an interest in concealing the essential nature of the conflict.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

War Is the Health of the State


War Is the Health of the State

Peter Schultz


            I have been reading Max Blumenthal’s book, The Management of Savagery, which is his account of “how America’s national security state fueled the rise of al Qaeda, ISIS….” Like most commentators, Blumenthal argues that America’s national security state fueled the rise of these entities because America’s elites ignored certain facts and ended up involved in civil wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. And these wars gave rise to al Qaeda and ISIS, making then more powerful than they otherwise would have been.


            From this perspective, these civil wars were mistakes, i.e., were events that US elites could and should have avoided or even prevented. And this reasoning seems to make perfect sense, especially in light of the widely accepted thought that politicians and nations always should try to avoid war because war represents failure.


            But suppose, at least momentarily, that “war is the health of the state,” to borrow the title of an essay written by Randolph Bourne in the early 20th century. If we give play to this possibility, then it emerges that the civil wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria and America’s involvement in them were not mistakes. Or, even they were mistakes, they have contributed to the health of the US state, have contributed to its power and its wealth, as well as to its place in the world.


            Think about it: When has war not contributed to the health of a state? Did WW I contribute to or compromise the health of the German state? Both, you might say. And the same phenomenon appears regarding the Vietnam War. Did it contribute to or compromise the health of the American state? Again, both you may say. That war, Vietnam, has been used to help build up the power and wealth of the United States, especially after the onset of “the Reagan Revolution.” And it is still being used today to fortify American patriotism and unity, thereby making the American state healthier. And America’s embrace of war, of several simultaneously, has produced what some call “a war culture,” a culture characterized by reinvigorated patriotism and unity, as well as the whole-hearted embrace of “American exceptionalism” to the point that Americans refer to the United States as “the indispensable nation.” War politics produces a war culture, and a war culture contributes to the health of the state.


            From the viewpoint of the state and those who are invested with its powers, war politics is good politics. So, if your goal is a powerful and wealthy state, i.e., greatness, then war is the way to go.


            It could be then that Blumenthal and others are not clearly seeing the character of US politics, or of politics generally. Because US elites and its people pursue greatness, i.e., political health as it is commonly, even universally understood, the US doesn’t “stumble” into wars, isn’t dragged into “quagmires” that lead to war. Rather, the US embraces war willingly, vigorously, even whole-heartedly because war will make America great, will cause, display, and fortify America’s political health to such a degree that the US can feel free to call itself “the exceptional,” “the indispensable” nation. Oh, the glory in that! A glory that, as Pericles said of Athens, might prove to be immortal. So, as the death toll rises, remember there is glory, greatness to be harvested from those bodies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Triple Cross: A Comment


Triple Cross: A Comment

Peter Schultz


            In his book, Triple Cross: How Bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI, Peter Lance repeatedly points out how the FBI and the CIA failed to see Ali Mohamed for the al Qaeda spy he was. Throughout the 1990s and even earlier, there was evidence of Mohamed’s attachment to al Qaeda. In fact, in 1993, he revealed to an FBI agent that he was such a spy and yet the FBI and the CIA failed to follow up.


            It’s interesting, to say the least, that despite all of the examples of failures of these agencies, Lance never asks whether all of these “might have beens,” as he calls them, are the result not of intermittent failures but of fundamental flaws endemic to these bureaucracies. That is, is it possible that these agencies are fundamentally defective and not just capable of making “mistakes,” as are all human beings and human organizations?


            Bureaucracies are institutions created in order to control things. This is their primary function regardless of what they are “regulating.” Hence, the intel they gather is assessed through the lens of control. If intel is gathered that is deemed not to represent a threat, not to represent significant danger than it is not important or, at any rate, not important enough to invest a significant amount of time and money in. It is, in all likelihood, to be “filed away” in case it proves to be significant later.


            What does this mean? Among other things, it means that bureaucrats and bureaucracies lack or suppress imagination. Bureaucrats are, it might be said, invested in “the effectual truth,” to borrow a phrase from Machiavelli’s The Prince, and not the whole truth. The whole truth only emerges through the use of imagination. What is called “evidence” is only what is evident, so evidence always presents only a partial picture of what is going on or what went on. There may situations where such partial pictures are beneficial, e.g., in criminal trials where the important thing is to determine if someone committed a particular act.


            But in other situations such partial pictures are misleading, are even blinding, as it were. To put it bluntly, the effectual truth gets human beings to nuclear weapons; but it doesn’t and it can’t get human beings to thinking, after witnessing the use of such weapons, “Now, I am become death, destroyer of worlds.” The latter requires imagination, inspiration, even religious inspiration. And such imagination or inspiration is essential to understand the world that nuclear weapons have created, or what those armed with nuclear weapons are likely to become.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Failure in Vietnam and the Rise of "Reagan"


Failure in Vietnam and the Rise of “Reagan”

Peter Schultz


How did the failure of the US in the Vietnam War fuel the rise of Ronald Reagan and his kind of conservatism? That failure fueled Reagan’s rise to power because that failure wasn’t perceived as a failure of the underlying political paradigm. According to that paradigm, call it “political realism,” power in the form of advanced technology and managerial skills will enable the US to control the world, both at home and abroad. As Prouty has put it, the US created “a great machine” in the guise of the Department of Defense, the CIA, NSA, and DIA, armed with the most advanced weapons and entrusted it to people educated in our elite institutions to be its managers.


Insofar as the US failed in Vietnam but didn’t see that failure as attributable to our politics of realism, then Reagan – or any other politician, conservative or liberal – could claim that our national security state, our “great machine,” needed strengthening, not dismantling. Which is of course what has happened.


In a way, Reagan et. al. turned Eisenhower’s warning about “the military-industrial complex” on its head. For Reagan et. al., it wasn’t the complex that was dangerous; it was the incompleteness of the complex that was dangerous. For Reagan, the military-industrial complex was the key to US survival and hegemony, and should therefore be embraced, fortified, and extended as far as possible. Reagan’s “conservatism” and Eisenhower’s represent two very different kinds of political regimes, with Reagan’s being imperialistic and Ike’s being, at least dimly, republican. Reagan’s conservatism points toward endless wars, wars that need not be won to serve their purposes, while Eisenhower’s conservatism points toward “a crusade for peace.”


That both Kennedy and Nixon ran against Eisenhower in the 1960 presidential election illustrates just how “unrealistic” Eisenhower’s politics seemed then – and seem now.