Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Peter Schultz

As 9/11 comes around once again, Americans indulge themselves in what they take to be their story of suffering and salvation. And in this story, other nations, other peoples are little more than bit players, walk-ons, cameos in a drama full of suffering Americans seeking solace through violence and war. With no blood on their hands, they have nothing to repent for, no penance is needed, and redemption morphs into revenge.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

American Politics "Disappeared"

American Politics “Disappeared”
Peter Schultz

            There is an interesting passage in a book entitled Revolutionaries of the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War, by Kyle Burke. To wit:

            “Thus, the Iran-Contra investigations and prosecutions failed to punish, or even hold accountable, many of the operative’s key players But they failed another way….[because] their overwhelming focus on the Reagan administration’s role in Iran-Contra….obscured the world of anticommunist internationalism that surrounded it” Hence, “the congressional leaders were unable to see the [anticommunist] activism as part of a movement that went back to the 1950s. Without that context, they attributed conservatives’ private anticommunist initiatives to the malfeasance of the Reagan administration….’[p. 199, emphasis added]

            It is important to note what Burke is writing about here, viz., that what he calls the “context” of the Iran-Contra scandal is nothing less than the politics that the Reagan administration and many others embraced, a politics of anticommunism that had been embraced by US elites at least since the 1950s. This kind of politics disappears in the midst of the Iran-Contra investigations because they focused on, obsessed over Reagan’s “malfeasances.” And once the politics of anticommunism that was embraced by Reagan disappears, it cannot be challenged or assessed. Then the issue to be addressed is not, “What are the alternatives to a politics of anticommunism?” but rather, “How can we correct Reagan’s malfeasances and ensure that they don’t happen again?”

            Of course this wasn’t the only time the politics of US elites was “disappeared.” It also happened after 9/11 when the commission that was appointed to investigate the 9/11 attacks focused on how the government had failed to detect these attacks before they happened. Once again, the focus was on the malfeasances of the government and not on the politics that surrounded these attacks. Once again, the issue was how to correct such malfeasances and ensure that they did not happen again, not on whether there were political alternatives that might have changed the political environment that contributed to the attacks.

            Returning to Burke’s arguments on the anticommunist internationalism that controlled US politics from 1950s until the demise of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, he wrote “That although the anticommunist international died, the impulses that animated its paramilitary campaigns in the Cold War persisted.” [p. 206] I am tempted to say, of course those impulses persisted because they weren’t simply about the Cold War. The Cold War was just the occasion for elites to embrace, to rely on a kind of politics that preceded in time the Cold War itself. Let me call this kind of politics the politics of realism, which, of course, may be traced back to the founding fathers and even further back to Locke, Hobbes, and Machiavelli. Because “the impulses” Burke writes about arise from these sources, they did persist after the demise of the Soviet Union and, when another occasion arose where they seemed to be useful, that is, after 9/11, they were embraced once again. Despite Vice President Cheney’s attempt to make it seem so, “going to the dark side” was nothing new to US elites. They had been going to the dark side since at least the 1950s.

            What Burke helped me to see is that when disasters or scandals happen, ala’ Iran-Contra or 9/11, the investigations that are undertaken are conducted so as to make the most important issues, the political issues, disappear. It is the politics that  our elites embrace that establish the environment in which government operates, in which bureaucrats try to govern, in which politicians try to operate successfully. In the face of repeated disasters and scandals, it might be useful to challenge and assess the politics our elites practice.

American Politics and Frankenstein

American Politics and Frankenstein
Peter Schultz

            Attached is an article from the Guardian that is an excerpt from a book by Stephen Kinzer just published entitled Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control. And it reminded me of Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein and here’s why.

            As everyone knows, in Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein obsesses over his ability, by means of modern science, to create life. As I read and taught this book, a question eventually occurred to me: Frankenstein already possessed the ability to create life, as do most human beings, via reproduction. So why was Frankenstein so obsessed with creating life scientifically? Why not just create life “the old fashioned way?”

            The answer Shelley provides is that Frankenstein wanted to create life so he would be considered god-like; that is, having powers that until then were only possessed by the gods or by God. Frankenstein craved, lusted after immortality and this craving displaced the more common form of lust that, in the best of cases, fuels reproduction, the creation of new life.

            The same impulses are visible in the CIA’s experiments trying to “perfect” mind control. As Kinzer put it: “During this period, there was an obsession at the CIA: there is a way to control the human mind, and if it can be found, the prize will be nothing less than global mastery.” What Kinzer might have written to be more precise is that the CIA was obsessed with controlling the human mind scientifically, that is, with the use of drugs. Controlling the human mind is not all that difficult and, as every semi-intelligent politician or shyster knows, it can be done “the old fashioned say,” through propaganda or spectacles that occupy or overpower the minds of ordinary human beings and make them malleable. As admen like to say: “You can sell shit if it’s packaged properly.” And, of course, they and politicians do that every day in every way.

            But why isn’t the old fashioned way sufficient? Well, because it does not guarantee, as Kinzer puts it, mastery. It’s mastery that the men in the CIA were seeking, just as it was mastery that the US government was seeking while claiming it was seeking “national security.” This is what underlay modern science and modern politics, a craving for mastery that would make its practitioners god-like or immortal. For our ambitious and hubristic politicians, the goal is mastery, global mastery and sacrificing lives, both human and non-human lives even in great numbers, is the price that must be paid to achieve such “immortality.”

            Kinzer recounts the price that Olson had to pay if he wanted to achieve the kind of mastery he and the CIA wanted to achieve.

            In his laboratory at Fort Detrick, Olson directed experiments that involved gassing or poisoning laboratory animals. These experiences disturbed him. “He’d come to work in the morning and see piles of dead monkeys,” his son Eric later recalled. “That messes with you. He wasn’t the right guy for that.”

            “Olson also saw human beings suffer. Although not a torturer himself, he observed and monitored torture sessions in several countries.

“In CIA safe-houses in Germany,” according to one study, “Olson witnessed horrific brutal interrogations on a regular basis. Detainees who were deemed ‘expendable’ – suspected spies or moles, security leaks, etc. – were literally interrogated to death in experimental methods combining drugs, hypnosis and torture, to attempt to master brainwashing techniques and memory erasing.”

               As Mary Shelley realized so long ago, when she was still a teenager, was that the desire for mastery, a desire that underlay modern science and modern politics, leads to dehumanization, leads to a spiritual crisis that would, if left unchecked, devastate humankind, turning us into monsters ala’ Dr. Frankenstein. For in the end, as even Dr. Frankenstein comes to realize, his creature and he are both monsters. It would seem as if Dr. Olson became aware of the same phenomenon. The troubling thing is, though, that our elites have not come to the same realization.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Trump: The Trojan Horse

Trump: The Trojan Horse
Peter Schultz

            Of late, I have been reading a bunch of history about American politics, especially about US elites, under the guise of what’s called “counterinsurgency,” adopted and authorized the use of terrorist tactics, of mass killings especially in Central America, in order to impose its will on, to dominate those nations. For example, as one RAND analyst put it: “’US military advisers and intelligence officers’ whom [the analyst] knew who were involved in the war [in El Salvador] understood that the containment of the rebels was ‘not the result of reform but of the consequence of the murder of thousands of people.’” [Empire’s Workshop, p. 105] In fact, this was called “the genocide option” and it was practiced in Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as El Salvador.

            “Between 1981 and 198 in Guatemala, the army executed roughly 100,000 Mayan peasants unlucky enough to live in a region identified as a seedbed of leftist insurgency. In some towns, troops murdered children by beating them on the rocks or throwing them into rivers as parents watched.” [p. 90]

            “In Nicaragua, the US-backed Contras decapitated, castrated, and otherwise mutilated civilians and foreign aid workers.” [p. 90]

            And this behavior was the result of training by US advisers, training that was “designed to purge civilization out of [the troops]….Some [troops] were required to raise puppies, only to be ordered to kill them and drink their blood.” [p. 90] And these things went on with the knowledge and under the auspices to the US government and its elites. The “civilian militarists” in the Republican Party not only knew about these things but defended them. Ted Schackley, who supervised secret paramilitary armies in Laos and Vietnam that were responsible for the execution of tens of thousands, wrote a book defending these policies under the title The Third Option.

            Against the backdrop of these actions, which were endorsed and embraced by the governing classes in the US, what is it that Trump has done to warrant labeling him a one of the most dangerous politicians ever to occupy the White House? That is, the policies, the actions of earlier administrations were far more extreme than anything Trump has done. In fact, compared to other administrations – those of LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Jr. – Trump looks like, at best, a minor leaguer and possibly like someone without the skills to play in the big leagues with the big boys.

            But insofar as this is accurate, why then do so many treat Trump as a gravely dangerous politician? What purpose could be served by continually exaggerating Trump’s capacity for harm?

            Well, to put it directly, Trump is being used as something like a “Trojan horse” in order to disarm, defeat, and delegitimize a real threat to the existing political order, viz., a populism that rejects the status quo, rejects its “realpolitik,” its endless wars, and its oligarchic economic and political arrangements and institutions. Trump as a Trojan horse conceals the attack on the real enemies of our Orwellian oligarchy, while Trump has never been and will never be a genuine threat to that oligarchy. He is too much of a clown, too superficial politically to generate the kind of popularity needed to undermine the established order. But by being treated as such by that order, it can fortify itself against greater, potentially more problematic dangers – like a resurgent populism of the kind that elected Jimmy Carter in 1976.

            There is evidence in the appeal of Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Pete B., Beto, and even Elizabeth Warren that the seeds of such a populism are present and could, given the right chain of events, burst forth and replace the current oligarchy. Hence, that oligarchy emphasizes, exaggerates Trump’s importance, by referring to what they call “Trumpism.” But Trumpism only exists because the ruling elites have created it, as Trump has not enunciated any doctrine, any overarching vision except for the vague and hollow mantra “Make America Great Again.” Obviously, this mantra leads nowhere except to some imagined and imaginary past that no one, not even Trump, can pin down. For Trumpism to be real, he would have to, like FDR or LBJ, enunciate, elaborate, point toward a new political order like the New Deal or the Great Society. But as almost everyone realizes, although it is not often said, Trump is not capable of such leadership. Such leadership cannot be built on tweets. And Trump’s tweets are a clear sign that his politics are at bottom impotent. Tweeting, like womanizing, reflects a fear of impotency, and Trump is strangely proud of both his tweeting and his womanizing.  

            Of course, this would not be the first time that the ruling classes in the US practiced a kind of “Trojan horse” politics. It is plausible to argue that the Cold War was used in this way, when US elites used that “war” against communism as a way to control – for better and worse – the American people and to fortify their power against surging populist forces like black power, feminism, and gay liberation. If you ask “What can I do for my country?” as JFK recommended, you will not be asking what your rights are as blacks, as women, or as gays. And of course you won’t be asserting those rights either, which if successfully asserted would undermine the power of the prevailing elites.

In a nation that aspires to be a republic, the elites are constantly battling the people for control. Currently, Trump is a useful ally helping our current elites maintain their power. He is a “Trojan horse.”  

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The "Go Fuck Yourself" Strategy

The “Go Fuck Yourself” Strategy
Peter Schultz

            The argument going around that people should vote for whomever the Democrats nominate for president is about as inept and asinine a strategy as I can imagine.

            In the first place, it renders your politics irrelevant. It says: “Forget your politics. Dismiss what you believe are the correct political choices, the just political choices, and, simple-mindedly, vote against Trump.”

            But such a vote isn’t only a vote against Trump; it is also a vote for some Democrat, and for that Democrat despite his or her politics. Suppose this nominee supports America’s endless wars and humongous “defense” budgets. Suppose s/he favors privatizing social security. Suppose s/he supports killing American citizens or even other human beings without any due process. Suppose s/he is another Orwellian oligarch. But of course following the “vote Democrat” strategy, these suppositions don’t matter.

            So, by following the “you must vote and vote Democratic” strategy, you are, ineptly and inanely, voting for policies you reject.

            And what is gained by this strategy should the Democrat win the election? Very little indeed, as you helped elect a politician who supports policies you disapprove of because they are not in the nation’s interests. That should really improve the nation’s well-being.

            You have, in removing Trump, undermined your own politics and, if you pardon my vernacular, you have followed the commonly offered advice to “go fuck yourself.”

            So, yes, vote against Trump, vote for any schmuck the Democrats nominate, use your vote to fuck yourself. But, by the by, don’t be complaining when you find yourself – as you surely will – fucked.