Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Mistakes of Andrew Bacevich


The Mistakes of Andrew Bacevich

Peter Schultz


I am surprised at how mistaken Bacevich is; 


"Second, both turned out to be superfluous, undertaken in response to threats -- monolithic Communism and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- that were figments of fevered imaginations. In both cases, cynicism and moral cowardice played a role in paving the way toward war. Dissenting voices were ignored.


"Third, both conflicts proved to be costly distractions. Each devoured on a prodigious scale resources that might have been used so much more productively elsewhere. Each diverted attention from matters of far more immediate importance to Americans. Each, in other words, triggered a massive hemorrhage of bloodtreasure, and influence to no purpose whatsoever.


"Fourth, in each instance, political leaders in Washington and senior commanders in the field collaborated in committing grievous blunders. War is complicated. All wars see their share of mistakes and misjudgments. But those two featured a level of incompetence unmatched since Custer’s Last Stand.


"Fifth, thanks to that incompetence, both devolved into self-inflicted quagmires. In Washington, in Saigon, and in Baghdad’s “Green Zone,” baffled authorities watched as the control of events slipped from their grasp. Meanwhile, in the field, U.S. troops flailed about for years in futile pursuit of a satisfactory outcome.


"Sixth, on the home front, both conflicts left behind a poisonous legacy of unrest, rancor, and bitterness. Members of the Baby Boom generation (to which I belong) have chosen to enshrine Vietnam-era protest as high-minded and admirable. Many Americans then held and still hold a different opinion. As for the Iraq War, it contributed mightily to yawning political cleavages that appear unlikely to heal anytime soon."


Neither war was “superfluous” once you understand that both were undertaken for domestic political purposes, in order to maintain and fortify the domestic political order that, e.g., in the sixties was under attack by the New Left, Black Power, feminism, or more briefly, “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.” Or as McGovern was characterized: “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion.” Using the Vietnam War in this way almost backfired but with the election of Nixon in 1968 the strategy proved to be successful. 


[But then because Nixon took himself too seriously, thinking he could remake US foreign policy by leaving Nam, dealing with the USSR, and opening up to China, he had to be dealt with by being forced to resign. And the ultimate result was, of course, the election of Reagan in 1980. Game over.] 


And the Iraq war was undertaken to underwrite, to secure as much as possible Papa Bush’s “new world order,” proclaimed by Bush after ejecting Saddam from Kuwait - after virtually inviting Saddam - another “move” disguised as a “mistake” - to invade! 


What Bacevich calls “grievous blunders” were not “mistakes" but "moves.” Destroying two or three nations and doing it as “mistakes” was at the very heart of the new world order. 


By characterizing these “moves” as “mistakes” Bacevich helps to hide what is actually going on. And so, of course, these wars were not “quagmires” into which the US had been dragged; as even Bacevich gets right: "First, Vietnam and Iraq were both avoidable: For the United States, they were wars of choice. No one pushed us. We dove in headfirst.” 


Exactly: “we dove in headfirst” in order to, in the 60s, not to defeat monolithic communism but to defeat domestic revolution - and succeeded to such a degree that Reagan’s election was and is proclaimed to be the “Reagan revolution.” 


[LBJ’s “Great Society” was created to serve the same purpose. As LBJ said of the Democratic Party after getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed: “We have lost the South for 50 years.” Which put differently would mean: “And  the South would rise again!” as it did with Nixon’s “Southern strategy.” That strategy was made possible by LBJ disguised as “liberal.” His Great Society and the Vietnam War were two sides of the same coin.] 


And we dove into Iraq headfirst in order to secure our “new world order,” an order characterized by “going to the dark side,” “renditions,” “enhanced interrogation techniques,” “preemptive war,” “the axis of evil,” Guantanamo,” “black sites,” and the “Patriot Act.” All of these became legitimate after 9/11 and after Shrub’s invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq. That the destruction of Iraq was the goal should be obvious insofar as that destruction continued into the occupation. That alleged “fiasco” was not a “mistake;” it was just another “move” by US imperialistic elites. 


As Tom Robbins wrote somewhere; “It is what it is. You are what you it. There are no mistakes.” Or as Kurt Vonnegut put it more concisely; “So it goes.” This truly is “No Country for Old Men.” 


Monday, December 21, 2020

Biden's Victory: White Nationalism Fortified


Biden’s Victory: White Nationalism Fortified

Peter Schultz


            Americans are a most interesting people. Apparently because they are currently concerned with white nationalism, they think that if they take down some statues of Confederate generals, change the names of some military installations named for Confederate generals, they will be dealing with the nation’s white nationalism, moderating or even eradicating its force, leading to a post-white nationalist era.


            One reason a lot of Americans think this way is because they have been taught that white nationalists are aberrations, that they exist outside of mainstream American politics in, for example, militias and organizations like the Klu Klux Klan. They fail to see or appreciate that white nationalism, or white supremacy is intertwined into the fabric of American society. They fail to see that their claims, so often made that they are taken for granted as justified, to lead the world toward democracy are claims that only make sense if one embraces ideas of the supremacy of US nationalism. America is, it is taken for granted, the exceptional nation, hence, its nationalism is exceptional, nothing like the nationalism found in other places like China, Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, or Vietnam.


            So, Americans embrace and are proud of their nationalism and, because black nationalism is unacceptable in the United States, this means that they embrace white nationalism and, therewith, white supremacy. When someone like Joe Biden, who throughout his career has embraced US nationalism – in the guise of the war on terror or the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or policies leading to the mass incarceration - is elected president, the forces of white nationalism are fortified or reinforced. That the the diversity of his cabinet is merely decoration is revealed by the fact that one way to describe his selections is to say they are “non-white.” And this is basically what diversity in the US has come to mean: Incorporating “non-whites” into the ruling elites.


            Pulling down statues of Confederate generals or decorating the cabinet with non-whites actually does very little to offset the white nationalism that is deeply interwoven into our society and our politics. And this white nationalism will continue to infect our society until we realize that the issue is or should be nationalism. Trump may have been an aberration in some ways but his white nationalism wasn’t one of those ways. Rather, by revealing the power of white nationalism, Trump went to “the dark side.” But then it was white nationalism that allowed prior presidents like Bush and Obama to also go to “the dark side.”

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Cover-ups and American Politics


Cover-ups and American Politics

Peter Schultz


            “It’s not the crime; it’s the cover up that leads to real trouble.” This thought became quite popular during the scandal known as Watergate, when it was alleged that it was Nixon’s attempt to cover-up “a third-rate burglary” that led to his downfall. And while there is some truth to this argument it is, at best, incomplete because Nixon’s cover-up wasn’t the only one being undertaken.


            John Dean, who was probably the impetus for the break-ins at the DNC in the Watergate complex, ran his own cover-up and did so successfully, to the point that he emerged as an ethical young man functioning among a gang of thieves. Bob Woodward ran his own cover-up, using Deep Throat as an integral part of it, hiding his connection to the military spy ring that was spying on the Nixon administration. Al Haig also ran a cover-up, hiding his connections to said spy ring as well as hiding the role he played in getting Nixon to resign his presidency. Without these cover-ups, our elites would have been exposed as conniving, manipulative people who would do most anything to advance themselves while pretending to be patriots serving the country.


            This means: Cover-ups are not peripheral but essential to government and governing. Governments cannot successfully function without cover-ups. Why? Because human beings need to justify their behavior, their actions, to convince themselves they are “doing good,” and governments, to succeed, must do things that cannot be justified. Putting this another way: To succeed governments must do unjust, even evil things and must, therefore, cover-up their essential activities. Justice might emerge as a result of governmental actions but that justice rests on, was made possible by injustice. This the meaning of Machiavelli’s assertions that the way human beings actually live is so far from how they think they should live, that anyone who wishes to succeed had better “learn how not to be good.” This was, for Machiavelli, “the effectual truth,” which he knew of course wasn’t the whole truth. But it was the only truth that mattered – in this world.


            Now these thoughts were recognized once upon a time by those who argued that small governments, weak governments are safer because they are less capable of injustice than large, powerful, consolidated governments. If a large, powerful, consolidated government, say a national government, were to be created, its capacity and practice of injustice would be immense, even limitless. And, hence, such governments will to engage in cover-ups, e.g., like covering up savage war-making as eradicating evil in the world via a war on terror, or covering up mass annihilations as purifications of the human race. Large, powerful, consolidated governments need large, powerful myths to succeed.


            Of course these myths must be endorsed and perpetuated by those deemed “intelligent” or “wise” in any society; that is, by a society’s elites. And so, interestingly, these elites, having been deemed “wise” by their social status, are more susceptible to believing, propagating, and perpetuating these myths than the “unchosen” or the “uneducated,” the working class popularly speaking. Thus, those deemed highly intelligent – like those holding Harvard degrees – are more likely to be delusional than the members of the “lower” classes, which helps explain why our elites are restocked from our “best” institutions of “higher learning.” Being most invested in and in need of the system’s myths, the “upper classes” will seek their perpetuation and, therewith, the fortification of that system.


            So this leads to what is perhaps the grandest myth, the greatest cover-up, viz., that it isn’t the delusional who govern us. Consider this: Despite fiasco after fiasco, we go on believing all is well or very soon will be, right after the next election, or after the next war, or after the next recession/depression. The promised land is just around corner and we will arrive if only we follow those who have been designated as our leaders. In a strange way, what is known as Machiavellian “realism” feeds into a most delusional “idealism.” And what is most needed is disillusionment. And over that horizon, philosophy, understood as the quest for inspiration, is visible along side a cynical or humorous view of government and politics. We need to see, really see, that our most notable politicians are merely stentorian baboons blocking our path to true fulfillment.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The War Conspiracy


The War Conspiracy

Peter Schultz


            So, I am reading this book by Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War.”  The title of chapter four is “Provoking China and the USSR: 1966-68.” As Dale summarizes: “The following chapter . . . represents my serious argument that elements of the US military plotted to frustrate peace talks land perhaps escalate the Vietnam War.” [p. 147]


            Robert McNamara, obviously aware of such concerns, had written in his memoirs that the US military were “dedicated, loyal servants . . . motivated by a deep and noble desire to serve their country.” However, as Dale points out “To sustain this non-conspiratorial view . . . McNamara had to ignore certain facts.” For example, he had to ignore that one Colonel Broughton covered up what he, the colonel, claimed was an accidental attack on a Soviet ship that was in a North Vietnamese harbor, including destroying the film of the attack recorded by the planes involved therein. As Dale points out, if the attack was in fact accidental, why did Broughton seen the need to destroy the evidence that would prove that. “If the attack was indeed accidental, then he [Broughton] unfortunately eliminated the best possible evidence for showing this.” [p. 153]


            Nonetheless, Dale does not now want to disparage the US military too much. As he puts it, despite the fact that “In its own eyes . . . the US military suffered not just a setback but a defeat in Vietnam,” “We should remember also that, through all the complexities of Watergate, the shock of defeat in Vietnam did not provoke the US military into a political retaliation. No general trod in the footsteps of MacArthur, and even MacArthur accepted his retirement with constitutional grace and dignity.” [p. 149]


            So, despite appearances or some troubling incidents, civilian supremacy still reigns in the United States. Or so Dale would like to believe. But what of the role the military played in the demise of Richard Nixon, if not of LBJ as well? That is, it was a military spy ring that was spying on Nixon that led to the creation of the Plumbers and other steps Nixon took to preserve the secrecy he thought necessary for successfully recognizing China, reaching strategic arms agreements with the Soviets, and ending the Vietnam War in a way that would redound to his credit and preserve some dignity in defeat for the United States. In fact, the scenario was such that references were made, sarcastically perhaps, to the movie Seven Days in May, a movie, liked much by JFK, that portrayed an attempted military coup in the United States. And there are reports that Robert Kennedy, during the Cuban missile crisis, told the Soviet ambassador that there was a possibility of the military taking control of the US government’s response to those missiles.


            Also, there is the question of what role General Alexander Haig played in Nixon’s demise. There is even a book entitled Haig’s Coup, where it is argued that Haig, with help from others who had connections to the Department of Defense, played a major role in ensuring that Nixon lost via resignation the presidency. The argument there is that Haig did this in order to protect himself from possible charges for the role he had played in the wiretapping of members of the National Security Council and several journalists, as well as protecting himself from revelations of the role he played as a source for Bob Woodward during Watergate. It would appear that the military did in fact engage in some “political retaliation” against those who were unwilling to do what they, the military, thought needed to be done, viz., rolling back communism in Asian and elsewhere.


            When seen in this light, LBJ, as Dale notes, appears in a quite different guise than he appeared to Dale, and other anti-war activists, while the Vietnam War was being waged. As Dale notes, it is plausible to see LBJ as attempting, however vainly or fitfully, to restrain the military in Vietnam in order to avoid starting a war with the Soviet Union or China. Insofar as this is accurate, then it is the case that LBJ’s decision not to seek re-election in 1968 needs to be reevaluated in order to see what role the military might or might not have played in that decision. One thing that can be pointed out: By resigning in order to work for peace in Vietnam, as he claimed he was doing, Johnson was making peace the goal toward which the government and its officials would be working.  And, so, even Richard Nixon ran as a peace candidate in 1968, promising “peace with honor” if he were elected. Insofar as this is correct, then it may be said that Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection was his way of short-circuiting the military’s desire to win the war.


            Would the military then seek to retaliate against Nixon and his attempts to change in significant ways the foreign policy of the United States, moving toward détente with the Soviets and toward recognition of China, while pronouncing the Nixon Doctrine which was geared to demilitarizing US foreign policy, ala’ leaving Vietnam without a victory? Even if the military did not adopt such an agenda, it must be said that where the US is today, where its military is today – beyond almost all reproach – indicates that, even without trying, the military has achieved a level of power that if not superior to at least rivals the power of civilians.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

"An Intelligence Failure of Historic Proportions"


“An Intelligence Failure of Historic Proportions”

Peter Schultz


            It was “an intelligence failure of historic proportions.” John Kiriakou, former CIA officer and author of The Convenient Terrorist.


            A quote from the book The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark, by John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski, regarding Bush and Tenet after Tenet had presented the CIA’s proposed plans for responding to the 9/11 attacks:


            “Did Bush have any anxiety about the leverage Tenet had over him, having laid out a series of warnings about Al Qaeda in the previous months, resulting in little offensive action from the leadership that received it? Bush didn’t need enemies. He needed friends.” [p. 107]


            It has been a question frequently raised after the 9/11 attacks why the CIA didn’t inform the FBI or the White House about the presence of two known terrorists in the United States until shortly before those attacks. The CIA claims either they did inform the FBI or they didn’t, but it’s a mystery why there is no evidence of such information being passed or why it wasn’t passed. One common speculation is that the agency was running an operation involving these terrorists and didn’t want that operation interfered with. But here now is another possibility: That CIA, by not revealing all it knew, could mislead the FBI and the White House as to the likelihood of such attacks while claiming they had warned others. Then, if and when the attacks occurred, the CIA would be in the driver’s seat, so to speak, as that organization that was on top of things, thereby guaranteeing that their plans regarding a response to the attacks would be adopted. Which is what happened on September 17th, after Tenet had presented the CIA’s proposals at Camp David to Bush and his cabinet on September 15th.


            If so, Kiriakou’s description of the lead up to 9/11 as “an intelligence failure of historic proportions” would be precisely the description the CIA was going for at that time. So, in the midst of what looks like a historic intelligence failure, the CIA comes out smelling like roses and has its way in the aftermath. As a result, the CIA’s document “Destroying International Terrorism” which was “a wish list accumulated from decades of CIA directors’ and employees’ wildest dreams” would become the heart and soul of the US’s response to 9/11. This would constitute “a striking [program] that was a substantive departure from all prior US policy.” [p. 102, 103-04] All restraints would be abandoned and, as a result, “illegality would become official American policy.” Further, according to Tenet, “in dozens of countries…, there was a need for a host of covert activities, from propaganda to killings….Tenet asserted that a terrorist assassination list should be developed and updated by his counterterrorist staff.”


            As Tenet himself said, in selling his proposals: “Nobody knew this target like we knew it. Others haven’t been paying attention to this for years as we had been doing. And nobody else had a coordinated plan for expanding out of Afghanistan to combat terrorism across the globe….” [p. 106] Of course, Tenet’s claim that no one else knew the enemy like the CIA did was true in part because the CIA kept others from knowing what the CIA knew. And for similar reasons, others hadn’t been paying attention as had the CIA.


            To call what preceded the 9/11 attacks “an intelligence failure of historic proportions” is both true and the perfect cover up of what the CIA had and had not been doing during that time. For a long time, many have said that CIA’s greatest cover up is selling itself as an intelligence-gathering agency. It seems that its cover up of its activities prior to 9/11 ranks up there with its cover up as an intelligence agency.