Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Valentine's Confusion


Valentine's Confusion

Peter Schultz


            At times in his excellent book, The CIA as Organized Crime, Douglas Valentine fails to adequately understand what is going on. For example: “Through language that deceives, intimidates and coerces, the US government’s covert action programs are ultimately designed to terrorize Americans – to make them feel inferior, infantile and powerless.”  But as he recognizes immediately, this isn’t exactly what is going on: “This is the shadow side of the propaganda that makes them feel exceptional, of their vicarious enjoyment of being Number One; they are also made to feel victimized, and the resulting confusion makes them governable in detrimental ways they would not choose, if they knew the truth.” [401]


            But these covert action programs aren’t geared, as Valentine seems to recognize, to “terrorizing Americans” by making “them feel inferior, infantile and powerless.” Quite the opposite, as Valentine says: “the propaganda…makes them feel exceptional,” makes them feel like “Number One.” The best covert action programs, like flying war planes over athletic events or honoring soldiers at such events, seek to empower Americans via patriotic rituals, appealing to them as morally virtuous Americans. Which is why those who refuse to participate in such rituals are deemed morally deficient, unworthy of being Americans and enjoying the benefits of American society.


            This is worth clarifying insofar as Valentine’s analysis leads to his conclusion that the problem is that Americans are confused. But the problem isn’t confusion, it’s righteousness. That is, the covert action programs aim to make Americans self-righteous, about themselves, about the nation – “God Bless[ed]America” – and about the government. And in their self-righteousness, Americans become governable. But they aren’t governable because they feel “inferior, infantile and powerless;” rather, they are governable because they feel superior, adult, and all powerful. The rituals prove that and, by participating in them, Americans prove that not only are they morally virtuous but that they are the ones to rule the world. Pax Americana is a blessing to all mankind. 


            The same confusion or ambiguity is evident in Valentine’s assessment of the lead up to Bush’s invasion of Iraq. “Needing a pretext to launch a war of aggression…, the Bush regime launched a disinformation campaign to convince Americans that Iraq posed an existential threat.” [401] The emphasis here is on disinformation meant to instill fear and trembling in the American people, as when Rice said spoke about “a mushroom cloud” being “the smoking gun” that would prove the administration’s intelligence.


            But the situation is more complicated than that insofar as by hyping alleged Iraqi threats, these campaigns are also hyping American superiority, thereby sowing pride and feeding the righteousness of the American people. It’s as if our elites were saying: “We are so superior that (a) we know what Iraq is doing and (b) we will be able to foil their plans.” Or as Karl Rove put it: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality…. We’re history actors.” We are great and our greatness allows us to, as Tom Paine put it, create the world anew. So, mixed in with covert action programs that instill fear are covert action programs that feed American feelings of superiority, their self-righteousness. As Valentine puts it, “this imperial arrogance has been the nation’s driving force since 1945….” [402] And this arrogance was given expression by Michael Ledeen: “kill them all, [and] let God sort’em out… The entire political world will understand it and applaud it.” [403] Killing them all is, apparently, God’s will.

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