Monday, May 27, 2024

Savagery: Better Than Sex


Savagery: Better Than Sex

Peter Schultz


                  Here is a conversation between Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather about President Pappa Bush’s Iraq War, illustrating how much enjoyment American elites can get from savagery.


“Walter Cronkite: You have seen the B-52s in operation in Vietnam, I have, and they are almost a terror weapon, they are so powerful. They are dropping all those bombs. My heavens, 14 tons of bombs out of a single airplane – they could very well panic the Iraq army. . .. One thing that’s interesting about this, Dan, these bombs come in a very low rate of speed, comparatively – compared to rocketry and other things and, as a result, the bomb blast is widespread. It can do an awful lot of damage without serious damage to a single target, except right where it lands – blow out a lot of windows, blow out a lot of walls, things of that kind as opposed to high-speed missiles that are inclined to bury themselves and blow up….

“Dan Rather: I want to pick up on what you were talking about with the B-52s. It’s certainly true, anybody who’s seen or been through a B-52 raid, it’s an absolutely unforgettable, mind-searing experience.

“Cronkite: When you’re not underneath it directly.

“Rather: Exactly. And that’s when you’re able to just sort of observe it. It is a devastatingly effective physical bombing weapon, but also psychologically. That’s one of the reasons of going right at the heart of Saddam Hussein’s best troops is [to cause] panic and to – to break morale.”

[Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow, 208]


                  Cronkite and Rather are getting off here on B-52s and their savagery. There was a book published when I was much younger, The Joy of Sex, which was controversial for a little while. Well, it seems to me Cronkite and Rather could collaborate on a book entitled, The Joy of Savagery.


And if you think they’re the only ones who got off on savagery, recall Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s response to Leslie Stahl’s question about the 500,000 Iraqi children who died because of the effects of President Clinton’s sanctions. As Stahl pointed out, “I mean that’s more children than died in Hiroshima.” Albright: “We think the price is worth it.” Oh, the joy of savagery. [Kissinger’s Shadow, 209-210]


Keep these deaths, keep US savagery in mind this Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Drug War Capitalism, Drug War Politics


Drug War Capitalism, Drug War Politics

Peter Schultz


                  From the book by Dawn Paley, Drug War Capitalism. Quoting Canadian sociologist, Jasmin Hristov:


                  “The efforts of the elite to eliminate any challenges to the status quo have found expression in various politicoeconomic models throughout history. The features common to all of them have been the highly unequal socioeconomic structure consisting of armed force, repressive laws, and anti-subversive ideology, packaged under different names – the War on Communism, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror.” [32-33]


                  The war on drugs in Mexico, for example, isn’t actually about drugs. But by means of that war “The US has been able to, through drug trafficking, and the excuse of trying to control narcotrafico, [pour] hundreds of millions, now billions of dollars into Mexican security, and Mexican armed forces, and it is changing the whole nature of Mexican society. Mexican society is becoming militarized. And, again, it’s being done in the name of combating drug trafficking but … part of the face of this global capitalism increasingly [serves] the function of social control when the inequalities and misery become just so intense that there’s no other way but through military and coercive controls to maintain social control.” [33-34]


                  The “war on drugs” disguises a vast program of social and political control so when the misery index becomes unbearable, social and political control can be maintained via militarization and capitalism. In other words “the war on drugs” needs to be contextualized in terms of the “US [and its] transnational interests,” including “the territorial and social expansion of capitalism.” [30]

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Virtue: It's the Question


Virtue: It’s the Question

Peter Schultz


                  It seems to be universally agreed that virtue is the answer. That is, all human groups or factions, whether they be capitalists, communists, socialists, Catholics, protestants, liberals or conservatives, oligarchs or democrats, agree that virtue is the answer; that is, it is the key to political and social health and decency.


                  But it seems rather that virtue should be the question, not the answer.


                  To wit: William Colby, in his maiden speech as the CIA’s DCI, called for agents “to show moral and intellectual courage.” But, because the CIA kills and tortures, it is fair to ask: Do “moral and intellectual courage” include murder and torture, ala’ the Phoenix program that Colby oversaw in Vietnam? Has the CIA transformed murder and torture into moral and intellectual courage? Does the political transform killing and torture, “going to the dark side,” into moral and intellectual courage, as suggested by Vice President Dick Cheney? And, if so, what does this say about the political and about those who are called “political elites,” who are commonly praised as superior human beings serving as human benefactors? Are they distinguished by their virtues?


                  William Colby referred to the CIA as part of “the intelligence profession.” In his mind, the CIA is “a profession,” like, apparently, the medical profession. But with one, small difference: CIA professionals, unlike medical professionals, don’t take an oath “to do no harm.” In fact, doing harm represents the profession’s virtue, and its guarantee of respectability. Demonstrating and achieving a virtuous respectability wears a strange countenance, it would seem, one that looks a lot like viciousness. So it goes, politically.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Michael Hastings and Myths


Michael Hastings and Myths

Peter Schultz


                  Michael Hastings in his book The Operators points out that he was criticized because he refused to play along with the myth that Generals McCrystal and Petraeus were potentially saviors of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hastings subverted these myths by exposing the generals’ limitations, which eventually became visible in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


                  But there is another myth, viz., that there are political saviors. There are no such saviors, not because of the limitations of the likes of McCrystal and Petraeus, but because political salvation is an illusion. Political life does not allow for or admit of salvation. At its best, political life allows for ruling and being ruled in turn – that is, it allows for shared rule or rule based on consent. Obviously, such rule would be based on compromise and negotiation, i.e., on constant compromising and negotiating as those ruling and those being ruled would need to work out their differences.


                  Some questions and considerations: What role would philosophy or philosophers play in this best political arrangement? Or: what role would monarchy play in it? To what extent is monarchy consistent with shared rule? To what extent is slavery consistent with shared rule?


                  Which characteristic personality type, the thumotic or the erotic, is more consistent with, more compatible with shared rule? Take note of the prevalence of “more or less questions” when thinking about politics, about political life, revealing that compromises and negotiations characterize political life at its best, not impositions. In fact, not even impositions by allegedly superior human beings are best. There may be such human beings, but their rule is or should be suspect. And, perhaps, these superior human beings would recognize this themselves and act – or not act – accordingly.

Thursday, May 2, 2024




Peter Schultz


                  What does it tell you about politics that people like Generals McCrystal and Petraeus fare so well? Are treated as if they were godlike?


                  What does it tell you about politics that wars are so common? Or that war “heroes” thrive politically? Or that assassinations are often honored? Or that assassins are often honored?


                  We avoid these questions because they make us uncomfortable. They are too troubling because they shake our faith in, our belief in the political. We prefer to go on believing in, affirming the political as the source of human betterment rather than the source of human corruption. And, yet, the very best political orders have been characterized by, riven with corruption. “War is the health of the state.” But it isn’t the health of human beings.


                  Michael Hastings got close to raising these questions – in fact, he got too close to raising them, as did Socrates and Aristotle. Don’t make the mistake of failing to see that political health is built on death and destruction (e.g., a treasonous war in 1776).


                  Perhaps Nixon came to see that political health in the United States required his “destruction,” which is when he resigned. Perhaps JFK came to see the same thing. Certainly, Lincoln did.