America The Immaculate
By James Rothenberg
07 December, 2009
Something strange happened recently, but then something strange always happens after a war speech. It involves the reaction to Obama’s announcement that he is sending an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. The pundits, the carrier of the infection between Washington and the public, appear with the predictability of a natural phenomenon.
For instance, CNN had sixteen people at once on their set in the wake of the speech. This show of force – like that of the coverage of our Olympiad election pageants – is commensurate with the solemnity which we are to attach to the president’s “deeply considered” decision to wage further war.
It’s fascinating to watch the pundits at work, one eye on the clock, one eye on their laptops, and both eyes trying to catch the attention of the show host like impatient kindergarteners. The advent of TV was supposed to deemphasize speech, in favor of sight, but the reverse happened. Radio valued silence, but TV dreads it, and without some silence – space between words – imagination cannot flourish. But that’s the idea.
The show was all we’ve come to expect from America’s properly educated. The hosts kept the level of excitement up. The pundits finessed every nuance of the story, but the competition was fierce. Who will be seen as the wisest of the wise? The air is filled with the riffs of these hires and nobody – BUT NOBODY – notices that it’s a war crime to invade a country.
Question: How many pundits would it take before there is a probability that a radical view will be heard?
The CNN episode is an example of what appears across the entire public relations spectrum. The more influential the source, the more it figures to appear. From network TV, to NPR, to the editorial room of the New York Times. Each claims to be operating freely. Each never crosses a certain line.
War crimes are not that difficult to spot, that is from an objective perspective. An observing Martian, schooled in international law, might reach the conclusion that crimes occur willy nilly and cross-directionally. There is no preferred direction.
We know this is not the terrestrial case. Objectivity hasn’t a chance. What we recognize as a war crime depends wholly upon who is doing it to who. It is axiomatic that the U.S. cannot commit war crimes. To question this axiom is to reveal your stunning ignorance of national mythology, immediate disqualification for pundit status.
So the answer to the pundit question is ∞. It would take an infinite number of pundits because the terms, pundit and radical, cancel out.
But there are not an infinite number of reasons why we go to war. It’s always the same reason. Material gain. Unless you really are acting in self-defense. Self-defense is the ONLY good excuse for war. Naturally that is why we always use it. Presently, we are the only country in the world defending itself in Iraq. We defend ourselves in Afghanistan, like we defended ourselves in Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and even Panama and Grenada.
When the president is deeply considering whether to expand the war in Afghanistan, are we to assume that these considerations do not extend to the immense oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian basin? I think not, because to suggest otherwise is to draw no conclusions from historical experience. Or to see no correspondence between Dick Cheney’s still-secret energy meetings and our invasion and occupation of Iraq.
“We’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here”. This is a marvelous propaganda line. It frightens and it rouses. It’s much better than “freedom isn’t free”, which is a touch abstract. The success of this exploitation of taking the fight to “them” is manifest in the sluggish response of a public that tolerates daily atrocities that happen to a suitable people at a suitable distance. Einstein built upon Newton, and in a non-literal sense, the public confirms Einstein. There is no action at a distance.
To be disappointed in Obama’s decision is to have misread the signs of his establishment conformity. Change comes from revolution, and he is no revolutionary. It is also to have misread the empirical nature of our election system. A candidate, in order to be seriously considered as nominee for either the Republican or the Democratic faction of the Establishment Party, must already have clearly signaled that he/she is no threat to the basic order that endures through many a presidential lifetime.
Presidents come and go, but the ship of state must be kept at smooth sail. It is the job of the politician to rally the public around already formed policy. Many tools are available for this. The best is the most benign, persuasion, and its sometimes veiled component, bribery. When that fails, there is always force. Accordingly, we pin medals on those who fight, and jail those who refuse.
The freedoms Americans operate under may make the concept of force, used against citizens, seem somewhat oblique (unless you’re a Black Panther). We don’t live in a totalitarian society, we don’t live in a police state, and we don’t live under military rule. Many do. We don’t. But control of the people is just as important to a democracy as it is to an autocracy and while the soft methods are vastly preferred, the hard methods must be kept in ready.
So far the gatekeepers have been adept at controlling the American people. For the most part, the people control themselves, willingly. The armed TSA guards at airports are a nice touch, but people will line up like sheep and take their shoes off for a lot less. Fear is to be feared for fear itself. Soon the public will long for the protection of a national identity card that insulates the “here” from the “there”.
Obama is continuing a policy that the Pentagon has given name to: Full Spectrum Dominance. That’s everything! Land, sea, air, space, biological, cyber. That’s the way we maintain the disparity between what “we” have, and what “they” have.
From the middle of the last century, when we began coveting Middle East oil, control of energy resources became a vital part of our economic and political strategy. And this was when supply seemed inexhaustible, long before the bleak “peak oil” scenario appeared!
Controlling the world’s energy resources is key to maintaining this position of dominance, that and a strong military. It’s no coincidence that our military is globally positioned along the sights of proven oil and gas reserves.
The state makes policy. The people have to live it out. Alert! State to people! Don’t trouble your consciences when we’re off obliterating foreign countries and the foreign lives in them. Just remember to cough up some of that good old-fashioned patriotism, support the troops, and go to sleep thanking God for blessing America with freedom and democracy.