5 Demands for the Left

This essay is an attempt to articulate five demands directed at the American Liberal Left. The demands highlight the weakness and deficiencies in a Leftist group that is currently impotent, ignorant, and crippled beyond belief. Mired in pessimism and negativity, the Left can be found either bemoaning the current President while offering no solutions, or they’re curled up in the corner sulking because of a recent micro-aggression against their identity, or even worse, you’ll find them denigrating and castigating Republicans using mindless name-calling. What’s been lost in the sclerotic rhetoric is an attempt to look forward at what America could be within the confines of a cooperative and collaborative dialogue. What’s been lost is an attempt to articulate what America should look like, and then a concerted effort that follows which seeks to make it actually happen. In the end, America is a project; it’s our project.

I have a deep belief in the capacity for human minds to work things out for themselves if they don’t have to live in fear. – Yanis Varoufakis

Demand #1 : Stop with the pessimism

The pessimism that’s endemic with the Left will make us more spectatorial, disgusted, and politically inactive. From my perspective, it seems that the Left can only feel complete and fulfilled if they are able to complain about our current president – without offering any solutions of course. I am willing to bet that at the end of a rainbow, you’ll find two liberals sharing their frustrations about Trump. But l don’t want to oversimplify. Perhaps the pessimism is due in part to such concerns as the pervasive effect of economic inequality, racial tension, gender inequality and angst over the threat of terrorism. I’m sure there are more examples, but there is an overarching cloud of declinism, which resigns the Left to the perspective that the sky is literally falling down upon us. But what’s wrong with pessimism? Well, pessimism fosters a do-nothingness attitude, simply because, well, everything is going to Hell in a hand-basket anyways.

I am continually awestruck at the Left’s unwillingness or blindness to articulate, and provide a strategy for, future hopes. Rather, there is an incessant desire to talk about how progress is now going backwards, rapacious government who cares little about the common American, or how the world is headed toward either environmental or nuclear disaster. Catastrophizing the world seems to the default rather than persuasive arguments that offer solutions or effective strategies. A better solution is to see America as a project; a project that views America as a bastion for the continued cultivation of freedom, liberty and justice. It’s a forward-looking perspective that relies on hope, open dialogue, and democracy to achieve a better world. If you think I sound too utopian, then simply look across the ocean at Germany, and ask yourself: how did a country, so embroiled in a barbaric past socially, and fiscally strapped economically, rebound to a strong economic powerhouse that is more inclusive and optimistic than ever? I guarantee you that pessimism wasn’t their strategy.

Demand #2 : Stop focusing on sins

The Left has become overly moralizing in its self-loathing of America’s genocidal and racist history, and the result is paralysis. We can’t demand that everyone apologize for the sins committed hundreds of years ago. I can’t apologize simply because I have never enslaved people or participated in Christopher Columbus’s genocidal campaign against the native Americans. The perpetual tendency of the Left is to moralize the past to such an extent that it normalizes guilt, self-hate and self-disgust. So crippling are the effects of the Left’s consensual self-loathing that any specter of hope or future ideal is rarely articulated. Why? Because we cannot talk about the future when it’s been dictated and imposed that we are all complicit in, for example, two World Wars and Vietnam.

Perhaps a better solution is to frame the historical past into ‘What we can learn from this?’ and juxtapose the answer to that question with ‘What kind of future should we create in order to ensure that those injustices do not reoccur?’. Likewise, when it comes to confederate statues that stand in the middle of a southern city, why not leave them up, and put up educational signs which explain to onlookers what subjugation, oppression, and dehumanization looked like in the old South (*Richmond, Virginia is doing this, and is the idea of an African-American history professor). The Left suffers from what’s called ‘presentism’ which fosters the tendency to interpret past events (e.g. sins) in terms of modern [present] values and concepts. The past has its own unique context that we can never fully step into and critique in a pure and uncontaminated way. Any of us would have easily been slaughterers if that ‘world’ was all we new and was enculturated into our personal worldview. And for that reason, we should focus on what we can learn from history’s brutal past, rather than moralizing it for the purposes of advancing a present agenda.

Simply put: we are not sinful because of our past. This thinking leads to passivity. We must have some type of pride for our future, if we are to work towards that kind of future.

Demand #3 : Stop assuming that national pride is white chauvinism

National Pride is not white chauvinism. Instead, national pride is what self-respect is to an individual; a necessary condition for self-improvement. If you have too much of it, you get hostility and imperialism, just as excessive self-respect can produce arrogance. Too little self-respect makes it too difficult to show moral courage. Thus, a lack of national pride makes effective energetic talk about change, unlikely.

National pride is a shorthand for a conception of what it is to be human. National pride illuminates such noble attributes like values, decency, virtue, dignity. National pride is a compass that points us in the direction of what we love and hope for in a society.

So what’s the point of national pride? National pride engenders unity that brings us together, along with a vision of what that looks like. When unity and vision conjoin, then there is something to be ambitious for and achieve. Both John Dewey and Walt Whitman, two 19th century major social thinkers, viewed the United States as an opportunity to see ultimate significance in a finite human historical project rather than in something eternal and non-human. They both hoped that America would be the place where a religion of love would replace a religion of fear. They wanted to put hope for a classless and casteless society in the place most commonly occupied by knowledge of the will of God. They wanted the struggle for justice to be the animating principle, the nation’s soul. For Dewey and Whitman, national pride was a cooperative project that utilized freely achieved consensus (democracy) to elevate justice, hope, and freedom.

Demand #4 : Stop with identity politics

The Left needs to stop focusing on identity politics and focus on solidarity. In America today, every group feels threatened to some extent. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives – all feel their groups are being attacked, bullied, persecuted, discriminated against. What identity politics does is separate all groups into exclusive segments, which inevitably pits them against one another for a kind of “Oppression Olympics” to see who has suffered the most.

Fifty years ago, the rhetoric of pro–civil rights, Great Society liberals was, in its dominant voices, expressly group transcending, framed in the language of national unity and equal opportunity. The Left, however, has changed its tone. Now out-group members cannot share in the knowledge possessed by in-group members (“You can’t understand X because you are white”; “You can’t understand Y because you’re not a woman”; “You can’t speak about Z because you’re not queer”). The idea of “cultural appropriation” insists, among other things, these are our group’s symbols, traditions, patrimony, and out-group members have no right to them.

Rather than standing up for America, people are standing up for their particular sub-group. Rather than standing up for democracy, equality, and justice, the Left stands up against Beyoncé wearing an Indian bridal outfit, or white restaurateurs who build a business cooking authentic Mexican food, or if a white author writes a novel based on the experiences of a Chinese girl. When liberal icon Bernie Sanders told supporters, “It’s not good enough for somebody to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me,’ ” Quentin James, a leader of Hillary Clinton’s outreach efforts to people of color, retorted that Sanders’s “comments regarding identity politics suggest he may be a white supremacist, too”. Really?

Identity politics fosters division and exclusion, while weaponizing each sub-group with an arsenal ready for battle. Unfortunately, the Left has cried wolf too many times. If the Left is offended by somebody saying, “All lives matter” rather than, “Black lives matter,” then how can we face the real trauma of, say, 44 million Americans (of all identities) having no health insurance?

Demand #5 : Stop having street parties as a guise for protests

Change in society comes by appealing to conscience, not by today’s so-called “protests”, or by blocking highways with marchers, or condemning segments of society as impure or sinful. Today’s protests are absent of any strategy to make actual changes to law – unlike the 60s. What even counts as a protest? Civil rights protests of the 60s involved an appeal to conscious. You forced people to confront the horrible things going on, and there were specific demands being made and they were directly made to an appeal to conscious, e.g. we should not be made to sit in the back of the bus. Today, what we call “protests” are really inconvenient street parties. What specific Occupy Wall Street demand do you remember? And think about how the Left handled a call for women’s rights in 2017. The solution was a nationwide block party of women (and men) donning pink p*ssy hats with their BFF’s and a Starbucks latte in hand. Do you think Capitol Hill was seriously nervous over millions of Leftist’s protesting with their goofy pink hats? Or do you think that shutting down a highway and frustrating the motorists in your city will force the police to be more just? If so, you’re being naïve. In contrast, when you had a sit down in factories or rallies against the Vietnam War in the 60s, it was actually part of a negotiation tactic that fomented change.

Protests can’t be a giant “F You!”. It can’t be that certain segments of society are deplorable and we demand in some vague way that they change. We have to operate within the system, the discursive fabric, which means you have to have some type of power that’s not a type of pseudo authority from on high, you have to appeal to conscious, or you have to persuade, or as with the workers you have to have a relationship with the people you’re trying to get to reach demands.

A protest that realizes this vision, is not simply a protest that condemns, or says America is bad because of all these atrocities. It says we all can work together for this possible future, and we’re all worthy of it, and we’re all capable of it.

Given the present tactics are not working, philosopher Richard Rorty suggested an appeal to conscience and persuasive arguments which gain sympathizers for a worthy cause. We see such tactics when we look back to political shifts like the civil rights movement and gender equality. With civil rights and gender equality, there is a stark difference in rights, or lack thereof, when you compare, say, 1910 with 2010. The reasons for the shift were persuasive arguments that appealed to the conscience of American society. It wasn’t name calling and violence in the street that united both sides, rather, it was people like Martin Luther King and feminist icon Betty Frieden who used their passion and mind to not only change minds but also change legislation. You simply can’t win people over by shutting down the highway for a march or castigating people who think differently.

The iconoclasts of the past that garnered tectonic change in society had one thing in common: they had a hope for a better future. As opposed to pessimism, talk that expresses hope of a future is what can catalyze change and spread like a contagion.

Final Words …

If I had a #6 demand, it would be, stop insisting we let everyone into our country. This #6 highlights a deeper thought that is weaved into my initial 5 demands, and it’s this: there is always a middle between two extremes. When feeling threatened, it’s consoling to gravitate to the extremes and hunker down. However, most often, cooperation and the collaborative process remains in the middle between the extremes. Just as we shouldn’t let everyone into the country, we should not give everyone a gun. The answer to our current vexing dilemmas lie in the shared democracy that takes place in the middle.

Christopher Hitchens once said, “the first step towards being stupid is being partisan.” In other words, we all become stupid when we hunker down with our tribe, and only our tribe. I listed my 5 demands because the Left has become so partisan, that a collective anxiety has taken over. This pervasive angst is paralyzing the Left making political action a distant option. Unlike most of the Left, in no way do I think the sky is falling, and I refuse to. It’s in my refusal, that hope, dignity and opportunity can remain viable pursuits for the America I want.

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups . . . it is the rule. – Friedrich Nietzsche

[Part 2] America’s Immoral Morality: Manifest Destiny Continental Empire, 1828-1898

So if conquest and exploitation was wrong early in American history, is it right if we do it today in the Middle East? And if it’s OK for the US to occupy or build numerous bases in foreign countries, is it OK for Iran to build bases in the US?

Written over 2 days and finished at Starbucks in Los Gatos (9:47pm)) with a hot chocolate while listening to Metallica on Pandora. I did not proof read this because I am too tired and I wanna go home.

Basic universal moral principles, which become accepted as social norms, are critical to any type civilization. For instance, principles such as respect, diplomacy, and cooperation are paramount to the vitality of any group of people, whether it’s a large territory like Canada or a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. While respect and diplomacy are a two-way street, laying the foundation for these principles is what increases the overall well-being of countries. I am contend that humanitarian ideals come to fruition when the pursuit is for the flourishing of all countries through cooperation and diplomacy dictated by the law of universality.

The law of universality, in the context I am speaking of, is an affirmation which states that if a government engages in actions which cause unjustified and illegitimate suffering and harm, then it is wrong for every government. The law of universality is applicable when looking back to the bombs US dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, or the indiscriminate fire blasting of napalm on thousands of Vietnamese. We weren’t thinking, “what if every country took action like this?” Or, “how would we like it if Iraq set up bases around the US just we are doing with them?” Of course, the law of universality is thwarted when countries elevate self-interest and greed while pursuing personal gain to the detriment of others. What if governments functioned, universally, with the goal of elevating freedom and equality while advocating for the civil liberties of its citizens? It is here that my utopian conceptions of universality fall the wayside because history has proven that power, wealth, and control, function like a narcotic whose insatiable high gives the sense of invincibility.

America’s Second Empire

The Second Empire (1828-1898) in US history’s sociopathic policy shows a bourgeoning American empire intoxicated with making its God ordained destiny a reality. This empire expanded its reach all the way to the Pacific Ocean, annexing a good chuck of Mexico in the south and west and uniting a vast continent under one government. The strategic plan for land acquisition slowly secured a beachhead for economic expansion across the Pacific. The expansion was adorned in eloquent immoral morality, with the famous creed called Manifest Destiny, drawing on the Chosen People motif of the Romans, the White Man’s Burden code of the British, and America’s own vision of spreading democracy and civilization.

The Second Empire was led by General Andrew Jackson who symbolized the swashbuckling fighter and imperial aspirations of the age. Jackson promoted violent expansionism mainly to help the Southern plantation economy that was depleting its own land and needed more. Jackson inaugurated the pre-bellum phase of the Second Empire, which unsuccessfully sought to reconcile expansionist interests of Northern capitalism and the slave south. It was Jackson that proposed the

Indian Removal Act of 1830 which discussed how “removed Indians” would, under US guidance, advance “from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life.” Jackson told Congress of its desires to uplift the Indians: “Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people.”

The Indian Removal Act was just one policy of many that gave credence to American exceptionalism and the ideal of the US as a beacon on a hill – a light unto all of the world. In 1839, the phrase Manifest Destiny became dogma, giving a righteous justice to America’s sociopathic immoral morality. Coined by editor and journalist John O’Sullivan, Manifest Destiny was the “moral mission” taken upon the US with the goal of civilizing barbaric people. In Sullivan’s essay, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” he discusses how an exceptional America is destined to be the great nation of futurity. It thus gained legitimacy and virtue because it was cloaked in the righteous lie that it was America’s moral duty and obligation to civilize the distant lands for the sake of peace throughout the world.

Stephen F. Austin, an American General, became entranced with O’Sullivan’s concept of Manifest Destiny. Seduced by the lustful power of forcing people to genuflect before America’s feet, General Stephen F. Austin set his eyes on Mexico. Austin led colonists into Texas and seized Mexico and capitalized on this moral mission. They are, as Austin wrote, “the self-evident dictates of morality.” As in Rome, and as reinterpreted by Madison, Jefferson, and other Founders, this universality of America’s moral vision of liberty and equality – as codified in the US Constitution – gave it both the right and “duty” to expand its influence around the world.

It’s important to note that Austin was not only one who had his hand in the annexation of both Texas and Mexico. Our 11th President, James Polk (1845-1849 as President), combined Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine in order to justify relentless expansion. Abraham Lincoln was even astonished at Polk’s brazen policy and called him an “imperialist.” Polk was simply one man in the line of many who was infected with Constantine Syndrome. Polk and others in power used Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine as the sociopathic policy to view Native Americans in the US and “colored” people in surrounding countries as vile vermin in need of salvation.

The annexation of Texas and Mexico is good place to look when discussing sociopathic policy. The deceptive rhetoric informed US citizens that the US is doing Mexico and Texas a “favor” by bringing civility. But what was cloaked under this lie was that expanding into Mexico and Texas ensured vast profit from a valuable resource: cotton. A good analogy for the 21st century person is: what oil in the Middle East is today, is what cotton in Texas and Mexico was the 19th century. And just as the US had to cloak their hostile takeover in righteous language in order to manufacture consent for its citizens, nothing has changed. Then, it was “bringing salvation and civility” and now it’s “bringing democracy to the Middle East.” The reality is that the brutal takeover of both, means an economic explosion for the ones in power in the US.

This is sociopathic imperialism. It’s economic and political policy that is initiated unilaterally when we put our boots to the neck of the weak, and force them to capitulate to our demands. Cotton was the narcotic, and wealth and power was the insatiable high. I will close with a poem by Rudyard Kipling:

Take up the White Man’s burden

Send forth the best ye breed, Go bind your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness

On fluttered folk and wild,

Your new-caught sullen peoples,

Half-devil and half-child.

(Part I) America’s Immoral Morality: A Sociopathic Foreign Policy of the Founding Fathers

Written over two days and finished this morning at Starbucks by my office in San Jose with a grande mocha (no whip) and my Pandora station set to Lady Gaga.  

“Blessed are the cynical, for only they have what it takes to succeed.” C. Wright Mills

Sociopathy is anti-social behavior by an individual or institution that typically advances self-interest, such as making money, while harming others and attacking the fabric of society.

I find it interesting that if an insane man guns down 20 kids in a school we are horrified at the maniacal act, yet when we hear of nascent American conquest of genocide and mass killings of Native Americans we simply shrug our shoulders. If you have ever had somebody break into your home or car, then you know that visceral feeling of having been violated. Now think about how natives of Hawaii felt in January of 1893 when America initiated a coup d’état of Queen Liliuokalani and instituting an American regime that took over the land and proceeded to profit from Hawaii’s sugar plantations. Again, while we have all experienced the feeling of disgust from being taken advantage of we nevertheless function almost as sociopaths when it comes to over 200 years of conquest by the United States.

If you think hard about it, it is mainly psychological distance that propels us to either rage or to yawn at atrocities. As an example, most individuals will feel more moral outrage at witnessing first-hand the torture of a man rather than simply hearing a CNN report of a man being tortured 6,000 miles away in, say, Japan. That is psychological distance. So if 19 maniacs steer 2 planes into the Twin Towers killing thousands of Americans we are outraged at the injustice. Yet if thousands are killed abroad so that we can control the 2nd largest oil reservoir in the world and maximize profits by setting up private businesses in the Middle East then we sit back and drink another latte inside an air conditioned Starbucks comforted by the lie: we’re bringing democracy to a bunch of savages. Because there is distance, our morals crumble. But when it hits close to home, we become pious moral philosophers pontificating on theories of justice. We’re sociopathic in our thinking when we kill 4 year olds in the Middle East, but become protective righteous Messiahs flooded with empathy when it involves our children. And this begs a crucial question: should the mere psychological distance of an immoral action be the chief arbiter?

A sociopathic society, paradoxically, creates dominant social norms that are antisocial – that is, norms that assault the well-being and survival of much of the population and undermine the social bonds and sustainable environmental conditions essential to any form of social order. It is here that we are confronted with the United States’ murderous conquest and relentless expansionism. We can either shrug our shoulders like sociopaths or we can be intellectually honest with our past which continues to wreak havoc and chaos in the Middle East today – thanks to a sociopathic foreign policy led by the U.S.

I will highlight the sociopathic 5 Empires of the United States, beginning in 1776-1828 and ending with our current empire, World Domination 1991-Present. My inspiration of this text comes from respected political scholars such as Noam Chomsky, Stephen Kinzer, Charles Derber and Immanuel Wallerstein.

First Empire: The Constitutional Empire 1776-1828

In 1776, Americans began a revolution to free themselves from the British Empire and to recreate themselves as an independent and great power. What can be called “Constitutional Code,” would concretize the ideology of the Founding Fathers. Here are 5 key principals that highlight the Constitutional Code:

(1) Americans are a free people on a free land.

(2) The Constitution is sacred and may have been sanctioned by a higher power.

(3) All Americans have the constitutional right to freely contract with others and to protect and accumulate property.

(4) Freedom requires prosperity. Resources must expand, and the state must be prepared to help citizens acquire, trade, and market their goods everywhere.

(5) As a beacon to the rest of the world, America has a manifest destiny to extend from seas to sea and, in fact, beyond the oceans.

The United States constitution would prompt George Washington to see America as a “new and rising empire.” The ideology of the Founding Fathers constructed an empire built upon a Constantine foundation where expansion plus conquest would equal ultimate power. Alexander Hamilton would go on to state his desire to see the thirteen colonies unite to create one big empire, “One great American system, superior to the control of all trans-Atlantic force and influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and new world.” Hamilton sentiments were widely felt among American leaders, and morphed into concepts like White Man’s Burden and American Exceptionalism. The result was the idea of American as a city on a hill, a beacon of light in the midst of a world of savages. It was precisely this new American Empire that saw as its God ordained duty to bring civility and order to the natives. Truly a sociopathic conception.

Two things are needed for this sociopathic behavior. First, we have to develop a language that dehumanizes the “other.” So the indigenous Natives were commonly referred to as “savages” and “ignorant.” Second, the ends will always justify the means. Even though the “ends” are almost always built on utopian lies with regard to American interventionist policy, it will nevertheless justify the “means” no matter how brutal they are. John Adams words personified this so-called altruistic utopian quest when justifying conquest in his reference to “the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind.” It’s like we are doing them a favor. So a murderous conquest is justified if it emancipates the ignorant Native Americans.

This type of sociopathy is realized in the way that expansionism and brutality was justified with such righteous ease. The justification for the expansionist doctrine goes like this: killing, exploitation, and the enslavement of millions is justifiable if, and only if, the greater good results in an empire that promotes the values of the wealthy White nobles in power. Again, the ends justifies the means. This is usually where most American high school history teachers shrug their shoulders and then in the next breath express moral outrage at Adolf Hitler’s end goal of a pure race by means of a genocidal regime.

In what I call consensual hallucinations, here is the sociopathy of over 200 years of American politics: America’s interventions and foreign policy are always carried out with noble intentions. This is the consensual hallucination, whether it’s driving out 12 million Native Americans in America’s infancy, initiating coups that gave U.S. support to tyrannical dictators like Pinochet and Pol Pot, or even the 1953 coup that disassembled Iran’s government and has since created monumental blowback and collateral damage in our relations with the Middle East. The consensual hallucination moves us to say such ridiculous things like, “but the Founding Fathers were trying to bring peace to a barbaric land,” and, “It was necessary to invade a third world Iraq because they were going to take our freedom away,” and of course, “We need to invade in order to keep us safe and establish democracy in other countries.” Perhaps it’s time that we become intellectually honest with ourselves and take off our red, white and blue colored glasses that has blinded us to over 200 years of walking on the backs of people whom we think are “lesser” than us.

Going back to the Constitutional Empire, the empire required two main ingredients: land and resources. As early as 1751, Benjamin Franklin wrote that expansion for surplus land was crucial to creating prosperity and liberty and to avoid domestic corruption. So in 1783, in the Treaty of Paris, Britain ceded its territory south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River to the Americas. In 1803, President Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase, the largest expansion in the New Empire’s history, adding 526 million acres that constitute 22 percent of the land territory of the modern United States. In the War of 1812, the United States tried to take all of Canada from the British but failed. In 1821, Andrew Jackson conquered Florida since slaves were escaping there to gain Spanish protection. With the accumulation of such vast territories, markets would later establish trade and maximizing profit for wealthy land owners and businessmen that would bolster the next two empires in American history.

All the ingredients were there during the birth of America for expansion at the expense of innocent natives. Empires never become empires through altruistic and humanitarian means. History has shown that empires only flourish when a rising nation has its combat boot to the neck of smaller nations. Knowing this, the Founding Fathers created a blueprint that would pursue world hegemon through conquest and exploitation. The correlation I draw between early American policies and sociopathy is meant to expose how catastrophic harm can be justified when people are just objects used as means to an end with an end goal that is strictly self-interested.

The onus is on us as to whether we simply shrug our shoulders at this type of sociopathy or do something about it.

~ Wes

America’s Propaganda Machine: The Cultivation of Fear

Recently, I have given up on CNN and any other news medium. I have also unsubscribed from my NY Times source. I am tired of the fear mongering and hearing pundits decry injustice in America without providing solutions that unite the country. So here are some thoughts on my view of the propaganda machine that seeks to stir fear inside of us and dictate what I should believe. Let me preface, this is not a Republican/Democrat rant given that both are guilty of manufacturing consent.

Whether its FOX or CNN, the Washington Post or the New York Times, or even the hegemonic forces of corporations and lobbyists on Capitol Hill, the message is clear: Let the people who are supposed to run the show do so without any interference from the mass of the population, who have no business in the public arena. There is a conscious effort in our media that is committed to belief that they must control attitudes and opinions, because the people are otherwise too dangerous.

Take Karl Rove, Bush’s manager, for example. Rove’s goal, he says, is “to shape perceptions of Mr. Bush as a wartime leader and to prepare for the re-election campaign that will start soon as the war ends.” So that the Republicans can push through their domestic agenda. That means tax cuts – they say for the economy, but they mean for the rich – and other programs that are designed to benefit an extremely small sector of the ultra-wealthy and privileged and that will have the effect of harming the mass population.

And the way to achieve that – since people aren’t going to accept it otherwise – is to make people afraid. If people are frightened that their security is threatened, they will gravitate toward the strong leaders. This is what we saw in the justification for the invasion of Iraq. The constant themes used to stir American hysteria were: (1) Iraq was an imminent threat, (2) Iraq was behind September 11, and (3) Iraq is planning new atrocities. Keep in mind, at the time, no other country believed any of this. No other country viewed Iraq as a threat to its security. Kuwait and Iran which were both invaded by Iraq, didn’t regard Iraq as a threat to its security. It’s ridiculous. But the American polls sky-rocketed due to the media’s control over American minds and we took the bait. We demonized an entire country that has the weakest economy and the weakest military force in the region. Its military expenditures are less than half those of Kuwait, which has 10% of Iraq’s population. I wouldn’t say that America is more susceptible to propaganda; we’re more susceptible to fear. Whether its crime, immigration, drugs, you pick – our fears are off the spectrum. The last time America was threatened was during the War of 1812. Since then, America has just conquered others.

The 20th century has seen a bourgeoning propaganda machine that has used language to shape attitudes and opinions and to induce conformity and subordination. The first coordinated propaganda ministry, the Ministry of Information was set up in Britain during the First World War. Its “task,” as they put it, was “to direct the thought of most of the world.” What the ministry was particularly concerned with was the mind of America, and, more specifically, the thinking of American intellectuals. Britain needed U.S. backing for the WWII, and the ministry’s planners thought if they could convince American intellectuals of the nobility of the British war effort, then these intellectuals would succeed in driving the basically pacifist population of the United States – which wanted nothing to do with the European wars, rightly – into a fit of hysteria that would get them to join the war. The Wilson administration reacted by setting up the first propaganda agency here, the Committee on Public Information. This is already Orwellian, of course.

The British plan worked to perfection and within a few months, it turned a pacifist population into raving anti-German fanatics. America was driven into hysteria. It reached the point that the Boston Symphony Orchestra wouldn’t play Bach.

What I find astonishing is how the propaganda machine has its roots in democratic societies. If you can control people by force, it’s not so important to control what they think and feel. But if you lose the capacity to control people by force, it becomes necessary to control attitudes and opinions. Today it’s not so much the government that exercises control, but corporations. Now private tyrannies – corporate systems – play the role of controlling opinions and attitudes. So what now?  I’m trading CNN for the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Written @ Starbucks on 1/10/15 in Los Gatos CA

When We Talk About War, Why Not Discuss Collateral Damage?

collateral damage: noun : deaths, injuries, and damage to the property of people who are not in the military that happens as a result of the fighting in a war.

In WWI there was a ten-to-one ratio of military personnel killed versus civilians, whereas in WWII that ratio became 60 percent civilians, 40 percent military. Since WWII, a vast majority of the people who have gotten killed in wars have been civilians. Gino Strada, the Italian war surgeon who has operated on war victims all over the world these last 10 years, estimates that 90 percent are civilians, and one-third are children.

And by the way, I don’t want to insist on the distinction between innocent civilians and soldiers who are not innocent. The Iraqi soldiers whom we crushed with bulldozers, toward the end of the First Gulf War in 1991, in that way were they not innocent? The U.S. Army just buried them; hundreds and hundreds of them. What of the Iraqi soldiers the United States mowed down in the so called Turkey Shoot as they were retreating already defeated? Who were these soldiers on the other side? They weren’t Saddam Hussein. They were just poor young men who had been conscripted.

I suggest that the history of bombing – and no one has bombed more than this nation – is a history of endless atrocities, all calmly explained by deceptive and deadly language like “accident,” “military targets,” and “collateral damage.”

Indeed in both WWIII and in Vietnam, the historical record shows that there was a deliberate decision to target civilians in order to destroy morale of the enemy: hence the firebombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, the B-52’s over Hanoi, the jet bombers over peaceful villages in the Vietnam courtside. When some argue that we can engage on “limited military action” without “an excessive use of force,” they are ignoring the history of bombing. The momentum of war rides roughshod over limits.