Sunday, December 18. 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Chris Floyd: War Without End, Amen: The Reality of America's Aggression
Against Iraq: I might cavil and quibble a bit on the intro here, but
it is fundamentally correct, and worth saying as forcefully as possible:
In March 2003, the United States of America launched an entirely
unprovoked act of military aggression against a nation which had not
attacked it and posed no threat to it. This act led directly to the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It drove millions
more from their homes, and plunged the entire conquered nation into
suffering, fear, hatred and deprivation.
This is the reality of what actually happened in Iraq: aggression,
slaughter, atrocity, ruin. It is the only reality; there is no other.
And it was done deliberately, knowingly, willingly. Indeed, the
bipartisan American power structure spent more than $1 trillion to
make it happen. It is a record of unspeakable savagery, an abomination,
an outpouring of the most profound and filthy moral evil.
[ . . . ]
And so Barack Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the
self-proclaimed inheritor of the mantle of Martin Luther King and
Mahatma Gandhi, went to North Carolina this week to declare the act
of aggression in Iraq "an extraordinary achievement." He lauded the
soldiers gathered before him for their "commitment to fulfil your
mission": the mission of carrying out an unprovoked war of aggression
and imposing a society-destroying occupation that led directly to the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. These activities --
"everything that American troops have done in Iraq" -- led to "this
moment of success," he proclaimed.
This gets to the heart of what I feel even sadder about than all
the senseless destruction: that we haven't, and most likely will not,
learn anything from our mistakes; that we won't recognize our crimes,
and won't take measures -- least of all punishment of those culpable
for the entire war -- to make sure anything like this can never happen
again. There was a report last week about how half of our schools get
failing grades. One tends to assume that the political campaign to
starve the public sector is mostly responsible, but what Iraq shows
is that we have a nationwide blindness to learning, something which
politicans cater to even when they don't have to. Throughout the 2008
presidential election process, many (and ultimately most) Americans
sought out the most utter rejection of the Bush administration they
could find. Yet the change Obama promised turned out to be an empty
promise, covering up the crimes of his predecessors, turning a blind
eye to the scams of the banks, pretending all is right with a nation
that is sick to its soul.
Alex Pareene: When Hitch Was Wrong:
Somehow, I missed the whole period when the late Christopher Hitchens
was regarded as some kind of leftist, so it's never been clear to me
what we lost when he turned into a Muslim-hating warmonger. But we
didn't lose much more by him dying.
Upon the death of the unlamented Earl Butz, Hitchens excoriated editors
who published sanitized obituaries of a man remembered solely for a
vulgar racist remark made in public. Hitchens leaves a rather more
varied legacy, but it's just as important not to whitewash his role
in recent history.
There was no more forceful intellectual voice in support of the
Iraq War than Hitchens. There were others who were more prominent,
more influential or more persuasive, but Hitchens was the perfect
shill for an administration looking to cast its half-baked invasion
plans as a morally righteous intervention, because only he could call
upon a career of denunciations of totalitarianism and defenses of
human rights. (The fact that the war was supposed to be justified
by weapons Saddam was supposedly developing didn't really matter
And so we had the world's self-appointed supreme defender of
Orwell's legacy happily joining an extended misinformation campaign
designed to sell an incompetent right-wing government's war of choice.
The man who carefully laid out the case for arresting Henry Kissinger
for war crimes was now palling around with Paul fucking Wolfowitz.
Once he became an unpaid administration propagandist, Hitchens,
formerly a creature of left-wing magazines whose largest mainstream
exposure was in Vanity Fair and occasionally on Charlie Rose, was
suddenly on TV rather a lot. The lesson there, I think, is that the
popular American mass media will make room for even a booze-swilling
atheist Trotskyite if he's shilling for a the latest war.
Glenn Greenwald: Christopher Hitchens and the Protocol for Public Figure
Corey Robin wrote that "on the announcement of his death, I think it's
fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most:
speak for himself," and then assembled
two representative passages from Hitchens' post-9/11 writings. In
the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate
through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket ("those
steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side
and through somebody else. So they won't be able to say, 'Ah, I was
bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway
through.' No way, 'cause it'll go straight through that as well. They'll
be dead, in other words"), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his
reaction to the 9/11 attack was "exhilaration" because it would unleash
an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call
"Islamofascism": "I realized that if the battle went on until the last
day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost."
Hitchens, of course, never "prosecuted" the "exhilarating" war by
actually fighting in it, but confined his "prosecution" to cheering for
it and persuading others to support it. [ . . . ]
Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average
neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric
about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to
provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker's John
Cook, who -- in an
extremely well-written and poignant obituary -- detailed Hitchens'
vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive
indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty
contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being
"sluts" and "fucking fat slags" for the crime of mildly disparaging the
Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: "it must not be forgotten in mourning
him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life
horrifically, petulantly wrong"; indeed: "People make mistakes. What's
horrible about Hitchens' ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung
to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made."
Jon Wiener: David Montgomery, 1927-2011:
A name from my distant past, one of the radical historians who had a
large impact on my intellectual development in the late 1960s. I read
his major book at the time, Beyond Equality: Labor and the Radical
Republicans, 1862-1872, published in 1967, and regarded it as one
of the essential books in American labor history, but I lost track of
him after that, and am unfamiliar with his other work:
I've taught Montgomery's Fall of the House of Labor (1987) many
times, and it remains a rich and compelling work. While most of us
preferred to focus on the glory days of the labor movement in the 1930s
and 1940s, David looked long and hard at its defeat between the 1890s
and the 1920s. He started here with a vivid picture of the variety of
workplace experiences in America at the turn of the century, from
unskilled workers on the docks to the elite iron makers; he showed how
these diverse groups united to form the Socialist Party of 1912, which
won a higher proportion of the presidential vote (for Eugene Debs) than
any left-wing party before or since; and he asked why this immense and
powerful organization did not survive the repression of the Red Scare
and return to life in the 1920s.
David was always an organizer for labor and civil rights groups.
When Yale's clerical workers went on strike in 1984 for union recognition,
"he was the inspirational leader for faculty supporting locals 34/35
before, during, and after the strike," says Jean-Christophe Agnew of
the Yale history department. "David's firmness about solidarity and
the honoring of picket lines emboldened many faltering colleagues,
especially the more vulnerable junior faculty. He was a rock."