Obama’s SOTU, authoritarian followership, and civil society: Part I

By lambert strether is an old school blogger from Corrente.

I make no apology for a late post on the SOTU; the SOTU, as Charles Pierce points out, was a campaign speech, so those of us who still listen to the teebee or the radio are going to be hearing the talking points and tropes deployed by Obama last Tuesday drone out over and over and over the airwaves at least until November 6.

Let me be clear: I did listen to the speech, and all the way through, too. One can hardly blame Obama for leading with his strongest card: He transmogrified killing the unarmed Osama Bin Laden, then dumping his corpse into the sea, into a surefire applause line. We’ve been here before; after all, Obama’s “Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country” isn’t all that different from Bush’s “Let’s put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our allies”, and really, who over the age of six ever expected anything else? After that first fine, careless rapture, at least.

No man, no problem! True, Obama doesn’t swagger, but that’s just a cultural marker, and one of the techniques Ds use to fool themselves into thinking they’re still the good guys.

No, it wasn’t Obama glorifying a not-especially-clean hit as a campaign talking point that bugged me; what bugged me is what follows. Obama segued into a paean to teamwork as exemplified in the military:

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down [note lack of agency], they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.

And Obama circles back to the same point and expands on it toward the end of the speech:

Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve [mankind?] can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get [kill] bin Laden. On it are each of their names.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job — the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs.* [Decorously, Obama fades out before the money shot.] More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other — because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America.

Well, no. Not entirely “so.” Personally, I find the willingness of people to come together voluntarily, even anonymously, to feed the hungry, clean their space, or provide those thirsting for knowledge with books, equally admirable, if not more admirable. Certainly, for those who do more than profess Christianity for political gain (cf. Matthew 6:2-6), the communism of everyday life [PDF] (cf. Matthew 25:35-36) must be preferable to militarism, however idealistically conceived.

And no, not entirely “so” for soldiers, either. (Here I’m following a train of thought initiated on George Washington’s blog.) When soldiers enlist, they take this oath (10 U.S.C. § 502):

“I, XXXXXXXXXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

See the word “mission” there anywhere in the Oath? Thought not. So where does it come from? Not from Jon Favreau, actually, but from the 2003 version of“The Soldier’s Creed”, a deliverable of the Warrior Ethos program authorized by Army Chief of Staff Eric K. Shinseki.** Here’s are the first lines. (The reference numbers are mine.) You’ll notice how Obama’s rhetoric builds on this:

[1] I am an American Soldier.

[2] I am a warrior and a member of a team.

[3] I serve the people [not the Constitution] of the United States, and live the Army Values.

[4] I will always place the mission [not the Constitution, or the regulations, or the UCMJ] first

The Army, in “What do the words really mean?” offers the following gloss:

…. [2] I am a Warrior and a member of a team. Being a warrior, you will be trained to fight and defend yourself. As a team member, you live to serve the team. To maximize the team’s capability, all team members must work toward a common goal – mission accomplishment; if one member fails the team, the mission could fail.***

[4] I will always place the mission first. The mission always comes first [not the Oath] – even if it means you must sacrifice something – even if that something is your life.

Well, what could go wrong? Clearly the Warrior Ethos is completely at odds with the Oath; one might view Bradley Manning as living out that contradiction.

What then is a “mission”? To find out, I consulted Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms [PDF]:

mission — 1. The task, together with the purpose, that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason therefore. (JP 3-0) 2. In common usage, especially when applied to lower military units, a duty assigned to an individual or unit; a task. (JP 3-0) 3. The dispatching of one or more aircraft to accomplish one particular task. (JP 3-30)

“… A duty assigned.” Note (again) lack of agency. Who’s doing the assigning? A position (General) or a person (General XXXXXXXXXX)? Hard to say, isn’t it? However, I’d come down on the side of a person. After all, football teams are composed of players, and not positions.**** So, the Creed looks like an embryonic system of personal fealty, to me. History shows that militaries — and societies — that are organized on these lines are not without their disadvantages.

Now, I grant that I’m working only from texts: The SOTU, the Oath, the Creed, and a Pentagon Glossary. I’m not working from the ground, and I don’t have one-degree-of-separation relations with anyone in the military. (Readers?) That said, surely I am not the only person who finds Obama’s invocation of The Warrior Ethos as a model, not only for institutions that exceed expectations, but for individuals in civil society, more than a little disturbing?

End of Part I.

NOTE * Fine use of anaphora (“the…. the… the…”), one of Obama’s favorite rhetorical devices. Occasionally, Favreau rivals Nooners.

NOTE ** Here are the pre- and post-2003 versions. The differences are instructive. Pre-2003:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a member of the United States Army – a protector of the greatest nation on earth.
Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation it is sworn to guard.

I am proud of my own organization. I will do all I can to make it the finest unit in the Army.
I will be loyal to those under whom I serve. I will do my full part to carry out orders and instructions given to me or my unit.

As a soldier, I realize that I am a member of a time-honored profession—that I am doing my share to keep alive the principles of freedom for which my country stands.
No matter what the situation I am in, I will never do anything, for pleasure, profit, or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit, or my country.
I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions disgraceful to themselves and to the uniform.

I am proud of my country and its flag.
I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent, for I am an American Soldier.

Post-2003, as above:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

At least in ROTC, Warrior Ethos is included in performance reviews; see page 38 [PDF].

NOTE *** Do horizontally scaling organizations face this issue?

NOTE **** Note also that warriors unlikely to be hedged round with the careful institutional safeguards so evident in the Oath that soldiers take (see Federalist #26 generally and at “the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be abandoned…”).

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Middle Seaman

    Hiding behind the large backs of soldiers is as American as making the rich richer. Actually, it universal. No, I don’t listen to Obama’s semi-witted speech writers heard through his mouth; it’s a waste of time. The expectation from Obama’s to produce positive results for the 99% is negative. The guy causes and will cause a lot of damage.

    Listen to your dog; it as its advantages.

    1. bmeisen

      The Obama bashing among many NC commentators is hard to figure. The guy is not a surprise. He is doing what he said he’d do, which was never socialism or organizing a la alinsky and which was from the start obsequious to the big contributors. He will however do neither the damage that George Bush Jr did nor that done by Richard Nixon. I don’t even see him challenging Teddy Kennedy, who distinguished himself most promiscuously as a wannabe conscience, an intention that he talked up the way sex shops talk up Valentine’s day.

      1. TK421

        That’s a pretty flimsy rationale: that we should go easy on someone if they’re just “doing what they said they would do.” The vast majority of bad actors in history have announced their intentions clearly and frequently, after all.

        1. bmeisen

          Admittedly you can’t defend murderers for doing what they said they’d do. I don’t defend Obama’s broad performance as President. He has done virtually nothing that I can support, and he’s done some things, e.g. NDAA, that are alarming. But he has not substantially contributed to the sweeping betrayal of the American middle class. That is the achievement of his GOP predecessors and their partners.

          Obama delivered the change that he promised – a black president is a historical precedent, regardless of his politics – and he has modestly defended the interests of his most important sponsors without engaging in overtly criminal and deceitful behavior. The tone of betrayal found in many Obama bashers is misplaced.

          1. proximity1

            You’re trying to have it both ways at once. Now of whom does that remind me? I wonder–hmmm, lemme see—
            Not only are you factually wrong here–

            “bmeisen says:
            January 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

            The Obama bashing among many NC commentators is hard to figure. The guy is not a surprise. He is doing what he said he’d do, ….

            Obama’s actual record in office stands in direct and flagrant contradiction to the bloated promises he shamelessly repreated all throughout his campaign. Now, you might argue that only a child or a fool should have taken such stuff at face value; but that’s very different from saying that Obama has actually lived up to any significant degree the many promises he made during the campaign. That’s a flatly dishonest assertion and if you are up to reading and posting in this site, it’s an inexcusable fault.

            Furthermore, it constitutes sheer nonsense when viewed alongside this subsequent comment,

            …”Admittedly you can’t defend murderers for doing what they said they’d do. I don’t defend Obama’s broad performance as President. He has done virtually nothing that I can support, and he’s done some things, e.g. NDAA, that are alarming.” …

            (emphasis added)

            It’s one or the other–eiother the “bashing”–a grossly loaded term in the first place–is “hard to firgure” or (you) don’t defend Obama’s broad performance as President.

            But, in fact, “defending Obama’s “broad performance as president” is precisely what you’re doing.

            Your claims are rubbish: false and dishonest. Your reasoning is rubbish.

          2. bmeisen

            In 2008 I lined up the candidates, took note of informed opinion (like Krugman who had distinct reservations about Obama), and felt the emotional tug of being able to say that I voted for the first black to win the Presidency.

            Then I asked if there was anything to get excited about beyond his “story”: did he support straight up national health care for everyone? No. Did he have a clear plan for dealing with Iraq? No. Was he going to send the Banksters to jail? No. Was he going to rebuild public education? No.

            Is it true that he doesn’t even send his daughters to a public school?

            Was he going to start building high-speed rail links? No. Was he going to do anything substantial that could be called GREEN? No.

            So I decided not to vote for a candidate because of the color of his skin and to instead vote for someone whose positions agree as much as possible with mine. Many of those who now feel betrayed by Obama probably bought the “story”, got emotional and forgot the important stuff.

        2. nonclassical

          some of us right here questioned in media, whether Bushbama would actually
          DO “transparency, oversight, accountability” of Bush election fraud (Michael Connel), war fraud, and economic fraud…

          then we found out through WikiLeaks Obama had deal with Bush-Cheney to
          “look forward”…not “back”. Fine. Then the American people have the right to rob Wall $treet in recompense…

      2. Francois T

        “He will however do neither the damage that George Bush Jr did nor that done by Richard Nixon.”

        He’s already done much worse: Just look at the NDAA with these extreme and dictatorial provisions to detain, in military custody, (Posse Comitatus…good byyyyyyye any American citizen anywhere, anytime, without charges or trial, for as long as he cares.

        Go ahead! Please explain to me the difference between such a law and the tools of repression available to such humanists as Kim-Jung-Un, Robert Mugabe or Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

        1. bmeisen

          I expect it’s a horrible law. I can’t figure out why any democrat, any defender of justice would vote for something like it. Maybe fear of becoming vulnerable at the ballot-box to fascist rabble-rousers, e.g. Gingrich.

          To my knowledge the punishment and abuse of Bradley Manning is proceeding under military law. And existing law was sufficient to allow other American citizens to be held unjustly. Furthermore, it’s alarming that a POTUS would publicly take credit for a murder, re: bin Laden.

          In contrast, the actions of Johnson and Nixon in Vietnam, and of GW in Iraq constitute genocide. I believe that Obama has more substance and would not commit such crimes. I hope I’m right.

          1. R Foreman

            > I expect it’s a horrible law. I can’t figure out why any democrat, any defender of justice would vote for something like it.

            The only reason you create a law like that is if you’re expecting a maelstrom, and you’re expecting your own countrymen to deny and betray their government.

            As we’ve seen everywhere in the world, political dissent, social upheaval, is on the rise due to elite being insulated from financial loss while commoners lose everything. This will only get worse as the exponential growth of unserviceable debt interest is paid by means of government force, starving the real economy of capital.

            I think we know why the law was created. It was created by the elite to protect the elite and an unjust establishment from righteous indignation of the populace.

        2. nonclassical


          Pinned down on this subject last week, one of my heroes, Chris Hedges, defined
          that the only rationale for such egregious authoritarian legislation is that powers that be EXPECT a much, much worse economic destabilization…

          Protect yourselves, folks…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      LBR, I think my touch has been a little too light on this one. Check again around “History shows that militaries — and societies — that are organized on these lines are not without their disadvantages.” I’ll expand on this a bit in Part II.

  2. Walter Wit Man

    “transmorgified” = bon mot

    Good analysis. I stopped watching this propaganda so thanks for checking in for me. I didn’t realize Obama is so overtly laying on the military propaganda in his rhetoric.

    And don’t forget the fact Obama ordered a speical “mission” just before the SOTU and he made a point of giving Panetta a pat on the fanny as he went on stage for accomplishing the mission.

    So not only do we have the rhetoric of “mission” in the speech but we have a heroic example of a U.S. secret mission in “real life” [if one believes the event in Somalia even occured]

    Oh, and btw America, Obama’s policy is to expand secret “missions” to over 120 countries . . . .

    This CBS propaganda piece lays it all out there:


    [Panetta literally laughs when asked how many countries the U.S. waging war in–interview starts at ~3:00–then composes himself and says Al Qaeda is in a lot of countries so we have to be in a lot of countries . . . ]

  3. James

    Blind allegiance to a divine emperor/cause. It’s amazing it took this long really. Obama has played his part well. Certainly at a much higher level than the Shrub, bless is stupid heart. The fact that Darth Cheney has long since quit carping at Obama tells you everything you need to know. OK everybody, with as much enthusiasm as you can muster now: four more years, four more years… Nah, I couldn’t bring myself to say them either.

    1. tom allen

      Fired up? — Fired up!
      Ready to go? — Ready to go!

      Pure sports team cheerleading, indeed. Wonder if it works as well with no one to fight against. Well, except Iran, naturally.

  4. Birch

    “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.”

    Doesn’t that mean that they’re ready to deploy the enemy? Weird. If there wasn’t a comma after ‘destroy’ then perhaps only destroy would apply to the enemy, but they seem to be saying to deploy the enemy, engage the enemy, and destroy the enemy.

  5. rps

    When GWB rallied the nation he claimed his questionable warrior status and donned a flight suit to proclaim his bravado with credibility as the victorious “mission accomplished” commander in chief.

    Since BHO has no kwan in the military, the TPTB played dress up and fashioned him as the macabre civilian warrior to create a facade credibility as a victorious commander in the death of Bin Laden. Quite amazing that the republicans haven’t bashed him for never serving.

    The death machine–MIC cares not who the actor is on the stage insofar they can rally the civilian Epsilons in agreement to the militaristic state’s primary directive; continuous invasions and violence against humanity as the course of normal events. Short version: violent insanity as a natural state of existence.

    To accept that freedom and peace can only be achieved through actionable violence and death is our living propaganda. Unfortunately, the MIC will never allow humanity to live a peaceful existence as long as war is profitable and insane men run the show

  6. Jim


    You are raising an important issue, one that must be examined closely by anyone or any movement entering or involved in the political realm–I would translate this issue as–how do I choose to strive for power, and maintain power.

    Max Weber in his “Politics as Vocation” seemed to endorse the renunciatory motif of Christian rhetoric when he stated that inwardly a politician must take power, as if he took it not, maintain an inner distance, avoid “vain self reflection in the feeling of power.”

    The alternative (which I would argue is the path Obama,for example, took)is a “a sudden inner collapse” of the “mere power politician” when we can see “what inner weakness and impotence hides behind–“all the ardently promoted cult to glorify him.”

    My hypothesis, which will be extremely controversial for “progressives” “liberals” and “libertarians” is that the authority, of indivdual leaders or an entire movement, of any political outlook, must engage itself first in its own discipline of obedience to some kind of renunciatory command(i.e. what is not to be done, rather than what is to be done), even at the risk of losing power.

    I would argue in support of this hypothesis because we presently seem to live in a culture where power is the only game (it is the primary fascination and all our politicians and political movements seen to end in some kind of self-deification.

    I don’t know if such a stance is possible but it is an issue which even those promoting horizontal structures and possible “liberation” through process must also face.

    Again, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but this issue,I believe, is of profound importance and needs to be debated candidly and in-depth.

    1. Eureka Springs

      Well, isn’t that part of what Lambert is suggesting by mentioning the oath?

      Protecting and defending the constitution…. good a place to start and hold one to account as any, imo. If only we could/would hold them to account.

      Good post, Lambert.. I couldn’t bare to listen to the sotu for more than about ten mins.

    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      Some of the most succinctly sound advice ever given in this regard was offered by Gen. Fox Connor back in the 1920s to a young major serving under him in the Canal Zone named Eisenhower: “Always take your job seriously, but never take yourself seriously.”

      Lambert, thank you for listening to the sotu so we didn’t have to.

  7. Gil Gamesh

    Good post. Americans may have (justifiably) lost faith in US institutions, but they, by quite a majority, still admire, and even revere, the military. Speaking out against the symptoms of militarism, and our political classes’ cynical use of military personnel, takes some courage around here.
    Small wonder those personnel don’t take their constitutional oaths seriously. Who the hell else does?

    1. Some Bloke

      Spot on!
      Any American soldier who dies in battle automatically becomes one of “America’s finest”.
      Forget about all the American soldiers constantly engaged in war crimes.
      And take a look at the “sentences” handed out recently for murdering 24 unarmed civilians…

      1. rafael bolero

        Also, our soldiers, all of them, are collectively referred to as “our heroes.”
        Ridiculous. What a militarized culture.

  8. jsmith

    If at this point any American doesn’t realize that to volunteer for the US military in this day and age is to be a paid mercenary – killing/maiming innocent people, destroying their homes and stealing their resources then they are either brainwashed or an idiot.

    One other thing:

    Our military personnel are alwasy either 1) heroes or 2) victims of financial circumstance where the only route open to them was joining the military or starve supposedly.

    Thus, the individual is absolved from taking any responsibility for their actions – either way – hero or hapless dupe – the person can find some sort of solace.

    Funny that, in a country like the US where taking responsibility for one’s actions is incessantly driven into the minds of every citizen 24/7 through all the MSM channels this never extends to those who kill, maim and steal for the elite, huh?

    Gee, it’s funny how a person – through financial circumstance – might end up selling drugs or themselves is never given the same out as the paid killers, maimers and thieves that we unleash upon the innocent populations of the world, huh?

    For all those who serve, learn who you are really serving.

    We the taxpayers who pay your salaries are not the ones telling you to kill and maim innocent people, destroy the homes of innocents or steal the resources of innocent people, so don’t fall back on the tired adage that you’re either protecting us or defending our freedoms.

    You are paid mercenaries for a class of people who employ you to do their dirty work for you and nothing more.

    Ask yourself what kind of patriot the average CEO, banker or politician is?

    Do they really give back to the society they reside in?

    Do they really care about the country they drain of resources?

    These are the people making you service people into killers and thieves.

    When we start not to respect your service remember that it’s because you’re no longer doing the bidding of the citizens of the United States but of a criminal cabal that controls the citizens of the United States.

    We don’t want you to be needless killers and thieves.

    That is reserved for the depraved few who order you around.

    1. Stephen Nightingale

      jsmith: “Thus, the individual is absolved from taking any responsibility for their actions – either way – hero or hapless dupe – the person can find some sort of solace.”

      Funny I could have sworn that the military became autonomous, sentient individuals following the screening of “A Few Good Men”.

  9. rotter

    “Warriors” are individuals, not “members of a team”. In historical “Heroic” “Warrrior” cultures, ( Bronze age Macedon, Pre Roamn Gaul and Britain, Bronze Age and Iron Age North Europe, Pre Colonial South Africa, Feudal Japan, etc.,)Heros Served Themselves, a God whos favor they desired, and a King or some other patron from the Ruling Class. Achilles did not serve “the people” and certainly not “the laws” of Mycenae, assuming there were any beyond the whims of warlords. So on one hand this kind of rehtoric is dishonest, and also pompous in the extreme. The Army dosent want “warriors” it wants reliable order followers. It serves only to puff up the imaginations and egos of 17-21 year boys who naturally want to kill the Kraaken and win a princess Andromeda for themselves. On the other hand it is dangerous, cynical and vile beyond pardoning because those who command these teenaged warriors-not-soldiers, have thier true motives and intentions on display. They obviously wish to be warlords whos whims are the law.

  10. Susan the other

    Use the military to fight the true war: pollution, global warming, nuclear contamination, etc. The military is well funded and manned; it is trained and disciplined; it is organized better than society itself. When war and killing was the objective, thousands of years ago, we glorified it. Now that “mission” is disgusting. But we have a more important mission. Survival. There’s no way we can use our military to force people to perform a global capitalist vaudeville. Capitalism has already slipped away. (Observe China and Japan.) But we can clean up the mess. Change the mandate.

  11. Crazy Horse

    If you believe the body that Obama’s assassination team spirited out of Pakistan in the middle of the night was that of Osama bin Laden then I’ve some special aluminum centrifuge tubes that are stored out in the cow pasture that I’ll sell you for a million $ per meter.

    What possible explanation is there for hustling the body of the word’s most wanted criminal into a helicopter, flying it a thousand miles to the ocean and dropping it in a cement casket before its identity could be independently verified?

    According to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Butto and a host of others, bin Laden died of kidney failure in Pakistan in December of 2001. That would explain why the body double that Bush and Obama trotted out whenever they felt the need to scare the American public is so obviously a younger, healthier man. I’m sure the intention was to schedule the assassination much further along in the American election cycle when it would be more useful, but the Pakistani military personnel who were charged with making sure the double was held within his compound probably got too greedy with their demands for hush money.

    1. James

      Yes that was a rather queer little scenario they painted, wasn’t it? And the sheeple and the MSM swallowed it right up with nary a peep. Evidently the “Costanza rule” (“It’s not a lie if you actually believe it, Jerry.”) is symmetric. Welcome to the Brave New World after all.

    2. 911truth

      “For the third time today, it’s reminiscent of those pictures we’ve all seen too much on television before when a building was deliberately destroyed by well placed dynamite to knock it down.” – Dan Rather, CBS News (09/11/01)

      Cossiga’s new revelations appeared in December, 2007 in Italy’s oldest and most widely read newspaper, Corriere della Sera. Below appears a rough translation.

      [Bin Laden supposedly confessed] to the Al Qaeda September [attack] on the two towers in New York [claiming to be] the author of the attack of the 11th, while all the [intelligence services] of America and Europe … now know well that the disastrous attack had been planned and realized by the American CIA and the Mossad with the aid of the Zionist world in order to put under suspicion the Arab Countries and in order to induce the western powers to participate … in Iraq [and] Afghanistan.


      Such a sorry state of affairs. On the collapse of WTC7, one don’t need much background in math and physics to get it. And because the HARD truth is going through the power structure of the US, it can’t handle the truth. So the only question left is how effective this kind of propaganda can get.

  12. Ἐρινύες

    We look forward to unquestioning military fealty to the mission in a decade or so, when circumstances and alignments change, and the mission is to stick a butt plug in Obama and ship him on a stretcher to the Hague as our sacrificial lamb for US war crimes.

  13. liberal

    Funny—ISTR that George Will made a not disimilar critique in a column today or yesterday. (Started out pretty reasonably, though it devolved into progressive/leftist bashing.)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Strange bedfellows! Will writes: “The armed services’ ethos, although noble, is not a template for civilian society, unless the aspiration is to extinguish politics.” Yep. And the history of movements that seek to “extinguish politics” is not a re-assuring one.

  14. Jesse

    Minor point, but wasn’t the whole claim that a translator stayed at the gates and convinced people to go back to their homes deemed untrue? The bigger point being, there are so many myths out there about what happened, who knows if we’ll ever get the truth.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I really don’t care about the details of the hit. I care a lot more about the loathesomeness and corruption shown by Obama’s use of it — just as loathesome and corrupt as Bush, just with different cultural markers.

    2. stemp

      “We’ll never know the truth” can become a copout, a way for us to fail to confront the fact that we are being lied to.

      When faced with a fog of disorienting propaganda, what we can do, and must, is to reveal as many lies as we can, call them for lies, and denounce the lies and liars. Yves does this daily.

      I agree we will probably never know the truth behind the bizarre supposed raid in that compound. But what we can know is that the overwhleming evidence is that Osama Bin Laden has been dead since late 2001, and that all appearances of him since stink to high heaven of fraud and nonsense. From 2001 on he has been a boogey man puppet trotted out to scare up better poll numbers before election events. David Ray Griffin did a whole book on OBL’s death before the raid [“Osama Bin Laden, Dead or Alive?”], and everything he wrote still holds.


  15. b.

    Love the “money shot” line. The authoritarian appeal that everything and everybody would “fall into place” if we all just followed the orders of our betters is nothing new, but the point about the Bush-Obama bullshitting regarding their respectives oaths to “protect the people” – as opposed to the defining codex of the nation, the constitution – needs to be repeated often. Scalia’s despicable line of the constitution as a suicide pact – or a suicide bomb? – belongs into the same gallery.

    Post-war Germany had a lot of in-depth posturing regarding the “citizen soldier” draftee and his obligation to not follow unlawful orders. Taking this demand seriously could actually get you deferred.

    Whatever you think of William S. Lind, he was right on the “money shot” quoting a Marine from Iraq declaring that “we are the redcoats now”. When Pierce – whom I enjoy every now and then – writes bollocks like

    “Sullivan’s basic theory is essentially correct — that the president has governed as a ‘conservative,’ at least in the long-obsolete Eisenhower sense of the word”

    you run out of reasonable voices. Eisenhower, despite dumping his spot-on recognition of the core dynamics of the US military-political circle-jerk into the lap of The People and his inadequate successors, was a – value – conservative. Obama is not even a mindless structure conservative. He is eviscerating pinciples, institutions, and processes and destroying foundations like the rule of law and the constitutions on the altar of authoritarian expediency and personal vanity. That is the hallmark of a radical, and a deeply corrupt and sociopathic radical at that. As Greenwald points out with armirable persistance, the real astonishment is the acquiescence of all those that have or have not sworn the same oath, and/or profess to actually subscribe to it.

  16. J Thompson

    (It seems there aren’t any soldiers or veterans out there reading this article. Funny how soldiers are being analyzed without asking any of them!) Now that I’ve gotten THAT out of my system…

    Soldiers go in the service for any number of reasons – lots of them do it because they believe the stuff that’s in that Oath. And most of them get that it’s all Bull after a while-they might not admit it, though.

    Let me say first, that the art of military leadership can be basically boiled down to one thing – getting the troops to believe that the lives of all the soldiers around them depend on them. That’s how to motivate the troops to do everything, anything. So, the leadership frames your thinking – this “mission” is so important that we are putting lives at stake (yours and your friends’) and the sooner you accomplish the mission, the sooner they will be safe.

    So the problem with your analysis is this. The Oath and the Creed are just words on a paper. Your battle buddy is a living, breathing piece of you. When soldiers are in situations where their Oath conflicts with their Creed, I don’t think they even notice, because concern for the welfare of those who are immediately near you dwarfs concerns about them. [That’s assuming that you can even ascertain enough of the groundtruth to determine whether your “mission” is in accordance with the Oath, the Creed, or even the welfare of somebody (anybody?). The amount of propaganda used against our soldiers, sailors, and airmen is staggering.]

    What is concerning (and I would say is a prominent subtext of your article) is the militarization of American civil leadership. They have adopted not only the leadership practices of military leaders, but also the requisite lack of concern for the repurcussions of what they do. They constantly bombard the public with propaganda that serves their own opaque ends, while convincing us that what they’re doing is so important that we have put [fill in the blank – lives, dollars, security, whatever] at risk. Then by the time we realize that it was BS, we’re too busy trying to protect our families that we’re trapped, just like the soldiers.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      J Thompson, that’s why I wrote “… I don’t have one-degree-of-separation relations with anyone in the military. (Readers?) ….” So thank you. Maybe if you think of the post as an analysis of propaganda….

      On what’s truly concerning, yes, I agree 100%. The implications for civil society of the train of thought in the SOTU will be the subject of Part II….

    2. Nathanael

      “Then by the time we realize that it was BS, we’re too busy trying to protect our families that we’re trapped, just like the soldiers.”

      I know how this ends from studying history.

      Eventually the abuses of those in power get to be so much that it becomes clear to a large number of (soldiers / everyday people) that the only way to protect their (buddies / familes) is through (mutiny / revolution). This happens when they have “nothing left to lose” and no loyalty to the boss.

      Overthrow of the government follows, by (military coup / civil war).

      It’s really a stupid thing for the elites to allow to happen. They can avoid it by keeping the soliders & the everyday people fed, clothed, housed, employed productively, and relatively secure.

      However, by the time they have “the requisite lack of concern for the repurcussions of what they do”, the elite is unable to do this.

      The fact is that a great military leader keeps track of the repercussions of what he does and is concerned about them — General Sherman knew precisely what he was doing (and his orders show an attention to politics and economics on a grand scale), whereas General Hood for the Confederates certainly didn’t know the repercussions of what he did (and recklessly killed pretty much everyone in the army he was entrusted with).

      Our civilian elite is not copying the behavior of great military leaders, who were loved by their men partly *because* they thought things through. They are copying the behavior of inferior military leaders. This cannot go well.

    3. Nathanael

      “Let me say first, that the art of military leadership can be basically boiled down to one thing – getting the troops to believe that the lives of all the soldiers around them depend on them. That’s how to motivate the troops to do everything, anything.”

      Let me expand further on this. That is a lazy commander’s tactic, or a tactic used in a blatantly unjust and unnecessary war.

      The commanders in the Civil War used a better tactic: the troops believed (true or not) that the lives of *everyone* they cared about (including the ones at home) depended on them. We can also call this the “patriotic” tactic. It is used heavily. The Oath is based on it.

      The displacement of the Oath with a Constitution-free list of “military values” is part of a deliberate attempt to get soliders to forget that the Constitution is what keeps their families safe, whereas the Oath was designed to tell soldiers that the Constitution was what kept their families safe. How you view this change will depend on your opinion of the Constitution, but it’s a deliberate propaganda change. And not actually an improvement from the point of view of motivation — unless you’re trying to get soldiers to do blatantly unconstitutional things.

      1. J Thompson

        I couldn’t agree more with your diagnosis of the elites and the current situation in a historical context (not that I’m any kind of expert on history). My experiences of the military are obviously much more recent, and I’m not sure how universal they might be or whether the current situation is the historical norm.

        I think there is a distinction between a great leader and a great military leader. While it is possible for a great leader to occur in the military, it’s unlikely because the military culls them out. The military prizes conformity even in its leadership-to rise to the highest levels (where one might be recognized as a great leader), an officer must hold the same attitudes as the ruling elites.

      2. J Thompson

        The problem is really larger than just the leadership of the military falling in line with the thinking of the elite-the generals and colonels are PART of the elite. Entrance into top military academies functions in exactly the same way as the top private colleges, many generals grew up in well-to-do families, and they make a ridiculous amount of money. Not only that, but their social circles coincide to a significant degree with top politicians and moneyed interests within the MIC.

        Furthermore, these guys use their power within the military to ensure they can retain their power after they retire, to the point that our govt is crowded with them. They retire from active duty right into top civilian federal jobs as SES and GS15, then they become contractor consultants. They infect the govt and do whatever they have to to ensure their continued influence.

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