Wheels Falling Off the Imperial Reality-Creating Machine

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

One of the most famous quotes from the era of Bush the Younger came from Ron Suskind in his (October) 2004 article, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush”:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, [now?] and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”


Joseph Goebbels would be proud. No, Joseph Goebbels would be awed. And, back in 2004, what was, pre-Obama, regarded as the left blogosphere, bloggers rose en masse to claim the mantle “proud member of the reality-based community.” We know how that worked out. But a little over a decade on, we can ask the question: Was Bush’s “senior advisor” right? Do we, as imperialists, create our own reality? I’d argue that the current Syrian fiasco shows that the answer is No.

Let’s assume that the reality we, as imperialists, were attempting to create was whatever the outcome of The Rummy’s Nutty Plan to invade seven Middle East countries in five years was supposed to be; rainbows and ponies, lots of lovely moolah for cronies, heaps of dead far away brown people, a death grip on that oil, also too Israel. Or some combination thereof! General Wesley Clark on “how things will sort out” (full interview):


Because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld [“Rummy”] and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

Now, it’s clear if “Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran” was The Plan, the plan was implemented… Well, about as well as ObamaCare. Requirements got dropped, and deadlines were slipped. Afghanistan wasn’t on the list at all, and Syria didn’t come after Iraq, maybe because Iraq turned out not to be a cake walk, and we blew past Somalia (or not) and the Sudan (or not). But it’s certainly suggestive that Bush crossed Iraq off the list, and Obama took out Libya, and is going after Syria. And everybody knows Iran’s in the crosshairs. So I think we can accept that there’s a huge honkin’ binder with a version of Rummy’s Nutty Plan in it, lovingly kept up to date by the national security nomenklatura , and the national security and political classes are following it. No, we don’t know that, but then, we wouldn’t, would we? So how’s that working out for the imperialists, I mean, us?

Badly. Consider the following declension: Iraq, Libya, Syria. Let’s lay out some comparisons in the form of a table:

Iraq Libya Syria
Allies US, UK, Australia (26 countries) France, UK, US (19) France (1)
Forces 200,000 ground troops Aircraft, naval blockade Cruise missiles?
Casualties 6 figures 4 figures 3 figures?
Objective “Stand up” a “young democracy” Regime change “Red line”

In each case, as we move forward in time, power declines. Fewer allies. A smaller force. Fewer deaths and maimings. Less ambitious objectives. Hubris, meet nemesis; we are, one might almost think, looking at a bad case of imperial overstretch and subsequent decline. It seems that, rather defining reality, reality is defining us.*

However, there’s a second reason why we don’t seem to be nearly as effective in defining our reality as we thought we were: We’ve got competition. Consider this curious statement at the end of a New Yorker article on Syria:

Above: In a photo authenticated based on its contents and other A.P. reporting, Syrians inspect buildings damaged by heavy shelling from Syrian government forces in Aleppo, on Monday, August 26th. Aleppo Media Center AMC/AP

Why would the famously fact-checked New Yorker even have to explain the provenance of one of its photos? Well, because there’s a boatload of mis- and disinformation floating about in the form of pictures and YouTubes, that’s why. The administration unwittingly confirms (with emptywheel providing context):

[C]onsider how the number and location of sites plays in the [administration’s] case [for war] itself.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.


We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack…

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

That is, the USG points to the sheer number of social media reports as proof that the attacks really happened, because the Syrian opposition couldn’t have faked them all.

And yet the USG’s own case suggests that those locations may be inaccurate, even though the locations are portrayed in the videos.

In fact, the administration”s assessment is quite wrong. The Syrian “opposition” has this exact capability, in spades. Maybe because there aren’t any English majors on Our President’s national security team, nobody read this fascinating and instructive article in the London Review of Books. The author was embedded with several units of the Syrian opposition, and this is what he saw:

How to Start a Battalion (in Five Easy Lessons)

‘Where will you go?’

‘A very good man, a seeker of good deeds – he is from our town but he lives in the Gulf – told me he would fund my new battalion. He says he will pay for our ammunition and we get to keep all the spoils of the fighting. We just have to supply him with videos.’

‘But why would he do that? What’s he getting in return?’

‘He wants to appease God, and he wants us to give him videos of all our operations. That’s all – just YouTube videos.’

‘So he can get more money.’

‘Well, that’s up to him.’

So how do you form a battalion in Syria? First, you need men, most likely young men from the countryside, where the surplus of the underemployed over the centuries has provided for any number of different armies and insurgencies. Weapons will come from smugglers, preferably via Iraq or Turkey. You will also need someone who knows how to operate a laptop and/or a camcorder and can post videos on the internet – essential in applying for funds from the diaspora or Gulf financiers.

So, in fact, YouTubes are essential to the Syrian “opposition” and used for fund-raising. And if you can make a video, you can fake a video. One can only speculate as to the quantity of funds that will be raised on a video that makes it to whitehouse.gov, even when aggregated with a hundred others. Eh?**

* * *

Summing up: Two reasons why the wheels of our imperial reality-creating machine have gone missing:

1. Reality creates us just as much as we create it, as Aeschylus and Euripides would have understood at once, and

2. Nimbler competitors are stealing our wheels for their own machines.

Too bad, so sad, but although the transition might be painful, we as a country will certainly be better off when we aren’t blowing faraway brown people to pink mist and waiting for blowback, and when the organs of state security aren’t a swollen sac of pus that’s waiting to burst. If we don’t end our imperial experiment, it will be ended for us. Best to get on with it.

* * *

NOTE * One might speculate that the reason Obama will put no “boots on the ground” in Syria also explains his fondness for drones: The Bush and Obama administrations between them broke the Army with poorly conceived missions, PowerPoint generalship, corrupt contractors, and constant re-ups, such that it is not necessarily a reliable fighting force. Certainly Army suicides are troubling, and inexplicable (or maybe not). And then there’s the public relations risk of more collateral murders.

NOTE ** As far as the twitter, I’m sure that all sides in the Syrian conflict are just as capable of Hasbara as the Israelis are.

NOTE I assume the Assad regime is issuing its own fakes. I just don’t have any evidence for that. Readers?


Cocktailhag at FDL points to a third reason the wheels are falling off:

And on this side of the pond, Obama Derangement Syndrome, once again, is paying off in a satisfying way. As much as Republicans love wars, they despise Democrats generally, and Obama in particular, enough that many are likely to join Barbara Lee, Alan Grayson, and 50-odd other mostly liberal Democrats calling for at least a constitutionally-required consultation with Congress.

[N]ot for the first time, the teabaggers are lining up to save the rest of us from another ruinous bout of Presidential bipartisanship. Just as they scuttled a Grand Bargain on Social Security and Medicare, they’re hauling out the peace bong now, and for that we should all be grateful to Aqua Buddha and the gang.

“[T]hey’re hauling out the peace bong now…” BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! But it’s true, it’s true. Meanwhile, the post-Red Wedding Catelyn Stark-like Nancy Pelosi calls for war, just as she called for the bailouts. It’s a funny old world.

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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. Glenn Condell

    ‘Let’s assume that the reality we, as imperialists, were attempting to create was whatever the outcome of The Rummy’s Nutty Plan to invade seven Middle East countries in five years’

    Was it Rummy’s plan or did he steal it from Oded Yinon?

    ‘”The dissolution of Syria and Iraq into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern frontIraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run, it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.

    “An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon.

    “In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul and Shiite areas in the South will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.”

    Yinon 1982


    1. Banger

      The fact of the matter, Exceptionalism or not, the whole Syrian gassing is questionable. In ordedr to carry out those gassings the Syrians have put into question their recent military and PR gains when they could have merely levelled the neighborhood with conventional arms. For a variety of resons the American claims are just not credible not in the least because the USG h lied about nearly every causus belli to come down the pike from the Indian Wars to Iraq–why top here? And, as ever, the American propaganda machine (the Mighty Wurlitzer) cranks up as usual.

      American Exceptionalism is mainly a propaganda trope but it also is an important part of the post-WWII mentality of the ruling elites. They believe they are the inheritors of the Roman Imperial project not because America is particularly moral (they aren’t that stupid) but because the U.S. is the country with the power and wealth to run the world and, most conveniently, possesses a rather supine and passive public that has not even a clue as to what is really going on and doesn’t even know it doesn’t know sh!t so thouroughly have they been lied to by a controlled (by intel agencies) press for over a half-century. These elites have worked assiduously to make it so and it has worked rather well so far. The fly in the ointment is that the ruling elites represented by that POS Kerry wants to keep the fires of Empire lit and Obama, I sense, is growing weary of the pro-Imperial wing of the Democratic Party perhaps because he is finally grasping the agenda here.

      As I write this I just listened to the news on NPR, network that has not met a war it didn’t like at least in recent years reported in a straightforward way without the usual snark Putin’s remarks echoing what I said above. This indicates a shift. Perhaps it was the fact the Brits rejected the evidence for going to war. It’s looking a little grim for the imperialists. The usual cheerleading by the press so far has not really changed the minds of most of the American people.

      1. Lopzi

        Obama, I sense, is growing weary of the pro-Imperial wing of the Democratic Party perhaps because he is finally grasping the agenda here.

        “If only the Czar knew!”

      2. Percy

        The House of Commons debate was enlightening, tending to show that at least some English-speaking people can still think and converse while doing so. Too bad we don’t operate that way, and that thinking and conversing is so clearly not a strong suit of our politics and governmental decision-making that we cannot bear to expose those in charge (or, more accurately, they cannot bear to be exposed) to the sort of short, non-speechifying back-and-forth in which our UK brethren regularly engage.

        1. Banger

          Our culture is very different. We converse in symbols and pictures–we are less interested in language and not very attuned to it. Americans prefer action and distrust intellectuals thus all serious politicians try very hard to speak and write poorly.

          Sadly the two best politicians in terms of using language well were JFK and MLK. Both brilliant minds and masters of using the language.

    2. susan the other

      Saudi Arabia is like the domestication of dogs (no offense Saudis). Full disclosure, I love dogs. But in this way: Domestication is adaptation, nothing more. It is a kind of genius that looks to be partially biological. So a word of warning to all Mid East Wolves, as beautiful and romantic as you see yourselves to be, you are not. But that said, I think we are proven to be at the extreme of our own limits in this war and we have nothing to be proud of.

  2. from Mexico

    Lambert Strether said:

    [N]ot for the first time, the teabaggers are lining up to save the rest of us from another ruinous bout of Presidential bipartisanship. Just as they scuttled a Grand Bargain on Social Security and Medicare, they’re hauling out the peace bong now, and for that we should all be grateful to Aqua Buddha and the gang.

    “[T]hey’re hauling out the peace bong now…” BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! But it’s true, it’s true. Meanwhile, the post-Red Wedding Catelyn Stark-like Nancy Pelosi calls for war, just as she called for the bailouts. It’s a funny old world.

    It’s quite an eye-opener — a lesson in realism — for all.

    TPTB don’t do partisanship, unless it behooves their interests.

    TPTB don’t do racism, unless it behooves their interests.

    TPTB don’t do homophobia, unless it behooves their interests.

    The only thing TPTB do consistently is power and money.

    Evidently, the teabaggers didn’t get the memo.

    1. psychohistorian

      TPTB know only power and money consistently, agreed.

      What I think folks are missing is that power and money can now create as much fear in any populace as is necessary to move the agenda along.

      It just remains to be seen what the next fear mongering event(s) are to move the agenda along….a little terrorism in the EU sphere and some more in the US and the sheep will bleat like scared lambs.

      The masses still have too much faith and not enough economic pain, IMO.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I think “the masses” is about as respectable a category as “Boomers.” Or “Millenials.” And I especially detest “the masses” because it conceptualized working people as an undifferentied, clay-like lump, denying them agency. It’s really as offensive as Obama’s bitter/cling to remark in 2008.

        1. psychohistorian

          LS does not like my terminology for lots of people.

          What is an acceptable term, I ask?

          Is public ok? Any others?

          I don’t like name like Boomers any more than others but what is it about masses that makes it like Boomers? I am not one that generally uses terms like that except to generalize about the plutocrats, TPTB, global inherited rich, etc.

          Sorry to offend, I think.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            It’s not a matter of personal offense.* Sets (the set of all Boomers, the set of all “the masses”) need to have reasonably clear criteria for membership, although this will vary by the use case. For example, “Millenial” functions perfectly well conceptually in marketing or in popular psychology. However, if you want to know why some “Millenials” are doing well financially and others are not, you will need look elsewhere and use different set membership criteria than age cohort. You will want to slice and dice the data according to different membership criteria. Some tests for set membership are designed with strategic hate management in mind in classic ruliing class “divide and conquer” mode; for example, every wedge issue is a test of set membership according to one’s acceptance of positions on the issue, identification with the leadership, and so on. Whether you use such categorizations depends very much on your goals. My personal view is that if, say, your goal is “social justice” (to take an example) categorizations like “Boomer” are unlikely to get you very far, and so it is best to avoid them.

            NOTE * With one exception. I take vigorous exception to denying people their agency. “The masses,” which conceptualizes people as clay to be molded, takes agency away from them.

            1. psychohistorian

              Language is as important to me as it is to you.

              From my dictionary:

              1. noun stuff
              2. adj. 1. of a large number of things; large scale; as mass production. 2. of, characteristic of, or for the masses: as mass education

              in the mass, collectively; as a whole
              the masses, the common people; the working people; lower classes in the social order: opposed to the classes.

              LS, you didn’t provide acceptable alternatives which I may use to not offend.

                    1. Hugo Stiglitz

                      No group in particular. I just took the meaning of “masses” as members of the public that seem to always go along with whatever the goals of fear mongering happen to be. Some of them are catching on, but not enough to stop the oligarchs from doing whatever they want. Hence the “consultation” of Congress is meaningless. John Kerry has already stated they have the “authority” to go ahead.

                      Apparently God is in direct communications with the War Council, or perhaps the American executive is now playing God.

    2. jrs

      Eh, the teabaggers. They aren’t the problem here. In fact perhaps they seldom are the problem, regardless of what one may think of their ideology.

      In the U.S.:

      The powers that be don’t do leftism, unless talking it behooves their interests

      The powers that be don’t care at all about the middle or working class unless it behooves their interest

      The powers that be don’t do morality, unless it beehoves their interest

      Most of the country hasn’t gotten the memo

  3. PaulArt

    All we can think of is the terrible reckoning that awaits America. The Mills of the Gods grind slow….

    The very sad thing of course is that Americans are such a lovely and generous people. A very simple people who live their lives with an absolute devotion to the rules they have been taught, of hard work and industriousness.

    The Fat Cats have betrayed the American people. If we did a Root Cause Analysis we would find that the point where the cancer metastasized and started roaring like a wild fire was when we rolled back Glass-Steagall. I don’t mean the actual roll back in the 90s but much before when Walter Wriston found his purchase with the corrupt politicians (mostly Democrats)in Washington.

    Money is a universal fuel. The damn thing can run nearly anything. When money was limited, when Fat Cats counted their gold every night because there wasn’t much and so never tired of counting it before going to bed, they had to be careful of how much to give to the slime balls in Congress and Senate. Once the spigots were turned on by Wall Street Casino Capitalism then all hell broke loose.

    The only way to return the Genie into the bottle is to impoverish the Fat Cats and make them very busy worrying about conserving what they have (1940-76) by raising the marginal rates AND capital gains to 90%. Next we need to rid IRS of all the Conservative and Libtard plants and then give them plenty of money and new legislation and say ‘Sic em boys and girls!’ and then sit back and watch the fun.

  4. TK421

    Possibly a fourth reason: other countries are tired of our BS and aren’t listening to it anymore. In my perusals of current events it seems that literally no one wants to help our grand Syrian adventure. Even England is sitting this out. You can fool all of the people some of the time…

    1. jrs

      Yes I think that’s major. And I hope some of it is because the Snowden leaks are sinking in and discrediting the empire (but I’ll take it regardless of the reason).

  5. Bob B


    Aaron Bady:
    “It doesn’t matter that Bush was (kind of) a cowboy, and that Obama was (kind of) a law professor; all of that became irrelevant, or at least superfluous, when they became American presidents. To embody the sovereign will of the United States—to be the world’s only superpower, the world policeman—is to be bound by the logic of arbitrary power, to be forced to occupy and preserve the state of exception in which American exceptionalism is founded. Because the United States is powerful, it has the power to decide where and how and when and to whom the rules apply. If it does not have that power, it is not powerful; if it is not powerful, it is not the United States. The stakes for every American president, then, are existential. If Syria is allowed to cross the red line unpunished, it will threaten the very basis of American identity, the exceptionalism which makes America the solitary sovereign actor on the world stage. Punishing them for doing so—with a handful of inconsequential cruise missiles or even a more aggressive and disastrous bombing campaign—would accomplish no more than re-instating that narrative, that the United States is, still, the decider. But that’s all its meant to accomplish.”

  6. sufferin' succotash

    That quote from the Suskind article has always struck me as a first-rate definition of what might be called Generic Fascism.
    Forget about the external trappings we associate with the 20th century European versions. Fascism is finally a rejection of two and a half centuries of Enlightenment, but here in the USA it’s not necessary to go through a lot of ideological contortions to arrive at that world-view. All that’s needed is to have enough money to be be insulated from what can affect about 99-percent of the rest of us.

    1. from Mexico

      sufferin’ succotashsays:

      Fascism is finally a rejection of two and a half centuries of Enlightenment…

      The “rejection of,” or the logical conclusion of?

      As Arundhati Roy argues:

      Most of the genocidal killing from the fifteenth century onwards has been an integral part of Europe’s search for what the German geographer and zoologist Friedrich Ratzel famously called lebensraum, living space. Lebensraum was a word he coined to describe what he thought of as dominant human species’ natural impulse to expand their territory in their search for not just space, but sustenance. The idea of lebensraum was set out in precise terms in 1901, but Europe had already begun her quest for lebensraum four hundred years earlier, when Columbus landed in America.

      Sven Lindqvist, author of Exterminate All the Brutes, argues that it was Hitler’s quest for lebensraum — in a world that had already been carved up by other European countries — that led the Nazis to push through Eastern Europe and on toward Russia. The Jews of Eastern Europe and western Russia stood in the way of Hitler’s colonial ambitions. Therefore, like the native peoples of Africa and America and Asia, they had to be enslaved or liquidated. So, Lindqvist says, the Nazis’ racist dehumanization of Jews cannot be dismissed as a paroxysm of insane evil. Once again, it is a product of the familiar mix: economic determinism well marinated in age-old racism—very much in keeping with European tradition of the time…..

      ‘The struggle for lebensraum,’ Friedrich Ratzel said, after closely observing the struggle between native Indians and their European colonizers in North America, ‘is an annihilating struggle’. Annihilation doesn’t necessarily mean the physical extermination of people—by bludgeoning, beating, burning, bayoneting, gassing, bombing, or shooting them. (Except sometimes. Particularly when they try to put up a fight. Because then they become Terrorists.) Historically, the most efficient form of genocide has been to displace people from their homes, herd them together, and block their access to food and water. Under these conditions, they die without obvious violence and often in far greater numbers. This was how the Herero people were exterminated by the German General Adolf Lebrecht von Trotha in Southwest Africa in October 1904. ‘The Nazis gave the Jews a star on their coats and crowded them into ‘reserves,’ Sven Lindqvist writes, ‘just as the Indians, the Hereros, the Bushmen, the Amandebele, and all the other children of the stars had been crowded together. They died on their own when food supply to the reserves was cut off.’ ”


      1. Dr. Noschidt

        frMex — Adam Hochschild: “KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa” (1998). Go ahead, apply to the Palestinians and “Ha-aretz Lebensraum by Divine Right” if you dare.

      2. The Dork of Cork.

        There has always been battles for the control of natural resources.
        But that did not destroy Ireland.

        What happened to Ireland ?
        The Tudors brought back the money changers…….a yield and not a good life became all important.
        As many people as the famine if not more (with less of a total population) was most probably wiped out or sent to west Indian slave plantations to work for some bastard.

        The Gaelic culture of Ireland improved under the Norman conquest…..it was exterminated in the 1500& 1600s.

        The object of the game is cultural turmoil and dislocation – people can be lead at the nose with a money token when all their village life is no more then a fond memory in a strange land.

        1. Dr. Noschidt

          The Gaelic slaves were shipped to the New World to die in ditches they dug for the merchant priest maritime “free trade” empire. The clever came to monopolize the “police force” in Boston, New York, and New Orleans.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        It took me a long while to form the view that killing all the Jews was actually Hitler’s war-winning strategy. Put yourself in his shoes, and it all makes sense….

        * * *

        As for Enlightenment and genocide as a tool of statecraft, or massacre as a strategy in war, it’s quite clear that the Enlightenment is not the only path with that outcome. One thinks of the Mongols. Or the Assyrians. Or the Romans. So some deeper causes must be in play.

  7. Banger

    FYI, this page keeps crashing on several browsers–some weird code no doubt.

    The mainstream media is the keeper of myths and they are still on board with pretending the lead-up to the Iraq War never happened that the government didn’t deliberately falsify information to get us into war (well, actually both the media and government together made up facts). It is, quite simply, illogical to believe the USG on this matter particularly when they’ve not given one credible reason why the Syrians would have gassed a suburb of Damascus not far from their own sections when they could have just razed it to the ground with shelling or bombs. The mainstream media pretends, as it did in Iraq, that there is no need to describe motivations because them Arabs is just plumb crayyyyzeee. That’s the implied argument.

    The deception will continue until it is thoroughly de-bunked and that has not happened yet. I agree with you that cracks are showing–the British Parliament was a surprise because the American media thinks all populations have amnesia. Even here, our sullen electorate doesn’t seem very eager this time to beat the drums of war and, indeed, one thanks God, the Tea Party’s hatred of Obama stands us in good stead.

    1. Dr. Noschidt

      Banger, will the ‘British” hero MP Galloway bring “The Tyrannicide Brief” into competent hands pronto, within the frame of the New Nuremberg Tribunal 2013, even as the Traitor-in-Chief is frog-marched off the world stage? Michael Hudson and Paul Craig Roberts know just what to do, as the Destroyers of Worlds are shipped to Sheol, HSBC busted, and Larry Summers is placed in stocks in Boston. People power! “Time and tide wait for no man.”

  8. Timothy Gawne

    Yes to all of the above, but there is another angle to this.

    If nothing else, Syria is a wonderful distraction. Obama could probably care less about most of this. What the rich and powerful really want is the cheap-labor immigration bill, which will add hundreds of millions to the US population and permanently cement US wages at third-world levels. (No this is not hyperbole: look up “demographic momentum” in wikipedia). Also on the list is the vile TPP trade agreement, and of course ongoing bailouts of Wall Street. Syria gives Obama almost total freedom of action in every other sphere, which, even if not planned as such, could be just what he needs to complete the rest of his corporate agenda before his second term ends.

    1. jrs

      Yea, I’m not sure it will work that way. If the rest of the world really started to rebel against the empire, I know it’s too much to hope, but there would be no TPP. If they dare not signing up with the U.S. for a war why not do the same for economics and soveriegnty (which is much of what the TPP is about)? The TPP, like another war, isn’t popular with most of the population anywhere.

      Another reason I don’t think it’s being done for the distraction of U.S. citizens is I really don’t think they matter. Because they could pass the TPP without most citizens wanting it or even noticing it.

    2. John

      Exactly. The criminal elite are elated on their 300 million dollar yachts this Labor Day.

      Flood American with millions and millions and millions of foreigners to lower wages to China levels while getting to use up their missales so the taxpayer can buy hundreds of billions more from them.

      Clinking of the glasses at the TPP which will bring colonization home to America.

      Things are going excellently for the criminal elite.

  9. don

    Reality based as creating reality.


    I was under the impression this has been well understood for years now.

    1. Yves Smith

      No, “blowback” = someone (as in the US) intervenes abroad. Said intervention creates enemies which then have the temerity to attack the party that intervened.

      The breakdown of the propaganda apparatus is a serious problem for Obama. Obama’s strategies are based first and foremost on the premise that any problem can be solved by better propaganda.

      1. Jim Haygood

        “I’m also mindful that I’m president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” — Barack Obama

        Lying dirtbag, you and your soul brother Bush ripped it to pieces.

        Obama can’t open his fool mouf no more without lying.

        1. Hugo Stiglitz

          I think Charles Krauthammer warrants quotation marks around “conservative” as well as “intellectual”, but that is true of nearly all people labeled conservative – especially on TV.

  10. Doug Terpstra

    The wheels coming off faith-based American empire brings a mental cartoon of the author of neo-reality himself, Karl Rove, clattering down the middle of the street in his plastic Hot Wheels, playing chicken with an old-school reality-based bus. They scoff at the many pointed parables and proverbs on pride, the greatest of deadly sins, as they grasp for absolute power.

    As Will Rogers said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

    The decline and collapse of American Empire is a cause for hope and celebration. Thanks, Lambert.

    1. Dr. Noschidt

      DT, it’s time to show that Press Club video of Karl Rove “dancing” just to remind us what he’s made of. To think that he and Barry are in bed together.

    2. SoCal7

      I had been marginally Republican-leaning, but now have egressed more towards a Libertarian stance, even adopting some liberal (excluding centralized gov, et al. and a number of other stupid positions)stances.

      One reason for that is how the Republicans eventually abused the “Christian Conservative” and “Faith Based” voters and “Reagan Democrats”. Obama is virtually doing the same thing with his own constituents. The effect is that our leaders have no ‘real’ power, and cede it to apparatchiks, generals, bankers, NSA, et al.

      Faith is a personal thing and should produce the result and practices that do not require any laws at all, but comportment with spiritual principles. If my belief in God inspires and me to not lie, cheat, do violence, steal, covet or dishonor, then the law is of no effect, for the most part. This is what Adams and the other writers of the Constitution knew.

      Obama, Bush and their administrations and many in Congress are just as stupid looking as Miley Cyrus. They lead without conscience and only make feeble attempts to do the right thing – as a last resort, maybe. Then resume their idiocies.

      We need a government of people that regard their own acts as in relation to a spiritual or God centered life and be guided by them. Not likely to happen, but the alternative result is certain – desolation row. Just a matter of when.

  11. Crazy Horse

    But we can’t ignore the fact that a red line that defines the difference between barbarism and civilization has been crossed.

    Obama has no choice but to bomb all of Texas including anyplace where the Bush dynasty is suspected of having a financial interest. He simply cannot let stand Bush the First’s complicity in Saddam Hussein’s use of nerve gas against masses of Kurdish civilians just because it was politically expedient for the Neo-Con Grand Plan for the middle east..

  12. Louis Proyect

    However, there’s a second reason why we don’t seem to be nearly as effective in defining our reality as we thought we were: We’ve got competition. Consider this curious statement at the end of a New Yorker article on Syria:

    Above: In a photo authenticated based on its contents and other A.P. reporting, Syrians inspect buildings damaged by heavy shelling from Syrian government forces in Aleppo, on Monday, August 26th. Aleppo Media Center AMC/AP

    Why would the famously fact-checked New Yorker even have to explain the provenance of one of its photos? Well, because there’s a boatload of mis- and disinformation floating about in the form of pictures and YouTubes, that’s why.


    Excellent point. It has been pretty well-established that the impression of extensive damage in Aleppo is the result of clever Photoshop manipulation by the deceitful jihadists. If you look at the example below, it should be obvious that somebody took a group of buildings in tip-top condition and turned them into what looks like rubble. A trained eye can clearly see the mischief at work.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The problem here is that this suggestion leads down an Alice in Wonderland-style rabbit hole. How do we know that the digital evidence showing fakery is not itself faked? (See under: Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”). I don’t see how we do, absent a trusted source of digital forensics, “trusted” being again the key word. We simply cannot take digital evidence on trust absent provenance, and even then we should remain in trust, but verify mode.

      NOTE This is why independent streaming was so important strategically during Occupy.

      1. JustAnObserver

        How’s this for a Rule #1: Never trust any report without a byline or any photo/video without access to the physical negatives or a digitally signed binary. All else must be treated as a more or less blatant attempt to induce intellectual concussion.

        The media equivalent of science’s – No experiment can ever be considered evidence unless it can be independently reproduced by others … at least in principle.

      2. Banger

        We cannot, unless we have turned our backs on reason, believe the USG/mainstream media accounts of the Syrian war. They have lied from the beginning and, in case we’ve forgotten, most of the wars the power-elite have led us into since WWII have been based on lies and fabricated evidence. If you are a reasonable person you have to ask questions like who benefits? And at least not follow along with a media that has proven itself time after time to be unreliable at best.

  13. The Dork of Cork.

    There is a deeper power…

    Can anybody remember that point in the Film “Fail Safe” where the true powers are really worried about financial documents or the claims on the people who will remain even after New York is gone up in smoke.

    These strange events are the logical conclusion of the Cromwellian bank controlled hybrid nation state.

    Its people who have value – they may lose value if oil cannot be run through systems but its the people they want to control.

    Look what happened to defeated Royalist land owners after the English Civil War.
    The state confiscated their lands but decided to give it back to them as long as they took out a mortgage…..enough said really.

    The object of these wars is to create a flux in traditional societies…..to make them more monetized .

    These dark powers have totally destroyed their domestic assets…..now they need more bodies to fill the debt void they have created.

    You create a new sea of Vietnamese boat people and then a other and another and call it “growth”

    Look a Kubricks Full metal jacket (all of Kubricks films hold a deeper meaning)
    Why did he pick the battle of Hue ?
    Was it about the films fiances or location ?
    Hue was a symbol of cultural destruction
    The object of the game is cultural destruction
    To totally destroy co – op village systems.

    Can you pick out the dumb but disiplined roundheads in these videos ?

    1. Dr. Noschidt

      Dork, timely connections. France could “change the course of history” Right Now, by breaking ranks with Leviathan for her people’s sake immediately: re-positioning *la belle France* as the People’s Republic, even while recovering her influence in Russia and in the “government of/by/for the people of the United States.” Why re-do Viet Nam?

      “Time and tide wait for no man.” Recall the artistic vision in film:

      “RUSSIAN ARK” directed by Alexander Sokurov;
      “MARIE ANTOINETTE” directed by Sophia Coppola;
      “APOCALYPSE NOW” directed by Francis Ford Coppola;
      “AMERICAN GANGSTER” directed by Ridley Scott;
      “WINGS OF DESIRE” directed by Wim Wenders.

      Nobody does desire like the French, in their heart of hearts. “To be free of tyrants” – this is our desire.

    2. nobody

      “…all of Kubricks films hold a deeper meaning…”

      Indeed they do, and I think that Eyes Wide Shut might be the deepest of them all. I wonder how much different it would have been if Kubrick had survived to fully finish it.

      The real pornography in this film is in its lingering depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of millennial Manhattan, and of its obscene effect on society and the human soul. National reviewers’ myopic focus on sex, and the shallow psychologies of the film’s central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element of the film-the trappings of stupendous wealth, its references to fin-de-siecle Europe and other imperial periods, its Christmastime setting, even the sum Dr. Harford spends on a single night out-says more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Kubrick’s inadequacies as a pornographer. For those with their eyes open, there are plenty of money shots.

      There is a moment in Eyes Wide Shut, as Bill Harford is lying to his wife over a cellphone from a prostitute’s apartment, when we see a textbook in the foreground titled Introducing Sociology. The book’s title is a dry caption to the action onscreen (like the slogan PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION looming over the battle at Burpelson Air Force Base in Dr. Strangelove), telling us that prostitution is the basic, defining transaction of our society. It is also, more importantly, a key to understanding the film…


    3. Martin Finnucane

      The object of these wars is to create a flux in traditional societies…..to make them more monetized .

      This could describe the introduction of the slave trade in West Africa. Or the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Or the plantation of Ulster. Or, indeed, Alexander’s defeat of the Achaemenid Persians. And what stands behind each such instance of the march of progress? Gross violence, and organization, and the prominence of shiny bits of metal over human lives.

  14. PaulW

    Two historical analogies, which may or may not be appropriate:

    First, I can’t help but imagine how people must have felt in 1913, confident the world they lived in would always be the same. I’m certain no one made any preparations for what soon followed because the idea of 2 world wars and a great depression were incomprehensible. No one in 1913 believed it could happen yet the nightmare still occurred. I wonder about our position 100 years later.

    Second, August 31st 1939 flashback. Hitler, after so many successes, was 100% sure he could invade Poland and the Anglo-French would again back down. No chance of starting a world war at all. How naive was he to think Britain and France would just roll over again even though both countries had defence treaties with Poland? Plus Chamberlain, still smarting from Munich, would just quietly take more abuse. When I consider all the countries we have attacked and invaded recently, the close ties Russia and Syria have always had and how we embarrassed China and Russia over Libya, I do wonder if this is our one war too many. Tomorrow is September 1st. How ironic is that?

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      To digress a bit, Hitler still might have won WWII, or at a minimum stalemated it, if he hadn’t made a string of colossal strategic blunders in the subsequent two plus years. First, he pulled the punch that would have prevented the Brits from successfully evacuating its expedionary force from northern France at Dunkirque in June of 1940. During the remainder of that year he committed vast resources to building up for an invasion of the British Isles, only to realize that it was too risky. If he’d instead focused on eliminating Britain’s hold on Egypt and the Suez canal it would have greatly increased his leverage to convince Franco to jump off the fence which, in turn, would probably have enabled him to convert the Mediterranean into an Axis lake. Next, of course, was the launch of Operation Barbarosa on June 22, 1941. Considering how central the notion of Lebensraum in the East was to his personal belief system, however, this is probably something he felt compelled to do. As it was the USSR’s survival that year until General Winter took command late in the fall was “a close run thing,” to use Wellington’s words. It would have been a lot less close if hadn’t had to have keep several dozen divisions in the west to counter what the British might have done with the hundreds of thousand troops he’d let get away. Even with all these blunders, he would have had a good chance if he hadn’t unilaterally declared war on the United States a few days after Pearl Harbor. At the very least he should have demanded a commitment from Japan to simultaneously go to war with the Soviets, and thus force Stalin to post divisions in his east that were desperately needed in the west. I think it’s safe to say that Roosevelt would have been unable to push through his own unilateral war declaration against the Nazis for months and perhaps a year or more, by which time it would probably have been too late. He also would have been unable to sell the Congress on lend-lease aid to the dreaded Communists, and as Britain’s isolation and weakness became ever more dire it would be increasingly hard for the President to justify continued support for a losing cause. In short, I think that the outcome of World War II was a much closer-run thing than people generally think, and we have Hitlers blunders to thank for the fact that it ended well for the USA, Britain and the USSR.

      1. PaulW

        Well written. One other blunder was the nazis running all the Jewish scientists out of Germany prior to the war. The Germans could easily have had the bomb first.

        For the crucial blunders, the common thread is irrational behavior motivated by pure hatred. To go after the USSR communists before securing the Middle East was pure folly. really if there was just one blunder that doomed the 3rd Reich is was Operation Barbarosa. I would only disagree in that I believe the Nazis were doomed they moment they took on the Red Army.

        Thus I take hope from the idea that narrow mindedness can bring down all psychopaths, even ours.

      2. History student

        Contrary to much myth, Operation Barbarossa was not a blunder. Stalin was expecting a replay of WW I when Hitler invaded France in 1940, and looking forward to the opportunity to stab Germany in the back while she was mired down in a replay of the bloody 1914-1918 stalemate. He was shocked at how easily Germany dispatched France and the BEF. Meanwhile, the Red Army was in total disarray, as evidenced by its disastrous showing in the Winter War with Finland. This was largely a result of the Great Purge of 1937, in which a paranoid Stalin had thousands of the senior officers of the Red Army murdered, beginning at the top with Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Since Mikhail had advocated a version of Germany’s so-called blitzkrieg tactics, his plans were discredited and his organization of the Red Army undone. After the lessons of France and Finland Stalin realized the magnitude of that blunder, and got busy reconstituting Tank Corps outfitted with the superb T-34 and KV-1 tanks. The Red Army in 1941 was in the middle of that program, as well as moving the defenses of the Stalin Line forward from the old 1939 border with Poland to the new 1940 border with Germany. If Hitler had waited until 1942 to invade, those programs would have been well on their way to being completed. In summer 1941 Germany was at the peak of her forces compared to those of the USSR; the passage of time would only erode that balance to the detriment of Germany. The conflict was a foregone conclusion; the only question was when it would start, and Hitler’s timing for the attack on the USSR could not have been better. (And yes, the worst blunder by far of WW II was Hitler’s inexplicable decision to declare war on the USA.)

      3. Roland

        The Soviet front was decisive. If the Germans defeated the USSR in 1941 or ’42 then the Western Allies would have been forced to concede German hegemony over most of Western Eurasia for a generation or more. A Soviet defeat would have released, even after allowing for large occupation forces in the East, about two-thirds of Germany’s ground forces and over one third of its air forces. Brief: if Stalin falls, then forget about D-Day.

        After the swift annihilation of the Anglo-French armies in 1940, and given the subsequent choice of the French goverment to not attempt a continued national resistance as they had in 1871, Hitler enjoyed Schlieffen’s dream scenario. The French had been knocked out of the war early, leaving Germany with both hands free to fight Russia.

        The German command reckoned that they had at least one year, and probably two years, in which to resolve the Russian question. These calculations were in line with those of their counterparts on the respective American and British staffs. e.g. the American chief of staff, Marshall, hoped to be able to land in force on the Euopean continent in 1943.

        The core German grand-strategic assumption, when invading the USSR, was that if they could infllict a series of heavy defeats upon the USSR in the initial campaign, then the government of the USSR would collapse.

        The German high command believed that the Soviet regime would not be able to withstand the pressure of an acute military crisis, because they observed that the Soviet goverment was politically unstable, as evidenced by repeated purges of the Party, the bureaucracy and the officer corps. They also observed that the Soviet government was unpopular with most of the peasantry and with many of the country’s ethnic minority groups. The Soviet regime was still a recent creation, which had emerged out of a protracted civil war only twenty years before. Unlike the Facist regimes, the Soviet government had not preserved elements from the country’s old ruling class. Therefore, the German command believed that the Soviet government would prove “brittle,” and not be able to maintain its authority if it suffered early serious reverses at the front.

        As Hitler summarized it, “We have only to kick the door in, and then the whole rotten structure will fall down.” Most of his generals agreed with him. It is interesting that the loudest objections to such reasoning came not from the aristocrats of the General Staff, but from hardcore old Nazis such as Goering.

        n.b. The British general staff had formed an assessment of Soviet potential not much different than that of the Germans. It was Churchill who, despite his contempt for the Bolsheviks, told his generals that they were wrong.

        The Germans planned to “kick the door in”–and did they ever. No door has ever been kicked harder. In the space of only three months, the Germans inflicted upon the Soviets, in absolute terms, the worst defeats ever suffered by any army in all of recorded history.

        By August the Germans had fully achieved what they believed were their necessary “winning conditions.” While the fighting had been more intense, and losses heavier, than expected, nevertheless the Soviet main forces, both land and air, had been shattered.

        However, there was one big problem: the Soviet government did not collapse. The Soviet government, despite suffering enormous and humiliating defeats, did not lose its authority. Conscripts reported for training. New armies, ill-trained and unevenly equipped, obeyed orders to attack. Bureaucrats kept pushing paper. The railways and the factories kept on running. While there were many deserters and defections, they did not reach a critical level. There were no widespread rural uprisings. There was no officers’ coup. No assassinations of high-ranking officials. Despite an utter catastrophe at the front, the Soviet government was able to retain enough support from both the army and the people to continue prosecuting the war.

        It is important to note that this rallying occurred well before the Soviet people had much chance to become familiar with German occupation policies.

        It is thus not altogether surprising that in the late summer of 1941 the German command became hesitant and of divided mind. Their core strategic assumption had been shown invalid. Now they had to more or less improvise a whole new major phase of operations, for which they had no coherent or previously agreed philosophy.

        If the Germans needed to fight major battles deep in Soviet territory during the autumn, that fact alone meant that they might already be losing the war, regardless of the scale of their operational triumphs. While many military histories belabour German operational delays in August, or the timing of Operation Typhoon, nevertheless they miss the key point: the German grand-strategy of the invasion had been thwarted by the ability of the Soviet government to retain its authority.

        A few of the German commanders, such as Field-Marshal von Rundstedt, were able to grasp the implications. Rundstedt disapproved of an autumn operation against Moscow, and instead suggested a retreat and consolidation on a shorter line near the Polish frontier, to be followed by an offer of armistice.

        The German high command’s power-political calculations were proven quite incorrect by events, but were their calculations necessarily stupid? In politics (and war is politics), there is such a thing as a well-reasoned blunder.

        It is worth comparing the integrity of the Soviet government in the crisis of 1941 with other governments facing similar crises. For example, during the summer of 1944 the German armies were routed on all fronts. In the darkest hour of this crisis, a cabal of senior German officers conspired to overthrow their government and kill the head of state. In 1943, when Italy suffered invasion, senior Italian officers led a successful coup d’etat and sued for peace.

        There is often a correlation between severe military defeats and the collapse of a government. The Soviet Union in 1941 is an important exception. None of Stalin’s generals tried to do what Hitler’s or Mussolini’s generals did.

        By the way, a Japanese intervention, given the nature of the German war plan, would not have done the Germans much good. Buildup of Japanese invasion forces in Manchuria would have been impossible to conceal and would confirmed Soviet suspicions of German intentions. Thus a Japanese build-up might have triggered full Soviet mobilization several weeks earlier than happened.

        There was no critical objective which Japan might threaten that would paralyze Soviet ability to fight the Germans, at least on any sort of time scale that would have been relevant to the German plan. Communications deep in Siberia were too poor to admit of any deep or prolonged penetration by the Japanese in any case.

        Developed sources of the strategic raw materials of which Japan was in most urgent need were not located in Northeastern Asia. Invading the USSR would expend large amounts of such strategic resources, while doing nothing to mitigate the Allied embargo which was Japan’s main problem.

        Most Japanese land forces were needed to garrison China. Soviet hostility would mean significant additional supplies for Chinese guerrillas, whether Communist or KMT, which could prove costly to the Japanese occupiers.

        The Japanese did not relish another war with Russia. The 1904-05 war, even while victorious, had nevertheless bankrupted their country. The border clashes of 1938-39 were sobering.

        From the German perspective, the most valuable thing the Japanese could do was exactly what they did: distract and divert the Anglo powers, and especially to exacerbate their shipping situation.

        The Germans’ problem wasn’t that they didn’t win enough battles against the Soviets. They won what should have been more than enough. The Germans’ problem was that the Soviet government didn’t collapse, despite the severity of the defeats inflicted upon it.

  15. fresno dan

    “We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack…

    We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.”

    That must be a pre-emptive anti-parody triple agent mole plant designed to destroy all credibility of the innertubes and world wide spider webs. Because if every single thing the US government says is stupid, the best way to know what is not stupid is the opposite, but if the government says I believe what I am saying because I am an idiot, they may actually be able to obfuscate their true motivations…
    or something like that.
    I like Occam’s razor – I simply think they don’t actually know what they want to do…. other than we got drones that are about to expire.

  16. Yancey Ward

    A large enough actor can create its own reality, and for a lot longer than you would probably believe, and probably longer than a normal human being would be able to observe. I don’t know whether or not Suskind made up that aide and quote, but I think, on its face, it has a fundamental truth to it. However, such actions eventually create the counteractions that undo the original actor- empires fall afterall.

    I don’t think Syria is evidence of that counteraction, though. I think it more the case that no one really wants to follow this particular president into action because he is a truly feckless leader. Perhaps Obama will just acknowledge his fecklessness for once, and stand down here which will be the right course, in my opinion.

    1. jrs

      A feckless leader, maybe that’s a good thing (and he definitely appears lost lately). Maybe Obama is NOT the more effective evil afterall.

      1. Yancey Ward

        A strong and effective leader with bad ideas can wreck great havoc. I think this a case where it can be a good thing that Obama is weak and ineffective.

  17. mcgee

    Control is always tightened when the reins of power are slipping away. Living in an age where there are so many technological tools for destruction gives me pause to worry about the lengths those in control are willing to go to maintain their simulacrum. My personal quest for simplicity and sustainability is a soap bubble in the hurricane created by the Very Serious People steering this rudderless Triple-E container ship of state.

    I never forget that reality.

  18. Lambert Strether Post author

    Obama to speak on Syria at 1:15PM EDT from Rose Garden. But so far as I can tell, it hasn’t started yet. Suspense!

    * * *

    And then the crown…

    * * *

    Porgy and Mudhead in High School Madness:

    Porgy: Hold it! Hey! Hold it down, kids. Don’t get excited.

    El Dorado: Who’s excited?

    * * *

    Rumors: Obama’s on the phone. Obama’s going to put it to a vote. Protester noise carrying through. The active Obama simulacrum stripped a gear and they’ve got to boot up a new one because the grinding would be audible on the live feed. Putin is offering him asylum. “I just got the wrong day.”

    * * *

    * * *

    Oh, that was it. They had to decant Joe Biden.

    * * *

    So, regarding Moon of Alabama’s called shot in Links today, this is not the full climb down. But climb down it is. It will be fun to watch all the “progressives” whipped into line on this.

    * * *

    So Obama says something dumb and ties his own hands (“red line”), and so some poor Syrian schlubs are gonna get whacked because “surgical” isn’t surgical and “precision” isn’t precision. It’s a funny old world. And now, of course, Obama’s credibility is worse than ever before, because it it’s all that “Because I said so” simple, how did everything get so complicated?

    1. Dr. Noschidt

      LS, and still based on “hearsay” – NO EVIDENCE. The Crime Boss Enforcers will call in their markers and turn the screws on congresscritters.

      “GET SHORTY” directed by Barry Sonenfeld;
      “ROLLOVER” directed by Alan J. Pakula;
      “THE PARALLAX VIEW” directed by Alan J. Pakula.

      “Better a-bed than dead.”

      1. Dr. Noschidt

        And, LS, another brain image: recall Gen. Powell holding up that little glass vial of powdered death for the cameras. “What is truth?” said Pilate.

        Isn’t Lebensraum, the Power and the Glory, all about “blood and soil”?

        “MACBETH” directed by Roman Polanski.

        “BLOOD LUST” by Jacobi.

    2. AbyNormal

      one has to imagine the obama buzz kill was the House of CONmans vote…bet he’s still seeing red=drones xing the great pond

  19. Ferocious Beaver

    The Imperial Reality is being disturbed? Really… where?.

    If President/Emperor Obama today decides to use drones for targets based on some intricate algorithm, thereby eliminating individual responsibility, he shall do so.

    If President/Emperor Obama tomorrow (or today) decides to bomb Syria or send some drones for a visit he shall do so. After all who will stop him? Your Congress, the people. Please don’t make me laugh.

    If President/Emperor Obama decides to have a plane stopped to catch Snowden he will do so. After all who is going to stop him. The people of the USA … please don’t make me laugh.

    The list could go on for awhile but I think we get the idea.

    Mr. Strether may wish to re-read the quote and provide proof on how what currently occurs in the world negates the statements made within that quote. The President/Emperor will do whatever he does whenver he does with little or no impact from a reality that the rest of the world (not the USA) preceives to be real.

    And herein of course lies the rub of a fair number of articles on this blog. Well educated and well meaining citizens of the empire engaging in critical navel observation thereby assuming that they change the reality of the Empire. Sad in a sense.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You write:

      The President/Emperor will do whatever he does whenver he does with little or no impact from a reality that the rest of the world (not the USA) preceives to be real.

      That’s demonstrably false — modulo the lawyerly “with little or no impact ” — even from the trivial Rose Garden presser today. Does anybody believe Obama wantedto consult Congress? He’d rather just whack the guy. It’s all diminishing returns from here on. You may then argue that the congressional vote is meaningless, but (a) we don’t know that until it plays out, (b) exactly as in the UK (who knew the poodle would turm?), and (c) any systemic forces whatever vthat affect the outcome and yet are not under Obama’s control disprove your “whatever he does whenever he does” claim.

      1. Banger

        Well, I’m not sure Obama wants to whack anybody. I think he’s, at the moment, negotiating between the rock and the hard place. In other words, the usual job of the President is mediate between a number of conflicting forces. At the moment he’s stalling–he doesn’t like the alternatives and the ducks in Congress, in the military, in the government are not in a row. The media is, as always, ready to roll war, war, war is all they ever want since they are in the control of the new “nationalist liberals” and the neoconservatives in Washington.

        In my view Obama suspects the intel is BS and time will allow something to come through if there’s a break in the united front of the entire mainstream media. The paleo- and libertarian-right are skeptical. Both Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan have said, in effect, that the gas attack looks like a false-flag event and eventually these ideas will leak out of the ghetto assigned to the anti-authoritarian right and left. I believe all this stems from the Saudis who are usually the source of the most nasty plots in the world. We’ll see.

        1. John

          I don’t ususally defend Obama but many say he’s being pushed into war and he’s consulting Congress to put the brakes on it.

          It might work.

          Congress is going to have hell to pay in 2014 if they vote yes on this as Americans are fed up with useless wars that we don’t have the money for.

          1. Synopticist

            Yes, It might perhaps not happen now.

            If he takes to Congress, he will at least share some of the odium when the collateral damage is all over the news.
            I had a feeling that when Millband decided not to support Cameron it might be enough to kibosh the whole thing.

      2. psychohistorian

        When the Jesuits taught me about communism 50 years ago they used the analogy of an incoming tide that enters where able, holds back where there is resistance and continues to grow in volume until it overcomes all obstacles.

        I am jaded enough to believe that this fall back by our president is a temporary ploy until they can ratchet up the fear factor to continue with their agenda….they still have all the money and power, right?

        I will believe the tide has changed when the “non-aligned” countries stand up, tell us to stop our Empire ways and take away our Reserve Currency status.

      3. Ferocious Beaver

        Mr. Strether it was indeed rather humorous that the statements occured as I was drafting my initial response.

        However this is temporary. Let’s see what has happened in six month or even a year from now – after all it has been less than a year since the election.

        A couple of markers that would indicate to me that we are doing more than commenting on a reality that is created by the Empire would be:

        1) closure of Guantamo
        2) prosecution of a C level from any bank for fraud
        3) resignation by anyone related to the NSA (be that either for less than honest disclosure, very very liberal interpretation of laws – I will assume that this might a large list of “items”). This would be a big one especially as the impact here was global.
        4) the appointment of the Chair of the Federal Reserve – now that ought to be funny all in itself

        In other words I would be interested in something fundamental that would indicate that the reality as it exists outside the empire actually intrudes on those directing the empire, thereby causing a fundamental shift in preception. And today does not count until the lady sings the blues.

        Let’s see what happens.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          To your original point, before you shifted away from it: I view Obama being checked in his unilateral ability to make war as an “intrusion” on those directing the empire, as such. Of course, we would all like to see more, and it’s good to raise the baseline.

    2. jrs

      So the powerful are powerful. The powerful are often more powerful than people power. And your point is, that the powerful are all powerful? But are they really?

  20. Dino Reno

    Doctor Drone is no longer in the building if it requires advice and consent.
    He does his best work in the shadows beyond the sight of prying eyes.

    For him this thing was personal. He wanted to show Putin who as boss before the G-20 after being made to look like a fool when Snowden was granted asylum. That’s the great thing about Proxy Wars if you know how to play the game. He doesn’t which is a good thing.
    Now he will go St. Petersburg.
    Double awkward.

  21. ex-PFC Chuck

    Perhaps this open letter to General Dempsey had an effect: http://bit.ly/17aLZzj

    It could have been more succinctly written but in short the signers ask the JCS Chair to resign if he receives orders to initiate an attack on Syria without a Congressional authorization. There are fourteen signers, including William Binney, Thomas Drake, Larry Wilkerson, Coleen Rowley, Daniel Ellsberg and W. Patrick Lang.

  22. Yancey Ward

    So, will the UN tests be done by Sept 9?

    The House of Commons vote, and Cameron’s acceptance of it, is the reason Obama climbed down today.

  23. darms

    Found this yeterday – “Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack”. ‘Bandar Bush’ & false flag attacks, not familiar w/the source but can’t be all fringy as they get some background facts correct unlike many other sources. Why would Assad use CW in areas his forces already control given the US threats? Doesn’t make sense to me. Too much to quote but here’s one –

    Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

    To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.

  24. Synopticist

    Local social media, you tube videos, an Israeli Sigint unit, dodgy Saudis everywhere…

    Honestly man, WTF?

    The MSM aren’t even asking questions which would occur to a 12 year old. I’m just speechless. I honestly didn’t realise it had got this bad.

    1. LucyLulu

      Here’s an interview from 2000 that Amy Goodman did with Bill Clinton when he was calling radio stations to encourage people to get out to vote. This was supposed to be a milk-toast affair. Apparently, Clinton had never met the likes the Ms. Goodman. From Democracy Now:

      “At one point Clinton accused Amy of being “hostile and combative.” The next day, the President’s aides threatened to ban Amy from the White House”…..

      Soft-spoken Amy, hostile and combative???? That’s funny. But probing, you betcha.

      Amy’s first question of President Clinton:
      AMY GOODMAN: “You’re calling radio stations to tell people to get out and vote. What do you say to people who feel that the two parties are bought by corporations and that they are — at this point feel that their vote doesn’t make a difference?”

      Full Video/Audio/Transcript of Interview

      If you haven’t read it before, it’s a great read and illustration of just how captured the msm is. It’s incredible that nobody would ever ask a president these types of important questions. Access and investigative journalism are mutually exclusive in US politics.

    2. Banger

      This is the issue. I have been trying to explain to people that the key to political power is the mainstream media. I watched a bit of CNN and MSNBC today and was stunned at how reporters were falling all over themselves saying how disgraceful it is to show such weakness in not taking immediate (and illegal action). We have messed up sectors in our society but the mainstream media trumps all the other nasties including Wall Street. They are the PROBLEM and it they who have the power. They are going to crank up the mighty Wurlitzer lie never before—repeating “show of weakness” they say we are abandoning the Syrian people. Even if the world was something like what they claim it is they have no right to tell us what to think–they are supposed to report the news.

      1. John Jones


        Two questions.

        What benefit does mainstream media get been the way you decribe it?

        And if there was say a media company the size of cnn
        etc with the same amount of money behind it. That did genuinely good reporting do you think it would last long or would someone bring it down?

        1. Banger

          First of all, I have, over the years, known people in the mainstream media both on the editing side and the reporting side–mind you, I don’t travel in those circles any more but I know the culture and the millieu–my ex-wife worked in the media as an editor though not in a news area so I have a little feel for the industry as a whole.

          Second, what clued me in to what was going on, aside from reading Chomsky’s excellent critique of the mainstream media Manufacturing Consent, was having a friend who was reporting for one of the big weeklies from El Salvador that all of a sudden everyone got an order from their editors to leave because “there was no story there” and this was at the point when death-squad activities were at their height. He ended up resigning and he was deeply pissed off.

          People who work in the mainstream come from a certain background usually from a major university. They come out journalism programs where mentoring is, like most of the professions, essential. These mentors watch over promising students and recommend them to editors and senior journalists and set up informal meetings, lunches etc. and gradually these people get to learn the ropes what you can say and you can’t say. It is not the publications that are important but the profession itself that is important. You don’t, as a reporter or an editor, ask questions that a senior editor will not approve of and you know, after awhile what those are. For example, Israel routinely used to torture Palestinian prisoners not for information but to “teach them a lesson.” No one in the American media would say that though they knew. It took an Israeli journalist writing in the NYRB to actually break that story, as I recall–I think it was about twenty or more years ago. I can go on for a hundred pages about the stories the mainstream missed–as you know, everyone now agrees the stories about Saddam’s WMDs were all lies and, in fact, the media airbrushed the person who knew most about the matter, Scott Ritter, out of history as soon as they found out he believed Saddam did not have any WMDs to speak of.

          The mainstream media profession has its own interests at stake here to preserve the status quo–not for money, not even for power but just because that is how things are done. Just as medicine ignored and still largely ignores cures that question the reigning paradigm so journalists, even when confronted by direct evidence/testimony that would put into doubt their whole world pull back and won’t question the dominant paradigm. This is not something that is peculiar to journalism–it is part of the human condition–belief structures are, in my view, as important to people as food, lovers, children, family and so on. It is easy for someone like me, a perpetual outsider, to think the way I do because I took the red pill not the blue pill so I see things in a fundamentally different way.

    3. Banger

      The unreported stories that have come out indicate not the CIA but the Saudis and I agree that this is unlikely to be a CIA operation. Prince Bandar is said to be the culprit–in the alt-alt-media this seems to be the story. Bandar is allied with elements within the intel community in the U.S. and Israel that aren’t necessarily part of the official state apparatus. What I have noticed over time is that power has shifted from the official bureaucracy at the CIA to the contractor community which has its own agenda and its own relationship with operatives around the world.

  25. Sleeper

    Went for a walk this morning with 14 friends and companions –

    The overwhelming opinion was that there was a better than even chance that it was a false flag operation by a wide list of possible regional actors – and possibly the CIA.

    The second widely voiced opinion was that if Moslems / Syrians wanted to kill each other in new and efficient ways then have at it without US help.

    1. Synopticist

      What on earth did the CIA expect?

      The west and all it’s ugly Arabian apenditures has been arming the rebels for over 2 years, even after they were taken over by al qeada. Everyone who being paying attention knows the rebels a re a bunch of hardcore, ugly , murdering jihadis. Despite this, there’s been a consistent media barrage in their favour, and some MSM still try to refer to “prodemocracy activists” when citing their lies.

      Theres’a critical mass of people who have smartenned up to the bullshit that passes for our “free media”, and we can see right through it.

  26. May

    Libya is now Jihadiland. Next is Syria. Weakening will only strengthen these most effective rebels hands.
    U.S. Bombs Libya, Helps… Jihadists?!
    Syria’s Nusra Front eclipsed by Iraqi al-Qaida
    Iraqi al-Qaida fighters’ goal is not toppling Assad, but the anti-Western jihad of the organization’s leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
    Libya Is Getting Better and Better for Teenage Arms Dealers

    Article above mentions relatively liberal folks in eastern province. Wrong. They are Jihadists, see below:
    Libya Losing Control of Oil Fields
    To Jihadist Groups

    Libya’s Oil Industry Is in Trouble
    Libyan Jiihadis active in iraq agaqinst US troops:

    Destination Martyrdom
    Apr 19, 2008 10:13 AM EDT
    What drove so many Libyans to volunteer as suicide bombers for the war in Iraq? A visit to their hometown—the dead-end city of Darnah.
    Libyan rebel says Osama bin Laden’s death won’t stop jihadist flow
    ‘Al Qaeda [is] getting more and more organized and bringing people [to Libya] from abroad,’ says the rebel, who has been contacted by militants wanting to fight against Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
    The Jihadist Plot
    The Untold Story of Al-Qaeda and the Libyan Rebellion
    Author: Obama Administration Had to Know Libyan Rebels Had al-Qaida Links

    1. Banger

      Al-qaida is not an independent “terrorist” organization, in fact, there really is no such thing as “international terrorism” as an independent entity–all of these organizations are run by intelligence services mainly Saudi intel but Saudi intel is just a node in an international deep state which I cannot easily describe. Most of the “terrorists” see themselves as jihadis and are a combination of fanatics, patsies, professional criminals, mercenary fighters and so on. I’m not sure that’s how it all started but I do know that Western intel started cultivating Muslim extremists back in the 50s as a counter to Nasserism which the West considered the primary threat to Western domination of the region. Syria, in fact, is the last remnant of that Nasserist influence however diluted it may appear.

      This operation thrives when there are areas of chaos so they can operate utterly without interference of state actors. The United States government is not completely dominated by this deep state nor is any other government—this is not a U.S. run operation it is a third force operating within parts of the state and there is, within government, opposition to this. At present that opposition is, in my view, attempting to stop this Syrian situation for expanding something more nasty.

  27. LucyLulu

    “Now, it’s clear if “Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran” was The Plan, the plan was implemented…”

    These type of allegations regarding a list of middle east targets have been circulating for about 20 years now, though I don’t recall ever seeing 7 countries on the list before. I swear I’ve seen five countries, c. 1993, but haven’t been able to find a link. IIRC, the list included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and can’t remember the fifth (Egypt???). I did find this report from The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in 1996, which I’m almost positive includes among its authors the three authors of the earlier report I’m unable to now find. The report from the link provided advocates Israel attacking Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Later that year, a second report was published by Wurmser et al. which enlisted US support for the same.

    These reports and recommendations over the years have seen the same names popping up attached to them: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Feith, Douglas Wurmser. They are either American members of hawkish pro-Israeli lobbies or think tanks or DoD top officials (or both)…… and a VP for good measure (though Cheney was also a former DoD official and pro-Israeli think tank member). In the years building up to the Iraq war, the initial focus was on overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime.

    We seem to be working our way through the list. I also read earlier today that the Israelis advocate the US and Europe attacking Syria but not participating themselves. This seems to be a pattern. Why do we take charge of neutralizing perceived threats for the benefit of Israel and risk American lives while Israel remains passively unengaged? Israel is far from helpless. They receive generous military aid so they can defend themselves, which is used to spy on their benefactors and attack, gasp, their own citizens possessing the wrong heritage (but all is okay, those children are killed and maimed with bombs and bullets, not chemical agents). I hope I don’t sound anti-Semitic, I have no beef with the Jewish population. Many, perhaps most, Jewish people are as dovish I am. It is Netanyahu and the ruling elite hawks in Israel I get angry with. The Palestinians are not blameless either, but I AM a subscriber of the “lesser of two evils” principle. The Israeli warhawks find their allotted piece of land not spacious enough for their taste, and compromise to be a dirty word (of questionable judgment, at best, for a small country surrounded by ‘enemy Arabs’, IMHO). They are bullies equaled only by our own ruling elites. No wonder our two countries should find themselves aligned.

      1. S M Tenneshaw


        Fixed it for you. Not only is it truth instead of fiction, it rhymes also, too.

  28. allcoppedout

    I probably go with false flag on the gas attack at the moment, but we are missing a potential long game. My staff of five intelligence gerbils could have come up with our governments’ published material. Obama’s rose garden missive turns the debate to chemical weapons and away from analysis of what the whole mess is about (maybe a Saudi Empire). He claimed intelligence on the firing of the rockets and if this is real he has made it a trump card, having turned the question to the CW red line. If they have intelligence we might actually believe the hawks may have been playing a very clever game indeed – to expose our own weak-kneed critics and do the bombing.

  29. seal

    I have a funny feeling the NSA/CIA/??? has gotten to BO, Feinstein and Pelosi FORCING them into their irrational stances on Syria and surveillance, etc.

  30. Dennis Redmond

    I’m sorry, but this article is drastically misinformed about the Middle East.

    1. Yes, the invasion of Iraq was a crime against humanity, with dire consequences for the region.

    2. Libya had NOTHING to do with Iraq. Libya had a genuine and massively popular revolution. The UN intervention did save many Libyan lives, but the revolution would have won anyway. Libya today is struggling to build its democracy, but it is not a society engulfed in civil war or jihadist violence.

    3. The Assadist government is genuinely evil and has been torturing and murdering hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Its crimes range from low-level massacres in places like Houla all the way to launching Scud missiles on civilian neighborhoods in Aleppo (all clearly documented on Youtube, by the way). These missiles are terribly inaccurate, making these pure terror strikes.

    4. There really was a massive chemical attack in Ghouta. Dozens of citizen journalists documented the crime, and the fine folks at Doctors Without Borders confirmed that a neurotoxic gas attack took place. The video evidence is assembled here (warning – graphic and grisly images): http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPC0Udeof3T4NORTjYmPoNCHn2vCByvYG

    5. Syria is in the final phase of a genuine popular uprising, and will eventually topple the Assad dictatorship.

    1. Fiver


      Wrong on all counts. These “democrats” in no way matched the numbers in Egypt and immediately demanded regime change, making it instantly all-or-nothing. In both countries the great bulk of fighting was done by affiliates of Al Qaeda, itself composed of the remnants of the tens of thousands of fighters trained by the CIA and its Saudi and Pakistani counterparts to fight the “mujahadeen” assault on the Soviets in Afghanistan 6 months before the Shah was overthrown (see Brezinski on that one). Men and women from all of these countries (and many, many others) are sent to the US for training in democratic disruption techniques, which, when practiced against the targest, quite predictably elicited a negative response, as they were indeed shot-through with infiltrated members of the CIA, Special Forces, etc. of several countries.

      No more CNN, OK Dennis?

  31. optimader

    I have a developing notion about these votes for military interventions to truly test the moral imperative of those given the responsibility on voting for, or advancing the argument for war. This includes all congressional members, the POTUS, VPOTUS and Sec of State.

    A lottery should be instituted. The aforementioned participants would all participate, and lets pick a number, say 25% of the luckiest will will be given the honor to be at the pointy end of the spear on what are considered to be the most dangerous missions at the initiations of hostiles. Then, much like a draft, in the due course of time and mission creep, the less “lucky” lottery participants would each be given the same opportunity. They will all have the opportunity to become Hero’s of the State and be object lessons for American Exceptionalism.

    Given physical infirmity lucky lottery winners would be given the alternative of appointing a close family member as their surrogate.

    I think this arrangement would be a great device to encourage focus on what constitutes the irrevocable necessity of War and perhaps encourage out of the box consideration of possible alternatives.

  32. Fiver

    I wrote a very lengthy comment, but will post another time. For now, I’ll just note that those whose chief argument was that this new war was not authorized by Congress are now at risk of seeing authorization, meaning “legalization” given to what is an irrational response to an incident that has all the appearances of a “false flag” ploy to draw the US into the conflict it had itself started 2 years before with the initial CIA/Saudi/Qatari efforts to build a fighting force “opposition” demanding unconditional surrender from Assad.

    Obama in fact has an historic opportunity to knuckle his two difficult allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, into line – as one’s mercenaries are responsible for gruesome acts, including chemical attacks, and the other (Israel) provided the only “evidence” of any possible import the US has released, evidence that does nothing to answer the critical question, i.e., “Who did it?” Nobody has had both Israel and the Saudis on the potential defensive at the same time.

    Is there any way to wake up the black Obama to handle this one?

      1. Fiver

        You’re right, I should’ve posted the whole thing – though don’t blame me for the nastiness of the thought, as only the last sentence was invented (to indicate I do have a sense of humour, and a good one too, or so friends tell me) while the rest simply encapsules the documented reality of one very ugly series of events.

        As to whether the whole thing indicates an Imperial defeat, I’d just point out that we’re talking about people and institutions that have a most impressive history of wars of aggression and running over with war crimes to match. The sorts of persons or institutions engaged in this will view the current set-back as an irritant so far as the fate of Syria or the overal plan is in concerned – the real focus in the upper echelons, I suspect, is going to be developing a new strategem for the maximum disruption of the usefulness of the Internet – as it is the culmination of 2 years of largely independently-developed information from public sources that allowed enough of the public and politicians to expect a “mass bullshit event” such as the claim Assad deliberately used the chemical weapons he knew were ‘red-lined’ the minute Obama ‘red-lined’ them in the first place.

        Our enemies are very smart, and as brutal as is required. We could quite easily win this one and have nothing to show for it 1 week later. If Obama only had a soul, as it doesn’t take brains to know right from wrong. The road not taken.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Nasty twist of thought” is a Terry Pratchett quotation, or at least so it presents itself to my mind, but I’ve never been able to run it down. It’s a compliment! (Somebody says it of Sam Vimes, I believe.)

  33. QuarterBack

    TRUTH is the only principle that scales. All others eventually fail no matter how obscured their weakness or bent.

  34. Tom Denman

    “…when we act, we create our own reality….”

    It seems as if one of the dangers of playing too much 11 dimensional chess for too many years is that one begins to think he can create his own reality.

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