Tom Engelhardt: More and War – The Tao of Washington

Yves here. This is a terrific piece on the thinking, such as it is, that has come to dominate the Beltway, and how these preoccupations keep the US lurching forward in a costly, destructive policy trajectory.

By Tom Engelhardt, a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. His new book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books). Originally published at TomDispatch

When it comes to the national security state, our capital has become a thought-free zone. The airlessness of the place, the unwillingness of leading players in the corridors of power to explore new ways of approaching crucial problems is right there in plain sight, yet remarkably unnoticed.  Consider this the Tao of Washington.

Last week, based on a heavily redacted 231-page document released by the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Charlie Savage, a superb reporter for the New York Times, revealed that the FBI has become a “significant player” in the world of warrantless surveillance, previously the bailiwick of the National Security Agency.  The headline on his piece was: “FBI is broadening surveillance role, report shows.”

Here’s my question: In the last 13 years, can you remember a single headline related to the national security state that went “FBI [or fill in your agency of choice] is narrowing surveillance role [or fill in your role of choice], report shows”?  Of course not, because when any crisis, problem, snafu or set of uncomfortable feelings, fears, or acts arises, including those by tiny groups of disturbed people or what are now called “lone wolf” terrorists, there is only one imaginable response: more money, more infrastructure, more private contractors, more surveillance, more weaponry, and more war.  On a range of subjects, our post-9/11 experience should have taught us that this — whatever it is we’re doing — is no solution to anything, but no such luck.

More tax dollars consumed, more intrusions in our lives, the further militarization of the country, the dispatching of some part of the U.S. military to yet another country, the enshrining of war or war-like actions as the option of choice — this, by now, is a way of life. These days, the only headlines out of Washington that should surprise us would have “narrowing” or “less,” not “broadening” or “more,” in them.

Thinking outside the box may seldom have been a prominent characteristic of Washington, but when it comes to innovative responses to problems, our political system seems particularly airless right now.  Isn’t it strange, for instance, that being secretary of state these days means piling up bragging rights to mileage by constantly, frenetically circumnavigating the globe?  The State Department website now boasts that John Kerry has traveled 682,000 miles during his time in office, just as it once boasted of Hillary Clinton’s record-breaking 956,733 miles, and yet, like the secretary of defense or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs or the CIA director or the national security advisor or the president himself, when it comes to rethinking failing policies, none of them ever seem to venture into unknown territory or entertain thoughts that might lead in unsettling directions.  No piling up of the mileage there.

In a sense, there are only two operative words in twenty-first-century Washington: more and war.  In this context, there really is just one well-policed party of thought in town.  It matters not a whit that, under the ministrations of that “party,” the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state have grown to monstrous proportions, even though American war and security policies don’t have a significant success to their name.

Four Words That Rule Washington (and Two Words That Don’t)

Here then are four key words — security, safety, intelligence, and war — essential to present-day Washington.  Add in two others, peace and bases, that for very different reasons are missing in action.  Now, put together both the chatter and the silences around those six words and you can begin to grasp why our nation’s capital is such a dead zone in terms of new ideas or ways of acting in our world.

Let’s start with two words so commonplace that no serious player would bother to question them: security (as in “national”) and safety (as in “American”).  On those two words alone, the new Washington has been funded and expanded endlessly in the post-9/11 era.  They are the soil in which has grown just about every action that put the state intrusively in our lives, sidelined the citizenry, and emboldened a spirit of impunity in the national security bureaucracy, a sense that no one will ever be held accountable for any action, including kidnapping, torture, murder, the destruction of evidence, assassination, and perjury.  Both words have an implied “from” after them, as in “from terrorism.”

And yet it has been estimated that an American’s annual fatality risk from terrorism is only one in 3.5 million.  When it comes to your security and safety, in other words, don’t focus on local lone wolf jihadists; just put your car in the garage and leave it there.  After all, your odds on losing your life in a traffic accident in any year are about one in 8,000.

Put another way, Americans have learned how to live with, on average, approximately 38,000 traffic deaths a year in the post-9/11 era without blinking, without investing trillions of dollars in a network of agencies to protect them from vehicles, without recruiting hundreds of thousands of private contractors to help make them safe and secure from cars, trucks, and buses.  And yet when it comes to the deaths of tiny numbers of Americans, nothing is too much for our safety and security.  More astonishing yet, almost all of this investment has visibly led not to the diminution of terrorism, but to its growth, to ever more terrorists and terror organizations and ever greater insecurity.  This, in turn, has spurred the growth of the national security state yet more, even though it has shown little evidence of offering us significant protection.

Imagine that the government suddenly decided to build high-tech shark fences off every American beach to protect bathers from another kind of headline-inducing predator which strikes even more rarely than terrorists.  Imagine as well that an enormous bureaucracy was created to construct and oversee the maintenance of those fences and the launching of armed patrols to take out the global shark population.  And imagine as well that the result was a rise in the threat of shark attacks off those coasts, as well as endless claims from the officials in that bureaucracy that they were doing a completely bang-up job.  Wouldn’t their word be doubted?  Wouldn’t the whole program be reconsidered?  Wouldn’t there be a debate in this country about what it means to be safe and secure, and about where our tax dollars were going?

Life itself is a danger zone.  It’s not possible to live in total safety and security.  So any system that aims to offer that, even for one phenomenon, and then feeds off the very opposite, should be open to question.  Certainly, sacrificing things that have long been considered important to American life for protection from the rare and random chance that you might be injured or die is a decision that should be rethought from time to time.  In this case, however, it seems that we can no longer imagine what life without a looming national security state might be like.

Now, here’s another word closely associated with the last two: intelligence.  Consider it sacrosanct, representing as it does the religion of the national security state.  There is only one rule when it comes to intelligence: you can’t have too much of it.  Hence, our 17 ever-expanding, intertwined “intelligence” agencies, a vast, still proliferating apparatus for conducting covert ops and gathering information on everyone from presidents and chancellors to peasants in the rural backlands of the planet in every form in which anyone could possibly communicate or simply express themselves or even engage in public play.

This vast world of information overload has, in turn, been plunged into a world of secrecy in which, if it weren’t for leakers and whistleblowers, we would never have any intelligence that they didn’t want us to have.  Over these last years, this system has proven intrusive in ways that even the totalitarian states of the previous century couldn’t have imagined, as well as abusive in ways degrading almost beyond imagination.  It has also collected more information about all of us than can even be grasped; and yet, as far as we can tell, it has also been eternally a step behind in delivering actionable information to the government on just about any subject you want to mention.

However, whether what it does works or not, is legal or not, is useful or not, doesn’t matter in Washington.  There, the American intelligence community is unassailable.  It emerges from every imbroglio, including the recent one over torture, stronger, not weaker.  Its leadership, having made howling mistakes from 9/11 on, is never held accountable for any of them and is always promoted and honored.  Oversight of what it does is on the wane.  The visibly Orwellian nature of American intelligence is now widely accepted, at least in Washington, as a necessity of our age, of our need for… you guessed it… safety and security.

As a result, its bureaucratic expansion, secret wars, global kill lists, and other activities are largely beyond challenge.  In response, for instance, to the disaster of 9/11, a new post, the director of national intelligence, was created to better coordinate the “U.S. intelligence community.”  The director’s “office,” which started with a staff of 11, now has an estimated 1,750 employees, the sort of growth that can be seen just about everywhere in the intelligence world.

We no longer have the slightest idea what life might be like if, instead of 17 significant intelligence outfits, we had just two of them, or even one.  Or whether an intelligence agency operating purely on open-source information might not offer a more useful view of how our world works to American leaders than the vast, secretive, privatized crew of the present moment.  We have no idea what our world would be like if the president no longer had his private army, the CIA (not to mention his second private army, the Joint Special Operations Command).  None of this could possibly be brought up in the halls of power in Washington.

And here’s another word that’s had its way in the capital in these years: war (and related terms like intervention, counterinsurgency, surge, and raid).  It has become the option of choice in situation after situation, while the Pentagon has reached monumental proportions and its elite operatives have become a massive secret military within the military.  In any crisis, even essentially civilian ones such as the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, that military is invariably called upon to ride to the rescue.

You could, in fact, think of these last 13 years in Washington as a sweeping, all-encompassing experiment in modern warfare.  The denizens of that city now live in an eternal “wartime,” while from Pakistan to Libya across the Greater Middle East and now much of Africa, U.S. military personnel are eternally engaged in a range of wars, war-like activities, and preparations for future conflicts, while the skies are filled with U.S. planes and drones.  At a moment when war seems to be the only go-to option (other than sanctions) in the U.S. foreign policy tool box and a high official can even talk about declaring war on scattered deranged individuals, the results of this military-first global strategy should be considered definitively in.  Since 9/11, it has led to a series of well-publicized failures of the first order without a single genuine success, not one instance where anything like a goal Washington set was actually met.  Yet a military-first policy remains the unquestioned, unchallenged option of choice and the military budget is largely sacrosanct even for a budget-cutting Congress.

Here, on the other hand, is a word you won’t see in Washington: peace.  Once, it was part of the American political lexicon; now, it’s essentially been banished. You’d have to be a wuss to use it. 

And here’s another word that’s essentially forbidden: bases.  Since World War II, the U.S. has garrisoned the planet in a way achieved by no other imperial power.  In the twenty-first century, when even the largest powers have only a few or no military bases outside their national territories, the U.S. still has hundreds scattered around the world.  Included in the tally should be the 11 floating towns, loaded with air power — we call them aircraft carriers — that regularly cruise the high seas.

The Greater Middle East is packed to the seams with U.S. military bases and drone bases have been spreading rapidly as well.  This is a living reality in much of the world.  In the U.S., it goes essentially unnoticed and almost completely unmentioned.  It’s so fundamental to Washington’s military-first policies that, while taken for granted, it is beyond discussion or even public acknowledgement.  The very idea of beginning to dismantle this empire of bases, which would automatically change Washington’s military stance in relation to the rest of the planet, is similarly beyond consideration, discussion, or thought.

Who knows what it would mean to abolish the CIA, slash the defense budget, scale down American intelligence, dismantle that empire of bases, or return peace to its first-option status?  We know nothing about this because we haven’t seen any of it tried, or even seriously discussed, in twenty-first-century Washington.

Decades of the Living Dead

In the title of his prophetic pre-9/11 book Blowback, Chalmers Johnson brought that term of CIA tradecraft out of the closet.  He focused on the way covert Agency operations in distant lands carried the seeds of future retaliation on this country.  Because those operations were so secret, though, ordinary Americans were incapable of making the connection between what we did and what hit us.  Today, in a world filled with blowback, the connections between Washington’s acts and what follows are no longer in the shadows but regularly in plain sight.  Yet they are seldom acknowledged, particularly by policymakers in Washington.

In the wake of the 2014 midterm elections, the capital is said to be a big government town being taken over by smaller government types — not, however, if you’re talking about the national security state. With the rarest of exceptions, the “small government” folks, aka Republicans, have never seen an oppressive state power they wouldn’t bow down before and champion.  Hence, whatever the situation at hand — Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine, surveillance — Republican war hawks, now in control of Congress, will invariably demand more.  

Nor should you imagine, as the 2016 campaign revs up, that any of this is likely to change in the years to come.  If we end up with the much-ballyhooed dynastic contest between Hillary and Jeb (or, if you prefer, Hillary and that eternal presidential wannabe Mitt), here’s what you should already know: whichever candidate steps into the Oval Office in January 2017 will bring along a whole host of suitably retread personalities toting a jostling crowd of retread ideas.

Some of the people the new president will nominate for office or appoint as advisors will be familiar faces, since that’s the way of the world in Washington.  Naturally, they will carry with them the most familiar of Washington mindsets.  Just recall January 2009, when the hope candidate entered the White House bringing with him those economic retreads from the reign of the man from Hope, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin; in foreign and war policy, there was the ur-Clintonista Hillary, Bush military appointee General David Petraeus, and the director of the CIA under George H.W. Bush and secretary of defense under his son, the former cold warrior Robert Gates.  Others who weren’t household names or faces from previous administrations might as well have been.  In foreign, war, and economic policy, it was a cast of characters eminently suitable for (as I wrote at the time) a political zombie movie.

Similarly, none of the retreads Hillary, Jeb, or Mitt would bring with them will have a new idea or entertain a thought that wanders off the Washington reservation.  And that essentially guarantees one thing: Republican or Democrat, it’ll be dead air to 2020 — and if either a Bush or a Clinton is then reelected, until 2025, by which time the U.S. would have been led by those two families for 28 of the last 36 years.  Washington is, in this sense, the land of the walking policy dead and war, safety, security, and intelligence (that is, failure and disaster) are ours to the horizon.

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  1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Please, can we just leave the pretenses behind once and for all? QE was not about “helping the economy”, it was about funneling money to Hank Paulsen’s pals on Wall St., end of story. And “more war and more surveillance” has absolutely nothing to do with rationally seeking to reduce “terrorism”, it is and always was about widening the trough the military-industrial and surveillance-industrial complexes can feed at. In fact a very cogent argument can be made that everything, from Bush’s ridiculous war on Iraq to Obomba’s obsession with pre-crime drone murder and desperate war-making in places like Libya and Syria, have demonstrably increased terror and decreased security, certainly financial security…AND THEY KNOW IT. Pretending this is just “misguided policy mistakes” is an egregious error, these policies are working exactly as intended.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Yes, it shouldn’t take a sentient computer, HAL, to realize that he “well-meaning but sorely-mistaken” excuse for imperial ambition and industrial-scale murder is a fatal mis-diagnosis that leaves the cancer to mestastasize. The foot soldiers may not know it, but at the top, this is the absolute corruption of absolute power, the obsession for full-spectrum global dominance, one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. I think Engelhardt is still blinded by the lesser evil.

      1. Antifa

        It’s a natural tendency for citizens to think the best possible scenario of their political leaders, to give them the benefit of every doubt. To think otherwise is to contemplate the unthinkable — to not fit in, to not belong, to commit treason, and to invite all manner of ill consequences down upon your own head, by your own word and actions. And accomplish what? For whom?

        During the Third Reich in Germany, citizens who witnessed disturbing things like people being beaten or arrested on the street, long trains of cattle cars stuffed with Jewish, Gypsy, and other prisoners, or hearing from their own sons and husbands of the horrific crimes of the Eisatzgruppen in Eastern Europe, would shake their heads and say, “If only the Fuhrer knew about these things. He surely would put a stop to all that.”

      2. juliania

        You may be correct that one (or two) unspoken words left out of this analysis would be banksters and mafia, but I don’t think you can claim on the basis of this article alone, lesser evilism.

        To me, calling this “Washington’s Tao” is a more effective way of describing what in kinder times than these was called the “Beltway Bubble”. We’d all be jumping off the nearest bridge, though, if we didn’t instinctively realize that the actual tao is going to have the last word:

        Water best illustrates the principle of wu wei, or effective inactivity, because it is soft and yielding but can wear away rock: ” There is nothing softer or sweeter than water and yet there is nothing better for attacking strong and hard things.” (Lao-tse)

        1. Doug Terpstra

          I don’t quite grasp the “tao” concept, but Tom’s “shadow govt” seems to be amorphous collective entity or hive organism driven by fear and inertia to inflict evil on the world without agency or accountability. No one’s to blame; mistakes are made; they WE know not what WE do; it’s just bureaucratic consensus momentum, cognitive capture and fear-induced mass delusion.

          All we can hope to do then is raise their collective consciousness, then they’ll see the light and change course. To me this is more disempowering than Banger’s deep state, because it presumes good intentions of those in power against overwhelming evidence.

          Related to this is the lesser-evilism critique. I’ve read enough of Engelhardt’s stuff (not recently) with the same pattern of avoiding pinning blame on the key people with power who actually make the decisions, who commit the crimes, who lie, cheat, steal and kill. Obama is at the top of that list, followed by his own appointees, but Tom is always carefull to pass the buck to the machine; Obama is rarely mentioned, or he’s a helpless victim of shadow forces beyond his control. (Kill lists appear spontaneously). And one of his regular contributors, Rebecca Solnit, who wrote a big plug for his book also wrote adoring promos for O in 2012 with shrill contempt for progressives voting third party only because Obama was “less than perfect” rather than the crafty Neocon that he is. Read his stuff, and you’ll see he’s just a slightly more restless calf in the liberal veal pen.

  2. Doug Terpstra

    Tom’s book, “Shadow Government” sounds like “Deep State”. In fact, one disappointed reviewer of Tom’s book recommends “The American Deep State” by Prof Peter Dale Scott.

  3. James Levy

    I hate to go here because I am a materialist and a military historian, but this pattern points to a cultural/psychological base. This is Big Daddy bent on punishing disobedience and transgression. It’s not about winning wars. It’s about “punishing the evildoers” (i.e. anyone who is evil enough to defy the dictates of Uncle Sam and his “masters of the universe”). It’s the Puritan mind amplified by the hubris of extreme power.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘It’s the Puritan mind amplified by the hubris of extreme power.’

      Unquestionably. A third word never used in contemporary Washington DC — though it was a staple of 19th century political discourse — is ‘Liberty.’

      Permanent war is the ideal means of erasing liberty, since a good chunk of the population will actually cheer the process of yoking them under martial law. Whatever it takes to defeat Isis! /sarc

    2. hemeantwell

      You burden yourself with an unnecessary sense of forced theoretical options. Market economies, especially of the bogus “pure” sort championed by neoliberals, destroy social bonds. Ginning up external enemies creates bonds through shared antipathy and fear. Fear is literally stupefying. The social inflexibility it generates, the feeling that we’re always on the point of being bombed or marching off to battle, generates a corresponding psychological rigidity. A latent crisis command structure starts to haunt all social arrangements that appear unduly open and trusting. When it seems like everyone knows that we’re going to go to war, all other arrangements appear provisional and increasingly foolish. What you call “Big Daddy” is the more personalized, family-based rendering of this orientation. We’ve had our democratic vacation, it’s time to get serious. Etc.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        But what’s really scary is that the fear-based march to war offers no satisfactory outcome, even for the winners. When permanent low-level war doesn’t achieve your (non-achievable) stated outcomes, how about some high-level war? And when that doesn’t work, then what? It’s not at all clear how, once down this path, you are able to walk it back.

        1. hemeantwell

          I’m not so sure that at least some of the winners don’t come out well. The misery of war is distributed very regressively. Elites dodge the draft, the poor don’t, and the parents of their dead get medals to put on the dresser. Then there’s that postwar boom in all those newly opened markets — at least if the war isn’t nuclear.

  4. Sam Kanu

    At the end of the day the blame for all this is not down to an “deep state” – it’s down to the American middle class electorate and its inability to control itself or think deeply. You only have to flash the word “security” and they start waving the flag, defer all brain power and hand over a carte blanche to do as you like. They dont even mind hocking even their own kids’ future to do this.

    That flaw is not just a foreign policy matter – it is equally true on the domestic front where we tolerate huge negative effects of inequality and poverty, as a result of shovelling money at our military and “secret security” forces. It is also true in terms of domestic policing, which has resulted in a situation where Americans are basically turkey shoot for the police – all you need there is the magic word translated from foreign-speak “security” to domestic slang: “law and order”.

    Its not anybody else’s fault. So-called “middle America” has greenlighted all this…

    1. DJG

      Exactly. No need for the deep-state fantasy when Middle America, especially white America, is so uncritical, so fear-ridden, and so overworked to suit the requirements of the rich. I am currently re-reading Hannah Arendt’s “The Human Condition,” written in the 1950s, and some of her observations about trends are remarkably prescient. She was highly skeptical of the 20th-century money-grubbing classes and the bureaucratic state that they want.

      1. tim s

        “uncritical, so fear-ridden, and so overworked” is not limited to whites in this country. The percentage of blacks critical of Obama is probably similar to the number of whites critical of GWB (Bush and Obama being practical equivalents).

        Kudos to reading Arendt – some of the best reading to be had anywhere.

        1. Sam Kanu

          I think you are out of date when it comes to black American POV for Obama’s policy and hte outcomes of that policy. Black people in america are taking a beating from the policies of the black misleadership class. But at the same time, they also understand that they are fully cognisant of the even more sinister forces that would gladly do them both in.

          You must not confuse the black masses refusal to pile on the white right wing’s knee jerk criticism of a black president, with their approval of his policies.

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘It’s down to the American middle class electorate and its inability to control itself or think deeply.’

      That’s why we have public education. Government schools are hardly going to present war (the ultimate government program) in a bad light, are they?

      Thank you, Horace Mann! /sarc

      1. El Guapo

        Hilarious. Do you suppose that private run, for profit schools are going to present war in a bad light? Good and universally available public education is one of the few tools the masses have against the rich – which is why the rich and their foot soldiers (like yourself) have constantly worked to destroy it.

    3. tim s

      Thinking deeply is not a common trait, and not one that can can be had simply by some effort . You might as well chide everyone for not being able to play ball at a pro level, or coming up with a new legitimate advancement in physics. If propaganda were not so effective, it would not be so pervasive. It is no simple task to see through the fog, and I’d say impossible if one is not of the mental character to do so in the 1st place.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You make a great point.

        Propaganda budget is there for a reason. People are not born sheeple. You have to condition them, like you would your hair with conditioners, to keep everything in place.

      2. Yves Smith Post author


        Sorry, I met people all across the social and economic spectrum in Australia, including people who did date processing, former drug addicts turned social workers, a guy in his 60s who was still doing construction (as in manual labor), to people in more typical public and private sector jobs. Critical thinking was the norm in Oz, not the exception. We by contrast are big on deference to authority, despite our myth of rugged individualism, and that discourages independent analysis.

        1. Demeter

          Would the Australian capacity for “critical thinking” not be a logical outcome of the origin of the society as a prison colony? Having been royally screwed over by the Powers That Be, the immigrant population would instill “critical thinking” or don’t-swallow-the-official-BS in the generations that followed.

          On the other hand, the US was established by those religious minorities which sought to produce a “pure” “refined” society featuring conformity to the religious doctrine as a first goal. Successive waves of immigrants from other backgrounds over 300 years have not been able to undo this primary psychological drive. Some immigrants have adopted the goal, just switched the flavor of the conforming doctrine.

          The Deists of the Enlightenment lost. Their purely intellectual approach to religion could not feed the appetites of the masses for drama, emotion, vengeance, etc.

          And there’s always the slavery-related infrastructure. Free-thinking amongst the slave population had to be unmercifully repressed, and by extension, free-thinking amongst the working classes, as well.

    4. bdy

      If us “sheeple” ever actually got our way things would actually be pretty okay.

      Last I checked Americans were solidly opposed to domestic spying, opposed to war in Iraq; war in Afghanistan; war in Syria; war anywhere. We’re largely in favor of prosecutions for financial fraud; cuts in military spending, increased spending on infrastructure; higher taxes for the very wealthy; giving medicine to poor children and so on. Presidential approval sits comfortably below 50%, and congressional approval hasn’t been north of 20% in what seems like forever — all with a completely co-opted mass media spinning 24/7 vanilla.

      Current conditions are the product of an anti-incumbancy made impotent by a banal similarity between democrats and republickens, gerrymandering, voter suppression and outright fraud — not Dumb Americans (although our numbers are legion and the smart ones among us are medicated into docility at an early age).

      1. Sam Kanu

        Last I checked Americans were solidly opposed to domestic spying, opposed to war in Iraq; war in Afghanistan; war in Syria; war anywhere.

        Not true at all. When the goct invaded Iraq, Most Americans completely swallowed the WMD BS – and the non-existent Al Quaida claims

        Plus I remember all the flags posted all over the place by people and the nauseating “support out troops” claptrap. All this in a war of aggression on a country that had not attacked us, had not threatened us and had ZERO links to the people who had. In fact the CIA had more links to the people who had attacked us – they were a CIA funded project.

        The latter fact, you will probably not get even 20% of Americans to admit to – despite the facts being open in plain sight. But now we want to blame a “deep security state”? I dont think so…

  5. David

    People as uninformed and as gullible as Americans have no future. Americans are a dead people that history is about to run over. – Paul Craig Roberts

    Truth is treason in the empire of lies – Ron Paul

    The Truth is that……. Americans need an Enema – they have S**T for Brains! There are no solutions beyond that until they no longer exist.

    1. MikeNY

      That Ron Paul quote is very good.

      I have been involved in a discussion of the Charlie Hebdo affair on another site, and I am pretty astounded by the Manichean narrative most Westerners invoke to explain the events. Them, evil. Us, good. That simple. It’s a noxious cocktail of Exceptionalism and appallingly shallow conscience.

      I don’t bless or condone the massacre. I don’t discount that there may be threads in Islam that make it susceptible or amenable to violent jihadism. Neither can I discount almost a century of Western colonialism, imperialism, military coups and adventurism, resource extraction / confiscation, support for wantonly cruel and corrupt dictatorships, and perhaps most importantly, the obscene inequality in the power relationship. To me, that would be either blind or mendacious.

      So we seem intent to keep doing what’s not working. Yemen is probably the next big opportunity to f#@k the world up.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘Yemen is probably the next big opportunity to f#@k the world up.’

        You mean we haven’t finished yet?? ;-)

    2. hemeantwell

      The problem with quoting Ron Paul in this connection is that his libertarianism is theoretically blind to neoliberalism’s contribution to the problem. I don’t see libertarian thought as capable of distinguishing the neoliberal form of “late capitalism” from 19th century farming communities. The institutions that provided a degree of security were just “there” back then, but after market-based industrialization they had to be built up by government intervention. In failing to appreciate the corrosive nature of a market-fetishizing capitalism, libertarianism misses how its ideal is internally contradictory and self-undermining. And this blindness shows up, all too often, in something like what you’ve written, a citing of libertarian critique followed by dismissive hostility to the common people. Libertarianism talks an egalitarian line but is quite congenial with an elitist politics which, in the period we’re in, contributes to repressive despair and cynicism.

  6. Washunate

    Shrinking both the spending and the power of the national security state is one of our most pressing and complex challenges. It’s influence is so big at this point there’s a kind of groupthink ceasefire that has set in across the intellectual spectrum that we should neither tax rich people to pay for it nor reduce spending on it because that would be austerity nor hold it accountable to any of our civilian laws because heaven forbid the military have to avoid discrimination in employment or conduct competitive bid processes.

    1. Sam Kanu

      …Shrinking both the spending and the power of the national security state is one of our most pressing and complex challenges…

      To be precise the seceret “security state” does not spend – it is SPENT ON. Therein lies the clue to the solution. That said, good luck getting rid of a hydra headed monster via congressional decisons when said monster has a full record of not only every every personal email and phone call your congressman/woman has made, but also what was said and by whom. And the same indexable to every member of their family. A veritable blackmail treasure trove,

      This isnt “national security” – its more like a national hostage program,

  7. DJG

    Forbidden word from here on out: Redacted. We’re talking censorship, not proofreader’s marks. Let’s call “redaction” what it is.

  8. John Yard

    When ISIS burst into the headlines , and took control of western Iraq, their offensive was spearheaded by 2000 militants who routed an Iraqi army with a nominal strength of greater than 430,000. Since then, numbers are rarely mentioned. As an example , after the Paris attacks, the number of French militants who have volunteered for ISIS in Syria was quoted in the media as 100, another time as 300.
    I am more than happy to be corrected if these numbers are incorrect. However, the overwhelming impression from reading the press , including the Arabic language press, is that there is a many orders-of-magnitude discrepancy between the forces of ISIS , and the forces of Assad, the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish militias, the Western security forces and armed forces……
    How to resolve this impression ? Is it possible that the information we are given concerning the security situation is – to put it diplomatically – incomplete ?

    1. Andrew Watts

      Nobody knows how many people the Islamic State has in it’s ranks. The first estimate of 10,000 troops came from a defected ISIS/ISIL cell commander who went over to al-Nusra. The second estimate of 30,000 was post-Mosul and probably came from the CIA Directorate of Intelligence. My current estimate is 60,000 – 80,000 troops including police and security forces garrisoned in Syria/Iraq. This estimate is based upon corroborated information that they’re recruiting between 150 – 300 every few days since the fall of Mosul. As well as the losses they’re willing to endure in Kobani and Iraqi Kurdistan. Lastly, the numerical base of their population that they could hire/conscript to swell their forces. Keep in mind I’m not counting the Sunni tribes or Baathist officer/factions that haven’t as of yet merged themselves into the IS command structure. Similarly I’m not counting the forces that have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State in Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, etc.

      When Jürgen Todenhöfer toured the Islamic State he talked to a jihadist that claimed Mosul was taken over with just 300 men. While this claim is ridiculous what it revealed is that IS cells in Iraq/Syria and probably elsewhere in the region are now operating at around company level strength. When the Saudis claimed to have busted an IS cell that resulted in the arrest of sixty or so people they probably didn’t come close to expunging the whole cell. In any case the Islamic State has a deep pool of young men to recruit from in Saudi Arabia.

      I estimate that the iraqi forces have sixteen brigades in any shape to fight based upon a lot of theoretical guesswork . Assuming that the new Iraqi Army is probably based upon US standards I calculate that each brigade has no more than 4,000 troops. Giving the Iraqi Army a whopping 48,000 – 64,000 regulars. The wide numerical variation is that I don’t know how many brigades are at full fighting strength. The number of police and other security forces is unknown but they haven’t made much of an impact so far. Best guess is >20,000 total men.

      The post-Mosul takeover call for Shia militias probably boosted Iraqi forces by another 10,000 – 15,000 maximum. The quality of these troops is unknown but considering how good they are at killing unarmed civilians I wouldn’t put much faith in their combat effectiveness. They’ve been getting mauled pretty badly lately.

      I’m not going to review the state of the Kurdish forces for a variety of reasons. Nor do I think the 2,000 – 4,000(?) policemen/survivors from Mosul who sought sanctuary in Iraqi Kurdistan are worth anything. If the years of wasting my time playing video games taught me anything it’s this…

      “Turtling is a gameplay strategy that emphasizes heavy defense, with little or no offense. Ostensibly, turtling minimizes risk to the turtling player while baiting opponents to take risks in trying to overcome the defenses.

      Consequently, while turtling strategies are usually simple enough for novices to learn and are effective as such, they are easily defeated by experienced players who understand the game’s methods to counter turtling.” -Wikipedia on Turtling (gameplay)

      Those counter-measures usually include suicide bombers and other sacrificial units. Overall the picture in Iraq is pretty grim despite the recent happy talk from the media. But what do I know?

      1. Andrew Watts

        That’s a very reasonable number that the combined forces of Iraqi-Shia troops can’t muster yet. I have no idea how many troops the Shia militia have in their ranks right now my best guess is under >50,000 total, The US-led coalition is publicly claiming it can train three or four brigades every eight to twelve weeks. The total number still probably wouldn’t give the Iraqi-Shia forces enough troops to take and occupy Mosul by the summer.

        The Kurds will not be participating (or so they say) and the Sunni tribes/Baathists that were apart of the IS-led Sunni uprising in June will undoubtedly fight alongside the Islamic State. As for why the Kurds won’t be participating in an attack on Mosul they signed a cease fire (or peace treaty?) with the Sunni tribals and Baathists or so I’ve heard.

  9. knowbuddhau

    Oh so close, and yet so far. I generally like Engelhardt. I just wish he’d take the next step and examine, not just tangentially mention, the role of religion in mad Imperial Washington.

    It seems crucial to me that a very salient common denominator among the denizens of Washington, their shared world view, be closely examined in detail for its contributions to our modern woes. It’s possible that it gets overlooked because almost every critic shares it.

    What’s the worldview of Washington? Look at the metaphors used. Metaphors are the fundamental units of mythologies. Washington’s denizens believe in a world where they must shape a fundamentally stupid, inanimate, and yet somehow dangerous, objective world after their own image. Nothing in the world has any subjectivity which Washington must respect. The world is either god’s own justice-dispensing mechanism, or just a plain old mechanism, which Washington masters with its “exceptionally superior” science, technology, engineering, and maths.

    Please pardon the length of the following quotes. They’re from the time before soundbites. That is, c. 1969. I transcribed them myself. Also, sorry if I’ve said this before. I find this view to be vastly underrepresented in current discourse, so I tend to repeat myself. Apologies.

    Alan Watts: Images of Man

    I want to start by giving what may be, to many of you, a new definition of the word ‘myth.’ As normally used, the word myth means an idle tale, a fable, a falsehood, or an idea that’s out of date; something untrue. But there is another, older, stricter use of the word myth, whereby it doesn’t mean something untrue, but it means an image in terms of which people make sense of life and the world.

    Supposing, for example, that you don’t understand the technicalities of electricity, and somebody wants to explain them to you; he wants to explain about the flow of currents. Well, to do that, he compares electricity with water, and because you understand water you get some idea about the behavior of electricity. Or if an astronomer wants to explain to you what he means by ‘expanding space,’ he’ll use the metaphor of a balloon—a black balloon with white spots on it. The white spots represent the galaxies; then, if you blow up the balloon, they all get further away from each other at the same speed as the balloon blows up.

    In neither case are we saying that electricity is water or that the universe is a balloon, with white spots on it. We’re saying it’s something like it. And so, in the same way, the human being has always used images to represent his deepest ideas of how the universe works, and what man’s place in it is. And tonight I’m going to discuss two of the greatest myths, in this sense of the word, which have influenced mankind’s thinking.

    First of all, the myth of the universe as an artifact; as something made, as a carpenter makes tables, chairs, and houses; or as a potter makes pots; or as a sculptor makes figurines.

    And on the other hand, the image of the world as a drama, in which all the things in the world are not made, but acted, in the same way as a player acts parts.

    For these are the two great images which govern, respectively, the religions of the West, descending from Hebraism—that is to say, Hebraism itself, Christianity, and Islam; and on the other hand, the myth which governs those religions which have had their origin in India, most particularly Hinduism itself and, to a lesser extent, Buddhism.

    And I want to make it perfectly plain, before I go any further, that in talking about these two great religious traditions, in terms of images, I’m talking about the way they express themselves at a rather popular level. Sophisticated Christians, and sophisticated Hindus think beyond images. For example, a Christian may think of God as the Father, but a sophisticated and educated Christian does not imagine that God is a cosmic male parent, with a white beard, sitting on a golden throne above the stars. Nor does a Hindu imagine literally that God is the super-showman, the Big Actor. These images are what it is like, not what it is.

    And perhaps, when I get through with discussing them, we’ll be able to ask the question as to whether any of these images still make sense to us in this twentieth century, when we have a view of the world so powerfully shaped by Western science.

    Now let me begin, then, with a few things about the image of the world, and thus, the image of man, as it comes to us from the Hebrew bible. . . .


    It says, in the book of Genesis, that the Lord God created man out of the dust of the Earth, as if he had made, of Adam, a clay figurine. And then he blew the breath of life into its nostrils, and the figurine became alive, and it’s said that the figurine was made in the image of God. For God who is conceived in this particular image as personal, as a living, intelligent spirit, creates in man something like that. But you must note very definitely that this is a creation, as the potter makes a pot out of clay. For the creature that the Lord God has made is not God; the creature is something less than God. Something like God, but not God. And you will see some very interesting consequences follow from this idea of the world as an artifact.

    What follows from it is that the whole universe is seen as a marvelous technical accomplishment. And if is made, there must be an explanation of how it is made, and the whole history of Western thought has, in many ways, been an attempt to discover how the Creator did it. What were the principles? what were the laws laid down? what, in other words, was the blueprint that underlies this creation? And this image has, therefore, persisted throughout Western history, and continues on into a time when very many people do not believe in Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam. They are, you might say, agnostics, or atheists, but they still carry on something of this idea, of the world as an artifact.

    If you are a Christian or a Jew [or a Muslim], you believe the world is the artifact, the creation, of the intelligent spirit called God. But if, in this culture, you are an atheist or an agnostic, you believe that the world is an automatic machine without a creator; something which made itself.

    We might say, then, that our original model of the universe was the Ceramic Model. And the Bible is full of references to God as the potter who makes the world out of obedient clay. But when Western thinkers, in the eighteenth century, began to drop the idea of a personal god, they kept the idea of the artifact, and so we could say that after the Ceramic Model of the universe we got the Fully Automatic Model. And still, you see, underlying our way of thinking of things is the question, how are they put together? And if you want to find out, one of the obvious ways to proceed is to take them to pieces. Everybody knows that if you want to find out how something is made, you unscrew the parts and see what is the secret inside the box.

    And so, Western science, in its beginnings, took everything apart: it took animals apart; it took flowers apart; it took rocks apart; and then, when they got it reduced to its tiniest pieces, they tried to find methods of taking those apart too, so that we could eventually discover what the smallest small things were and so know what building blocks the Creator or the Fully Automatic Model used in order to put it all together, hoping that that would lead us to an understanding of how life works.

    Man, himself, was looked upon, in all this, as a creation; something made. Only, there were some difficulties with this because, if you believe in the world in accordance with the Fully Automatic Model, you’ve really got to admit that man, too, is fully automatic. In other words, he’s a machine rather than a person. Man is something, in other words, that says—that doffs its hat to you, and says, How do you do? I’m a person, I am alive, I’m sensible, I talk, I have feelings. But you wonder, do you really, or are you just an automaton? Am I real, or am I just an automaton?

    The general result of that image of Western man hasn’t been quite that. What it’s come down to, under the dispensation of the Fully Automatic Model is this: we are living beings; we’re very sensitive; and inside the human skin, by an extraordinary fluke of nature, there has arisen something called reason. And there have also arisen values, such as love. But this was a fluke. Because it happened inside a fully automatic universe which is stupid, because it’s merely automatic. You won’t, in other words, find anything really intelligent outside human skins [and we all know who the real humans are, now don’t we? wink-wink nudge-nudge.] And therefore, if that is so, the only thing that people can do, if they want to maintain Reason and Love in this universe is to fight nature, and beat the stupid external world into submission to the human will. And so the War Against Nature is the great project, thus far, of Western technology.

    Because you see, each one of us, because we have—inherit, from thousands of years of history, a view of man as something made and almost a sort of breath breathed into a pot of clay or an image of clay, a kind of—each one feels himself as a sort of globule of consciousness or mind, living inside a vehicle called ‘my body,’ and since the world outside that body is stupid, we feel estranged from the world. When we find out how enormous the universe is, that makes us, as individuals, feel extremely unimportant, and rather lonely. Because, you see, we consider ourselves—our basic image of ourselves is of a soul, or an ego, or a mind, all by itself in its little house looking out at a world that is strange and that is not me. [Or as I say, cellf-imprisoned in cellves of our own mistaken making.]

    I am, therefore, a brief interval of consciousness between the darkness and the darkness. And that isn’t too happy. I would like to believe that it was more than that. If I could—so many of us say, If I could only still believe that there is an intelligent and eternal god in whose eyes I am important and who has the power to enable me to live forever, that would be very nice. But, for many people, that’s an extraordinarily difficult thing to believe.

    Now, I want to contrast this image of the world with another, what I call the Dramatic Image, as distinct from the Image of the Potter, or the Ceramic Image. And this will be the presiding image of Hinduism.

    Their idea is this: that god didn’t make the world, like a technologist; but he acted it. That is to say, every person, and every thing, for that matter: every tree, every flower, every animal, every star, every rock, every grain of dust; is a role or part which the godhead is playing.

    You must understand, of course, that the Hindu image of god is a little bit different from the Jewish, the Christian, and the Islamic.

    Alan Watts: The Relevance of Oriental Philosophy

    Theology has not, as a matter of fact, had a very distinguished record, in promoting the study of other than the Christian religion. And this is rather puzzling.

    Most study of comparative religions that goes on in theological schools has historically been missionary oriented: To find out the weird ideas of the prospects, so as to be able to undermine them. Because you see if you know in the first place that you have the true religion, there really is no point in studying any other one. And you can very quickly find reasons for showing them to be inferior, because that was a foregone conclusion. They had to be.

    And therefore all arguments about the respective merits of respective religions especially where Christianity is involved and often where Judaism is involved, and sometimes Islam too, all of which are essentially Imperialistic religions, in all such discussions the judge and the advocate are usually the same person. Because if, for example, you get into discussions as to whether Buddha was a more profound spiritual character than Jesus Christ, uh you arrive at your decision on the basis of a scale of values which is of course Christian. And in this sense the judge and the advocate are the same.

    And I really do marvel at this [pauses] Christian Imperialism because it prevails even among theological liberals. And it reaches its final absurdity in religionless Christianity, the doctrine that there is no god and Jesus Christ is his only son. Ah, because you see there’s some anxiety here that even though we don’t believe in god anymore, uh somehow we still gotta be Christians. And obviously because we have a very curious kind of organization that must be understood: the inner meaning of the church as it works in fact.

    A society of ‘the saved,’ you see, necessarily requires outside it a society of ‘the not saved.’ Because if there is not that contrast, you don’t know that you belong to the in group. And in this way all social groups with claims to some kind of special status must necessarily create aliens and foreigners. And St. Thomas Aquinas let the cat out of the bag one day when he said that the saints, in heaven, would occasionally peer over the battlements into Hell and praise god for the just punishment visited upon evil-doers.

    Now as you know I’m not being very fair and very kind to modern theology but there is this strange persistence of insisting that Our Group Is the Best Group. And I feel that there is in this something peculiarly irreligious, and furthermore it exhibits a very strange lack of faith.

    Because I believe that there is a strong distinction between faith on the one hand, and belief on the other; that belief is as a matter of fact quite contrary to faith because “belief” is really wishing, it’s from the Anglo-Saxon root “lief,” to wish, and belief stated say in the creed, is a fervent hope that the universe will turn out to be thus and so. And in this sense therefore belief precludes the possibility of faith, because faith is openness to truth, to reality, whatever it may turn out to be. “I want to know the truth,” that is the attitude of faith.

    And therefore to use ideas about the universe and about god as something to hang onto in the spirit of “Rock of Ages , cleft for me;” you know hymns hymnal imagery is full of rocks. “A mighty fortress is our god;” uh “In vain the surge’s angry shock, in vain the drifting sands/ Unharmed upon the eternal rock the eternal city stands.” And there’s something very rigid about a rock.

    Because our image of god, and the image, don’t forget, has far more emotional power than any amount of theology and abstractions. It is “Our Father” which really influences us, as a conception of god, not “necessary being,” or Tillich’s decontaminated name for god, “the ground of being,” or Professor Northrup’s uh “undifferentiated aesthetic continuum,” [laughter[, uh these aren’t very moving. even though subtle theologians prefer this kind of thing. and will tell us that when we call god the father, we don’t have to believe literally that there is a cosmic male parent and still less that he has a white beard, and sits on a golden throne above the stars. Nobody no serious theologian ever believed in such a god.

    But nevertheless the imagery affects us because the image of the monotheistic god of the West is political. The title King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the title of the emperors of ancient Persia. The image of god is based on: the pharaohs; the great rulers of the Chaldeans; and the Kings of Persia. And so this is the political governor and lord of the universe, who keeps order and who rules it, from, metaphorically speaking, above. So anyone who would say, I am god, is therefore implying that he’s in charge of everything that he knows all about it and therefore everybody else ought to bow down and worship him. But in India if you say, I am god, they say, Congratulations, at last you’ve found out. Because the image is quite different.

    See our image of the world is that the world is a construct. And it’s very natural for a child to say to its mother, how was I made? As if you know you were somehow put together but that goes back to the imagery of Genesis where god creates Adam and makes a clay figurine. And then he breathes the breath of life into the nostrils of this figurine and it comes to life. So there is the fundamental supposition that even underlies the development of Western science: that everything has been made and then someone knows how it was made. And you can find out, because behind the universe there is an architect. This could be called, the Ceramic Model of the Universe.

    Because there’s a basic feeling that there are two things in existence: one is stuff, material, and the other is form. Now material, like clay, by itself, is stupid, it has no life in it–has no intelligence, and therefore for matter to assume orderly forms it requires that an external intelligence be introduced to shape it. And therefore with that deeply embedded in our common sense it’s very difficult for people to realize that this image is not necessarry for a description of the world at all, in fact the concept of stuff is completely absent from modern physics, which studies the universe purely in terms of pattern and structure.

    But the Hindu model of the world, and I’m speaking of Hindu mythology, the popular imagery–I’m talking about the popular imagery on both sides, I’m not at the moment getting into theological technicalities, The Hindu model of the Universe is a drama. The world is not made, it is acted. And so behind every face, human animal plant mineral, there is the face, or non-face, of the central self, the Atman, which is Brahman, the final reality, which is not defined, because obviously that which is the center cannot be made an object of knowledge anymore than you bite your own teeth or lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. It’s what there is, it’s the basis, and you are it! which is a colloquial translation of the Sanskrit adage, tat tvam asi, that art thou.

    The idea being, you see, that the nature of reality is a game of hide and seek, because that’s really the only game there is: now you see it, now you don’t. All nature is vibrating, it’s a wavelike motion of crest and trough pulse and interval pulse and interval, only we don’t always notice that because our sense respond slowly, say to light, and light appears to be a continuous energy without interval.

    Well now this image, this model of the universe, uh is disturbing to Christians. What is uh particularly disturbing is the element in it of what’s a very the special theological cuss word called pantheism. Feeling that if every part is being played by the supreme lord, then all the real distinctions between good and evil are obliterated. Now that is the biggest nonsense ever uttered. Distinctions between good and evil do not have to be eternal distinctions to be real distinctions. It is really—to say that a distinction which is not eternal is not real is a highly un-Christian thing to say, and certainly a very un-Jewish thing. Because one of the fundamental principles of the Hebrew attitude is that all finite things that have been created by God are good, and therefore, a thing doesn’t have to be infinite to be good, all finite things come to an end. Furthermore, to invoke the authority of heaven in matters of moral regulation is like putting a two million current through your electric shaver. It ended in the final asininity of the notion that if you went against the will of god, since evil is eternal, you would fry in hell forever and ever and ever. And as the Chinese say, do not swat a fly on a friend’s head with a hatchet. Like all kinds of judicial torture and harsh justice such ideas bring law into disrespect. And such a fierce god, and such an unbending attitude, resulted in the fact of people disbelieving in god altogether, and shall we say throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    So this is among many reasons why people are saying, ‘God is dead.’ It’s very inconvenient to have the kind of god, who is this authoritarian boss of the world, prying down over your shoulder all the time, knowing your inmost thoughts, and judging you. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling, and everybody’s happy to be rid of it. It has never significantly improved anybody’s behavior. In the so-called Ages of Faith, people were just as immoral if not more so than they are today. Because you see, all this fixed notion of god is idolatry!

    Does anyone else hear echoes of our insane surveillance state and permawar? Even including our version of sending people to hell: indefinite detention. The world of hurt we’re in is a direct manifestation of the beliefs and intentions of Washington’s mad denizens couched in the metaphors of their worldview. Simple as that ;-).

    As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We desperately need to examine, challenge, and replace that mythology. ISTM the world is best understood as an organism. How we treat Mother Earth is indeed how we treat ourselves.

    And now I have to go to one of my 4 jobs. Sorry that I won’t be able to reply for 5-6 hours. I bow in all y’all’s virtual directions.

    1. cnchal

      And as the Chinese say, do not swat a fly on a friend’s head with a hatchet. They really say that?

      Thanks for the comment.

  10. ogee

    I too think the author goes too softly on “who”; but don’t you have to? after all. Isn’t that the point?

    There is a great game against “us”, and it has been going on a long time. I see the enemy and the enemy is “us”. Sure, “we” the American electorate ARE to blame, but it isn’t really our “fault”. It is their “mea culpa”.
    We really can’t start naming names, and proclaiming edicts…. we are describing the mirage we see before us.
    Many people here see the game as rigged ( as I do), yet would likely disparage all the “conspiracy theorists” who were writing for decades of a “rigged game”.Back in the 1930’s people were writing about the take over of academia,law,and government by a set who would today be called “neo-liberals” ;even though they are the who’s who on the neo- conservative bandwagons too. And yet, If I were to start posting lists with thousands of names connected to certain groups, who have been at the epicenter of western finance and government for a century…. people would quibble with this name or that. or this organization or that. many people would know and work with these people,groups,entities and their offshoots.
    I think the stories are amazingly relevant, and oddly dismissed. Yet the “mode of thought we are taught”. doesn’t allow us to connect “certain” dots, for anything real. like our lives and our posterity.Even when really, at any level and any dissection, our establishment is just a” layer of the onion”. The world we live in is of their making. For over a hundred years influential groups have tried to weave their webs, all at the expense of everyone else. and yes, propaganda is the name of the game.
    It may be that even this posting is “censored” by the invisible hand of the propaganda machine. people who surely feel that they are certainly not a part of “the big lie”, will none the less act, in their own interests, on this here chunk of onion……
    If not then the story would go down to the creation of our money. The golden goose who keeps giving. The alchemists dream of turning lead to gold.
    Our laws are products of financing elections and the apparatus that keeps the propaganda organs going,which provide the opinions of the electorate to cling to.and to vote.Our financial services industry piggy backs on the monetary system.The FIRE sector directs the subversion of certain laws and rights. The military industrial complex is the well paid muscle. The academic industrial complex keeps the justifications current and up to date. The prison industrial complex is there for the fringes. ETC. ETC.Everything is there to continue making money. and as long as sanity never reigns, it is for those industrious connivers among us to suck the beast dry.
    Now there are a long train of abuses against the American people. two hundred years worth and then some.
    but for the last hundred years, People have been deprived of a world where their money was created by them and for them. The Kucinich bill in the 112th congress, was the latest step in fighting the money power. The money power is the root of so many other ills, as well as the opposing force that stops real progress.
    The National Emergency Employment Act “N.E.E.D” act 112th congress HR 2990

  11. cnchal

    . . .security .. and .. safety. On those two words alone, the new Washington has been funded and expanded endlessly in the post-9/11 era. They are the soil in which has grown just about every action that put the state intrusively in our lives, sidelined the citizenry, and emboldened a spirit of impunity in the national security bureaucracy, a sense that no one will ever be held accountable for any action, including kidnapping, torture, murder, the destruction of evidence, assassination, and perjury.

    . . . nothing is too much for our safety and security. More astonishing yet, almost all of this investment has visibly led not to the diminution of terrorism, but to its growth, to ever more terrorists and terror organizations and ever greater insecurity. This, in turn, has spurred the growth of the national security state yet more, even though it has shown little evidence of offering us significant protection.

    This is a virtuous circle for someone working inside the “security state”. Well paying jawbs for what are essentially rogue government organizations and their “private contractors”. Ed Snowden was making more than $100K per year for essentially sitting at a computer and do nothing productive, other that enable his “private contractor” employer to bill the taxpayer double or triple that. This is negative value to the public, as it’s being fleeced to be spied on, and worse.

    Who knows what it would mean to abolish the CIA, slash the defense budget, scale down American intelligence, dismantle that empire of bases, or return peace to its first-option status?

    There have been cases where laid off firefighters, started fires to prove they were needed.

    Many working in “security state” organizations commit criminal acts with impunity and do not follow the law while being the law. There is no chance that were these people to be fired because the CIA and the rest of the “security state” was wound down, they would become law abiding private citizens. Expect lots of fires, explosions and the litany of criminal acts mentioned above to drastically increase. The “security state” as a criminal breeding ground.

    That is how these preoccupations keep the US lurching forward in a costly, destructive policy trajectory.

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