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Reflecting on Rumsfeld

Posted on Oct 17, 2006
Donald H. Rumsfeld
AP / Evan Vucci

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a news conference at the Pentagon last week.

By Stan Goff

(Page 2)

Regardless of their differences, bureaucrats all share an affinity for formulae.  The Powell Doctrine read like the interrogative for a business plan:

—Is a vital U.S. interest at stake?
—Will we commit sufficient resources to win?
—Are the objectives clearly defined?
—Will we sustain the commitment?
—Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation?
—Have we exhausted our other options?
—Do we have a clear exit strategy?

As important as any of these criteria, however, and central to the Powell Doctrine as an outgrowth of the U.S. defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese, is the emphasis on public perception management.

Powell sincerely believes that the U.S. was defeated in Vietnam by the combination of bad publicity and the failure to engage in more brutal tactics to subdue the population.  For anyone who sentimentally thinks of Powell as the nice guy among Republicans, I apologize for the shock you are about to receive.


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In 1963, well before the American public generally understood where Vietnam was located, a young Army captain led a South Vietnamese unit through the A Shau Valley to systematically burn villages to the ground. This was to deprive the so-called Viet Cong of any base of support, and was called “draining the sea,” a reference to Mao’s dictum that the guerrilla is the fish and the population is the sea.

That captain would later write, “I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male. If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served ... was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard [that commander] was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.”

On March 16, 1968, the U.S. Infantry of C Company, Task Force Barker, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, went into a Vietnamese hamlet designated My Lai 4 and killed 347 unarmed men, women and children, engaging in rape and torture along the way for four hours before a U.S. helicopter pilot who observed the massacre ordered his door gunners to open fire on the grunts if they didn’t desist. The chopper pilot, however, did not report the massacre.

Six months later, a young enlisted man, Spec. 4 Tom Glen, sent a letter to Gen.  Creighton Abrams, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Without specifically mentioning My Lai, Glen said that murder had become a routine part of Americal operations. The letter was shunted over to Americal Division, and then to the office of the same officer who had been leading the South Vietnamese arson campaign five years earlier, since promoted to major. He was now the deputy assistant chief of staff of the division—a functionary who was directed to craft a response to this report of widespread atrocities against Vietnamese civilians.

“In direct refutation of this portrayal,” wrote the officer dismissively and with no investigation whatsoever, “is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” Perhaps he believed that those killed were MAMs, and therefore outside the protection of the Geneva Conventions and international law.

That officer was Colin Powell.

The massacre at My Lai, for which it was his responsibility to conduct damage control for the Americal Division, was a turning point in the loss of American domestic support for the war.  This did not lead Powell to question the legitimacy of the Vietnam occupation, or the brutality with which it was carried out.  It led him to believe that control of public perceptions, ergo control of the press, is an integral part of any war effort; as an adjunct to the overwhelming application of lethal force.

The finest expressions of the Powell Doctrine were the bloody invasion of Panama and the 1991 destruction of Iraq.  At the time of the latter, the Fourth Generation Warfare “theory” of William Lind was still written in wet ink.  One of the people who was studying it, with the same intensity as those armchair warrior history buffs who play with toy soldiers, was Donald Rumsfeld, on hiatus from politics after having served as Gerald Ford’s defense secretary (when he was a vocal supporter of chemical warfare) and Ronald Reagan’s special envoy to Saddam Hussein (a role in which he assisted Saddam in acquiring chemical weapons).  At the time, Rumsfeld was a vice president at Westmark Systems, a defense technology holding company, which further consolidated Rumsfeld’s fascination with Tom Mix Warfare—the reliance on highly technical, extremely expensive weapons systems.

Rumsfeld shared one key personality characteristic with Vietnam’s architect, Robert McNamara; he remains absolutely convinced that he can’t be wrong in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is.

Rumsfeld’s fascination with the 4GW theorists and his extreme technological optimism accompanied him into the Pentagon as George W. Bush’s SecDef, where he immediately began the grandiosely named Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).  The doctrinal transformation was in a clumsy phase when 19 asymmetrical fighters hijacked four commercial aircraft and turned them into poor man’s cruise missiles to strike three strategic and highly symbolic targets.

McNamara’s Heir

Born to wealth in a Chicago suburb, Rumsfeld showed ambition early as an Eagle Scout. This would be the first thing he had in common with Robert McNamara.

Other notable Eagle Scouts were Charles Joseph Whitman, who shot 45 people from the Tower at the University of Texas in 1966, and Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.  (Author’s disclaimer: Being an Eagle Scout in no way predisposes one to sociopathic behavior ... nor does it prevent it, obviously.)

Whitman can’t claim Don Rumsfeld’s body count, of course.  He was a piker compared with Rumsfeld.  But McNamara can.  The matchless McNamara managed to facilitate the slaughter of around 3 million in Southeast Asia.  There will be those who protest this comparison, and I agree in advance; there is no comparison.  Rumsfeld and McNamara were bigger killers by orders of magnitude than other Eagle Scouts and the vast majority of the world’s serial killers.

Rumsfeld put off killing anyone until he could get his degree at Princeton, where he went to Naval ROTC and first met fellow alum and future Bush dynasty Svengali Frank Carlucci.

Rumsfeld managed to tuck his military service (1954-57) as a naval aviator into a time slot after Korea and before Vietnam, though he remained in the Reserves—before they were massively called into combat (by him in 2003) while he pursued his career with the Republican Party.

With the same systematic instrumentality that earned him his Eagle Scout status by racking up the right merit badges, he worked on two congressional staffs, then did a stint as an investment banker, before running for Congress himself— eventually serving four terms as the Illinois 13th District representative.  As a committee member devoted to policy on military affairs, economics and aeronautics, his affinity for high technology, “metric” measurements, and mass destruction were further synthesized and developed.

As an intra-Republican coup-maker, he undermined Minority Leader Charles Halleck on behalf of his buddy and future presidential boss Gerald Ford.  When this kind of walk-over-bodies opportunism set limits on his own rise within the House of Representatives, Rumsfeld went to work for the Nixon administration, where he worked first to de-fund the Office of Economic Opportunity (with the help of a new executive assistant, Dick Cheney), then as a special advisor to the president.

Interestingly, Rumsfeld publicly supported Richard Nixon on the continuation of the Vietnam occupation and Nixon’s murderous bombing campaigns, but behind the scenes he was considered an administration “dove.”  Rumsfeld confided his misgivings to his congressional buddy Robert Ellsworth, who would later recount:  “[Rumsfeld] could see that we were not figuring out a strategy to win in Vietnam….  Neither could we figure out a strategy to withdraw. And it was very frustrating.”  The U.S. could not win, and it could not leave!

There is nothing quite as remarkable about Rumsfeld’s career—which would later include roles as chief executive of Searle when aspartame (NutraSweet) was under fire for its manifold health hazards, the nation’s youngest secretary of defense, ambassador to NATO, and defense contractor CEO—as the fact that he would be the nation’s next McNamara, presiding over the degradation of the military in another politico-military quagmire where the U.S. could neither win nor leave.

Appointed by George W. Bush at the behest of his neocon advisory core, Rumsfeld as secretary of defense was specifically to ensure that Secretary of State Colin Powell—who held the neocons in contempt for their military fantasies—did not use his powerful influence within the military to mobilize resistance to the Cheney-Wolfowitz agenda.  Rumsfeld, however, saw his role in much more grandiose terms than being Colin’s counterweight.  His conviction of his own genius, the transcendent power of technology to solve all problems, and his devotion to the fevered Lindian theory of strategy led him to see the armed forces of the United States as his personal tool to secure his place in history as a kind of latter-day Clausewitz.

Rumsfeld then combined his ideas in such a way that he oversaw a war that would come to be opposed by his mentor, William Lind; shatter the grand vision of the neocons in the streets of Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdad, Naja and Samara ; grind down and demoralize the armed forces to such a point that his own generals would lead a rebellion; lead to Powell’s departure as secretary of state; and secure himself a place in history alongside Robert McNamara for the same thing Rumsfeld himself had criticized about McNamara’s war.

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By Dick Balser, November 5, 2006 at 12:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

                     Who Can Lead Us To Survive?
    With the national house and senate election deadline bearing down on our society one can sense we are in a railroad tunnel with no clear plan for a safe escape. But the tragedy of war approaching like a fast locomotive from one direction may well be outpaced by the internal conflicts of greed, fraud and corruption from within our own economic, political and government structures.  Our national media reflects on its support of “liberty and justice for all”, but is saturated by its reports on fraud, immorality, and injustice within our leaderships.  Is our present society really what any other nation should copy to emulate?  Certainly, a united America has previously prevailed when the perspectives by our leaders were perhaps more clear, correct and coordinated.
      An observation so well expressed as a predictive quote by C. L. De Montesquieu in his works “The Spirit of the Laws, VIII”, in 1752, stated:
             “The deterioration of every government begins with the decay
                of the principles on which it was founded.”
Are not we likewise, in the United States of America, well on our way toward adding to that legacy?  Surely, the arrogant presumption of immunity from accountability for the adverse consequences of wrongful behavior by those among us who hold positions of economic wealth, political or judicial power, and industrial leadership operate as destructive cancers from within our own society, as also seen within other nations and societies of today, for both autocratic and the more democratic nations in the world. 
    I do not see Bush as a Republican leader favorable toward adapting his course so as to pursue a winning strategy in Iraq.  I also do not see the Democrats as yet bringing forth and sponsoring a leader with any strategy. (Both despite much earlier pleadings to members of each party to do otherwise.) 
    What I do see is a desperate need for one more Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to state:
        Amendment XXVIII -Accountability For Adverse Consequences 
Section 1. In response to petitions for a redress of any grievance wherein an individual person, a company, or public or governmental organization responsible for illegal acts or grossly inappropriate conduct results in adverse consequences of a financial or procedural nature which can be rectified, and wherein accountability is waived or denied because of applicable immunity of any nature, then a policy of respondeat superior shall apply to carry accountability upward in the organization to a just satisfaction.
Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article throughout the Executive and Judicial branches, and including all Courts of Law, by appropriate legislation which preserves functions and operations but without compromise toward ultimate accountability wherein deserved and available.
    Would anyone today expect a consistent reply if a poll should ask what the Bush strategy is to win in either Iraq or Afghanistan? For too long his spokesmen have repeated his strategy is to “stay the course”.  But that dogmatic stubbornness brings to mind the folly, yet almost suicidal image of the smartly uniformed British soldiers in 1776 who would march abreast against our own wary and hidden minutemen, who, in return, fought not unlike the enemy’s snipers and roadside bombers encountered in our current war against insurgents in Iraq. 
    The strategy I want to see would encourage even the insurgents to protect our soldiers’ lives—as in exchange for our maintaining a high rate of withdrawal if no more are killed, such as 5,000 per month (perhaps down to a minimum ten to twenty-thousand mobile strike air and ground force members to back major Iraq military or police operations).  Of course this carrot must be offset by the stick of increasing our military presence by 50 more US combatants for each death so as to work with both the carrot and the stick.
    A second serious failure of strategy in Iraq is the utter lack of coping with Iraqi treason within military and police organizations. Of course, one wants to select intelligent and inspiring fighters who are, or can become, trained to be experts with weapons during their on-duty tours.  Paying them regularly and well may help to maintain morale and loyalty.  But you still don’t want these same recruits and candidates for intelligence gathering insiders to become the traitorous informers or members of the armed militias at night.  How to select?  A man may offer his son to become a suicide bomber, and even boast about his martyrdom.  But God created women to bear the newborn and to nurture the young.  As a group women are far more to be trusted to want their children to live a good life and to develop and use what skills and abilities God may have granted them.  If three unrelated mothers of children under 16 know a certain man, and attest as to his qualities of respect of life, compassion for others, and soundness of character, then might one have reasonable confidence that he is likely to be more trustworthy toward his pledge of allegiance to his government?  And if one women endorses more than one person then doesn’t this also help to lead toward others who may act in deceit where one of a group becomes discovered?
      Our government has also pledged our support of reconstruction overseas, but then we hear how contracts are granted in the United States for giant corporations to implement required projects in Iraq and to restore or upgrade certain facilities.  Vast sums have been misdirected, lost or stolen with no accountability for whoever should have been responsible.  But what if property owners and those who registered to vote near a project site were to be given direct, but conditional access to perhaps 20% to 30% of the project’s cost, might this approach not better assure significant progress on a chosen site?  The release of these assigned funds could also be conditioned on the productivity experienced in accomplishing each project.
    Another point I wish to comment on is the most serious, because, like Iraq, I truly believe that the United States is in the beginning stages of a dreadful disease that is sure to cause our society to self-destruct from the inside out.  Political or military power, great wealth, or a position in top leadership and control in either business or government lend themselves to be abused, as motivated by a lust for more power, greed for financial enrichment, or excessive plundering of assets to which access is available.  Many cheat because they can.  And many can, because like our own Supreme Court, they hold themselves aloft with sovereign, judicial, or some other form of qualified immunity from being held accountable for the adverse consequences of misdeeds or of inappropriate behavior or actions. Where immunity is awarded to protect an individual’s job or the performance of a duty, then the superior, and ultimately the nation should stand behind the repair of adverse consequences and thus be held accountable.
    In my perspective, should it be proven that 15 of the 19 terrorists were raised and first educated in Saudi Arabia, then 15/19 of the cost of payment of death benefits and medical costs, and even the cost for reconstruction or the replacement of the twin towers, should be covered by that nation, which can then seek to recover such costs from the religious organizations responsible for teaching its young to hate and murder the innocent.
    As for our military losses in life and injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq, those nations and their productive economies should be assessed to pay death benefits as well as lifetime awards for injuries, as appropriate to that which was inflicted.
    Building a wall for illegal immigrants is in direct conflict with holding the parent states of all illegal immigrants accountable for the expense of medical and social relief programs required to cope with such transgressions.  The cure is to help Mexico to become more attractive for jobs and livability so that the immigrants want to return (then the fence would only serve to keep illegal immigrants in, not out).
    As for religion, God inspires life and gives each person a talent and a purpose with beauty and love surrounding good fellowship.  The Devil inspires greed, fraud, lust and fear and seeks to destroy and spread hate and agony.  Abuse your body or over indulge and you may destroy your lungs with cigarettes, grow obese, or suffer a stroke or heart attack and simply die. Driving when drunk (as forbidden by the Koran) helps US traffic related fatalities to exceed 43,440 deaths in just 2005 alone, far more than the 2,973 killed on 9/11 plus even our 3,141 military killed in 3 1/2 years in both Iraq and Afghanistan. (Military deaths less than 2% of traffic deaths over same 3 1/2 year interval, or stated another way, 50 innocent men, women and children die on our own highways for each military life loss due to enemy action or accident in our war against terror.)  Even with the collapse of both buildings, the total deaths in the twin towers reached but perhaps 5.3% of the full occupancies, had our firemen and police and God’s gifts not prevailed as well. Clearly then, are not the lack of integrity, responsibility and accountability within our own culture far more deadly and fatal for Americans to survive than are the acts today of the relatively few insurgents called to train in Iraq (their focus being much like the rats attracted by the pied piper, and led away from US soil)?
    I will vote for and support any candidate from any party who pledges to introduce and support the above proposed Amendment or its equivalent for the survival of the United States of America.  How best to survive and pursue liberty and justice is a first concern.  To set the moral and honest example, those in our government should not want or need immunities,  because only with integrity, responsibility and accountability therein can true justice be far better served. How can a government or a court be trusted when they are the first to claim the privilege of sovereign or judicial immunity from being accountable for the adverse consequences of their own misdeeds? Our own US Supreme Court at Washington, DC, and all judges should set better examples.
                                Respectfully Submitted,
                                Richard A. Balser,

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By MARIAM RUSSELL, October 26, 2006 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pat…The Living Planet Report
US, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and North Africa..human footprint and activities 50% larger than biocapacity.

South America, Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, Siberia, and Australia…biocapacity up to 50% larger than footprint.

I suspect there is more than meets the eye in the Paraguay land grab by the Bush Crime Family and the Moonies.

Put it all together and it looks very ugly in the future. I will not be here but I greive for what could have been.

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By Pat Ettien, October 26, 2006 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:  Mariam Russell (#‘s 33591 & 33752)  People DO die in wars.  Countries, economies, and ecosystems ARE destroyed in wars.  Your take on the “run-up” to the battle in Iraq (as part of a much longer-running and more ambitious war on the Earth herself and all who ‘sail’ in her), I’d say is beyond dispute… far as it goes.  My own comments are grounded in a sense of where we are in the course of that truly “long war,” who exactly is waging it on us, what their objectives are, and how their principal modern weapon-of-choice (the corporate entity) works.  The ‘why?’ we can figure out at our leisure, once the war is over and provided any of us are left alive to wonder.  Right now, though, it seems more than merely worthwhile to get a handle on those things in our own make-up that leave us so vulnerable to the tactics of our ‘adversaries’, even to the point of being complicit with them in the wholesale destruction of our selves, our fellow and gal creatures, and the only home we have… you so poignantly remind us. 
Given the ruthlessness of their latter-day campaigns, it seems likely our tormentors (everything we know about them we’ve had to learn the hard way) see this as the critical phase (make-or-break, if you will) in their multi-thousand-year ‘project.’  As to who they are, there’s been plenty of speculation about that for several millennia, but the common denominator is that they ain’t from around here, which is probably enough to know, anyway, when we look at the record of our own ‘alien’ invasions of the homes of our often less technically ‘advanced’ and socio-economically sophisticated brothers and sisters.  What I’m suggesting in my response to Doug Tarnopol’s very logical and popular (and, I maintain, therefore dangerously insufficient to the needs of the day) proposition is that we are seriously handicapped by our contrived over-reliance on reason, a faculty in which our wannabe conquerors and exploiters clearly excell us by at least as much (or so we like to tell ourselves) as we out-think the various kinds of livestock over whom we so slap-happily ‘lord it.’  I’ll even go so far as to say we appear to’ve been tricked into grotesquely overdeveloping our reason (to the grave neglect of our several other inherent response-abilities) precisely because reason, as such, is no threat at all to either the war aims or the safety of the aggressors.  In much the same way, and to the same ends, Americans and others are misled (by people who will never be caught dead in the crosshairs) to cling adamantly and desperately to their personal firearms.  That all the foregoing seems quite beside the point to you, in the face of the shocking and awful bloodbaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and others in the PNAC program even now scheduled to erupt, is perfectly understandable…..even laudable, given the intensity of your focus on the bombs and bullets being unleashed today and obviously already in the ‘pipeline’ for tomorrow.  Do everything you can, by all means, to try and shut that down.  What I see, though, is a kind of giant trainwreck, having such mass and momentum that only the laws of nature operate on a scale large enough to bring it to its inevitable end…...probably a not very pretty one.  My focus is on bringing back into play those human attributes that might get at least a few of us through this global disaster alive, and well enough to respond, to conditions in the aftermath, in ways that are beneficially effective for the Earth and whoever among our relatives make it through,  too.  Lately we’ve been seeing assertions, mostly in the ‘alternative’ media, that the grand scheme calls for eliminating at least 80% of the human population in the near future (and 100% of species who don’t ‘lend’ themselves to commercial exploitation).  My guess is the extermination regime, once it is fully activated, will go well beyond even those pessimistic projections.  The only remedial ‘prescription’ that I know of, the real good medicine for what ails us Two-leggeds, is to recover and live conscientiously within the natural integrity of our given organic form and function.  English-speakers’ closest word for that form is “community.”  (People best not be fooled, again, by concerted efforts to devalue and degrade it by applying it carelessly to any and every random collection of “individuals” that comes down the pike.)  In the Lakota language there is a word, ‘tiyoshpaye.’  It means the particular arrangement of human society that in size and talent and wisdom can best engage sustainably with its habitat to the optimum health of all concerned.  Nothing more, nor less, than that will give us even a Ghostdancers’ chance of living to tell our great-grandchildren the story of the war on our world…...the story we better start remembering and telling each other right now.  Meantime, Mariam, don’t let fear (and those who would rule by it) distort and debase your native human decency.  Believe me, we’re just naturally much better than that…..when we give ourselves and each other half a chance.

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By MARIAM RUSSELL, October 26, 2006 at 7:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pat and Doug, you are correct. Sorry.
I am permanantly pissed since I learned about 15 years ago that the country I was raised in never existed, and that most of what I was taught was based on either lies or false assumptions. But I should not take it out on you.
I had always called Rumsfeld a little sawed off piece of s__t, but I did not know the half of usual. Stan is, not only a good writer, but seems to be an honest man. He also has courage, a commodity sorely missing in this world.
So, Thanks, Stan. I have ordered your Full Spectrum Disorder, and put everything else you have published on my C wish list.

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By MARIAM RUSSELL, October 25, 2006 at 6:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

War kills people.
War destroys countries and economies.
Iraq is part of a plan formulated 60 years ago and renewed by the present gang of criminals with the PNAC.
Our tax money is being used to kill, rape, and maim all over the globe as our military acts as policeman to make it possible for Exxon, Texaco, and all the other giant corporations to loot every country in the world, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere as they are the poorest, weakest, and some of the richest in resources.
It is not difficult. It does not require great desertations on philosophy or religion. It is only….do we want the bullets and bombs to have our names on them? Do we want to continue to support a bunch of corporations who are fast destroying the world we live on.
I do not know of a replacement. Do You?

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By Pat Ettien, October 25, 2006 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:  #33091 by Doug Tarnopol     First, apologies for mis-typing your last name.  Can agree that the “scientific method” is one way to possibly codify knowledge…...of what works in human affairs, or anything else susceptible to its application.  Whether that process is necessarily hard, imperfect, or endless seems at the moment to be beyond the limits of the process itself to determine conclusively, being essentially subjective…..but, I hasten to add, no less real on account of that.  Difficulties don’t arise for us simply because we can “think.”  They arise because the inherent (and necessary) limits of thinking’s efficacy have been of too often too easily overlooked, until we’ve managed now to think our way into quite a lot of trouble that by its very non-rational nature we are finding it so far impossible to think our way out of.  The ‘situation’ in Irag (into which we’ve so simple-mindedly thought, bought, and shot ourselves) is a possibly perfect example.  In the either-or world inhabited by rationalists, we pays our money and we takes are chances.  In the much larger organic arrangement in which we live and breathe, we’re given our chances and we pay attention, responding (hopefully) with as much integrity as we can muster.  It appears to me self-evident that the range of responses available to us as human beings is orders-of-magnitude greater than reason and intuition put together.  As to revelation, isn’t that a whole ‘nother can of worms altogether?  But I guess we don’t construct our various worldviews with the “tools” we might wish we had.  We use the ones we’ve got.  A lifetime’s observation and experience have given me to see we’re really a whole lot better equipped than reason alone might lead us to believe.  I know for sure I’m not alone in this apprehension, and I expect to have more and more company all the time, as the probably lethal consequences of relying too heavily for too long on that one much too self-referential faculty become more obvious and inescapable.  I don’t know why Mariam Russell (#33124) seems to think only show-offs don’t use netspeak.  I’ll concede my own more “wordy” cultural heritage may be as “quaint and outmoded” in these fast times as…....well, the Geneva conventions, maybe.  Thanks, Doug for your thoughtful response.  Pat

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By MARIAM RUSSELL, October 25, 2006 at 9:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

re; 33232…...

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By Richard Conboy, October 24, 2006 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I,m looking for some statistics.  Like, how many wars have been won by “winning hearts & minds” versus how many wars have been won by killing people, mainly civilians?

If you are not willing to wage war you shouldn’t be in one, and you certainly shouldn’t start one.

Did we win WWII because we killed all their soldiers, or because we carpet-bombed civilians?

On a different note, I notice one other thing that distinguishes Vietnam & Iraq from WWII:  In the bad old days, when we won wars, there was this obsolete theory that when you took territory you kept it!  Of course, you had to have enough soldiers to do it.  After landing on Normandy we didn’t jump back on the boats and head back to England, and we didn’t leave Germans to live and fight another day because they were using a church as a fortification.

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By B, October 24, 2006 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Iraq is a vessel.

It is a vessel to move HUGE sums of taxpayer’s money out of the treasury and into their family/friends/corporations.

It obviously hasn’t helped our oil prices or supply.

It hasn’t stopped terrorism.

It hasn’t ended a bloody regime (if anything it has created more lil regimes).

It hasn’t found WMD.

It HAS enriched arms suppliers, contractors, and specifically Halliburton.


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By Doug Tarnopol, October 24, 2006 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


You = rude.

Pithy enough for ya?

Best, Doug

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By MARIAM RUSSELL, October 24, 2006 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

John, I expect that the world could wag right along without another Marshall plan. You might study the aims…real…and results.

Doug and Pat, please study comment 30059. It is possible to say what you mean without the verbal diarrhea. While it may show off some knowledge, is not necessary.

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By Doug Tarnopol, October 24, 2006 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: #30162

Dear Pat:

How did you come to your conclusion (i.e., your comment #30162)? You either thought it through, with your ration of rationality, or you “intuited” it—some fuzzy combination of cultural and/or biological inheritance, or it was revealed to you.

Which was it, and given your answer, do you maybe think that the hard, imperfect, unending, but not endlessly circular task of testing one’s beliefs against evidence, airing those tentative conclusions in public, reassessing, judging opposing interpretations, and so on, is not the way to establish reliable knowledge in human affairs?

Thanks, Doug

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By TinkerBell, October 24, 2006 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The problem?

It’s the state.  We Rothbardians (after Murray Rothbard) know it, but as a minute minority, we can only find scant satisfaction in “We told you so”.  The good news is that 4GW is showing up the state’s feet of clay.

Excellent article, Stan

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By Marc Swanson, October 24, 2006 at 7:03 am Link to this comment
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Japan’s unconditional surrender following the destuction of two of her cities by atomic bombs may be the only example in recent history where the use of “shock and awe” could be viewed as an unquestionably effective military or geopolitical tactic when used against a determined enemy. Fortunately for the American military and war weary public at that time, the mainland wasn’t defended by dozens of semi-independent militias, but by the obedient imperial army of a culturally unique nation state. Some consider it remarkable that Japan’s still large and formidable military surrendered its arms peacefully with very few documented cases of defiance as well as few instances of organized resistance to government under MacArthur’s oversight in the months in years that followed. Although America’s use of atomic weapons was certainly a major factor leading to victory one shouldn’t overlook the fact that many her other cities had already been reduced to the same state of rubble and ash by conventional bombs. Much of the population was also suffering from a shortage of food and fuel resulting from our virtual control of all shipping lanes. In short, even though that historical event was probably a military anomoly “shock and awe” remains the cornerstone of the doctrine of fourth generation warfare - long after the world has evolved into something altogether different.
  After the war in the Pacific ended in 1945 American forces in the Phillipines chose the pragamatic option of employing some of the former Japanese military as police during the critical political power vacuum period leading to the reestablishment of something approaching effective self-government. It was assumed that the former oppressors would have the knowledge and skills needed to do the job if kept under American supervision. The program apparently worked. When Saddam’s entire army was fired and sent home the result was predictable - wholesale looting. It was at that point in time that the war may have been lost. One way not to “capture the hearts and minds” of those with businesses, homes, and other major investments is to first eliminate the police and then look the other way as their property is pillaged.

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By Jo, October 24, 2006 at 4:56 am Link to this comment
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According to Neo-cons Bible “Clean break” by Perle, the Yinon papers and other Zionist&Israeli; policy goals, the plan for Iraq (as for the other Israeli neighbours) was to be chopped up in smaller parts, alongside ethnic lines, in order to form small, subserveniant states.
So if American forces were to be 500.000 soldiers as Gen. Shinseki correctly wanted they could in fact hold order and Iraq whole.
But that was not what the Zionists/Neocons wanted and because of that Rumsfeld allowed only 150.000 troups, just enough to capture Baghdad and by being unable to hold peace to allow formenting of unrest, which would lead to civil war, which would lead to partition of the country.
It looks as a Zionist & Neocon doctrine not a Rumsfeld one.
From the Neocons point of view they actually achieved what they wanted, smashed the Iraqi infrastructure, decimated the intelligensia, formented civil war and the partition is almost accomplished. The oil is flowing from the Kurdish part to Israel allready.
Why is now a sudden cry for the end and a withdraw of US soldiers, next to the ellection and debacle of the whole Iraq lie?
Does it have any connection to the possible attack on Iran, which is the next Neocons target and the possibility that the US forces might be entrapped in Iraq?

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By Michael Sandifer, October 23, 2006 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment
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This was thought-provoking.  We need more thoughtful and candid opinions like this expressed.

I never believed there were WMDs in Iraq, because if one applied the scientific method to the evidence cited by the administration in support of such a belief, one could not reach a conclusion.  I had no idea if Iraq had WMD, and nor did most outside of the Iraqi regime. 

Even if Saddam had WMDs, I never would have supported military action, because I’m pacifist and the terrorist threat is overblown anyway.  That is to say that the threat to those outside of New York, DC, and other major metropolitan areas is miniscule and the risk to the major cities can be mitigated through changes in foreign policy and a criminal justice approach to terrorism.

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By MARIAM RUSSELL, October 23, 2006 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment
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Stan, I am speechless! How did we degenerate to this point? How in the world do we find a way back, if this man represents a third of the people in the United States, we are beyond any redemption.

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By Jake, 82D Para, October 23, 2006 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment
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Thank’s Stan, for your Service, your Son’s.
I just finished reading,1776, by McCulloch, I would have volunteered,also. This country,world has evolved, yet greed and corruption at the highest level’s of gov.and business,law stays the same.
  I remember the talk of mushroom cloud’s over our cities ,if we delayed in getting Saddam and his boy’s. Hell, we’ve had no-fly zones, satelites(sp), what was the rush?
I spent 2yr’s in the region ,on various mission’s, what were they thinking, commiting us to war in Iraq? I was there when we were escorting the Kuwaiti oil ship’s in late 80’s, then Gulf war 1.
  Democracy? What the hell are they thinking?
I’ve been there,ate the sand storm’s,baked in the heat,had the freakin landmine’s to manuever ,ambush’s to get thru.
  If these people can’t be given safety, how can job’s be done, schools ,hospital’s built.
  Yes, our mission is being disrupted,who’s supporting and arming them? Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’ve met before,ya think? Yet,we’re there. Our leader’s blew it, our fighter’s are in a no win situation.  Their religious leader’s are calling the shot’s,along with the group’s that are loyal to hussain,,and the green zone bunch are not in control, no shit!
  And the Iraq police are corrupt, any wonder the people are leaving in drove’s. We have unwittingly set up the environment for total chaos.
  I pray our military leader’s in Iraq, come up a better solution than what’s been tried thus far. I’m glad the retired General’s , stepped forward, understand their reluctance while in Command. Wake Up America!  Let’s have a million man march, Veteran’s for the Truth! For what’s left of it, for our own sanity.
  I’m not cut and run, but stand back and regroup, do F—kin anyting, but what we’re doing. It’s not working!!!
  I’m glad I found ya site Stan Goff, you’ve gave us alot to chew on, alot of info, I’m passing this site on to my Nam Vet, Brother, his buddies and mine.
Be inspired, read “1776” by D. McCullough , we have struggled as a country, overcome many obstacle’s. We have many problem’s,yet we are still industrious,kindly people.
  I’m proud to say I live in Maine, we will endure, but let’s work together ,for a solution.
Voting, for now is the first step. Let’s try to get a handle on our own Democracy!!

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By martha, October 23, 2006 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
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WOW. thank you

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By felicity, October 22, 2006 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment
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During the Reagan administration Rummy and his criminal cohort, Mr. Cheney, put together an elaborate (taking hours to implement) scheme to run the country from a bunker in the event of a nuclear attack by Russia which resulted in the deaths of the president and vice.

Hours is the key word.  Apparently the dynamic duo were unaware that from notice of launch to drop somewhere in the US, twenty minutes was the operational time frame.

They’d been cooking the scheme for awhile and had run it by other presidents who dismissed them as nut cases, but Mr. Reagan bought it.

The fact that their latest scheme, conquering the Middle East, is a bust should come as no surprise. The fact that they still have government jobs is inexplicable.

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By Abu Omar, October 21, 2006 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment
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Rumsfeld is a zionist dog.

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By Pat Ettien, October 20, 2006 at 11:25 am Link to this comment
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Doug Tarnower                                         Rational is to sentient as medical attention is to healthcare.  Both the former are mere facets of the latter that, in these days and times, have been blown up all out of proportion to their actual ‘worth’, and so have been instrumental in the development of numerous similarly grotesque distortions in those socio-economic arrangements where such “thinking” dominates.  2+2=4 is a sometimes useful convention that even mathmeticians recognize doesn’t hold in all cases.  “The Golden Rule” is intuitive, not rational.  Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you, is the rational formulation, and the one currently governing the actions of much of the human population of the planet.  Your suggestion that the cure for all the ills visited upon us by the application of ‘roided-up rationality is more and more and more of the same strikes me as essentially no different than the argument that more people must die in Iraq so that those who’ve already perished there won’t have done so “in vain.”  It’s perfectly rational, but totally insane.

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By John Konop, October 20, 2006 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
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You see no risk in just pulling out?

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By Stan, October 20, 2006 at 9:47 am Link to this comment
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“What is your solution?”

Answer:  Leave.  It’s the solution that the majority of Iraqis support, too… if that matters.

Next question = How?

Next answer = Ships and airplanes.

Next question = When?

Next answer = Now.

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By Doug Tarnopol, October 20, 2006 at 8:18 am Link to this comment
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Having read Stan’s comment, I think I initially misunderstood the “death of the Enlightenment” section of this otherwise excellent piece.

The link to Structure+Strangeness’ piece that heavily quotes Carl Sagan is a much need cry *for* science and the maximization of rationality, as was Sagan’s last book. Sagan was very left-wing, as I’m sure you know.

So, let’s get rid of a few straw men here. 1. The “Enlightenment” as a historical reality was a lot more complex than simple scientism, rationalism (read Hume), and apologia for colonialism. 2. “Enlightenment” nowadays includes many of the much-needed correctives to that complex set of ideas, owed to the Romantic movement, modernism, Freud’s work, etc. A certian sense of irreducible complexity; dynamic, diachronic change; the reality of irrationality; and many other things have been incorporated into what is probably best referred to as epistemological realism.

I am all-too-familiar with the Adorno, et al, thesis that Enlightenment-led-to-Auschwitz. Other arguments exist that say just the opposite: Romanticism led to Auschwitz. Both are simplistic, and, typically, hand-wave their way past socio-economic factors probably far more important in the rise of totalitarianism than a few books read by a few intellectuals, important though the social actions of those intellectuals may have been.

My point is that all kinds of philosophies, well-meaning or not, can lead to awful outcomes. There were and are right- and left-versions of all kinds of philosophies and ideologies.

What is critical, however, is exactly what you point out in your essay: those who set out to distort the truth are different in kind from those who seek out the truth. Otherwise, why worry about perception managment? If there is a truth out there, and one discoverable by human reason, well, you may not like the label, but that is the core of Enlightenment thinking: “Dare to know!” The very fact that you write presupposes that you can break through the bullshit and communicate the truth you’ve found to others. That presupposes that at least some people have enough rationality in their undoubtedly mixed minds (ie, rational and irrational) to *learn.*

I think the postmodern (or whatever you’d like to call it—the anti-“Enlightenment”) packaging is not only unnecessary but also self-refuting, if you think that rational knowledge about the real world is attainable and communicable. Which you obviously do.

I don’t see how, say, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft were particularly sexist. Or Diderot (see _D’Alembert’s Dream_). Nor should we be surprised if the lives of people like Thomas Jefferson or even John Stuart Mill didn’t live up to their philosophies. That universal human weakness is in no way a refutation of their descriptive or proscriptive ideas. If the bar is set that high, no one can hurdle it.

Without a society that is dedicated to the maximization of human rationality, human equality of opportunity, liberty, and justice—and aware of the irreducible complexity of the interaction of and friction between those goals (a Romantic notion)—all that is left is irrationality, power, perception management, and the horror that Orwell so brilliantly warned against: 2 + 2 = 5.

To invert a quote from _Nineteen Eighty-Four_, if that is granted, totalitarianism inevitably follows.

I understand the urge to use irrational/arational/postmodern/whathaveyou “weapons” to denature (pun intended) some of the worse aspects of liberal culture. We’ve outgrown much of the baggage of the Enlightenment (racism—surely not a product solely of Voltaire alone!; sexism of most of the thinkers—ditto!; colonialism—ditto!). Well, some of us have. But practitioners of those inhuman (or all-too-human) activities do so for reasons of power, not philosophy, no matter how they dress up their piggish actions.

The only weapon any powerless, or less powerful, person or group has against raw, naked power is reason. 2 + 2 = 4, no matter what; the “Golden Rule” or principle of universality is a good-enough basis from which to build a society, though it has radical implications. And people have the capacity to self-govern, using their ration of rationality. They also have the capacity to subordinate themselves to totalitarianism. Which angels of our nature will prevail—possibly for deterministic, possibly for contingent reasons—is an open question.

I am for maximizing rationality, whether one calls that “Enlightened” or not. Science, and realistic thought, while fraught with human frailties, collectively self-corrects. Whether that’s enough, I don’t know, but I see no other possibility.

Yes, science gave us nuclear weapons. Or, rather, it gave us the power to create them. The same brains may finally realize they need to be destroyed. That’s a rational conclusion. Same with global warming—people need to be rationally convinced of its reality, and a big part of that would be an article analogous to yours on the PR bullshit shoveled by oil-company-supported flacks. Again, a call to one’s reason, a destruction of an illusion.

Anyway, other than this philosophical quibble, I greatly enjoyed your article.

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By Doug Tarnopol, October 20, 2006 at 7:39 am Link to this comment
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Absolutely brilliant and wide-ranging analysis. Of all the hundreds of articles I’ve read on this war, this is the best.

Keep writing!

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By John Konop, October 20, 2006 at 6:29 am Link to this comment
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What is your solution?

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By Stan, October 20, 2006 at 5:51 am Link to this comment
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John Konop writes: “Some Truths”

Stan:  Men (and I mean that in the gendered sense)
are constantly staking out a point of view and calling it The Truth, or some Truths.  It’s a kind of male absolutism that asserts male authority.  In the past (and even now in the more revanchist cricles), that authority was backed by God HIM-self; after the Enlightenment (a pretty conceited claim on its own), that Authority was backed by as new diety, Objectivity… which is twinned in the whole Enlightenment episteme with power and control.

Your synopsis of what is going on in the Iraq war simply parrots the simplistic imperial account given in, say, the NYT or WSJ.  No account for Iraq’s history, class divisions, geography,  anthrolopogy… in other words, complexity.

I see no account here of the relations between forces, Muqtada al Sadr, for one, possibly the most influential leader in Iraq right now, and the Da’awa, the SCIRI, the array of nationalist fighting units, the actual locations of refineries and pipelines (it matters, big time, tho it doesn’t fit into a neat package like Truth)... and the Kurds ARE involved up to their ears in the sectarian violence right this minute, as members of the US-controlled “Iraqi” forces used to police Sunni areas.  No mention of the fact that there is a substantial rate of intermarriage between groups, and that Iraq is a society of very competent people that can figure this stuff out without the tutelage of the Great White Fathers.

Same for your references to Hamas and Hezbollah, as “groups that terrorize or kill civilians.”  The group that is terrorizing civilians that we need to be most interested in, given that “we” are in the US, is the US armed forces and its mercenary appendices.

And your characterization of Iran as somehow inherently destabilizing—as opposed to say, Israel—is as predictable as it is inaccurate.

I was in Vietnam as a 19-year-old PFC with an M-60 machinegun five years before the embassy decamped in the face of Giap’s forces and the US military was pushing its own helicopters over the sides of ships to get out. I heard all these same masculine claims to Truth then… even made them myself.

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By Virginia Fitzpatrick, October 19, 2006 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment
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The story of Judith in the Catholic Apocrypha is a
graphic “old testament” to the “falacy of metrics”. 
General Holofernes certainly had the metrics on his side, but he lost to Ruth, who had empathy and faith.

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By John Konop, October 19, 2006 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment
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A Conservative Plan for Iraq

Anyone who questions the lack of a realistic and comprehensive Iraq strategy is labeled a friend of fascism by the Republican leadership. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) recently said, “I wonder if [Democrats] are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people.” Republicans are paralyzed with the fear of being thought ineffective on national security and the war.

Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership cannot seem to accept that—regardless of how we got there—we are in Iraq. They have not made a convincing case that an arbitrary phased or date-certain troop withdrawal is in the best long-term interest of the United States. Rather, they seem to think that withdrawal will undo the decision to have gone to war. Rubbing President Bush’s nose in Iraq’s difficulties is also a priority.

This political food fight is stifling the desperately needed public discussion about a meaningful resolution to the fire fight. Most Americans know Iraq is going badly. And they know the best path lies somewhere between “stay the course” and “get out now”.

Some Truths

1) Iraq is having a civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites. The Kurds will certainly join, if attacked. It may not look like a civil war, because they don’t have tanks, helicopters, and infantry; but they are fighting with what they have.

2) Vast oil revenues are a significant factor behind the fighting. Yes, there are religious and cultural differences—but concerns about how the oil revenue will be split among the three groups make the problem worse.

3) Most Iraqis support partitioning Iraq into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish regions. (Their current arrangement resulted from a pen stroke during the British occupation, not some organic alignment.)

4) Most citizens of the Middle East who support groups that kill and terrorize civilians—such as Hezbollah, Hamas, or al Qaeda—in part because of their aggressive stance against Israel and the United States, but also because they provide much needed social services, such as building schools.

5) Both Republican and Democratic administrations have spent decades doing business with the tyrants who run the Middle East in exchange for oil and cheap labor. This has been the one of the rallying calls of Bin Laden and Hezbollah—that we support tyrants who abuse people for profits. In fact, our latest trade deals with Oman and Jordan actually promote child and slave labor; it’s so bad the State Department had to issue warnings about rampant child trafficking in those countries.

6) Iran is using the instability in Iraq to enhance its political stature in the region. Leaving Iraq without a government that can stand up to Iran would be very destabilizing to the region and the world.

From the U.S. perspective, this is all mostly about energy. As things stand, a serious oil supply disruption would devastate our economy, threaten our security, and jeopardize our ability to provide for our children.

New Directions

Success in Iraq and the Middle East in general requires us to work in three areas simultaneously: (1) fostering a more stable Middle East region, including Iraq, (2) pursuing alternative sources of oil, and (3) developing alternatives to oil. To these ends we must:

1) Insure that the oil revenues are fairly and transparently split among all three groups: Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds based on population.

2) Allow each group to have a much stronger role in self government by creating three virtually-autonomous regions. Forcing a united Iraq down their throats is not working. Our military would then be there in support a solution that people want, rather than one they are resisting.

3) Become a genuine force for positive change, thus denying extremist groups much of their leverage. Driving a fair two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian problem should be our first priority. We should also engage in projects that both help the average Middle Easterner and Americans, such as supporting schools that are an alternative to the ones that teach hate and recruit terrorists. We should also stop participating in trade deals that promote child and slave labor by insisting on deals that include livable wages and basic labor rights.

4) Declare a Marshal Plan to end our Middle Eastern energy dependency with a compromise between exploring for new sources, reducing consumption, and developing of alternative energies. For example, we should re-establish normal relations with Cuba so we can beat China to Cuba’s off-shore oil. We should also redirect existing tax breaks for Big Oil into loan guarantees for alternative energy companies.

Once we no longer need so much oil from the Middle East, we can begin winning over its people by using our oil purchases to reward positive and peaceful behavior from their leaders. This would ultimately reduce tensions and encourage prosperity in the region.

We will have to live with the threat of Islamic radical terrorism forever; but these solutions are a start to reducing the threat. Both parties have to put politics aside and put together an honest and reasonable plan that the American understand.

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By Pat Ettien, October 19, 2006 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment
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Given the probably still-unplumbed capacity for ruthlessness among these latter day gangbangers, isn’t it just about as likely that voting-in the Democrats will greatly accelerate the programmed imposition of total control?  Just asking because, after all, there’s ample time between election day and January 2, 2007 to pull-off any number of terror tactics leading to the declaration of marshall law.  That’s especially true when you realize the huge ‘fund’ of clandestine resources available to those gripping the levers of state and corporate power, and the possibly dire consequences to themselves and their interests should they fail to maintain that position.  ‘Gradualism’ may well be an option that is of-the-table now for all of us.

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By Diogenese40, October 19, 2006 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
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Excellent article.  But I do disagree with one thing.  The “war” in Iraq IS winnable, although it will take a lot of will power, sacrifice, and determination on our part.  The only way that we can “win” in Iraq is to help the Iraqi people help themselves.  We must remove U.S. corporations, and corruption, from Iraq and use our military resources to help the Iraqi people to rebuild their own country.  It is an obscentity that U.S. corporations are stealing record profits from the U.S. Treasury in this endeavor, and a further obscenity that the average Iraqi is still jobless, hungry, and in fear for their life.  The money that has been going to Halliburton et al. must go to the Iraqi people - establish Iraqi owned companies that will rebuild Iraq.  Companies that can make and pour concrete, that can make and install power distribution lines, that can make and lay water and sewage lines.  Will this be easy for them or for the U.S.?  No, it will not be easy; the U.S. military will need to be redeployed in such a way as to protect these projects to ensure that Iraqis are willing to work on them and that the projects are successful - the U.S. military presence in Iraqi must be something other than a boot on the Iraqi peoples’ neck.  But the rewards are Iraqis with food, water, electricity, and jobs.  Iraqi companies that can build infrastucture.  The two main benefits to this plan are an employed, proud Iraqi population and a thriving Iraqi economy.  Long term goals, to be sure, but employed, proud people living in a thriving economic environment is what the U.S. owes the Iraqi people.

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By Michael Ritter, October 19, 2006 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
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Again, I appreciate your neo-revolutionary thoughts and sacrifices. But on your subject matter, like everyone else, you offer little for change or comfort—because there is none.

History reveals the ingredients for profound, society-altering change: human suffering in the form of imminent death, hunger, thirst or other severe deprivation. Nothing else works.

Therefore, since few Americans truly suffer, even those on welfare, the status quo, sadly, will endure.

Your, my and others’ frustration is that America fails its written ideals. We want 10 out of 10 possible points. Now we’re getting, on a historical and globally-comparative scale, only a 5 or 6. As a realist, I imagine if we can get to an 8 we’ll have to be satisfied.

So Rowdy and Ion, don’t despair; simply be realistic. There is no 10 point society anywhere. There may be a 9 in part of Scandinavia, but forget the 10. America at an 8 works for most, and we may do better if the suffering agenda returns, as in the Great Depression and VietNam War eras.

But I’m not sure who would welcome the return of those times!

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By Mite, October 19, 2006 at 9:20 am Link to this comment
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As long as our citizens continue to fight the Rich Mans Wars, the Rich Man (Congress) will always control our lives, our minds, and our currency.
There is a war against all of us and it has everything to do with Control. Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars

If we are keep focused on the War, Flag Burning, Abortion, Foley (Congress); we do not look at the Big Picture (Slavery).Yes slavery these Elite want to enslave and Kill us.
Keep focusing on what they feed us in the Media and we will not notice the laws passed to supvert our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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By Stan, October 19, 2006 at 3:29 am Link to this comment
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That question, What is to be done?  Been around for some time.  But I note (repeatedly) that the solution is always sought inside the establishment frame… like this is our sandbox, and we dare not get out.

Giap, who was the architect of the US defeat in Vietnam, once said that the key to long term succes is to be prepared to alter the form of one’s struggle to fit the situaton (paraphrasing here).  Of course, this suggests that we have to have some kind of handle on the situation.  If we read that situation using the language (and therefore assumptions) of the dominant culture, where the dominant class/gender/nation produces those assumptions to naturalize its power, then we are unlikely to midwife any new results.

We keep hearing about elections, and leaders, and the media, and woe-is-me, they-got-a-lock-on-us.  Well, of course they do.  And of course they will do everything they can, up to and including violence (when they can get away with it) to preserve that power.  And not only because of greed, hubris, etc. (these are symptoms, not the disease), but because the rulers are themselves captive of the system they preside over.

So they are powerful.  So they are ruthless.  So were the Wehrmacht and the Imperial Japanese, but that didn’t stop the Yugoslav Partisans or the French Resistance or the Chinese, outgunned as they were.

Elections are one tiny piece of the bigger picture of power.  Let’s all go to the polls in a couple of weeks and vote a straight Democratic ticket as a temporary self-defense measure.  That—from my house—takes about half an hour.  But don’t do it with the expectation that this is somehow out-of-the-box, that elections will solve our fundamental problems.  This entire system of government was designed not by the super-enlightened, but by whitemale, slave-owning, international merchants who wanted their political power to match their economic power.  Read the Federalist Papers.  They are all about stability in the face of pressure from rabble like us.  We get what we can, tactically, out of this venue (elections), then do all the other stuff—really out of the box—that needs to get done.

Okay, I voted.  Okay, it didn’t change the world.  But it might shake a few things up and keep that dominant class off balance for a bit (delegitimate!), while we do other things.  Half an hour.  Now spend a half hour each day figuring out how to get off the grid,  starting with becoming debt-free.

Power is not ultimately exercised through violence and fear, except at a very superficial level.  People have shown again and again that, when pressed, they will face death if necessary for what they perceive to be a good reason.  Power is based on dependency.

We can rant til the cows come home about the gangsters that seem to rule us with so little effort, and even go to a demonstration or two (and this is not unimportant).  But when we have to depend on THIS system for (1) money, (2) food, (3) water, (4) energy, (5) sanitation and health, (6) education, (7) etc., the degree of OUR dependence defines exactly the degree of THEIR power.

Every step we take, individually or collectively, to break these dependencies, is likewise the degree to which we undermine their power.  And if we want instant-gratification… full resolution in a short time… then we need to go ahead and ride the great wave of inertia into the dystopian future; because that is the mentality of a metropolitan adolescent or a diletente.  No patience.  On the other hand, when we seek to break our dependence and the dependency of others, when we begin to regard ourselves as real historical agents, when we see revolution as a vocation, not merely an avocation, when we accept that we can be agents without controlling the tempo and character of history, that we an act without knowing in advance exactly how those actions will affect the Great Totality, and really understand that power is ephemeral, that these people are only as invincible as we let them be… well, then we may have something.

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By L.Pitt, October 18, 2006 at 11:41 pm Link to this comment
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I am so glad that someone has the to ID Sen. McCain is no war hero. He Participated in one of the worst genocides committed by the US,since the “American Indians”.
More than 2,million were killed in an effort to reinforce French Colonialism.
I remember once viewing McCain meeting some Vietnamise commission celebrating the renual of relations he chosen t0o act like an ASS not wanting to shake hands. This because he suffered abuses at the hands of his capturers. It seems that he forgot that a mere ten minutes earlier he was dropping NAPALM on peasants.

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By Ion C. Laskaris, October 18, 2006 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment
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Stan Goff - “Reflecting on Rumsfeld” - Oct. 17,06 hits the target dead-center. And as he must well know such body bags flew in weekly from Saigon to the corpse processing center in North Carolina 32 to 42 years ago…on and on.

What he may not know is that some of these corpses had their bellies restitched with 10 or more pounds of heroin put inside them by the medics for delivery to their counterpart ghouls in the good old USA for sale with minimum risk in our national market. And who knew? Very few!

Meanwhile our grandmoms and moms with grandpas and dads welcomed the inflated reports on the evening news delivered by our sewerrat major media about the body counts of “the Gooks” as they slurped in their instant TV dinners. Hence “the daily drip,drip,drip of horror” did not start with this 2nd obscene Iraq butchery.

And, by the way, this Yellow Ribbon red-neck shit strutting all over our country like the Swift Water moral trash, has long been encouraged by the cellulose Hollywood stars of yesteryear like John Wayne, Bob Hope, and fake air force general, Jimmy Stewart, with their Big Hollywood Studio movie moguls behind them raking in their fat     pseudo-patriotic profits for the war’s duration.
There is still little feeling from our zombie good Americans for the one million plus civilian men, women and children in Vietnam slaughtered with the couragious support of our safe Democrat + Republican political shit ruling in Washington.
As for our own 58 thousand dead back there + 600
thousand wounded, and maybe a million or more   scarred with shame, rage and horror - behind the degenerate, red-neck strutting and the political whores like John McCain rhapsodizing, most adult Americans take their selfish attitude: “down among the dead men let them lie!”

Having voted for the worst political vermin they could find, or vain clown acts from 1952 onward, for president, and Congress, these Americans need to stop looking in their bedtime mirrors, asking “Mirror!Mirror! Am I not the fairest one of all?” I speak specifically about the KKK,(our Korporate Kapitalist Krooks, their super business school ass-lickers grovelling to get rich, and the protestant fundamentalist primitives + the
Catholic Church betrayers of our secular tradition, all of whom are reactionary blood suckers in the Dracula tradition. These forces have never been conservative…merely evil for our nation and the human race forever.

Ultimately it is this brainwashed,docile, scared, submissive, stupidly indifferent, greedy, selfish citizenry which is morally responsible for our decadence. We have lost our first secular Republic forever. And our Fascist/Republican scum, with their Democratic call-girls in tow, are leading us down to our very own Gotterdammerung dead ahead.
Ion C. Laskaris, Burlington,Vt. +

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By Rowdy!, October 18, 2006 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment
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I’ve only read about half of this article, but have had an on-going debate with a friend about the current situation we, the American people, find ourselves in these days, so, if our government is riddled with the likes of Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Scalia, and others, how can ANYONE, left, right or centrist ever hope to not only undo all that is wrong, but to then set right the path towards a true and fair democracy in this country?

I try very hard not to be a defeatist and a “gloom and doom” kind of guy, but it seems to me that ALL the leaders (and the media they own) are so hell-bent to deceive the populace what chance do we have?  They own the networks, the banks, the companies that make the voting machines, they own everything.  Why don’t they just go ahead and take that final step and declare a monarchy, or whatever title they want to call it, and state clearly and plainly that, we, my fine fellow citizens ...are cooked.  We’re done.  We can’t get rid of all the crooks and liars in government… there wouldn’t be anyone left!  I believe a few rare souls have the right idea (Feingold, Boxer, Kucinich, Dean) but they will never ‘be allowed’ to play the big game… they’re not ruthless enough to win against the Bushes and Clintons (yeah, they are as much to blame as any, they knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it.)

So, what do we do now?  Vote?  Oh yeah, that’ll help.  Write our representative… ha!  That’s a joke.  There is nothing to do, but look out for our own ASS.  It’s sad, but I’ve begun to think everyone should begin assembling their own bunker supplies, because in the event… no one will be there to help you… especially if you’re not white and male.

Good night and good luck!
...(not so) Rowdy!

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By Mobert Rauch, October 18, 2006 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment
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Gardiner’s cited Truth from These Podia piece is excellently done, proof again that the devil is always in the detail. However, the link is something else, proving again that the devil is always in the detail, but proving it in the negative. The link returns the first 10 pages, mostly introductory, of a six document set. A Google search returns mostly the same. To actually read Truth from These Podia we need to go here,, which is the source of the 10 page intro, and read individually the six .pdf documents.

This goes directly to Credibility, as it leaves the impression that neither the author nor any of the commenters has actually read Truth from These Podia. Detail is hard work, that’s why it’s the devil. So is Credibility.

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By LEE Driver, October 18, 2006 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment
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That’s a very fine article. By a respectable man who has a better view than most. Took a lot of work. The yellow (cake?) magnet calls to mind another magnet like in a navigational compass. Which calls to mind the term “moral compass,” which for whatever cultural, anthropological or epistimological reasons, has been demagnitized. This article will be snagged up by the strategic influence office machine, exaggerated, stretched, twisted and transformed into something hardly resembling itself, and reported out of context in the mainstream as the rantings of a possibly treasonous, disgruntled and discredited ex-military officer suffering from PTSD or some such, and then echoed echoed through the networks and talk shows. The men working for the Rendon or Lincoln group or Fox News, when asked while standing around hi-fiving eachother, about the state of the moral compass, will be heard to say something like: “Demagnetized? What do you mean? Where’s supposed to point? We’re just doing our job.”

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By a disabled vet, October 18, 2006 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment
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terrific piece stan!

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By GySgt Shumaker, USMC, October 18, 2006 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
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Stan Goff,
You continue to apply the same “tactics” we have learned in the military and applied them to your journalistic dribble, yeah you know exactly what I mean Stan.
Well done for the most part, but for me you offer nothing insightful. And to those that follow you, keep in “mind” your “own thoughts” when folks like Goff come to tell you what it all means because “I was there”... Dribble, intresting but dribble.

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By MMColeman, October 18, 2006 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment
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Another fantastic and insightful piece. I always look forward to your writing: you have a unique perspective provided by your years of military service coupled with a fine grasp of history, seen through the lens of a thinker and scholar.


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By Henk Middelraad, October 18, 2006 at 11:10 am Link to this comment
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Evidently the powers that be in Washington are hard of hearing and obviously prefer to stay in the stone age with their thinking.
For many years I communicated the application of para-psychology to top officials in the Government without ever receiving a response.
Below is an explanation of the application.
From indications it looks very possible that a foreign para team is operating on Washington.

Para-psychology, the science of the future in lieu of armed conflict


Henk Middelraad

        This science is understood by few, but is based on a natural law, which in my opinion, has been inadequately researched by our government. It was discovered by me by accident and ultimately developed into a useful tool.
While the Pentagon spends super billions on more destructive weapons and spy electronics to prevent an overseas adversary to surpass us in damaging abilities para-psychology provides the opportunity to preempt the opponent in a different way.
The recent intent of the Pentagon to intrude into outer space to dominate possible opponents and the development of nuclear bunker busting bombs appears to be ludicrous and wasteful when para-psychological teams would be able to bend the minds of the leaders or scramble their brains. A subterranean bunker will not protect the occupant(s) from para-psychological intervention.
Don Rumsfeld made it known that he favors the nuclear bunker busting bomb, evidently without regard for the tremendous collateral damage. The US taxpayers will be forced to pay the bill for the development costs as well as the collateral damage and repairs after its use.
I don’t believe that he or President Bush and Vice-President Cheney would be so enthusiastic about the benefits of all this expensive gear if they knew that a foreign “para-team” could be capable to focus on them personally without spending hardly any money.
All international conflicts are initiated by the leaders of the countries involved. The Generals just control the personnel under them that has little choice other than to obey orders. This results in young soldiers trying to kill other young soldiers they have never seen before and with whom they should not have a quarrel in the first place.
In the meantime the Generals collect their medals and promotions for the destructive efforts of their troops. The cost in human life and the serious drain of funds from the public trough for the questionable benefit of the victory for the Pentagon and other overseas weapon toting organizations has created a continuous uninterrupted worldwide strife. The collateral damage is also a highly undesirable byproduct of this militaristic approach and not very conducive for international popularity as clearly demonstrated by our ill conceived Iraqi adventure.
As opposed to the mission statement of the Pentagon para-psychology does not kill, maim or destroy property. With the para-psychological approach the preventive efforts are focused on the leaders. It embarrasses and discloses secret, underhanded activities of the targeted individual. Trusted supporters will disappear, transfer out or look for alternate endeavors.
As soon as a foreign leader shows delusions of grandeur and appears emphasizing military action to satisfy his ambitions a small group of trained para-psychologists would be able to create a regime change. The low cost of this type of approach versus the galloping requirements of our “rapid mobile” forces should be obvious to even the most inept military strategists and logistics officers.
Instead of dropping tons of expensive explosives and ammo into the battle scene with maximum random killing, maiming and destroying property we should be aiming almost costless para-psychological “missiles” from carefully calculated locations on persons where it counts.
Para-psychology allows the operative to intrude the subconscious of the targeted individual with surgical precision. This process requires careful timing and pre established individual locations for the several operatives that can be graphically presented. It requires an educated staff to do the necessary calculations before the operatives do their mental work. If the operative can sustain a picture of the opponent in his mind for 3 minutes the opponent regardless of his location in the world will respond by actions. I am convinced that Saddam Hussein could have been removed from power by para-psychological means long before the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It will not come as a surprise that “para” communications cannot be intercepted by the National Security Agency, which makes this organization redundant. Any investments in this enterprise, currently under heavy criticism for legally questionable activities, are a waste of taxpayers’ money. It provides, however opportunities for many high salaried well-connected individuals to reap large benefits and pensions (courtesy US taxpayers.)
Neither will it be surprising that the Secret Service for the protection of the top government officials will be unable to detect “para-psychological” attacks.
The leaderships of countries obviously would take a dim view of ghost opponents, including our own democratically elected officials and appointees. It would, however, prevent the abuse of power by egomaniacal leaders. It would be fair to give an advance warning to the targeted individual. The warning should be a different kind than the blustering saber rattling as currently practiced by nations that think that they have the upper hand.
Undeniably it would require operatives with higher ethics, morality and purpose than can be found in the Washington politically supercharged environment with people only motivated by ego, ambition, power and greed. Complete mental control over runaway emotions is a must for members of a “para-team.”
Perhaps the era of militarism as currently obviously favored by the Washington establishment will be coming to an end merely through the inability of the taxpayers to support this extravagancy. Bankruptcy of the government appears to be a previously unheard of possibility, but would force a change of our outdated values.
In conclusion it would be advantageous to develop this technology in lieu of the outrageously expensive and obviously non-productive expansions in the Pentagon. It would require a better informed electorate to rout the powerful military-industrial complex. More balance in the distribution of funds for national security and the war on terror versus other more important requirements is definitely overdue.

Henk Middelraad is a retired Mechanical Engineer, who worked in many overseas locations where he practiced para-psychology. He discovered the graphical correlation of effective locations during his “para” exercises.

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By Margaret Currey, October 18, 2006 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
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When this country “elected” Bush Jr. and I knew that he would be president not because he was any smarter than Kerry because Kerry would have made a better president, but Bush had his daddy’s name, the also had what most people do not an absolute idea that he could run a country, after all did he not run Texas, but people do not run texas the good ole boys run texas, so we get a president who thinks the U.S. ofAmerica is Texas, the people who are around him also think of the U.S. as Texas and the greatest hawks are those who have never been to war, and what you have is a recipe for desaster, you must remember that Bush does not know the mindset of the people he went to war against, now we have a man who will admit no wrong, and here we have another Vietnam.

Margaret from Vancouver, Washington

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By GeniusBoy, October 18, 2006 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
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Linda and Stan,

many of us in the 1960s directly confronted the inertia of the “establishment” you’re describing. The result, after jail time and bloody heads, was that it, namely the military-industrial-corporate complex, bent a little in the face of political pressure.  This was after 58k deaths and 400k wounded in Vietnam.

However, the nature and power of this monster hasn’t receded since the end of WW2. Why?

It is endemic to our culture. We are warlike. We moved west beginning in 1621 by conquering Indians. We stole Mexico. We helped in WW2. All of this went to our nat’l identity and it has never let up. The military-corporate power in America will yield only when Congresspeople can’t accept ANYTHING of substance, aka bribes, from them.

When/if Congresspeople stop voting to fund anything more than actual, necessary defense, this megapower machine will finally take its place in American society. But don’t bet on it.

I have to add: may well be visited by government freaks from the FBI, Homeland Sec., et al. In theory they could make your life difficult. You might want to read more about the McCarthy era. The point is “insurgent” is now a “bad” word and perhaps a word to draw the wrong people.

Best of luck forever. I appreciate your story and thoughts.

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By Stan, October 18, 2006 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
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Linda O’Connell’s remarks see very well into the implications of all this… the technological, bureaucratic, economic, and political, all thoroughly interfused into a single dynamic.

Part of that Enlightenment mysticism I alluded to in the article involves the division and re-division of (1) academic disciplines and subjects of study, (2) division and re-division of forms of work (including an intellectual division of labor that gives some of us credentials and denies them to others), (3) and the very notion that technology, institutions, economics, and politics can preserve aspects of one while fundamentaly changing the others.

The acceptance of this reductionist way-of-knowing is hardly an accident.  We are trained into it from birth, so that how-we-know takes on the aspect of a law of nature.  This is a clever trick that dominant ways of knowing perform, because if our most basic categories and beliefs are counted as laws of nature, then those categories and beliefs are effectively put beyond critical intervention… believing otherwise is made tantamount to disbelieving gravity or the laws thermodynamics.

It’s more than merely acceptance, however, and we need to be careful about simply dimissing people as stupid because they don’t get something we-enlightened-ones thnk we DO get.  That kind of defeatist misanthropy is as easy as it is reactionary.  It makes us feel good by our implicit comparison with all those ignorant masses; but it remains a rationalization for doing nothing, as well as for avoiding contact with the aforementioned ignorant rablle.  This defeatism and naturalization reproduces power as surely as the support of the merger of Christianity with xenophobia and acquisitive individualism.

I say “more than acceptance” because we are trained into this way-of-knowing relentlessly from birth, by the system we observe, by all the organs of civil society (school, church, etc), and by passing this way-of-knowng (infused with often deeply affective meanings) from generation to generation.  We are not acceptin it; the system reflects it at us.  It is done to us; and that means that it can be un-done.

I’m a retired soldier, after all, who flourished for more than two decades in a violent imperial male culture, and with the help of others, found my way to being anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and pro-feminist.  people can change, but they need context and process to get there.  I don’t delude myself that I am somehow unique.  46 chomosomes, just like everyone else.

Steve Biko, the great South African martyr, said that the greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Sometime around November 1, I’ll be opening a site called Insurgent American (probably at, where I hope people will drop by.  One of the features I am tryng to provide is a list of readings that facilitate a collective pedagogy to give folks the tools they need to confidently challenge these dominant ways-of-knowing (or epistemology, for those who like the sexy words).

Kafka’s Josef K. was lost inside something he couldn’t understand. What he really needed was a way to get out.  Or how to hide in the abandoned margins of the system… because the dominant way-of-knowing, as the piece on Rumsfeld tries to infer, is a mystification that obscures not only our vision (until we can be innoculated agaisnt it), but the vision of the ruling elite in a time of systemic decay.

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By Roland James, October 18, 2006 at 8:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thx to Goff for reminding us that oil addiction trumps empathy and for providing
much useful background information.

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By GeniusBoy, October 18, 2006 at 7:52 am Link to this comment
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Rumsfeld’s admitted childhood heros were Herman Goebbels, Joseph Goering and the SS. All were so clean, efficient, cold-blooded and remorseless.

Everything he says is deflective of an actual answer or outright dishonest. Why do we get people like that in our government?

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By Linda O'Connell, October 18, 2006 at 7:19 am Link to this comment
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This is an extraordinary piece of journalism,  and illuminates, for me, why this country can no longer solve its own problems, much less win wars. The technological (and bureaucratic) systems we have brought into being now have lives of their own. Rumsfeld is not the sorceror but the sorceror’s apprentice, and the rest of us are living Kafkaesque lives as the ruins grow.

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By Dean Pettit, October 18, 2006 at 6:31 am Link to this comment
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Organizationally, I don’t know what to do about the so much that is wrong, including the recent signing of the anti-habeas corpus law by our terrible President as supported by a majority of Republicans and sufficient Democrats.  Simply put, I have no organization and don’t wish to subject myself to a small, unimportant number in one. 
    Worthwhile or not, I try to teach others, one-by-one to think critically of the actions of this terrible government and its unconstitutional actions.

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By Dicky Rough, October 18, 2006 at 4:41 am Link to this comment
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I am British and had the privilege to serve with many of you guys in the 60s/70s out the Far East, as part of the 6th Submarine Squadron. Every now and then, I recall the crazy half-gathered humanity we all shared with the Aussie lads on leave in Bangkok— down many a dark trail with no name. 

They were men of honour, as are the many men and women of this generation caught in another war. I agree with all you say and would like to thank you on behalf of those that cannot, abroad and at home, for a case well put— a voice of reason. Take care, best wishes.


Dicky Rough
Palm Bay, Florida 32901

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By Ricardo Laspalmeras, October 18, 2006 at 12:39 am Link to this comment
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Excellent article!

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By kevin99999, October 17, 2006 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment
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I dont think that leaders of this country give a damn about the human costs of the war. They never did nor do they now. Any statements to the contrary are nothing but a bogus PR campaign.

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