Wright from Washington City
July 26, 2010


Silly but deadly



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Silly season seems to arrive a little earlier every year here in Trantor. It used to be August, when all the politicians left the sweltering city and reporters were reduced to stories about two-headed calves, crackpot inventions, cats stuck in trees, and the like. But now I'm starting to look for it sometime in June.

Certainly the Stanley McChrystal affair had the smell of silly season about it. Not the article by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone, but the ensuing brouhaha. The reporter followed the half-mad general and his entourage of sycophants around for a month and discovered that, surprise! he's an incorrigible philistine and textbook narcissist who prefers Bud Light Lime to actual beer and thinks the ground shakes beneath his feet. His aides are an atavistic troop of goons and brown-noses, and they and their master look upon their civilian supervisors as wimps and buffoons — which they are, of course, but still. The only civilian courtier who was regarded with any respect was the horrifying Hillary Clinton, Minister of Aggression against Small Helpless Countries, because she's so bloodthirsty she wants the Imperial Storm Troopers to have anything they want so they can kill Afghan civilians more quickly.

The resulting uproar was highly amusing, especially the Emperor Obama's response to it, which was to allow himself to be bullied by reporters into revealing that he hadn't made up his mind yet whether or not to fire McChrystal, but that he was thinking about it really hard. That guaranteed that he would look like a wimp if he didn't fire McChrystal, because it would seem as if he lacked the backbone; and like a wimp if he did, because it would seem as if he was doing it so he wouldn't look like, well, a wimp. Which is no doubt what happened. After all, he hadn't fired McChrystal when the guy was stabbing him in the back a few months ago by contradicting him publicly about strategy in Afghanistan.

What all the pompous talking heads and columnists successfully tried to overlook, however, was the main point of the Rolling Stone story: not that McChrystal was a loose cannon but that the War on the Afghans is an ongoing, metastasizing disaster, and there is no way for the United State to win it. Hastings writes:

After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN [the counterinsurgency strategy] seeks to win over — the Afghan people — do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" — a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.
Amen. [1]

But the best was yet to come. After Stan the Man was shown the door, CBS "chief foreign correspondent" Lara Logan, a babelicious Lindsay Lohan lookalike, excoriated Hastings for not reminding McChrystal and his baboons that Hastings was a reporter and that he was watching as they made thorough asses of themselves. When she was asked whether there was an "unspoken agreement" between reporters and the military not to report on such indiscretions, she said, "Absolutely. Yes ... there is an element of trust.... The question is, really, is what General McChrystal and his aides are doing so egregious, that they deserved to end a career like McChrystal's? Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."

There you have it, folks. Michael Hastings is a bad reporter because he told the truth instead of deferring to the magnificence of Our Boys in Uniform and writing a whitewash. I'd say Hastings served his country pretty well by doing his job; but Mizz Logan sees reporting as propagandizing for the legions. That attitude is now pervasive among the lickspittle mainstream news media.

We've come a long way from the days of Woodward and Bernstein, a long way from when the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers. That helps explain why the United State can fight disastrous wars in two countries with no hope of "victory" (whatever that may be), an economy in the toilet in part because of those wars, and yet no rising tide of opposition. If the media had been this supine during the War on the Vietnamese, the Empire might still be winning that war. I don't call them our Ministry of Truth for nothing.

It didn't take long for McChrystal's humiliation to be shoved from the spotlight, however. Michael Steele, the token black chairman of the Republican National Committee, found himself in the middle of one of those political firestorms Minitrue sets off for our diversion. But it wasn't because of his manifest incompetence, or his use of party funds for luxurious private jets, hotels, and limousines for himself. It wasn't because he spent nearly $2,000 of official money at a lesbian-bondage strip club or had given $37,000 in campaign funds to his own sister for nothing during his failed Senate run. Nor was it because he had pledged to subject the Republican party to a ridiculous "hip-hop" campaign to attract urban blacks — a pipe dream if there ever was one — or reversed himself on a number of awkward issues.

No, Steele got in big trouble because, like Hastings, he told the truth. At a fund-raiser, he said the following:

It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.
Hooee! Unfortunately, Steele apparently forgot that it was a Republican Emperor, the inimitable Clueless George, who'd ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in the first place. He also overlooked the fact that the War on the Afghans serves the interests of a vast range of Republican sacred cows, funding contributors, and favored parasites. Those include the Neo-Trots and their Israeli Likud masters, who want to take over Afghanistan to put pressure on Iran; the many and varied corporations and firms that feed off the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the war; other corporations that want to build oil pipelines through Afghanistan to compete with the Russians; various political groups using the war as an issue with which to raise funds; and the military officers, such as McChrystal, who depend on it to boost their careers. Who cares about lesbian strip clubs with all that money and power at stake?

Steele also gave the Democrats an opportunity to beat up on the Republicans from the right, and Brad Woodhouse, the official attack squirrel for the Democratic National Committee, gleefully took it. "Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and his words have consequences," he sniffed. The sound of Republicans smacking their foreheads echoed around the city.

Steele has put the Republican leadership into a political Kobayashi Maru scenario. They're terrified of being accused of racism if they fire Steele, who, as a true modern politician, is devoid of decency and impervious to pressure to resign. So, unlike the wretched McChrystal, he'll remain burrowed in for the rest of his term, a constant embarrassment to the Republicans, providing endless giggles to discerning members of the public. [2]

Speaking of embarrassments, Fox News furnished a great example on the Fourth of July weekend with a show called "What's Great about America," hosted by John Stossel.

Now, Stossel isn't your typical leftish news media hairdo. He's carved out a place for himself as Minitrue's "libertarian." He actually does useful work, first at ABC News, where he was the network's token right-winger, and now on Fox News. At ABC, his pieces on the Canadian state-run health-care system were thoughtful and hard-hitting. He attacks "affirmative action," the War on Drugs, police asset seizure, government entitlements, licensing requirements, and a lot of other things that I and my cohorts at The Ditch are against.

Unfortunately, Stossel's approach is what Ronn Neff calls "entry-level libertarianism." Stossel may oppose the War on Drugs and other outrages of the State, but, like Super Dave Osborne, he just doesn't think things through. He never reaches the natural conclusion that a real libertarian must arrive at sooner or later — that the reason government programs do more harm than good is that the State itself is evil and inherently violent, a criminal gang concerned only with its own prosperity and power. And his "libertarianism" doesn't extend as far as condemning U.S. imperial wars — quite the opposite.

The result is a show that's just silly. Stossel has a kind of naïve, doe-eyed charm that just makes a thoughtful person want to beat him senseless with a Crescent wrench. Look, I can set up a business on the sidewalk to sell lame Fox News baseball caps and my New York Times bestseller book, and the cops don't hassle me because it's so easy to get a permit! Look, if an entrepreneur fails at business here, he can try again — not like in other countries, where people sink into the depths of despair! Look, race isn't a problem here, because interracial marriage is legal, and more of it is happening all the time! Racism's much worse in France and Russia! And so forth.

Of course, the idea that one shouldn't be required at all to get permission from the state to sell your baseball caps and coffee mugs is one that Stossel overlooks. It's enough for him that the process of getting a permit is easy — at least in Delaware, which he uses as an example. Try doing it here in the Imperial City, and you'd better have a good supply of Valium — I know, I've tried. And California, with its influx of left-leaning immigrants and love of taxes and regulation, is seeing businesses bail out like rats from a sinking ship. But getting permission to start a business in India is like descending into the Third Circle of Hell, says Stossel, so we should be grateful for what we've got. Just make getting permits easy, as in Delaware, and everything will be great. Maybe if we're really lucky, we can streamline things the way they do in Hong Kong!

And then there's the race issue. Or rather, according to Stossel, non-issue. I grant you that, as he points out, being black is no longer a barrier to success in the United State. The careers of such notables as our current Emperor, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson and his progeny, as well as large numbers of legitimate black businessmen, are evidence of that. But if you think race isn't an issue anymore, you just haven't spent any time in such places as Washington City. It's a big issue, Bud, because large numbers of blacks are stuck at the bottom of the ladder, easy permits or no. And a lot of blacks, prosperous and not, hate Whitey (not to mention Hispanics and Asians), and they aren't going to stop hating him any time soon. That brings us to the problem of bigotry against whites, especially white men. It's an issue that, in our "free society," you're not allowed to bring up; so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Stossel doesn't. [3]

Yet onward we go with the old freedom-of-expression song and dance. We have a free so-ci-e-ty, doo-dah, doo-dah! Stossel and his co-conspirator on the show, Neo-Trot acolyte Dinesh D'Souza, author of a book titled, no surprise, What's So Great About America, [4] do a cute little fake interview that seems aimed at 12-year-olds:

D'Souza: .... We have a high degree of tolerance for sarcasm, abuse, and blasphemy.

Stossel (flabbergasted): Those sound like bad things!

D'Souza (patiently): But we allow them in a free society....

And so on. We can speak our minds here! — assuming there's anything in our minds worth expressing. We're allowed to criticize politicians, boys and girls! — at least, sometimes. If you heckle a politician — and a mere sign can qualify as "illegal" heckling — or just wear the wrong T-shirt at a rally, you'll get arrested, of course, but let's not cloud the issue.

In Canada they have hate-speech laws, and nasty students shouted down Ann Coulter. But here the Constitution protects us! No hate-speech restrictions here! Right. Tell that to the various Holocaust revisionists who've been hassled at the border or refused entry [5], or the hapless Fred Leuchter, who lost his livelihood because he dared criticize Holocaust orthodoxy. For that matter, D'Souza should ask his former colleague at National Review, Joe Sobran, who lost his job there and was hounded into destitution because he dared criticize Israel. Sort of like what those Canadian students did to Coulter, only a lot worse: poor Ann didn't really lose anything. I realize it was a quasi-private-sector hounding, of course — with no costumed gorillas brandishing guns. But Sobran's tormentors were grown-ups, not naïve students. They knew what they were doing, which was acting as informal enforcement officers for the power elites.

In any case, it's a bit hypocritical for D'Souza to bring up freedom of expression at all, because he himself has participated in similar attacks against paleoconservatives Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan, in blatant attempts to prevent them freely expressing their opinions. So I guess a "free" society allows sarcasm, abuse, and blasphemy, but serious criticism has to be crushed. Just be grateful for what you've got.

And "the news is safe in America," says D'Souza, although what he means is unclear, since thanks to heroes such as Lara Logan, Intrepid Girl Reporter, we don't really get much real news anymore.

There's no mention of the Orwellian "Free Speech Zones," which are isolated chain-link-surrounded purgatories where the cops put you when you want to demonstrate against our rulers during political conventions; or of the growing hostility of the cops to people in general. In Stossel's Great America, cops tasering bedridden grandmas, or slapping the cuffs on taxpayers for videotaping them, or beating kids with sticks for looking at them funny, or shooting people's dogs just aren't on the radar screen. [6]

Much of Stossel's thesis has to do with the nobility of the American people. You know, how Americans give more to charity than anybody else — which they do, perhaps partly because taxes here, however onerous, are still less so than elsewhere in the industrialized West. And he points out that we adopt more kids than everybody else, too — although he doesn't say what the abortion rate, out-of-wedlock birth rate, and prevalence of late marriage may have to do with that. Whatever. I'll give him that argument. Americans are basically good people, however much the establishment tries — often successfully — to degrade them. But it's a red herring. Stossel is merely stroking his audience, the way demagogues do.

What really got my goat, however, was Stossel's and D'Souza's apologies for U.S. imperial wars. Sure "we" bomb and invade other countries. But "we" do it for good reasons. As D'Souza puts it, "We're trying to make the world a better place!" And that makes all the killing, the hundreds of billions of dollars down the toilet, and the hatred we earn from the rest of the world okay.

"We" didn't go to Iraq for oil — see, most of the oil companies operating there now aren't American. Of course, there's the somewhat awkward fact that seven years after the invasion, Iraq's oil industry is still prostrate, a shadow of its pre-Gulf War self. The whole war-for-oil accusation is another red herring anyway. Only the most blinkered, dogmatic leftists still believe it in the face of all the evidence that the war was fought to make the Middle East safe for Israeli irredentism.

But "we" treat our enemies nice after "we" stomp them into submission! "We" build schools and things for them, and help them set up democracy. The Romans never did that! Well, actually, John, they did. While it's true that they were cruel to peoples that opposed them, they also built roads, aqueducts, etc., and encouraged trade and economic development in conquered areas. For some reason, though, people sometimes just weren't properly grateful — as, for example, in Judea and in Britain.

Stossel and D'Souza — apparently with no sense of irony at all — point out that the Empire has built orphanages and water treatment plants in Iraq. They neglect to mention that the Clinton and both Bush regimes almost completely destroyed the country's utilities during a ten-year bombing campaign — before the invasion. So rebuilding them is rather the least "we" can do. As for the orphanages, well, remember the estimated million Iraqi casualties of the Empire's starvation blockade — which former Minister of Aggression against Small Helpless Countries Madeleine Albright said were "worth it" — and the ethnic cleansing that tore the country apart in the wake of the invasion, plus the wholesale killings by the Empire, as in Fallujah. In light of that, the building of orphanages just doesn't seem so jolly.

But Frick and Frack don't let such considerations stop them. After "we" bombed Afghanistan, "we" dropped food, too! [7] And "our" nice Storm Troopers pass out candy to little brown foreign kids. Isn't that nice! And on and on. I almost expected the colonel from "Monty Python" to pop up shouting, "Stop that this instant! It's silly, do you hear? Silly!"

Stossel's show is an attempt to reassure all those sheeple who sense something is badly wrong but want an excuse to go back to "American Idol" and worrying about how to get hold of the newest iPhone. Meanwhile, there's nothing on the telescreen worth seeing, and the silliness is already up to my nostrils. It's going to be a long summer.

July 26, 2010

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1. Although Hastings's piece was excellent as far as it went, it neglected to go into McChrystal's recent background as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, a shadowy, secret unit heavily involved in official assassination, kidnappings, and torture. See "The Dark Legacy of Gen. McChrystal," by Kelley B. Vlahos, Antiwar.com, July 13, 2010.

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6. To be fair, Stossel does criticize similar outrages in some of his newspaper columns. He blames them on "too many rules."

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4. D'Souza's book is nothing if not hackneyed. Its first chapter is titled "Why do they hate us?," and predictably he finds the answer in Islamic religious beliefs and Muslims' hatred of American society. He takes only a few sentences to brush off the notion that U.S. intervention in other peoples' business and support of Israeli brutality against Palestinians may have had something to do with 9/11.

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5. Curiously, Stossel shows no-longer-respected historian David Irving as a victim of restrictions on freedom of expression in Britain. But he doesn't identify him by name.

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7. It should be noted that many of the food packets dropped in Afghanistan were the same general size, shape, and color as cluster bomblets, which resulted in the usual screaming mutilated kids, maimed shepherds, bereft wives and mothers, etc. But maybe they got some chewing gum out of the deal. And a nice school, at least before the Taliban blew it up again.

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2. It sure didn't take long for Steele to come through with more laughs. The most recent uproar involves his apparent fiddling with accounts to hide the RNC's debt, which is largely the result of his inability to do what he was hired to do: raise funds.

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3. The latest development in the race non-issue is the story about how a high-ranking black official in the Agriculture Ministry, Shirley Sherrod, revealed some years ago that, in a former position with the same ministry, she had handled a white farmer's application for a government loan less than enthusiastically at first, because he was white — although it turned out she had later given him the loan. She was forced to resign, but the uproar from liberals and black agitators was so great that the regime is now falling all over itself offering her new positions.

I don't have to tell you that a white man in identical circumstances would be vilified and hounded by the same people who demanded Sherrod be reinstated. But here's the really interesting part. Some years ago she demanded, and got, "restitution" in the form of $150,000 from the same ministry (her husband got the same amount) in the biggest government giveaway honeypot ever: the Pigford "black farmers" case. The reason? She claimed she had been treated less than enthusiastically by a ministry official!

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