Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When Paris Comes Home

Chris Hedges:
It is nearly certain that we will endure, sooner rather than later, another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil. The blundering of our military into the Middle East; the failed states that have risen out of the mismanagement and chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan; the millions of innocents we have driven from their homes, terrorized or slaughtered; the bankrupt puppet regimes we have equipped and trained that will not fight; the massive amounts of munitions and military hardware we have allowed to fall into the hands of jihadis—thousands of them carrying Western passports; and the myopic foreign policy whose single tenet is that more industrial violence will get us out of the morass created by our industrial violence in the first place means that we, like France, are in for it.

All the major candidates for president, including Bernie Sanders, along with a media that is a shameless echo chamber for the elites, embrace endless war. Lost are the art of diplomacy, the ability to read the cultural, political, linguistic and religious landscape of those we dominate by force, the effort to dissect the roots of jihadi rage and violence, and the simple understanding that Muslims do not want to be occupied any more than we would want to be occupied.

Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States will extinguish what remains of our anemic and largely dysfunctional democracy. Fear will be even more fervently stoked and manipulated by the state. The remnants of our civil liberties will be abolished. Groups that defy the corporate state—Black Lives Matter, climate change activists and anti-capitalists—will be ruthlessly targeted for elimination as the nation is swept into the Manichean world of us-and-them, traitors versus patriots. Culture will be reduced to sentimental doggerel and patriotic kitsch. Violence will be sanctified, in Hollywood and the media, as a purifying agent. Any criticism of the crusade or those leading it will be heresy. The police and the military will be deified. Nationalism, which at its core is about self-exaltation and racism, will distort our perception of reality. We will gather like frightened children around the flag. We will sing the national anthem in unison. We will kneel before the state and the organs of internal security. We will beg our masters to save us. We will be paralyzed by the psychosis of permanent war.

In wartime, public discourse emits the insane sputterings of King Lear: “Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!” Demagogues bellow for more bombs and more enemy corpses. The military and the war profiteers provide them. The public cheers on the slaughter. Victory is assured. The nation rejoices when the newest face of evil is eradicated. But when one face of evil—Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or Abdelhamid Abaaoud—is exterminated, another swiftly rises to take his or her place. It is an endless and futile quest.

Violence generates counterviolence. The cycle does not stop until the killing stops. All that makes us human—love, empathy, tenderness and kindness—is dismissed in wartime as useless and weak. We revel in a demented hypermasculinity. We lose the capacity to feel and understand. We pity only our own. We too celebrate our glorified martyrs. We endow our sanctified dead with the lofty virtues and goodness that define our national myth, ignoring our complicity in perpetuating the ceaseless cycle of death. Our drones and airstrikes, after all, have decapitated far more people, including children, than Islamic State.

Jihadis troll websites and the dingy corridors of housing projects outside French cities and in the slums of Iraqi cities looking for young people discarded by war and neoliberalism, just as Army recruiters sniff out our own discarded and dispossessed and send them off to fight. Disenfranchised youths, offered the illusion of heroism, glory and even martyrdom, promised a chance to be armed and powerful, are seduced by these scavengers. Hundreds of millions of people across the globe have been cast aside by globalization as human refuse. They are worth nothing to the corporate state. They are denied jobs, benefits, dignity and self-worth. They are easy prey for the siren calls of those for whom war is a lucrative business. They dress in uniforms. They surrender their individuality. They experience the intoxicating drug of violence. They assume a new identity—that of warrior.

By the time they see through the illusions and lies, by the time they grasp how they have been used and betrayed, they are broken, maimed or dead. No matter. There are legions behind them waiting eagerly for their chance.

We have lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq as a unified nation has been splintered into antagonistic and warring enclaves. It will never be reunited. We ensured that Iraq would become a failed state the moment we invaded and disbanded its army, police force and government bureaucracy, the moment we foolishly attempted to dominate the country by force—including our arming and organizing of Shiite death squads that carried out a reign of terror against the Sunnis. The Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaida and, later, Islamic State, easily recruited the masses of enraged dispossessed whose families have been torn apart since the 2003 invasion, whose childhoods have been colored by extreme poverty, fear, a lack of education and basic services and horrific acts of violence, and who correctly see no future under continued U.S. occupation. Islamic State now controls an area the size of Texas, carved out of the remnants of Syria and Iraq. All our air attacks will not drive it out.

The situation is no better in Afghanistan. The Taliban controls more of Afghanistan than it did when we invaded 14 years ago. The puppet regime in Kabul we arm and support is hated, brutal, corrupt, involved in drug trafficking and crippled by cowardice. It is also heavily infiltrated by the Taliban. The Kabul regime will crumble the moment we depart. Trillions and trillions of dollars, along with hundreds of thousands of lives, have been squandered for nothing, even as climate change moves closer and closer to ensuring the extinction of the human species.

We waded into conflicts we did not understand. We were propelled forward by fantasy. The occupation of Iraq was supposed to have seen us greeted as liberators. We planned to implant democracy in Baghdad and have it spread across the Middle East. We were fed the absurd promise that the oil revenues would pay for reconstruction. Instead, our folly spawned political, social and economic collapse, widespread poverty, massive displacement, misery and a rage that gave birth to radical jihadism in Iraq and throughout the region.

The disintegration in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan has forced us to form a de facto alliance with Iran to battle Islamic State and the Taliban. This disintegration has upended our goal of overthrowing the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. We now function, along with the Russians, as Assad’s surrogate air force. And because Hezbollah fighters, whom the United States and Israel condemn as terrorists and have vowed to destroy, are integrated into Assad’s army, we also serve as Hezbollah’s surrogate air force. The Iraqi regime is dominated by the mullahs in Iran. The objectives used to justify these conflicts—including the promise to root out radical jihadism—have all failed.

In endless war, yesterday’s enemies eventually become today’s allies. This is a theme George Orwell captured in his dystopian novel “1984”:

    At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge, which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.

This will not end well. The massive violence we employ throughout the Middle East will never achieve its goals. State terror will not defeat individual acts of terror. More and more innocents will be sacrificed, here and abroad, in a furious and futile campaign. Rage and collective humiliation will mount. As we continue to fail to blunt attacks against us, we will become more aggressive and more lethal. Internal enemies—especially Muslims—will be demonized, endure hate crimes and be hunted down. The most tepid forms of criticism and dissent will be criminalized.

We are hostages, like Israel, to an accelerating death spiral. Only when we are exhausted and depleted, when the numbers of dead and maimed overwhelm us, will this lust for blood end. By then the world around us will be unrecognizable and, I fear, irredeemable.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Man Died That Day

And a husband. And a father. R.I.P.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Jim Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable:
For at least a decade, JFK’s favorite poem had been "Rendezvous" by Alan Seeger, an American poet killed in World War One. Kennedy recited "Rendezvous" to his wife Jacqueline in 1953 on their first night home in Hyannis after their honeymoon. She memorized the poem, and recited it back to him over the years. In the fall of 1963, Jackie taught the words of the poem to their five-year-old daughter, Caroline.

On the morning of October 5, 1963, President Kennedy met with his National Security Council in the Rose Garden of the White House. Caroline suddenly appeared by her father’s side, and she said she wanted to tell him something. He tried to divert her attention while the meeting continued, but Caroline persisted. The president smiled and turned his full attention to his daughter. He told her to go ahead. While the members of the National Security Council sat and watched, Caroline looked into her father’s eyes and said:
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
After Caroline said the poem’s final word, “rendezvous,” Kennedy’s national security advisers sat in stunned silence. One of them said later the bond between father and daughter was so deep “it was as if there was ‘an inner music’ he was trying to teach her.”

The first 100 minutes from the CBS Network, 52 years ago:

Friday, November 20, 2015


"JFK accomplished an Americanization of the world far deeper and more subtle than anything Eisenhower, Nixon, or the Dulles brothers ever dreamed of -- not a world Americanized in the sense of adopting the platitudes and pomposities of 'free enterprise' -- but a world Americanized in the perceptions and rhythms of life. He penetrated the world as jazz penetrated it, as Bogart and Hemingway and Faulkner penetrated it; not the world of the chancelleries but the underground world of fantasy and hope." ~ Senator George McGovern

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gutless Wonders

Chris Floyd:
So France, still in mourning, welcomes refugees, while America's big swaggering he-man "warriors" quiver with fear and panicky bluster. What a sickening display of utter cowardice -- and rank, hatemongering ignorance -- we've seen in the past few days. No wonder so many of our rough-tough super-patriots need to strap guns to their groins in order to walk the streets: they are all, every one of them, sniveling little cowards. As for the gutless governors, shivering behind vast walls of armed security while they deny entry to the victims of terror and war, they are a shame upon the nation, a pack of sinister fools wallowing in moral filth. A wretched, heartbreaking spectacle.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Any movie exploring extreme states of consciousness or moments of vision or intense emotion is notoriously difficult for story-based viewers to deal with. Practically all movie criticism is exclusively realistic and story-based in its awareness. It is only sensitive to social events and interactions among characters. It is fetishistic at analyzing psychology and motivations and resumes. It is, in brief, only capable of describing and understanding who said what to whom, why he or she said it, and what the consequences in the plot plausibly should or should not be. The difficulty with all this is that nearly all great movie moments are moments when frequently nothing that matters is happening in those ways. Nothing may be going on socially, verbally, or "professionally" that is very important. The only event taking place at a given moment may be a derangement in the style or in the tone; the occurrence of an expressive close-up of a figure’s face; or the brightness or quality of light falling on the wall of a room. These may be actions or events more momentous than those noticed by the story-fetishists and are obviously not analyzable in terms of psychology, resume, dialogue, or social interaction.

The reality to which these true movie moments pay allegiance is a reality that offers itself as an alternative to the prison of manners, social standing, and political categories as definitions of the individual or as indications of his or her capacities of performance. These are precisely the moments in which a character or a dramatic situation escapes from being understood in those terms. They are moments when social or political definitions break down or when an individual is released into another, less limiting relationship to his or her surroundings.

These are the moments or scenes that descriptions of the characters or summaries of the movie story leave out. They are scenes or fleeting moments when characters simply sit still and are silent; when they look at each other but do not speak; when music swells on the sound track, or the rhythm of the editing changes, or a special lighting effect is used, even though nothing is apparently happening in terms of the advancement of the plot or the dialogue spoken. Such moments, when the social situations of the characters or the lines they speak cease to express the meaning of a scene, are often the most important ones in movies. They are moments when the film is laboring to express feelings or visions too intense or private to be expressed in terms of ordinary social manners and forms.

Some examples.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cui Bono

After months of Vladimir Putin and Russia's coalition-of-the-unwilling kicking Obama's Syrian ass, here comes ISIL / ISIS / (CIA) to save the day. Seven locations across security-obsessed Paris explode in carnage, perfectly timed, perfectly executed. Perfectly provocative. And perfectly believable -- if you can believe CNN or Fox or MSNBC -- that a rag-tag Islamic dirtband can pull this sort of op off, without the connivance or knowledge of MI6 or the Mossad or DGSI or NSA. Hence will come the re-push from the Western Capitalist Reich for re-control of the Syrian situation, with more bombs, more drones, and more troops.

A Parisian nightmare. And yet a daily nightmare for Syria and Turkey and Iraq and Yemen. But I suppose those dead do not eat the right sort of brie in the right sort of cafes.

Paris is burning. And Allen Dulles lives.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Absolute Zero

Ralph Nader and Chris Hedges talk about the Corporate Coup that's reduced the meaning of American voting to absolute zero.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Strange Dickie Loudon

A very favorite Newhart, from February of '88.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Wire Says Goodbye

Not only the best English-language television series ever, but one of the greatest works of popular art, in any form, from any time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Wisdom of the Heart

Henry Miller reads from his masterpiece essay, "To Paint is to Love Again."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Beauty and the Beast

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Friday, October 30, 2015

The Devil II

As Allen W. Dulles roasts in hell (or runs it), historian David Talbot speaks with Len Osanic and Jim DiEugenio on a terrific episode of Black Op Radio.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Maybe the funniest character in maybe the funniest cartoon series ever, her full name is Goo Goo Ga Ga and she is IN-sane.

"Go Goo Go" from November of '05.