Montana Blowback

by lizard


Before I take another foray into the fringe (or as Pogo un-originally stated, down “the rabbit hole”) I should explain what the term blowback is suppose to mean:

BLOWBACK is the espionage term for the violent, unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering it, the blowback typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency acted—are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them.

No one would ever seriously claim our government doesn’t keeps secrets from us, would they? And by now, post-Wikileaks, it should be glaringly obivious just how much information is deemed necessary to keep from public scrutiny, and because WL has become such a high-profile sensation, the leaks that prove we are systematically being lied to are starting to soak in to popular culture. It’s an undeniable reality.

That said, it’s still difficult for many good citizens to scratch any deeper than acknowledging government deception is endemic. It’s easier to scoff, even when evidence is produced, that very bad people inside our government are up to no good and allowed to operate with impunity. It’s easier to conflate any inquiry into the deeper workings of our governments power-structure with aliens and black helicopters. It’s easier, but dangerously naïve to ignore the proven capabilities of America’s state-sanctioned depravity, and the consequences it presents for us regular plebes hoping Democracy is not as dead as it appears to be.

Okay, enough prefacing. The blowback this post is about has a name, and it’s Ted Kaszynski.

Late last year Ted’s brother, David, wrote a two part piece about the role our government played in facilitating the transformation of Ted Kaszynski into the Unibomber (here and here). It’s pretty short and worth reading. Here, for example, is David talking about a study Ted participated in while at Harvard, and the infamous (in some circles) psychologist who enthusiastically turned Ted into a guinea pig, Henry Murray.

The Harvard study my brother participated in was called “Multiform Assessments of Personality Development Among Gifted College Men.” It was overseen by the noted psychologist Henry Murray, who during WWII worked for the OSS (which later became the CIA), where he developed methodologies for interrogating prisoners of war. In his professional life, Murray was known for his brilliance and his grandiosity. In his personal life, according to his biographer, he displayed sadistic tendencies. His research on college men bears a certain resemblance to his research on prisoners of war. He was quite a big wheel in his day, perhaps as well known and influential in military and government circles as he was in academia.

Were the so-called “Murray experiments” part of MK Ultra? It may be that no one living knows the answer to this question. We know that the experiments were highly unpleasant for my brother and for some others who participated. We know that the basic premise of the research was to study how bright college students would react to aggressive and highly stressful attacks on their beliefs and values.

It may seem that I am trying to provide my brother with a handy excuse – a deflection of blame – for having killed three people and devastated numerous lives. But that is not my point. I believe that we are both individually responsible for our actions, and collectively responsible for conditions of harm and injustice that exist in our world. My brother was a victim before he victimized others – and in this he is hardly unique. Those who victimized him exercised cruelty with impunity, and quite possibily with the best of intentions. Status and power are hardly guarantees of good judgment or good character. Thus, the lessons we must learn are complex. The search for one quintessential villain is generally a mistake, a displacement of both understanding and responsibility.

What was done to my brother at Harvard should never be allowed to happen again. Our best insurance against inflicting harm on others – as was done to Ted and by Ted – is to avoid objectifying human beings, and to approach others with compassion.

O yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could avoid objectifying human beings, and to approach others with compassion.

But that’s a weak call to kumbaya after claiming that a sadistic psychologist sanctioned by one of the darker tentacles of our government, the CIA, employed the style of scientific inquiry popular with Nazi scientists.

It’s no secret how the CIA has been known to roll, but this information is often tainted with flecks of disinformation to poison the well, and those who can’t make it beyond the mental gag reflex (ridicule and mockery are mere symptoms) keep the nefarious dimensions of the deep state from penetrating their reality tunnels.

But eventually we’ll have to come to terms with the sordid extent of cruelty that’s gone down in our name, and with our tax money.

Because of his brother, David Kaczynski is already many steps ahead:

How can a reasoning person conflate his personal issues with a cause so that he ends up killing people wantonly and almost randomly?

I’ve struggled with this question for a long time. One answer comes immediately to mind: My brother became the Unabomber as a result of a mental illness involving paranoia and delusions of reference. Clearly, he personalized his sense of the world’s wrong in a way that most of us do not. He wrote in his diary that he’d decided to take “revenge” on society – as if there were some actual entity answering to the name “Society,” as if his victims somehow represented Society with a capital S, as if they had consciously harmed him, as if the concept of revenge made any sense in this context.

The longer I live, the more impressed I am with the remarkable complexity of the human mind. Our minds demonstrate capacities for knowing, remembering, imagining, and balancing all sorts of sensations and polarities. We have the capacity to think (whatever that means) on various levels simultaneously. The focus of thinking shifts involuntarily as well as voluntarily. Even without intending to, we speak like poets, instilling the universe with meanings beyond categorization. The mind is a miracle of integrative functions. It has seemingly infinite ways of apprehending the wider world and of relating to itself. What we call “reality” is arguably a seamless integration of mind and world.

Either by aspiration or accident, we often grow wiser with age. The mind is always changing. Sometimes it decays. It also discovers new ways of enhancing its breadth and power. Meanwhile, the mind is also highly vulnerable – to trauma, to disease, to propaganda, to uncorrected mistakes in thinking. How can a mind, lacking any transcendental reference point, know how to heal or correct itself?

David Kaszynski tries to transform what, for him, is a personal tragedy of guilt by association, connecting his brother’s violence, including three murders, to the trauma his brother experienced as a subject of scientific sadism.

It might be important to note this isn’t a conspiracy; black helicopters and aliens are not involved.

Unchecked power simply has the tendency to perpetrate atrocities that have unforeseen consequences, and from the arenas of espionage and war, these consequences will affect innocent people.

We have to understand violence is not an act that occurs in a vacuum. It’s a force that creates shockwaves no one can control.

Glossing over state violence while obsessing over the eruptions of the mentally ill leads no where good, and it allows the media to amplify specific tragedies, like the Tucson shooting, while minimizing or omitting the daily atrocities of war.

It’s been just about two weeks since the Tucson shooting, and I’m already sick and tired of the punting back and forth about violent rhetoric, and whether or not there’s a connection, and which side is more to blame, blah blah blah.

If only the media could focus more attention on the atrocities of war, like that Billings soldier who led the kill team. This wasn’t some crazed lone gunman snapping and spraying bullets at a political event. No, this was a group effort of American soldiers methodically targeting unarmed Afghan civilians and gleefully murdering them, taking bones and pictures as trophies.

This horrific incident of sadistic, premeditated murder has the potential to have a much greater impact on our lives than the Tucson shooting.

But to understand why, you have to see the people our wars are slaughtering as actual human beings instead of collateral damage. That’s the first step.

I’ve done this by imagining what I would do if my wife was killed in a night time raid gone wrong, or my children were blown up by a predator strike because some piece of shit intelligence said my home was “suspected” of housing insurgents. As a human who loves his family, I would be insane with grief, and I don’t know what I might be capable of.

The next terrorist strike that will eventually come may come in the form of blowback, and we won’t know why, because there is so much being kept secret from us.

Luckily the media will tell us who our enemies are, the Pentagon will tell us the next country that needs to be violently attacked, and our politicians will tell us what we want to hear while taking their marching orders from their corporate taskmasters.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Another world is possible.

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  1. Fine, fine post. No doubt you’ve seen this around:

    The news that Jared Loughner had been pulled over three hours before his Safeway date, clicked. That his behavior had been documented by poorly-equipped staff, clicked. An isolated manchild with access to guns, clicked. When a troubled college student was involved it clicked again. Five instances of domestic terrorism; five red states.

    Think about it: except for the attacks of September 11 (because some would argue that that was a case of domestic terrorism, too) mass killings take place overwhelmingly more often in red states.

    Timothy McVeigh was 27, Eric Robert Rudolph, part of the Christian Identity movement, was 30, Eric Harris was 18 and Dylan Klebold, 17, Seung-Hui Cho was 23, Nidal Hasan was 39, Jared Loughner, 22. Average age–25 years. The acts of domestic terrorism were all committed by these guys in red states. All seven men were victims of bullying, isolation, and ostracism. All seven had histories of extensive video game exposure and easy access to firearms. Distrust of government was a factor in most, if not all of these episodes. Ted Kaczinski, likely master of the minds in all these events, punctuates this post since he resided in Montana, a red state when, at 36, his activism morphed. His case changes the average age to 26.5.

    Red states are failing their populations.

  2. JC

    Nice piece liz. A couple of thoughts come to mind:

    As ye sow, so shall ye reap. And chickens always come home to roost.

    Lest this thread devolve into yet another rant about Loughner, the concept of blowback has many connotations. One of them being that Loughner, or any of the other thousands of crazed murderers, are simply pawns in a larger game that remains obscured.

    “The powers that be” understand that there are some people that will do their bidding, and do it in such a way that the act can never be traced back to them (Lee Harvey Oswald immediately comes to mind). And blowback, or the murder of innocents–collateral damage, what have you–is the furthest thing from their minds.

    We may never know if Loughner acted only out of his own insanity fueled by a culture of violence, or if he was an unwitting tool. It hardly matters to those whose lives were affected, or to the rest of us who will pay one way or another as society gets its retribution–if that retribution only comes in the form of punishing the mentally ill at large by subjecting them to greater scrutiny and restrictions of freedom, liberty and opportunity than the rest of endure.

    It doesn’t take black helicopters and aliens to know that when our government, and its corporate sponsors or enemies, act outside the public eye, that our democracy continues to crumble.

  3. Hmmm – I’m just not sure if we can connect ‘blowback’ to mental illness – too many things make people wacky –

    • lizard19

      i’m not trying to make a connection between blowback and mental illness.

      what i am saying is that, in this particular case, the covert experimentations on the human mind by a sadistic psychologist had the unforeseen consequence of pushing a very intelligent person into a deeper psychosis that ultimately resulted in people being murdered.

  4. mark gibbons

    liz(ard)

    thank you for your posts here. i enjoy the poems and the stories, your directness. keep up the interesting stuff you do.

  5. Pogo Possum

    “Before I take another foray into the fringe (or as Pogo un-originally stated, down “the rabbit hole”. . . )”

    I have to say that you and Larry are not going down any “rabbit holes” here Lizard……..insteaed you two are just stumbling around in the dark.

    • lizard19

      that’s all you have to say, that you think i’m stumbling around in the dark? that’s pretty weak, pogo.

    • It is unfair to liz to put him in my box. I am nearly 60 with a long history of suspicion of operatives within government and for those who use religion as a substitute for truth.

      Kaczinski is a cult figure who believed that radicalization means saying “no” to rape no matter the consequences.

      • lizard19

        i appreciate the distinction, larry, but i doubt pogo cares. instead of addressing the substance of the topic being discussed he continues to choose the low-road of ridicule. he’s going after the messenger because he doesn’t like the message, which is a pretty standard tactic for someone in denial.

  6. CharleyCarp

    You’ll get no argument from me that officials of the national security apparatus lie as they breathe. Or that playing with people’s lives will have unintended consequences. This however —It’s easier to conflate any inquiry into the deeper workings of our governments power-structure with aliens and black helicopters — is completely self-inflicted. Far too many people take far too many unwarranted leaps.

    And since we’re all bombarded with various opinions about things, we adopt shortcut heuristics. One I use for pundits over 40, is whether they thought, at any point past 1970 or their 25th birthday, whichever was later, that there was any nontrivial chance of a Soviet attack on the US or NATO. If the answer is yes, they have no judgment, and I don’t have to bother filtering through their crap to see if they’ve accidentally gotten something right. Many people apply similar tests re: Roswell, the grassy knoll, whatever.

    • lizard19

      completely self-inflicted? i don’t think so. and i don’t think anything i said in my previous post warranted the responses i got from pogo.

  7. mr benson

    I don’t buy Ted’s brother’s discussion, and read it twice to find some morsel of truth. There just isn’t any. I’ve read every rationalization for behavior out there, Loughner’s, Ted’s, you name it, and despite every effort to blame someone or something else, especially “parents” “society” “the government” “america” (oops, we really should BLAME AMERICA FIRST), “red states” (Sarah Palin) but really, it comes down to individuals making conscious choices.

    I do agree that the horror of war will permanently change people and not for the better. It’s too well documented and obvious. Don’t know why the VA and Feds can’t recognize that and deal with it. They’ve just dumped the whole problem out on the street.

    But the constant search for scapegoats, political points, rationalizations, anti gun themes, need for more money or less freedom, it has gotten extremely tired and cliched.

    I’m okay with America. We are too materialistic, and need to find some different ethic to replace “things”. But having said that, there’s plenty for me to enjoy, endorse, and celebrate. The outliers, the loners, those who find the most fault, its from that population that both the most creative and most evil appear. I don’t think we can eliminate one without eliminating the other.

    • lizard19

      I don’t buy Ted’s brother’s discussion, and read it twice to find some morsel of truth. There just isn’t any.

      really? no truth at all? you claim to have read David’s words twice, yet somehow you still assert that finding someone to blame is his point. Did you read this?:

      It may seem that I am trying to provide my brother with a handy excuse – a deflection of blame – for having killed three people and devastated numerous lives. But that is not my point.

      this isn’t about blame; it’s about understanding.

      have you ever taken LSD, mr. b? if you have, can you imagine being given this drug unwittingly as part of an experiment to see how you react? can you not see how an experience like that may have consequences for someone already predisposed to mental illness? is there no culpability for the people and government agencies that sanctioned and carried out these tests?

      if you’re “okay” with this aspect of “America” that you fund with your tax dollars, that’s great. i’m not okay with it.

    • JC

      “it comes down to individuals making conscious choices.”

      Well, sure, in a rational world we’d all make rational, conscious choices. And that is the whole theory behind the Austrian school of economics paraded around by the Mises crowd. But I digress.

      It is not a rational world, and everybody, even the “sane” make unconscious or subconscious choices. Many less than sane individuals feel “compelled” to do the one thing they have obsessed about in their minds–they have no choice.

      So I continue to harp on this point: what do we do–living in a less than rational world where not all choices are made consciously–about the next Ted Kaczinski or Jared Loughner among us?

      I ask this in all sincerity.

      • mr benson

        We accept that with individual freedom, and individual responsibility comes both good and bad.

        You’re pro choice, aren’t you?

        • JC

          I fail to see the similarities between being pro choice and how do we deal with the crazies out there who may potentially kill an innocent.

          A woman has the right to choose what happens to her own body.

          Does that then mean we have to accept that crazy people will kill innocent people? Or that we can’t do something to minimize the potential?

          I don’t think so. One right is the law of the land, determined by the SCOTUS. The other is an open public policy question.

          Again I ask: what can be done to prevent or minimize the chances of another Kaczinski, Louphner, McVey, or Oswald striking?

          And the answer I seem to be getting from the right is this: nothing.

          I’d like to be shown that I am wrong. Maybe I’m not.

          • The Polish Wolf

            “One right is the law of the land, determined by the SCOTUS.”

            Two words for you: Dred Scott.

            Now, I do believe that abortion ought to legally be an individual decision, though I believe people often make the wrong one. But the Supreme Court didn’t make it that way any more than the Supreme Court actually made slaves non-persons. And then you have a conundrum – what do you do about John Brown and Nat Turner? What do you do about people believing themselves to be the same?

  8. CharleyCarp

    The way Tom Wolfe tells it, the Grateful Dead was also an unintended consequence of Cold War psy experimentation.

  9. Pogo Possum

    I will attempt to strengthen my comments Lizard.

    Arguing Kaczynski was driven to his cross country murder spree due to Dr. Murray’s experiment is lacking in proof of causality. I suspect not even you would bring up this argument if you didn’t think the CIA was involved.

    Kaczynski displayed serious emotional problems from the time he was a small child to the point his mother considered entering him into a study for autistic children . Many sources have reported Kaczynski experienced serious socialization problems early on in life including a lack of friendships, complaining of not fitting in with other children, difficulty in relationships with women and a fear of people and buildings long before he participated in his college experiment.

    Again, I suspect the only reason you are even focusing on this is because your conspiracy mentality sees a possible link with the CIA. If the girlfriend who dumped Kaczynski had worked for a company that contracted with a company, that had a supplier that once had a CEO that had a cousin who was in the CIA, you would be claiming the CIA was sabotaging his sex life.

    Now let’s take a look at Larry’s rant about Red States creating mass murders. A closer look at just 4 of these 8 people reveals that Larry’s argument is riddled with inaccuracies and at best is a classic case of cherry picking both his facts and his examples.

    Kaczynski was born and grew up in Illinois (a Blue state) and attended Harvard in Massachusetts (another Blue state) then the U of Michigan (another Blue state). He didn’t move to Montana until 1974 where he almost immediately began a campaign of gradually escalating acts of sabotage against his neighbors and any area business or venture he saw as intruding his utopia in the wild. I have friends in Lincoln who knew him and interacted with him. He was seriously mentally ill and from the very beginning of his life was a disaster on the way to happen.

    Montana was a Blue state when Kaczynski moved here and started on his mass murder spree: Democrats held the governor’s seat from 1969 through 1989. Democrat John Melcher held one of the two US Congressional seats (1969-1977). Democrat Mike Mansfield held one Senate seat (1953-1977) followed by John Melcher (1977-1989). Democrat Lee Metcalf held the other Senate seat (1961 – 78) and was followed by Max Baucus (1978 – present). Even many of the State wide seats were held by Democrats: Secretary of state Frank Murray ((1957-1981), Superintendent of Public Instruction Dolores Colburg (1969-1977) and Georgia Rice (1977-1981).

    Timothy McVeigh was born and raised in New York (Blue state), lived a transient life (40 plus states) for years after leaving the military and up until shortly before his bomb attack in Oklahoma. Like other mass killers he showed signs of socialization problems early in life (withdrawn, difficulty getting along with others, displayed paranoid behavior) lived in a fantasy world and later on distrusted the government.

    Seung-Hui Cho lived the first 8 years of his life in South Korea until his parents moved to Fairfax County in Northern Virginia (the metropolitan area of Washington D.C.). While Virginia as a whole might be listed as a Red state, Northern Virginia and Fairfax County is very Blue, supporting Kerry for President in 2004, Obama in 2008, Jim Webb for Senate in 2006, Mark Warner for Governor in 2001 and Tim Kaine for Governor in 2005. Again, Cho had severe emotional problems both at a very young child and displayed socialization problems through most of his life.

    Nidal Hasan was also born and raised the very Blue Northern Virginia .

    Let’s look at some actual national statistics on the number of incidents of mass murder in each state.

    Scripps News reports that between 1980 and 2008 there were 965 incidents of mass murder (4 or more people killed) and 4,685 corresponding deaths in the United States.
    http://www.scrippsnews.com/content/mass-murder-incidents-state-1980-2008

    A quick tally shows Blue states accounted for 491 incidents of mass murder, Red states had 314 and Purple states had 160.

    I pulled up the top 12 states that account for 65% of all mass murder incidents and 64% of all deaths to give you a flavor:
    Calfornia (Blue) -118 incidents & 565 murders
    New York (Blue) – 84 incidents & 441 murders
    Texas (Red) – 78 incidents & 363 murders
    Florida (Purple) – 62 incidents & 279 murders
    Michigan (Blue) – 52 incidents & 229 murders
    Pennsylvania (Blue) – 49 incidents & 239 murders
    Ohio (Purple) – 41 incidents & 203 murders
    Illinois (Blue) – 39 incidents & 181 murders
    Indiana (Red) – 27 incidents & 116 murders
    Louisiana (Red) – 27 incidents & 115 murders
    New Jersey (Blue) – 25 incidents & 125 murders
    Virginia (Red) – 26 incidents & 130 murders

    I see no evidence in Larry’s post that “mass killings take place overwhelmingly more often in red states” or that “Red states are failing their populations”. I don’t believe Blue State politics are causing their residents to become mass murderers either.

    • lizard19

      oh pogo, while i appreciate this lengthier attempt to address my flawed “conspiracy mentality” i have to wonder why you so adamantly deny what is right in front of you.

      Henry Murray worked for the OSS, which later became the CIA. does that not constitute a link? it doesn’t take some wild leap to speculate on the nature of the tests he was involved in, considering the CIA’s interest at the time in studying the mind (and how to break it), which included dosing people with LSD. do you contest the CIA was involved in these kinds of experiments?

      pogo, just because you have a problem with the messenger, doesn’t mean you should automatically dismiss the message. if you read what i wrote closely, you wouldn’t state that i’m Arguing Kaczynski was driven to his cross country murder spree due to Dr. Murray’s experiment

      would Ted Kaczynski have murdered people without having been turned into a guinea pig? that’s impossible to know.
      but it is possible to say, with 99.9% certainty, that those tests didn’t make him any less mentally ill. again, i don’t think it’s crazy to speculate that getting his mind fucked with at Harvard played some role in worsening his mental stability.

      i hope that clears up some of your confusion.

  10. Pogo Possum

    ” if you read what i wrote closely, you wouldn’t state that i’m Arguing Kaczynski was driven to his cross country murder spree due to Dr. Murray’s experiment”

    Yeah…….glad you clarified that because you did have me a bit confused. So you are saying that a CIA backed experiment by Dr Murray did not drive Kaczynski to murder people, right?

    • lizard19

      pogo, do i need to hold your hand through this?

      this is what i wanted to explore: the role our government played in facilitating the transformation of Ted Kaszynski into the Unibomber. that is exactly what i said.

      now look at who Ted’s victims were. this from a new york times article:

      They are an unusual club, the victims of the Unabomber. Mostly academics, a few corporate executives, and one a secretary who happened to open the wrong package, they are spread at random across the country and linked only by the fact that their lives were damaged or in some cases devastated by a package from someone with a penchant for evil.

      did you read that, pogo? of the 3 killed and 23 wounded, the victims were “mostly academics.” gee, where did Ted’s psychologically traumatizing experiences occur? yeah, harvard. but i’m sure that’s just my paranoid conspiracy mentality making a connection.

      • Anyone else hear the NPR story this morning that David Kaczinski will meet with Randy and Amy Loughner to soothe their brows?

      • mr benson

        It’s the victims I have sympathy for, not the whackjob. I don’t care that they’re academics or secretaries, they’re the victims of Ted, not the victims of the CIA or the Red States.

        After many days of tying the Tucson killers to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, why cant we just get along, pot, artificial pot, etc, suddenly, it all gets back to the Bildenbergers and the black helicopters, does it?

        What a load of balderdash, all of it. The price we pay for a free society is high. It includes people who succeed outrageously, and people who fail outrageously. Both have to be acceptable in order for all of us to be free.

        • JC

          HOw do you remain free if you are the innocent victim of a madman’s bullet?

          You talk about freedom, but that freedom also puts bullets into the hands of crazies. You have turned freedom into russian roulette.

          • JC, Leibniz answered your question with the claim that service to God and eternal salvation were the ultimate freedom. That argument only makes sense if freedom does equal life. I hold that it doesn’t, especially in your construct here. You’ve posited that freedom is defined as being ‘free’ from danger. I’m certain you can see how that is simply incompatible with living in a free society. The Bush administration made that abundantly clear.

          • JC

            There’s a million laws in our society, Rob, that limit “freedom.”

            I’m simply asking the adamant right if they are opposed to a few more that might inhibit people like Loughner from committing the murders they do.

            You have pointed to the culture of violence in our country. I’m just asking the right 1) if they care, and 2) if they do, what would they propose doing about it. And I’ve yet to get a clear “no” out of any of them.

            My comment above was merely a piss-poor attempt at fishing for an answer.

            When the right argues “freedom” in its defense of the rights of crazies to bear arms of mass destruction, I wonder how far towards anarchy they are willing to carry their ideology.

            I mean, it feels to me like they all pine for the old west where everybody carried, and all dispute was settled at the point of a gun, vigilantism was the law of the land, and you took what you could, and defended what you had depending on the strength of your arms (not the ones attached to your shoulders).

            • Is it not the governments basic – basic – job to protect society?

              Do personal gun rights trump that?

            • There’s a million laws in our society, Rob, that limit “freedom.”

              Just for the record, JC, that completely avoids your own point of contention. Quit waffling.

            • JC

              What, I can’t have more than one point of contention, Rob? I’ve got at least a dozen with this topic. Excuse me if I mix them together. I don’t consider them unrelated.

              Guns, the constitution, freedom, mental illness, political rhetoric, laws, SCOTUS, culture of violence, politics…

              There’s a theme here. And discussions in a hundred directions that need to be had. But the right is playing ostrich with all this. Now don’t you go off and stick your head in the sand with them.

              And besides, I love waffles.

      • Pogo Possum

        ” the role our government played in facilitating the transformation of Ted Kaszynski into the Unibomber. that is exactly what i said.”

        Thanks for clarifying it Lizard. I was getting a little confused.

        Let me just update your list so it doesn’t happen again in the future:

        1. Aliens in Area 51 (aliens, sure, why not)
        2. JFK Kennedy Assassination (Yes)
        3. Diebold computers rigged the 2004 Elections (Yes)
        4. 9/11 World Trade Center Cover-UP and US Government involvement (Yes)
        5. John P. Wheeler III and the Neo-Con Murder Conspiracy (Yes)
        6. The government helped transform Ted Kaszynski into the Unibomber. (Yes)

      • The Polish Wolf

        Couldn’t you read this story another way? A sadistic psychologist (who used to work for the OSS because they clearly had need for sadistic psychologists) messes with the head of a brilliant but troubled man. He then takes out his anger on academia because it was the academics and specifically modern psychology that actively supported philosophies that said that people are just objects, that they don’t really think, that Kant was wrong, they are a means and not an ends.

        Could it be that the OSS didn’t make Murray what he was – they needed a man like him, and they were able to find one because our philosophical culture had descended so far into the de-humanizing of the human that it was easy to find someone willing to do that to someone’s head, and that in Murray’s scientific arrogance he failed to take blowback into account.

        Maybe that could explain why the attacks didn’t target police, or the army, or the C.I.A., but the scholarly realm, because it was really our scholars first who let us down. The most learned among our society had already decided that morality was a lie, decades before Murray worked for the OSS. These attacks were only a tiny portion of the ‘blowback’ of that discovery.

  11. lizard19

    pogo, that list of yours is not something i’m going to shrink away from, but there are no definitive answers to any of those issues that i have commented on, so your parenthetical depictions of my positions regarding those issues are not accurate; they simply don’t warrant yes/no answers.

    what i refuse to do is limit myself to a safe range of answers like you and mr. b seem to be doing by mocking my open-minded speculation.

    no one has contested that our government regularly lies to us. one of the consequences of that, especially for younger folks, is they will look to other sources for information, and when you start looking around on the web, you’ll find a lot of crap, some of it dangerous.

    the failure to engage seriously in this discussion by “good citizens” like pogo and mr. b means bottom-feeders like Alex Jones will fill the vacuum.

    right wing extremists use conspiracy culture talking points to scoop up the disaffected, the socially isolated, the mentally ill, and feed them bits of truth wrapped up in scary packages, like it’s all the jews, it’s all the bliderbergers, it’s all a vast illuminati one world takeover.

    i don’t believe any of that, but when these issues get discussed in “respectable” forums like this one, that’s the stuff that gets thrown in the “conspiracy nut’s” face.

    for the past two years, elements on the right have been stirring up their conspiratorial fringe. glenn beck and fema concentration camps comes to mind.

    this stuff is out there, and it can make people crazier than they already are. because of that i think these issues are critical to discuss openly and earnestly.

    so for those who want to pull their head out of the sand just long enough to use mockery as a means of silencing legitimate speculation, i’ll just say quit wasting your time and energy.

  12. kptrng

    Excellent, excellent post. There is no answer to the causality question, so it is pointless to speculate. Rather, we should direct our attention at MKUltra. What was it? It came about not too long after the NSC decided that the Cold War was a real war, and that we had to be every bit as ruthless as our enemies to win. It was classic projection, or mere excuse-seeking for behaviors they wanted to indulge in anyway.

    Almost all of it is still under wraps, but I do know this: The U.S. is very, very good at torture, which is part of counterinsurgency, which is part of aggressive war. When we invade a country like Iraq, for instance, we are not stumbling around blowing up this and that and shooting this or that bad guy. It is systematic destruction of a society – first the 1991 attack followed by years of sanctions and bombing, then the actual “shock and awe” attack, followed by the physical invasion. The occupation entails identification of insurgents, who are routed out in house-to-house operations, and tortured and broken or killed. What we uncovered at Abu Ghraib was the torture phase – it is very sophisticated stuff, and no doubt Old Doc Murray had a hand in its development.

    But we’ll never know, as the empire doesn’t give up its secrets easily. There was no Wikileaks when this stuff was going on.

    The Unibomber may be just more collateral damage, or maybe he was selected because he was already identified as off balance. It’s incidental. The empire is badly in need of disinfecting sunlight, Glasnost, as they called it in the Soviet Union.

    • The Polish Wolf

      Kptrng –

      I know I said I wasn’t talking to you any more until you stopped contradicting yourself, but I really do want to know what you believe motivates all of these supposedly well-planned imperial interventions. Now we purposely destroyed Iraqi society over a period of twenty years and four presidents? For what?! It certainly didn’t make Iraq any easier to occupy – in four years we had beaten the Japanese army, eliminated it, successfully gotten their diety/emperor on our side, and occupied the country such that it became one of our most productive trading partners. In the twenty years we’ve supposedly been preparing to take control of Iraq, we have killed a lot of people, but we’ve accomplished nothing. A quick warning to Problem Bear – the following is a lot of facts and narrative, whys and wherefores, as it were, so don’t read it lest it annoy you.

      Before the Gulf War, Iraq was pumping out oil, Saddam had a huge army keeping Iran in check and punishing them to the tune of a million deaths for daring overthrow our Shah. All of this was nearly free – we just had to look the other way during the massacres and send some WMD Saddam’s way.

      From 1990 til now, we have ruined this sweet set up. We have less oil from Iraq than we used to, Iran has more influence, and while there is still a huge army in Iraq to counter it, WE are paying for it. If this was all part of the plan, it was a terrible plan. Nearly a trillion dollars in (actually, probably a full trillion if you consider lost oil revenues, no-fly zones, and the first invasion), we are in a weaker position.

      Isn’t it more reasonable if you think of it as four different policies, each of them imperfect and not fully thought out? First, up until the Gulf war, the plan was to prop up a strong, secular Arab leader to keep the newly radical Persians in check. Then, during the Gulf War, we realized what we’d supported in the Baath party was disobedient and overly ambitious. So we had to show the Arabs that sure, they could be strong and independent, but only to a point. Nonetheless, we still wanted Saddam to pay for an Iraqi army – one strong enough to counter the Iranians but not hurt the Saudis or Israelis in any real sense. Thus, Clinton’s sanctions and no-fly zones.

      Then, things changed again. The son of the old president publicly broke with his father because he was following a DIFFERENT policy, not a continuation of the same one. This president wanted two terms, and had a scared public behind him. So, he steps up the confrontation with Iran (after accepting their help in Afghanistan), whips Americans into a furor over the axis of evil, and eventually has to act on his tough words. He doesn’t want to be responsible for getting Seoul incinerated and Iran is too big even for him to think he can take. So he invades Iraq and takes down Saddam. Both presidents before him had the opportunity to do this, but didn’t want to deal with the consequences. The American people eventually realize that their previous leaders were correct and so they put in Obama instead of McCain. Now we are on Iraq strategy 4 – getting out while still keeping a functioning state there to fight off the Iranians.

      These four different strategies do not make a coherent narrative because they are not a coherent, effective strategy – if they were, we would gorging ourselves on delicious Iraqi oil without the bitter aftertaste of dead American soldiers, just like we were in the late 80’s. I, for one, almost wish that you were right and that we had a callous but effective foreign policy apparatus, but lately there’s been no evidence of it.

      • CharleyCarp

        Whatever policymakers might wish, the Iraq-as-bulwark-against-Iran train pulled out of the station in 2003, and it’s not coming back for the foreseeable future.

        The policy in Iraq since 2007 has been the same as the current policy in Afghanistan: get out without being seen as having been made to get out. Not all that easy to manage, but I’m sure they’ll swing it eventually — unfortunately, the Taliban isn’t close to the Iranians, so they can’t do as good a job for us in Af as they did in helping us out of Iraq (by getting various factions to stand down so we could declare victory and get out). One wonders whether there ought to be an ISI/Vevak exchange program of some kind . . .

        • CharleyCarp

          And to wander a bit further off topic, when the story of our time is written, a century and more hence, will any episode be as inexplicable as Iran, through Chalabi, convincing Feith (and then Bush) that conversion of Iraq into an Iranian client state would be good for Israel? Instigators of the 2003 war used to say that the road to Jerusalem went through Baghdad. I used to respond ‘sure, if you’re in Tehran’ — but I guess not everyone has the same map . . .

        • The Polish Wolf

          “Whatever policymakers might wish, the Iraq-as-bulwark-against-Iran train pulled out of the station in 2003”

          Which is absolutely revolting. Not because Iran is that big of a danger; after all, I do think Iran’s government is more open to mass participation than almost any other state in the Gulf. The world was upset when Iran cracked down on its citizens, but I can’t imagine such a citizen uprising even happening in Saudi Arabia.

          It’s revolting because the policy of Iraq as bulwark was invoked to justify a million deaths in Iran/Iraq and hundreds of thousands internal Iraqi deaths under Saddam. All of that for what? So we could ruin the whole system in 2003? Our foreign policy apparatus failed hugely precisely because it lacked any coherence.

  13. Though it is to the side of Lizards’ post, this post by D. Gregory Smith does have bearing on where part of the comments have gone. Kindly read my response to his post as well.

  14. lizard19

    when perpetrators of state violence are not held to the same judicial standards that the rest of us face if we commit acts of violence, then for some this inequity justifies violent responses to state violence.

    that’s why mcveigh committed his act of terrorism, as a direct response to what he considered the mass murder of women and children as they were incinerated in Waco.

    while i believe both acts are atrocious tragedies, for us good citizens mcveigh must be considered the monster and the state, just a screw up. it shouldn’t really matter to us good citizens that members of cults aren’t acting under their own free will, or that music torture was employed during the long siege against everyone trapped in that compound.

    i’ll say it again, these conversations need to happen. we are in a region that is seeing increased activity among hate groups, like the bomb planted at a Spokane MLK day event

    go check out stormfront, they’re linking to the recent figure that came out about guns in America: we surpassed Yemen for our gun to people ratio; 90 guns for every 100 people.

    unchecked state violence, vets returning from war, guns galore, a stagnating economy, and lying, self-serving politicians on both sides of the isle perpetually scheming for corporate contributions in their never-ending reelection campaigns…this is a bad recipe.

    we should be making every effort to understand how we’ve gotten to this low point, or this relatively short experiment of trying to keep alive a democratic republic will fail, and what’s waiting to replace it will be bad for lots of people.

    • The Polish Wolf

      “relatively short experiment of trying to keep alive a democratic republic will fail, and what’s waiting to replace it will be bad for lots of people.”

      Is there an extant governing system older than ours? A few of the European ‘Monarchies’, and they have obviously undergone substantial changes. Two hundred years without a significant revolution, especially these 200 tumultuous years, is longer than most systems of government last. No other great power has had a system adapt that much without breaking.

      “unchecked state violence, vets returning from war, guns galore, a stagnating economy, and lying, self-serving politicians on both sides of the isle perpetually scheming for corporate contributions in their never-ending reelection campaigns…this is a bad recipe.”

      Lets add to that recipe revolutionary speech from radicals on both sides.

      Suppose, for example, that a person believed that the government was beyond reform, that both parties were corrupt and represented the same interests, that there was thus no point in voting. So far that describes a lot of rational people. Suppose that person believes that the government is responsible for most global conflicts adding up to millions of deaths, hundreds of millions of people trapped in poverty.

      Suppose that person rejects the justifications for those acts, believes that the government has done nothing for its people and worse than nothing for the world. We are still describing a lot of rational people here. That person believes that what is needed is a revolution, that it will take radical acts to set it off but that the majority of people want a revolution, they are just too scared to start it. I’m still describing lots of rational people. Not until this person decides that this act must be violent do we see a real departure from standard politically radical logic, the sort that is posted here with some regularity.

      But is that last step really irrational? If a person believes the government actually kills in cold blood, that the government tortures its own people for the sake of it (because this person also doesn’t believe terrorism is the real threat), that the government has callously killed millions of people and will continue to kill millions more, how is non-violent action more rational than violent action?

      I’m not suggesting anyone here is actually advocating violence, but Lizard is coming damn close with this last comment. I know you would never do it, but whereas you write a blog, someone who believed everything you do, but who had a different temperament, would not have to make a very big logical leap to start shooting congress members, CEOs, or bankers. The person needn’t be a ‘madman’, simply aggressive, courageous, and credulous without realizing it. We condemn Jared Loughner, but nine times out of ten that’s what revolution looks like. I think it’s proper to think about that before calling for one.

      • lizard19

        i hope you read to the end of my comment, where i call for understanding, not violent revolution.

        but no, i don’t paint a very nice domestic picture of where we’re at, because reality is not pretty, and for too many people, they have no recourse for the injustices they are experiencing.

        instead they’ll listen to glenn beck talk about concentration camps, or they’ll go online where they’ll absorb any far-fetched explanation for why they are powerless cogs in a brutal machine that cares nothing for their physical or mental well-being.

        but hey, that’s just my opinion. some people think America is still the bestest country in the world, spreading democracy across the globe and protecting human rights for those weakling countries that can’t do it themselves.

        • I know you call for understanding, Lizard. But you and others here regularly call for “peaceful” revolution, or at least call the current political system unworkable.

          Is the US the best country in the world? (I omit the word ‘still’, as I don’t think we ever were). Obviously not. But are we comparable to the countries better than us?

          Lets make a cut off point – 100 million, a third of our population. There are ten other countries of that size, and the Philippines nearly makes the cut. Of them, only Japan comes close to our internal human rights. If you want to argue that we are bad for global human rights on balance, you’ll have to show a ‘control’ period of time (that is, before the US existed or a period without US involvement) with a superior global human rights environment. Otherwise you have no context.

          So, on the balance, it would seem the US, though not the best country in the world, is doing alright, especially for its size.

          Now, I know you would never call for a violent revolution. But a lot of what you argue plays into the hands of those who believe politics are helplessly corrupt, who believe we do live in a fake Democracy, and who believe that only action outside the law can restore our ‘freedom.’ The problem is, even when you call for a non-violent approach to extra-legal action, you reduce the respect people have for the law. And it is only that respect for the law that keeps those 90 guns per 100 people from becoming a serious problem. Moreover, most of those 90 guns are not in the hands of people whose revolutionary ideas you probably agree with, and the more radical the idea the more likely someone will use guns to bring it about.

          I for one think that the laws we have today are plenty to accomplish what we need, and the procedure for getting the laws we need, though not perfect, has served us better than most. Mostly, though, I highly doubt that a radical change will be in the direction you want.

          Mostly because I don’t understand what that direction is. You keep talking about what’s wrong, but your solutions are notably lacking. What would you do? How would you redistribute the wealth using the government? Good luck leading a movement for higher taxes, for more government programs, for restrictions on political advertising, etc. Our government delivers us exactly what we want. The problem is, we want big houses, big cars, lots of cheap gas, and a Big Mac in each hand. The government could make it so we didn’t have those things, that’s true, and in the process build a more just society. But I shudder to think how we would react to losing them. Until our society, or a substantial portion of it, learns to consume less, there will never be a peaceful revolution.

          • lizard19

            You keep talking about what’s wrong, but your solutions are notably lacking.

            that’s bullshit. your reading and retention skills must be lacking.

            if it was up to me, i’d instigate aggressive investigations into the financial sector, a national moratorium on foreclosures, prosecution of fraud at the highest levels possible, reinstall glass-steagall, create a robust consumer financial protection agency with Elizabeth Warren presiding, seize insolvent banks, and put their assets in a public trust.

            because i think accountability is important, i would prosecute the previous administration, beginning with Bush and his open confession of signing off on torture in his memoir, then i’d go after the legal scum bags like addington, yoo who created the legal justifications for torture.

            health care? single payer medicare for all (don’t worry, the rich can still buy cadillac plans to keep them from coming into contact with icky poor people, because of their fear poverty might be a communicable disease)

            then, i would reverse the military-industrial complex into the domestic- infrastructure complex, and build bullet trains across the country.

            all of this would be complimented by an adequately funded public education system that focused on creating self and civic awareness through critical thinking.

            but to this attempt at imagining what’s possible, what’s just, i hear you saying:

            Our government delivers us exactly what we want. The problem is, we want big houses, big cars, lots of cheap gas, and a Big Mac in each hand. The government could make it so we didn’t have those things, that’s true, and in the process build a more just society. But I shudder to think how we would react to losing them.

            yep, a lot of the problem is us, no doubt, and if we decide to let our consumer appetites drive us beyond the last limits of sustainability, the resulting national tantrum is going to be ugly.

            and then we’ll turn on each other along predictable fault lines while the perps wait out the strife on their yachts and in fortified compounds defended by Xe mercenaries.

            i said it at the end of the post, and i’ll say it again.

            another world is possible.

            • I agree with more than half of that, I suppose.

              Rather than a moratorium on foreclosures I think the Gov should just buy those bad loans from banks and sit on them, collecting only inflation-countering interest, for several years until things calm down. I think any actual fraud ought to be investigated, though the biggest problem is that a lot of what happened was in fact legal.

              The economy will grow more slowly under tight regulations. People will have to become less greedy in order to accept them. But again, I’d vote for it.

              I want to know how you’d prosecute Bush for torture. Yeah, it happened, and it’s illegal under international law, but as far as I’m aware nothing in US legal code says that authorizing torture is illegal. I’ve never heard, anyway, of an American being prosecuted for failing to uphold international law. But if there’s a way, enlighten me.

              “health care? single payer medicare for all”

              Total agreement – if anything, we disagree on whether the current plan is better than absolutely nothing.

              “then, i would reverse the military-industrial complex into the domestic- infrastructure complex, and build bullet trains across the country.”

              That sounds beautiful; indeed, I was all ready to agree with you. I went to research our military spending under Carter, but lo, it has decreased since then. My first proposal out. Then I was going to propose that we only spend the same proportion of our GDP as China. Finding that the Chinese actually spend MORE as a percentage of GDP blew that out of the water too. So, I’m not sure I can jump on the wagon for massive cuts in military spending, though there is definitely waste to trim (i.e. – not buying planes the Pentagon doesn’t even want).

              But we do agree on most things. I just don’t see them as being politically feasible until American society changes in some basic ways.

      • Kptrng

        I know I said I wasn’t talking to you any more until you stopped contradicting yourself, but I really do want to know what you believe motivates all of these supposedly well-planned imperial interventions. Now we purposely destroyed Iraqi society over a period of twenty years and four presidents? For what?! It certainly didn’t make Iraq any easier to occupy – in four years we had beaten the Japanese army, eliminated it, successfully gotten their deity/emperor on our side, and occupied the country such that it became one of our most productive trading partners. In the twenty years we’ve supposedly been preparing to take control of Iraq, we have killed a lot of people, but we’ve accomplished nothing.

        The reason for the destruction of Iraq is that they sit on top of a stupendous amount of oil. And before we go down that road, understand that the U.S. is in decline, and that the only thing we have to maintain our position of world dominance is military force. Control of Iraq’s oil is the reason for the initial attack under Bush I, sanctions and bombing under Clinton, invasion under Bush II, and continuing occupation under Obama.

        You place too much emphasis on who is president, as if they controlled foreign policy. Ike sort of warned us about what was going on.

        Before the Gulf War, Iraq was pumping out oil, Saddam had a huge army keeping Iran in check and punishing them to the tune of a million deaths for daring overthrow our Shah. All of this was nearly free – we just had to look the other way during the massacres and send some WMD Saddam’s way. …From 1990 till now, we have ruined this sweet set up. We have less oil from Iraq than we used to, Iran has more influence, and while there is still a huge army in Iraq to counter it, WE are paying for it. If this was all part of the plan, it was a terrible plan. Nearly a trillion dollars in (actually, probably a full trillion if you consider lost oil revenues, no-fly zones, and the first invasion), we are in a weaker position.

        Before 1991, Iraq was a player, and she was nested in the shadow of the Soviet Union. Saddam Hussein was cooperative, and at the same time played the USSR against the US, whihc was infuriating to our planners. When the Soviets imploded, Iraq came into play. She was healthy and rich, Saddam was flush with a US-assisted victory over Iran. Iraq had a nationalized oil supply. She was ready for entrance into the world of industrial countries.

        But this was not to be – the U.S. could not have control of all of that oil in the hands of a free agent. It is not the monetary value of the oil, but the power that control of oil gives us that has driven the policy. It had to be under our control. We attacked.

        The reason that Bush I did not go all the way to Baghdad, as I see it, was that in 1991 Hussein really did have WMD’s (chemical) as a deterrent – we had supplied them to Iraq (along with nuclear technology) for use against Iran. So under Clinton the US, using the UN, cleaned up the WMD’s, and (so they thought) demoralized the population via starvation, clearing the way for the 2003 invasion. Then it was only a matter of finding a convenient excuse to move. 9/11 provided the excuse.

        Isn’t it more reasonable if you think of it as four different policies, each of them imperfect and not fully thought out? First, up until the Gulf war, the plan was to prop up a strong, secular Arab leader to keep the newly radical Persians in check. Then, during the Gulf War, we realized what we’d supported in the Baath party was disobedient and overly ambitious. So we had to show the Arabs that sure, they could be strong and independent, but only to a point. Nonetheless, we still wanted Saddam to pay for an Iraqi army – one strong enough to counter the Iranians but not hurt the Saudis or Israelis in any real sense. Thus, Clinton’s sanctions and no-fly zones.

        This might make sense if presidents had any influence over foreign policy. And yes it is true that plans are flexible – I doubt they knew in 1991 when the final invasion would take place. There was much preparation to be done.

        Then, things changed again. The son of the old president publicly broke with his father because he was following a DIFFERENT policy, not a continuation of the same one. This president wanted two terms, and had a scared public behind him. So, he steps up the confrontation with Iran (after accepting their help in Afghanistan), whips Americans into a furor over the axis of evil, and eventually has to act on his tough words. He doesn’t want to be responsible for getting Seoul incinerated and Iran is too big even for him to think he can take. So he invades Iraq and takes down Saddam. Both presidents before him had the opportunity to do this, but didn’t want to deal with the consequences. The American people eventually realize that their previous leaders were correct and so they put in Obama instead of McCain. Now we are on Iraq strategy 4 – getting out while still keeping a functioning state there to fight off the Iranians.

        Foreign policy is not subject to electoral politics, and thus not affected by elections. You have spun your theory around the impulses of the electorate having influence over long-term policy. That is a problem with a fake democracy like ours – we have to believe we have influence, but policy cannot be subject to the whims of an ill-informed and emotional electorate. So they use propaganda to keep us in line, and policy goes on uninterrupted.

        These four different strategies do not make a coherent narrative because they are not a coherent, effective strategy – if they were, we would gorging ourselves on delicious Iraqi oil without the bitter aftertaste of dead American soldiers, just like we were in the late 80′s. I, for one, almost wish that you were right and that we had a callous but effective foreign policy apparatus, but lately there’s been no evidence of it.

        It is a coherent narrative, as I see it. None are so powerful as to lay out plans and follow them without a hitch. I doubt very much that the Pentagon was ready for the intense resistance they encountered in Iraq, or that they realized the loss of precious antiquities would happen. (They might even have deluded themselves enough to think that, after 12 years of the vice of sanctions, that removal of the sanctions would cause the Iraqi population to welcome them.) But very large objectives are set (this one when the Soviets imploded) and carried out, without regard to who happens to be president.

        I did not know you were not talking to me. Next time let me know, so I can feel snubbed.

        • “The reason for the destruction of Iraq is that they sit on top of a stupendous amount of oil. ”

          Then why have we acted to reduce the amount of oil Iraq produced?

          Moreover, Iraq was not nested in the shadow of the Soviet Union. Iraq was quite clearly and openly a US ally until 1990.

          Now, you essentially argue that the Gulf War was a planned trap. Again, we ignore how we fooled the entire UN, how we convinced the Soviets and Chinese not to veto actions that were a US trap, how we convinced the Saudis to pay for this trap, etc. In your world, we wanted to attack Iraq, reduce its oil production, and remove their ability to counter Iran; we then fooled the whole world into thinking it was justified.

          Then, your world, two presidents (Bush and Clinton) went to unusual lengths to disarm Iraq without overthrowing Saddam. In your world, Bush II invading Iraq had nothing to do with him wanting to get re-elected. I realize the plan to invade was decades old; however, I am quite certain that it was not the only possibility and not the only plan being discussed in the highest levels of government. Unless you are totally convinced that this terrible plan was the ONLY one available to our leaders in 2003, which is frankly absurd.

          Indeed, there are massive differences in foreign policy directly tied to who is president. Bush I favored quick action ground & air action that tended to be limited in scope. Clinton was more hesitant and, post Somalia, heavily favored air power to influence national behavior and encourage regime change. Bush II could have used either of these tactics in Afghanistan and Iraq – he (or someone in his cabinet) chose instead national occupation and re-construction. This was not a pragmatic decision, it was based on certain beliefs about foreign policy that are not universally shared among policy makers.

        • Kptrng

          Then why have we acted to reduce the amount of oil Iraq produced?

          It is not the oil, per se, but control of the oil that carries with it such immense power. It doesn’t matter if it is used now or saved for later use. The point is that we now have 14 hard bases there and an embassy the size of Rhode Island, and we control that oil. Those who want access to that oil have to go through the US. That is power. It gives the US leverage over China, Australia, India, Pakistan, Western Europe. Every potential enemy knows that you can’t make war without oil. (Russia has enough oil and so is not intimidated by all of this.)

          Moreover, Iraq was not nested in the shadow of the Soviet Union. Iraq was quite clearly and openly a US ally until 1990.

          Hussein played one off the other when he wanted military hardware or other weapons. Obviously the U.S. had the upper hand, as the Soviets were never as powerful as we made them out to be, but they did offer up deterrent force. It’s not a question of what the U.S. did to Iraq, but rather what it might cost the U.S. to do what it did. With the Soviets gone, nothing.

          Now, you essentially argue that the Gulf War was a planned trap. Again, we ignore how we fooled the entire UN, how we convinced the Soviets and Chinese not to veto actions that were a US trap, how we convinced the Saudis to pay for this trap, etc. In your world, we wanted to attack Iraq, reduce its oil production, and remove their ability to counter Iran; we then fooled the whole world into thinking it was justified.

          Pretty much you’ve got it. I doubt most were “fooled” so much as complicit, and remember 2003, when the UN did in fact veto the U.S. invasion of Iraq – the U.S. went ahead and did it anyway. It wasn’t any different in 1991 – the UN has always been a paper tiger, but the U.S. uses it for cover when it is useful to do so. So all that prattle back in 1991 meant nothing. If the UN did not approve, the U.S. would have attacked anyway.

          No doubt many were taken aback by the barbarity of the attack. They could not have seen that coming.

          Then, your world, two presidents (Bush and Clinton) went to unusual lengths to disarm Iraq without overthrowing Saddam. In your world, Bush II invading Iraq had nothing to do with him wanting to get re-elected. I realize the plan to invade was decades old; however, I am quite certain that it was not the only possibility and not the only plan being discussed in the highest levels of government. Unless you are totally convinced that this terrible plan was the ONLY one available to our leaders in 2003, which is frankly absurd.

          Set aside the idea that the president can launch attacks for political purposes. He doesn’t’ have that kind of power. That’s fantasy.

          And here it gets a little nuanced – you are assuming that the U.S. wanted Saddam Hussein out of power. Not so. During the time that the country was still standing, the U.S. wanted him in power. In fact, the food-for-oil program actually solidified his rule.

          What were the alternatives? The U.S. wanted to keep internal rebellions to a minimum, as people it did not want in power might take power, or worse yet, democratic rule might result. As Thomas Friedman said at the time, the ideal ruler for Iraq would be someone as brutal as Saddam who was not Saddam. Something like that. The US either wanted itself in charge, which it is now, or some thug as a caretaker. Saddam was the best thug available.

          And as evidence to support this contention, remember that in 1991, after the U.S. attack, two rebellions rose up in Iraq – the Kurds to the North and the Shias in the south. The U.S. assisted Saddam in putting down those rebellions. The US had control of captured weaponry, including helicopter gunships. Schwarzkopf gave Hussein permission to use those gunships to put down the rebellions, Tens of thousands were killed as the U.S. looked on in silence.

          Indeed, there are massive differences in foreign policy directly tied to who is president. Bush I favored quick action ground & air action that tended to be limited in scope. Clinton was more hesitant and, post Somalia, heavily favored air power to influence national behavior and encourage regime change. Bush II could have used either of these tactics in Afghanistan and Iraq – he (or someone in his cabinet) chose instead national occupation and re-construction. This was not a pragmatic decision, it was based on certain beliefs about foreign policy that are not universally shared among policy makers.

          That’s all fantasy. The president is not making those decisions, He’s a mere mouthpiece. If tactics change, they change within the Pentagon (or the military-industrial complex, if you prefer) based on advantage and experience.

          Americans are enamored with the idea that they elect their leaders, and the leaders are smart enough to know that it is good policy to let us think that. But presidents come and go. Foreign policy does not change.

          • One gets the sense that it’s easy to keep local failures under the rug.

            Hoka hey, wasicus!

            Montana has four counties among the poorest in the US.

            Wake the fuck up or suffer the consequences!

          • The Polish Wolf

            A few gems:

            “Pretty much you’ve got it. I doubt most were “fooled” so much as complicit,”

            Like the Soviet Union, that didn’t even abstain? They were complicit?

            “The US either wanted itself in charge, which it is now, or some thug as a caretaker. Saddam was the best thug available. ”

            Why the change? Why for 13 years was it enough to have a thug, and then we decided we needed the infinitely more difficult solution of occupying the country ourselves? Could it maybe have something to do with the Bush team’s entirely different philosophy? Sure, it wasn’t Bush’s idea, he has not training, he has no interest, it would seem, in foreign policy. But it’s his people, or at least people who felt confident with his election.

            Sure, I can’t prove Clinton would have done things differently. But Clinton never did anything like invade Iraq; Clinton never really invaded anywhere with the idea of occupation. First of all, his administration never dared to risk American casualties on anything close to the current level. They accomplished regime change in Serbia from the air; they struck at Saddam’s WMD from the air; we did invade Haiti but basically left as soon as our work was done. Moreover, all of his actions had some kind of international backing. The administration that followed adhered to a a different and much less effective pattern that, despite being a nearly complete failure, is somehow part of a master plan.

            I’ll give you one point, though: Americans don’t really get to choose before the fact. Bush campaigned on no more ‘nation building.’ I guess we didn’t really build much in Iraq, but it was clearly not what they thought they were voting for. Somehow, however, they re-elected him. Go figure.

            Lastly, if you think this decades long schizophrenic plan gave us control of Iraq, don’t bet on it. We have ‘control’ of Iraq precisely to the extent that we don’t try to exert it. The surge was merely successfully handing over power to local leaders. We can scarcely keep the oil flowing, much less direct its flow. On the other hand, under the sanctions regime , we had pretty good control over Iraq, casting a deciding vote in whether Iraq got to export oil or not, and even getting the right to send weapons inspectors throughout the country. We had Saddam in a corner. We may exercise more direct control over the current Iraqi government, but considering that they don’t have any control over their country, that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.

          • Kptrng

            Like the Soviet Union, that didn’t even abstain? They were complicit?

            Think in terms of power, who had it, who did not. They did not have it. Their vote meant nothing, as the U.S. was going to attack no matter what.

            Why the change? Why for 13 years was it enough to have a thug, and then we decided we needed the infinitely more difficult solution of occupying the country ourselves? Could it maybe have something to do with the Bush team’s entirely different philosophy? Sure, it wasn’t Bush’s idea, he has not training, he has no interest, it would seem, in foreign policy. But it’s his people, or at least people who felt confident with his election.

            The intervening thirteen years served the U.S. well, as they used that time to clear Iraq of weapons, starve its population, and bomb it daily to keep invasion routes clear.

            Your use of the word “thug” is revealing. One technique of propaganda is to “put a face on the enemy.” Americans are hateful, but they cannot focus their hatred on an abstract like “Iraq.” “Evil” must have a face. And for Iraq, Saddam Hussein was that face.

            Remember that in 1988, when Saddam gassed the Kurds, the U.S., which had provided the weapons (and, I suspect, the coordinates, and AWACS were at his service at that time), looked the other way. There was no kerfuffle here, no general knowledge of what had happened.

            Saddam was never anything more than a propaganda tool. The man himself, put in power by the CIA, was used when useful, quickly dispatched when not.

            Sure, I can’t prove Clinton would have done things differently. But Clinton never did anything like invade Iraq … yada yada

            I cannot disabuse you of your fantasy that presidents are in charge of foreign policy. That part of the debate is pointless.

            Bush campaigned on no more ‘nation building.’ I guess we didn’t really build much in Iraq, but it was clearly not what they thought they were voting for. Somehow, however, they re-elected him. Go figure.

            You assume two things: One, that the words of politicians running for office have meaningful content, and two, that the electorate is well-informed.

            Lastly, if you think this decades long schizophrenic plan gave us control of Iraq, don’t bet on it. We have ‘control’ of Iraq precisely to the extent that we don’t try to exert it. The surge was merely successfully handing over power to local leaders. We can scarcely keep the oil flowing, much less direct its flow. On the other hand, under the sanctions regime , we had pretty good control over Iraq, casting a deciding vote in whether Iraq got to export oil or not, and even getting the right to send weapons inspectors throughout the country. We had Saddam in a corner. We may exercise more direct control over the current Iraqi government, but considering that they don’t have any control over their country, that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.

            Now here you offer substance – that the attack has not been as successful as we had hoped. But don’t undersell the results. We do have fifty thousand permanent troops (and god only knows how many mercenaries) there, fourteen bases and untold ordnance and hardware. But the Iraqi people have proven to be pugilistic, as violent as us (though with less weaponry at their disposal), and resistant to submission. I really do not think that they expected that (just as they never thought that the Vietnamese would hold out that long.)

            Short-term flow of oil, again, is not important. There are decades of supply there and all of it, all if it, flows through the Pentagon now.

            The sanctions were not meant as a long-term solution to the problem of Iraq. It was in a holding pattern, with the invasion on hold until it was assured that the WMD’s were gone (which Clinton handled). Then it was a matter of preparing the American people. 9/11 was used to this end, even as it was understood that Iraq had no part in 9/11. Kind of Orwellian, you think?

            I am tempted to ridicule you here as you do me. But I’ll hold off until I’m sure your obtuseness is incurable.

            • “Your use of the word “thug” is revealing.”

              “The US either wanted itself in charge, which it is now, or some thug as a caretaker. Saddam was the best thug available. ”

              Guess who both of those quotes are from? That’s why you’re so frustrating – you don’t even discuss like a person, but like a computer. You hear ‘thug’ or ‘human rights’ or ‘president’ and immediately spit out a response regardless of the context or your own previous position. My use of the word thug IS telling – it tells you that I’m using your preferred vocabulary.

              “I cannot disabuse you of your fantasy that presidents are in charge of foreign policy.”

              I pointed out a major foreign policy shift that coincided with a change in administration. This is no hard and fast proof, but it’s pretty convincing evidence that elected officials and the people they appoint and surround themselves with do have an influence on how foreign policy is conducted. That the best counter argument you have is simply to repeat you unsupported belief speaks volumes.

              ” Bush campaigned on no more ‘nation building.’ I guess we didn’t really build much in Iraq, but it was clearly not what they thought they were voting for. Somehow, however, they re-elected him. Go figure.

              You assume two things: One, that the words of politicians running for office have meaningful content, and two, that the electorate is well-informed. ”

              Actually, I was pointing out precisely the opposite – that as far as foreign policy, the public got exactly what they thought (if they thought about it at all) they were voting against.

              You are right in pointing out that politicians do not always control foreign policy. But you assume that the players that do are monolithic. In some cases most power players agree – few if any moneyed interests want to see our relationship with the Saudis jeopardized, for example. On the other hand, issues like our relationship with Iran, there are differing powerful interests. Some oil companies would like better relations and fewer sanctions, whereas some foreign policy hawks, the defense industry, and Israel advocates want more confrontation. You can trace the idea of invading Iraq to along ways back, a decade before the fact, at least. But the fact is that most policy makers rejected it until 2000, at which point plans started to be made in earnest.

              And I don’t ridicule you, merely your theory of foreign policy.

            • Kptrng

              Guess who both of those quotes are from? That’s why you’re so frustrating – you don’t even discuss like a person, but like a computer. You hear ‘thug’ or ‘human rights’ or ‘president’ and immediately spit out a response regardless of the context or your own previous position. My use of the word thug IS telling – it tells you that I’m using your preferred vocabulary.

              I don’t have a preferred vocabulary. I was commenting on the fact that you used the preferred vocabulary, that Saddam Hussein was a “thug.” In fact, he was just that. But that’s not important – we were only instructed to view him in that manner in 1990. Before that time, even though he was as much as thug, that fact did not enter our vocabulary. It’s a little more nuanced than you seem to realize – let me ask you this question: Why are you even thinking about him? Did you think about him before 1990? It’s because your perceptions are under strict management.

              I pointed out a major foreign policy shift that coincided with a change in administration. This is no hard and fast proof, but it’s pretty convincing evidence that elected officials and the people they appoint and surround themselves with do have an influence on how foreign policy is conducted. That the best counter argument you have is simply to repeat you unsupported belief speaks volumes.

              I made no mention of people in power other than the president, as that is a time reference and is useful. I didn’t talk about SOD’s or SOS’s, heads of CIA – none of that. It does not matter. Policy does not come from a small group of appointed public officials. It is an amalgam of a host of forces, each having more power than the presidency.

              I don’t even say that there not intense conflicts about policy direction – often times when there is debate on television about various policy options, it signals conflict behind the scenes’ as well. For instance, as Michael Missing demonstrated so well in his coverage of the Iraq invasion in the New York Review, there was indeed a conflict behind the scenes on the invasion of Iraq in 2002 up until about November. At that time, all dissent ceased, and the media and government all sang the same song.

              But it was not about whether or not to invade Iraq. It was about costs – what it might cost us. That Iraq was going down was well understood, had been for thirteen years.

              The “shift” in policy that you noticed did not take place when Bush took office. Up until 9/11, there was no coherent message there. After 9/11, forces were unleashed within this country that could marshal public opinion to any cause they chose. They could have invaded Denmark, for all it mattered, but the fact was the Iraq had been in the cross hairs for years, and so they used the impetus provided by 9/11 to bring about the invasion.
              There’s no president involved in that.

              Of course we cannot know this, but I do not imagine that it would have been different under president Gore, who signaled while running for office that he too understood that Iraq was in the cross hairs. He was very belligerent in that regard.

              Actually, I was pointing out precisely the opposite – that as far as foreign policy, the public got exactly what they thought (if they thought about it at all) they were voting against.

              That’s inane, as if the words of politicians carry meaning, and “the public” comprehends that meaning. There is a literate class in this country, and you and I belong, but the rest are guided by emotions and symbols, and do not form their own opinions. Election campaigns are about effective advertising and money. The most money buys the most and best ads, and that wins. The outcome hardly matters, as candidates are vetted by the “viability” test by the media, and any not considered reliable are pushed off to the side.

              Bush did not have to be trained. He never had an original thought, and so was easily managed. Clinton is a really interesting case, a truly smart man with an independent mind. He only became president due to a wild card factor – Ross Perot. He had to be trained on the job – he was hounded by an incessant media barrage of attacks after he took office, the Scaife campaigns, Travelgate, stories of rape and an investment that he lost money on, Whitewater, became somehow important. The Monica scandal smelled of entrapment. In the end, he followed a right wing agenda, but he did try now and then to do good things.

              As I see him now, Obama is quite smart and thoroughly understood the game going in. He signaled right away by his appointments that there would be no problems.

              I don’t for a second think that events can be managed, or that the future is written in stone. But there is power, public opinion is largely managed, and large future objectives are kept in mind over long periods of time. The conquest, occupation and control of Iraq’s oil was such a large objective shared by all in power since the fall of the Soviet Union.

              You are right in pointing out that politicians do not always control foreign policy. But you assume that the players that do are monolithic.

              This is where you go haywire, in presuming that the “players” are people appointed by the president. They are the public interface. No more than that. The president himself is nothing more than a mirror used to allow us to reflect our ambitions and reflections.

              In some cases most power players agree – few if any moneyed interests want to see our relationship with the Saudis jeopardized, for example. On the other hand, issues like our relationship with Iran, there are differing powerful interests. Some oil companies would like better relations and fewer sanctions, whereas some foreign policy hawks, the defense industry, and Israel advocates want more confrontation. You can trace the idea of invading Iraq to along ways back, a decade before the fact, at least. But the fact is that most policy makers rejected it until 2000, at which point plans started to be made in earnest.

              Up unit that last sentence. You nailed it.

              By the way, my name is m a r k t o k a r s k i. If I write it out, this comment disappears, thanks to the coward Fleischman.

              • Alright Mark – I’ll ignore your self contradictions and get to the point. It is a known fact that policy makers after the 2000 election were looking for an excuse to invade Iraq.

                http://articles.cnn.com/2004-01-10/politics/oneill.bush_1_roomful-of-deaf-people-education-of-paul-o-neill-national-security-council-meeting?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS

                It’s a known fact. However, there is no evidence that pre-2000 the same priorities existed, otherwise we would have done it. During Operation Desert Fox, Saddam’s government could have been toppled. From a strategic point of view, that would have been a better time to do it. We had more available troops, more money, etc.

                Ideas come from people. The idea to use Iraq as a base to spread US influence in the middle east did not come from nowhere – it was written about, debated, discussed, and shelved by various think tanks, intelligence, diplomatic, and military figures. In 2000 it was taken back off the shelf and made the priority.

                However, I do agree that the general public doesn’t have much say on foreign policy, hence my point about Bush’s campaign promises. The problems is that Americans don’t know anything about the rest of the world. Why do you think we require only one throwaway class on the topic freshman year of high school? If our first societal change needs to be in stopping the endless consumerism that forces us to embrace corrupt policies, the second needs to be an interest in the rest of the world.

                And Mark, no, I was in no position to think anything about Saddam before 1990. But today I have a pretty good knowledge regarding the politics of foreign countries.

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