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19 February 2007


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Where is the Canaris (and Oster and Bonhoeffer and the rest) in the current pack of careerist senior MI drones in the UK or US? The most senior Australian intelligence "advisor" pre- and early Iraq debacle is is now Australian ambassador in Washington DC. Go figure.

Wasn't it Canaris who surprised his Spanish hosts by saluting assorted idlers and derelicts sitting in the sun? The Admiral explained that one could never be sure that they were not senior members of his government -- far from the best and brightest (though Goering seems to have known his onions about war incitement and jingoism generally). The Vietnam hubris was not quite as abysmal as that of the current crowd. They have been suckered but since they don't do humility or apology, it will never be admitted. It may ne a bit pedantic but I have generally associated sophistication with wisdom of some sort -- not crude rat cunning, rancid hypocrisy, vilification of opponents and being very economical with the truth.

The panoply of horrors now in http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/ almost defies belief. The Maliki "government" is not worth preserving.


Jim, I think your post (10:12 PM 20th Feb)beautifully sums up the complex yet ultimately threadbare motives that drove America to war as well as some of the longer term costs that are less often considered.

I too was puzzled at the ferocious enthusiasm that seemed to grip so many during those fevered days. To anyone not swept up in the emotion, each of the reasons put forward was hollow, absurd even. It is only in considering an amalgam of these many rationales with the extraordinary intensity of emotion that any of it makes sense. And then mainly in terms of how badly we can mislead ourselves at times.

I don't know whether you read Norman Mailer's essay in NYRB in June 2003 on this very topic but if not, I highly commend it. In essence, he argues that America went to war in Iraq "because we very much needed a successful war as a species of psychic rejuvenation." In both the quality of his prose and his desire to reach in and find the beating heart, he's at his extravagant best. His response to Ronald Tiersky's critique (also available on the NYRB web site)is in some ways even better.


J.T. Davis

Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Where'd you get it?
Private Joker: I don't remember, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you've got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: "Born to Kill", sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Private Joker: Our side, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Don't you love your country?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Then how about getting with the program? Why don't you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Son, all I've ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It's a hardball world, son. We've gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
Private Joker: Aye-aye, sir.


Ingolf and Jim,

What you wrote would have been true if the war planning started AFTER 9/11. However, there is plenty of evidence that the war was in planning way BEFORE that time. The neoconservatives outlined their ideas also very early on, PNAC was established in 1997.

Thus, while 9/11 was a significant factor in rallying the PUBLIC in support of the invasion, it was not a reason, not a major one at least, for the RULING group to go to war.

Mark Rich of New York Times advanced the idea that the president needed a war in order to get reelected. It is a very plausible explanation. Indeed, a war would presumably unite the nation after a very divisive elections, in which the loser in the actual vote became president by, some would argue, a Supreme Court appointment. Had we not had the war, maybe we would still be chatting about the shortcomings of the electoral system and maybe even calling for direct elections.

The economy was shaky. The Republican base demanded smaller government. How could the president explain to them increased governmental spending, which was necessary in order to provide a Keynesian stimulus, if such was required.

Who said this: the war is the health of the state. The war might have been a pragmatic decision. It’s the way it was pushed onto the public and its dark ideological undemocratic undertones that rub some of us the wrong way.

JT Davis

"Who said this: the war is the health of the state."

Randolph Bourne.

JT Davis

And I think you mean Frank Rich of the NYTimes. Mark Rich was one of Clinton's more controversial pardons.


In his multi-linguistic skills, HUMINT connections, nonjingoistic-patriotism, refusal to drink the Kool-Aid, I see some Canaris in our patron.


Plp, the desire on the part of some to go to war had certainly been present for quite some time.

My suggestion, and I think Jim's, was that this wish could only be fulfilled because of the emotional intensity unleashed by 9/11.


Canaris did not have the free speech that we enjoy and had to dissemble. His only resort was a coup d'etat- regime change. We have other remedies. Chief-of-which is education. Hopefully, as with the last election, enough voters will quit drinking the Kool-Aid.

Fitzgerald struck a great blow during the Libby closing arguments when he attacked Cheney and some think Bush


Cold War Zoomie

Reading these essays and comments makes me think about the conversations I had with a coworker from March 2003 until April 2004 that were much less cerebral. And they definitely weren't as sophisticated. But damned if we weren't right, so far.

We are both vets who served as peons during the 1980s in Europe. He served as an Army grunt and I was an Air Force radio tech. We aren't political scientists, or historians, or highly educated. Both of us had spent our time overseas thinking mostly about beer and women, with a little down time spent growing up and learning to see our country from the outside (when the bars were closed!). Almost 20 years later, though, it wasn't rocket science for us to see what a mistake our country was making with this invasion. And we both had exactly the same question - how would YOU feel if a foreign army occupied YOUR country?

Our analysis of Middle East culture isn't any more sophisticated. We simply viewed it as a massive collection of extended families where it's OK for me to beat up my brother, or cousin, but there will be hell to pay if some knucklehead outsider picks a fight with any of my dearest family members! No, it's not the deepest or the most sophisticated analysis of the culture we've found ourselves up to our necks in, but so far it has proved much more accurate than the Think Tank Weenies and TV Pundits and Thomas Friedmans of the world.

Yeah, we Americans got suckered into this partly because we were gullible enough to believe our leaders. Don't underestimate the power of us peons to cut through the BS over time, though, and see this mess for what it is. From what I can tell, most of us already have.

At this point I’m wondering what the guys and gals on the ground over there are starting to think about this mess. (Don't forget, these are the folks who can distill human endeavors that have gone awry into the most succinct analysis possible - FUBAR, SNAFU and BOHICA!) Personally, I can’t imagine they are going to keep the faith much longer and once they see it as a Class-A Cluster F*#k, it will be over. What do you think, Col. Lang, since you’ve got actual experience leading combat troops – will the grunts hang in there for another 2-3 years?

Got A Watch

"Emulating the enemy" by Glenn Greenwald is an article today at:
Compares the psychology of the neo-cons vs. the muslim extremists. The whole article is well worth reading, but the key section is:

"None of this, of course, is new. Historian Richard Hofstadter, in his influential 1964 Harper's essay entitled The Paranoid Style in American Politics, described this dynamic perfectly:

Emulating the Enemy

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms -- he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse. ("Time is running out," said [John Birch Society founder Robert] Welch in 1951. "Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack").

As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.

Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated -- if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman -- sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced.

The paranoid's interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone's will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth."

This guy nailed it 1964, the Bushies are really just paranoid schizophrenics who should never been allowed near any levers of power.

Babak Makkinejad

Cold War Zoomie:

I was struck by your statement: "...viewed it as a massive collection of extended families".

Vert true and very well put.

Clifford Kiracofe

All: For a serious academic analysis of Neoconservative ideology as it applies to foreign policy/national strategy, see:
Stefan Halper & Jonathan Clarke, "America Alone. The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

There is a growing body of academic/scholarly work on the Neocons. There are also files on a number of them resident at the FBI and other elements of the US Federal government. Does anyone recall the Iran-Contra investigations and the personalities involved? I worked on the professional staff of the US Senate at that time and well recall that investigation (to which I contributed).

Dr. Clifford Kiracofe
Department of History
Virginia Military Institute

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