(This is part 2 of a multi-part post. See part 1 here)
The harm that follows from excess devotion (which I wrote about here: Devotion ) is greatest where devotion is reflexive, unnoticed, unquestioned. Such devotion is common among people who otherwise are well on guard against the problem.
Such is the nature of the problem of devotion.
Today, America’s new President (Trump) made his first speech at the United Nations. He called for:
“a reawakening of nations,” for the “revival of their spirits, pride, people and patriotism” and a “rebirth of devotion” to “defeat the enemies of humanity.”
It’s not the first time the language of devotion is put on display. This is the normative rhetoric of American exceptionalism. Devotion, to exceptional America, is consistent with the scope of American “ideology”, and represents the whole of it conceptually: The United States is a religion; devotion to it is your whole and actual purpose. I stray not far from the common rhetoric and presentation, just restated with words less dulled by normalizing familiarity.
Paula Densnow makes a very important point in a Facebook comment. Responding to Trump’s call for devotion, and his concomitant call to envision the total destruction of whatever other nations either lack sufficient devotion to American supremacy, or that otherwise for whatever reason happen to be on America’s target list, Paula says:
“From Article 2 (of the UN Charter), All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
1. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
This means that the endless arguments Americans engage in, when our rulers target another country, in which we try to convince each other whether or not a particular country has a leader worthy of staying, or whether we should starve or bomb the people of that country in order to get rid of said leader, are all examples of our reckless regard for international law. Not just our leaders, but we the people are ignoring the law, when we assume that the US has the right to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries.
We peace advocates act as if we are lawyers for the accused, arguing the merits of the charges against the accused leader, and we argue for the mercy of the court on the millions of people in his or her country, as if we also believe that our rulers have the right to execute any leader of any country, or their people. We need to always keep in our minds the blatant illegality of the charges, the trial and the executions, instead of following their script. First and foremost, call for law and order in the world, and insist that our country obey international law.”
Farhang Jahanpour also comments, on Facebook, in response to Trump’s UN speech:
“It was perhaps the most belligerent, chauvinistic speech ever delivered from that podium. Trump showed himself as someone who can only speak the language of violence and destruction, who is against international organisations (such as the UN) and international treaties (Iran nuclear deal or international trade deals or the Paris Agreement), who cuts the budget of the UN and spends unprecedented amounts on war-making, wrongly described as defence. If the UN had a backbone it should demand the expulsion of the present American regime from the UN until another government that is more in tune with the UN Charter comes to power. The international community and international organisations would have neglected their duties and would pay a heavy price in the future if they do not stand up to this level of violence and bullying.”
I agree and add:
They are paying that price already now, and have been for decades. Which US administrations have not planned, prepared, and initiated wars of aggression, crimes against peace? Which have not done so systematically? Is it acceptable to serially commit the supreme crime of aggression, and to do so as a matter of policy for decades, while these gravest crimes ever codified are somehow made worse (or, we are to believe, made to newly exist now) because of Trump’s uglier language?
By that argument, which is the standard American argument — which, is not an argument per se, but a call to devout worship of Americanism — there is no complaint in destroying country after country, killing tens of millions of people in one illegal war of aggression after another, but rather now, because of the persona of Trump, there is issue?
And the issue is not with the war mongering, but rather is with war mongering by Trump.
Such an argument fails from weakness, from nihilism, and from making simple mockery of human life, universally. but I ask because of the suggested US expulsion from the UN. I agree, the US should be expelled, condemned, sanctioned, “until another government that is more in tune with the UN Charter comes to power.” But the argument is inadequate. Would that other government look like any of the US administrations that preceded Trump over the last 30 years?
Trump (if he acts on his threats) is the second US President, since the Bush administration, to exceed George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in war mongering, crimes against peace, wars of aggression. After the heinous Bush crimes of Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama continued those and added a proxy war (arming Al Qaeda and ISIS) against Syria and a propaganda war supporting that. Both the proxy war and the propaganda are crimes heinous beyond comprehension. Likewise, Obama turned Libya into a hell on earth by similar, and connected, means along with 8 months of bombing. Likewise, Obama exceeded Bush/Cheney, and exceeded even the craziest of even fictional imaginary crazies in American popular culture: US General Jack D. Ripper, in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964, “Dr Strangelove”. The Obama administration fomented a coup d’etat in Ukraine, installed a government comprised largely of actual real Nazis, and in the process attempted to claim Sevastopol as a US/NATO Naval base (the coup government stated intent to renege on the Kharkiv Treaty on day 1).
That’s flat-out-beyond-belief crazy. The fictional Ripper character, in Dr. Strangelove, launched a first strike. Crazy beyond belief; check out Kubrick’s depiction of such a numbskullery: https://youtu.be/Qr2bSL5VQgM
Yet… not crazed enough to fail to recognize the consequence(s) of his action. “Total commitment” (to actualized nuclear war, now) was the consequence that Jack D. Ripper both envisioned, and intended. Listen to “Buck Turgidson” read “Jack D. Ripper’s” statement: https://youtu.be/8Ps2lTqaVNw?t=3m51s
Recall that on failing to achieve what he sought, Ripper again was shown sufficiently lucid, recognizing from this as well the necessary consequence.
With today’s neocons running things as they do in Washington since the 90s, we inhabit now (for how much longer?) a scenario that exceeds the excessive insanity that compelled Kubrick in the early 1960’s, to redirect the path of the film not as drama, but rather comedy. Tragedy known and elevated to another level.
Today the tragedy may be final, with no one left to reflect on and transform it.
Are today’s neocons awareness-incapable? Can they recognize consequences of their actions? It’s worth asking. Worst case, the answer is “no”. Kubrick sketched, and stretched the limits of human insanity with the Ripper character in Strangelove. Are today’s neocons outstripping even these limits? Who can say? Further insanity beyond the Ripper caricature may lie beyond human comprehension. We lack the concepts.
The neocon brand of insanity infects the United States’ entire political culture, both parties, national, state, and local level, and the populace.
Let’s take as an example a mid-level American politician.
An American politician
Jim Gray is mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, a medium sized American city, with a state University at its center, with a tradition of political “progressivism”. Progressivism is in quotes because the word has been, obviously, systematically drained of meaning in the United States since the 1970s, drained for so long that the pool’s empty now. Nevertheless, Lexington-Fayette County voters are reliable Democratic Party voters. The city-county is always colored “blue” (democratic party majority) in elections at any level, in a State that’s overwhelmingly red (republican party majority).
Jim, is an admirable person. An effective political leader. He’s run an effective city administration. Before that he managed a successful family business, an engineering, architecture and construction company of significant size and impact. He’s also personable, approachable, down to earth. All around a great guy. Deserving of his success, without doubt.
There seems to be no cruelty in his background whatsoever. Therefore no question of his awareness or unawareness of it, and no issue of mocking human life, certainly. And it would be nice if the story would continue in that way, genuine, honest, intelligent, decent, not cruel, not mocking of human life.
But Jim Gray made himself a candidate for national political office, running in 2016 as a Democratic Party candidate for US Senate from Kentucky. He ran against Rand Paul. Like each of the fifty states in the United States, Kentucky elects two Senators. Ours are Mitch McConnell (about whom I won’t comment in this post), and Rand Paul, both Republicans. Rand Paul is noteworthy because of his consistent opposition to American war policy. He consistently opposes NATO expansion, for example, and consistently opposes US wars of aggression.
Kentucky, it turns out, compared to the rest of the country, is a veritable hotbed of anti-war politicians. We have Rand Paul in office (US Senate). And we have Thomas Massie (US House of Representatives, Kentucky 4th District).
Do yourself a favor and listen to the full 7 minutes of this April 5th, 2017 CNN video clip interviewing US Congressman Thomas Massie: https://youtu.be/VXIJlyxCQyE , and ask yourself, of the two people on the split screen, CNN’s Kate Bolduan or Thomas Massie, which of the two sounds reasonable and decent? Which sounds like a war-mongering maniac?
For many (most?) Americans, it’s hard to answer correctly, as it is for anyone who’s suffered decades of systematic conditioning, training, indoctrination in supremacy, exceptionalism, American war prerogative. But for voters in Massie’s Kentucky voting district, Massie says in the interview, that this issue, war mongering, more than any other issue, “melted the phones” in his office with the volume of voter calls voicing disapproval of America’s war against Syria (and agreement with Massie’s position calling for American withdrawal).
Thomas Massie and Rand Paul are two of only a small handful of anti-war voices in the US Congress, a handful that in total comprises only about 1% of the 100 Senators and 435 Representatives in the House. As they’re both from Kentucky, that makes Kentucky a hotbed of anti-war sentiment among elected officials and voters, relatively speaking. Our other Kentucky Senator, and our other Representatives in the House, are dedicated to war mongering worldwide, and reflexively so like vampires truly, as if they can’t NOT plan, prepare, and initiate war of aggression.
One of these Kentucky war vampires is a Republican representing Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. He faces a re-election contest in 2018, and may be challenged by another anti-war Kentuckian, if Geoffrey M. Young wins Kentucky’s 6th District Democratic Party Congressional primary election before the general election in 2018. Check out Geoff’s website: http://young4ky.com/foreign-policy/ Geoff has a set of short videos there describing his foreign policy principles.
Geoffrey Young believes that if he can beat the Democratic Party’s apparent institutional bias against anti-war candidates, then he can easily beat his Republican opponent (the incumbent who is pro-war), as Kentucky voters generally prefer, so it seems, anti-war candidates. A pro-war Democratic candidate, on the other hand, seems a sure loser, again, in Kentucky versus a pro-war Republican. This at least should be put to the test. In the United States today, unfortunately, Democratic Party voters are LESS likely than Republicans to vote for anti-war candidates. That’s an easy calculus. You can count anti-war politicians in the US on one hand, two hands at most.
The last time a pro-war, pro-Wall Street, standard establishment Democratic Party candidate faced an anti-war Republican in a statewide general election, was 10 months ago (November 2016) when Rand Paul defeated Jim Gray. It wasn’t close: https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/kentucky-senate-paul-gray
Jim Gray’s Senate campaign website is still online, so, you can see what Jim “said” about “foreign policy”. Now given what I know, or think I know, about Jim Gray, from many years living in Lexington myself, I had hoped and expected that I’d be able to vote for him. So what happened? What happens to these people? How does a guy from an design and construction business, mayor of a progressive university town, end up saying this in an election campaign? The long quote below from Gray’s US Senate campaign website http://grayforkentucky.com/issue/defense-national-security/ is worth reading in full:
National Security & Our Veterans
I’ve learned as Mayor the importance of Public Safety, that’s why it has been my number one priority since taking office. My administration has invested far more in public safety than ever in the city’s history. And while everything certainly is not perfect, Lexington is recognized as the safest city our size in the country.
We need the same sense of security across the country and a sense of urgency in Washington. Too many politicians talk about the importance of keeping our country safe while taking little action. That’s not how I work.
My goal as a US Senator is simple: to be constructive and be a part of solving Kentucky’s biggest challenges. To do that we must have a safe and secure country.
I believe our government has no greater responsibility than to keep our country safe. Because America is the leader of the free world, I believe in a strong role for the United States in shaping the course of world events.
Right now, the world needs American leadership more than ever. Threats from ISIS, a resurgent Russia, and a rapidly growing China must be met by a strong, confident America. Yet this year many politicians are asking us to think small. To retreat from global leadership, and abandon our allies abroad.
As we create greater opportunity here at home, we must continue our leadership in creating greater economic opportunity abroad. A strong global economy is the best environment for building a community of nations working on common interests. I believe it is essential that we continue to work with long-time allies and partners across the globe to present a unified front against international threats, most pressingly the dangers presented by international terrorism. As we continue to see new attacks at home and abroad, we must move forward with an unwavering commitment to defeating ISIS.
The U.S. mustn’t shrink from its responsibilities and obligations in securing a more peaceful and engaged world community. We must support efforts to ensure that we have a national security policy that is strategic, strong and innovative.
Strengthening our Military
I’m running for the US Senate because Rand Paul has been an advocate for bluntly cutting defense spending and reducing the number of American troops. He tried his best to get in the way of our intelligence community that safeguards America from foreign and domestic terrorism.
Rand’s like a lot of politicians, he flip-flops to get votes. He did that last year as his presidential campaign was launching. TIME magazine characterized a defense spending proposal of his as “A Stunning Reversal For Paul,” who in 2011 called to slash Pentagon funding and cut war funding from $159 billion to zero.
This is not the time to be weak on defense when terror threats and attacks are real and dangerous.
We cannot shrink the protections our military and counter-intelligence efforts provide. Rand Paul wanted to reduce defense spending and reduce the size of our military. Cuts like this are careless and dangerous. His cuts were characterized as “far more severe than anything envisioned by House Republicans.”
We need to cut the Pentagon pork when we can – with a scalpel, not a meat axe the way Rand Paul proposed – and reinvest it in priorities that will make us stronger and safer as a nation. America needs a strong, efficient, and modern defense program with a budget to match. We must make intelligent investments in our military and intelligence systems to keep us safe. We must move forward with an unwavering commitment to defeating ISIS. We have the strongest military in the world, and it must stay that way. To stay ahead, we need to be strategic in how we invest our money as a nation so we’re focused on current needs and future threats.
Supporting our Veterans
In 2010, Rand Paul spoke about putting cuts to veterans benefits on the table, and he lived up to his word by repeatedly opposing legislation that would have expanded them. He was also one of eight Senators to vote against legislation giving veterans job training priority for certain federal jobs. And while reported problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs have continued, he has consistently voted against funding the VA.
No veteran should have to wait for the care that they need. We can all agree that the VA has problems, and we need to work with Veterans, Republicans, Democrats and Independents to fix them.
We should strive for a VA health care system that is second-to-none, accountable and efficient. We have to improve training and individualized care, not outsource it. And let’s invite our veterans to be at the table when solving problems. Our vets can help identify problems and solutions.
Of course, if veterans are dissatisfied with their care or live in a remote area, they should have the ability to go elsewhere. And no veteran should be locked into a doctor they don’t like or a facility that is inadequate. But we shouldn’t allow this as an excuse to impose an extreme agenda and privatize the entire VA.
Destroying ISIS and stabilizing the Middle East
We are going to win the war against ISIS by staying one step ahead of them. To do that we must strengthen our borders, fight homegrown terrorism, deny ISIS a safe haven and cutting off their finances.
Rand Paul is best known for grandstanding. What many may not know is that Paul opposed the Patriot Act and the USA FREEDOM Act, and in his stand against the Patriot Act, he hurt our country’s ability to find and stop terrorists. That’s unacceptable.
Clearly, law enforcement should have access to terrorists’ communications. Right now we need our nation’s brightest minds finding a technological solution that protects Americans, keeps our data secure, and allows us to monitor and foil terrorist plots. I refuse to believe that the most advanced country the world has ever known cannot find an innovative solution to this very difficult problem.
In order to keep our people safe at home we need to take steps to keep weapons out of the hands of suspected terrorists. This includes preventing suspected terrorists from buying weapons.
Reforms like the USA FREEDOM Act allow us to collect more information on terrorists and less information on law-abiding Americans. This is a win-win. Under the new system put in place last year, our intelligence authorities will have access to all the data they need. In fact, they’ll have access to more information on terrorists then they had before.
Nothing is more important than keeping our families safe, and we need a Senator who has the judgment to make the right choices. People are concerned about safety right now. I am too. When I am a Senator, there will be no greater priority.
I am not an isolationist. I don’t believe in a small, weak America. I believe in an America that is strong, an America that takes our rightful place of leadership in the world, not leading from behind but leading from the front of the line. I believe in a strong and vigorous role for the United States to shape the course of world events.
America must work with our NATO partners. As Russia’s economy has crumbled, Vladimir Putin has tried to distract his people by reigniting Cold War rivalries. His actions supporting his war criminal friend, Bashar al-Assad, have brought needless death and destruction upon the Syrian people and unnecessarily complicated an already complicated situation. His invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea were flagrant violations of international norms. Now more than ever we need to stand with our closest military allies in NATO to ensure both their security and our own.
China has to play by the rules. China is one of the globes fastest rising powers and as such, it’s important that we maintain our close relationship with them. However, we must also ensure that they play by the rules, particularly when they try to bully our regional allies. Chinese aggression in the South China Sea must be met by unwavering American support for the Philippines, Japan, and our other allies.
We need leadership in the Senate with strong judgment and resolve to win the war against ISIS. That includes using the greatest military the world has ever known, an unprecedented commitment from our intelligence community, and diplomacy that unifies the world behind this mission.
Standing with our Allies
Rand Paul proposed eliminating foreign aid. That’s dangerous to our security and our economy.
It’s essential that we continue to work with long-time allies and partners to present a unified front against international threats and the dangers presented by terrorism. The United States cannot escape its responsibilities to secure a more peaceful and engaged world community. We must support efforts to ensure that we have a national security policy that is strategic, strong and innovative.
America’s unbreakable bonds with Israel and other allies is core to a strong foreign policy. I believe the United States shares common values, interests and ideals with Israel. We have a shared respect for democratic principles, human rights and religious freedom, and we both seek peace, security and stability.
I’m a supporter of our relationship and maintaining it. That’s why I believe we must do everything we can to ensure that Israel maintains its military edge in the region and the capacity to defend itself. Middle east stability depends with this relationship. Senator Paul’s proposed cuts eliminated aid to Israel, and those cuts would have increased the likelihood of destabilizing the region.
Let’s revisit the [Mocking Human Life] cruelty and awareness sliders (scroll down).
Jim Gray’s “views” on the world, on US war prerogative, his framing of significant events and actors, well, this is boilerplate Party politics. The text is Democratic Party platform and policy (and identical to Republican Party rhetoric and policy). Signing on to this kind of rhetoric apparently is a large part of what it takes to win Party support for a candidate’s election campaign. Geoffrey Young certainly won’t be getting Democratic Party support (funding, advertising)
To the American mind, over-dosed on indoctrination, the rhetoric sounds reasonable, normal. What it is though is “sophisticated”, designed to make the psychopathic sound decent and normal.
Is Jim Gray aware of this? Who can say? Only Jim Gray knows if Jim Gray is a sociopath, or if he consumes this rhetoric reflexively, unaware of its origin and purpose (and meaning). We can say only that the [making a mockery of human life] sliders look like this with regard to Gray’s Senate election campaign rhetoric: maximal cruelty, awareness unknown (assumed low):
(end of part 2 of a multi-part post. See part 1 here)