Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Fatal Symmetry

I never bought into my generation's belief in the moral equivalence between America and her enemies. In the postwar period, the US was plainly a better country than China or the Soviet Union. Geo-political lines may have been blurred since 1989, but America's hat, for me, looks battered yet still basically white. This, however, has never been an easy position to maintain. America's global PR has always been terrible, never more so than now. Pro-American intellectuals I know are in despair over this. The Iraq War was lost on day one when it became clear that it was just a shooting war - there was no visible sign of the necessary hearts and minds campaign that was a prerequisite for victory. Such errors confirm the easy anti-Americanism of my coevals, the lazy assumption that, between our ally and her enemies, there is a fatal symmetry. All of which is inspired by the curious symmetry between these two stories: in Iran high speed internet access has been banned apparently to thwart Western influences and, meanwhile, the US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has been speaking of people's ability to 'radicalize themselves over the internet.' Chertoff is not banning anything, of course, but there is something deeply stupid about his remarks. To anybody, like me, who partially lives online, warning about the dangers lurking on the web is like putting a health advisory on oxygen - of course, it causes cancer, but we're stuck with it. As fatal symmetries go, this connection between Michael and the mullahs is a very small thing. It is just one more ounce added to the very heavy burden carried by America's friends. But, well, hey, he ain't heavy, he's my.....Brother?


  1. Do you nmean by America whoever happens to hold the reins of power there? I think there can be a pretty significant difference between the traditional aspirations and ideals of a nation, and here in a sense America shines bright, and those with political power. Which is America- Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac or Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? I believe knowledge of the real nature and the level of evil intent of these people is greatly underestimated thanks largely to a pitiful joke of a media industry, which Huxley warned some fifty odd years ago is "in the hands of the power elite". As Jefferson rightly said, you can't believe a word in the newspapers.
    How many people are aware of a thinker, Leo Strauss, seen as the phiposophical founder of the neo-cons? These are a few of his statements.
    "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed," According to Shadia Drury who teaches politics at the University of Calgary, Strauss believed that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right ? the right of the superior to rule over the inferior." Bit like em.....what is it again...oh yeah Nazism.
    Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control,
    rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud."
    "Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book.
    Strauss believed that the inherently aggressive nature of human beings could only be restrained by a powerful nationalistic state. "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed," he once wrote. "Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united ? and they can only be united against other people."
    "Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured." A hell of a lot could be written about here.
    "Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in," says Drury. The idea easily translates into, in her words, an "aggressive, belligerent foreign policy," of the kind that has been advocated by neocon groups like PNAC and AEI scholars ? not to mention Wolfowitz and other administration hawks who have called for a world order dominated by U.S. military power. Strauss' neoconservative students see foreign policy as a means to fulfill a "national destiny" ? as Irving Kristol defined it already in 1983 ? that goes far beyond the narrow confines of a " myopic national security."
    And here some words by a very prominent neo-con, Richard Perle.
    This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq ... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war ... our children will sing great songs about us years from now'? (December 12, 2002).
    Total lunatic.

  2. Having read Chertoff's statement I can see only one flaw. That is it is quite clear that the 7/7 bombers did have overseas support and a terrorist network to depend on. So his supposition has not proof; but may still be correc.

    As you say though, he does not say we should ban the internet or even try to control it. The implication is that we will just have to live with this as a new threat.

    Actually, this is a very sensible approach and totally at odds with the Iranian position of trying to control information.

    The twist only will come if a US-hater decides to wrongly interpret Cherhoff's statement to imply that;

    A) the internet must be regulated
    B) the world is dangerous and we need more extreme controls over our liberty to protect ourselves.

    The above two statements are plausible, but incorrect. This reasoning however has led to programmes such as Adam Curtis' 'The power of nightmares.'

  3. The Dutch AIVD intelligence service has a remarkable report on its website which highlights the negative impact of the internet on second and third generation immigrants. Some of this will be familiar to any university teacher whose students cut corners by downloading information rather than reading books; some of it is more disturbing. But I agree, it is there, like the atom or air.

  4. I think Chertoff means the Internet is a place for the like-minded to meet and if they're like-minded about terrorist acts, that's scary. In other words, once again technology is a double-edged sword. It's great for bloggers and also for bombers.

    Glad you don't hate America, Bryan. I was in Paris a couple of years ago with friends when a Briton heard my accent, leapt up from his cafe table and began haranguing me about George W. Bush and Iraq -- the man's son was in the English military and I was the nearest American he could blame for it. It was a surreal moment.

    On the other hand, I was also in Scotland this summer and almost everyone was incredibly nice. Pitying of us as Americans, almost, 'cause they figure we can't do anything about the cowboy holding the reins of the nation....

  5. And also in the Project for a New American Century document prior to 911, the neo-cons did state that they wished to have control of the internet. And a global policy of "military strength and moral clarity" with "simultaneous multi-theatre wars" to bring about desired regime change to nations seen as hostile to US interests. Interestingly they said THis new push by America in world affairs was said to be sadly not going to get the support necessary, "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event ? like a new Pearl Harbour." I wonder how odd people find it that in a document formulating US future foreign policy it is stated that the successful enactment of these policies will depend on a catastrophic and catalyzing terror atttack upon the US first to get the backing required. Otherwise this will be condemned to an extrememly slow long-term process. If using one's intellect and being a little informed amounts to being a US hater, the world is in a very sorry state.

  6. In haste. Susan, for my true feelings about the US go to my Selected Articles and read my post 9/11 piece.

  7. And regarding the media and 77, people should check up Haroon Aswat. Here from The Times...
    "Haroon Rashid Aswat has emerged as the figure that Scotland Yard have been hunting since he flew out of Britain just hours before the attacks which killed 56 people.Intelligence sources told The Times that during his stay Aswat visited the home towns of all four bombers as well as selecting targets in London. Security sources there told The Times that he was armed with a number of guns, wearing an explosive belt and carrying around £17,000 in cash. He had a British passport and was about to flee across the border to Afghanistan.

    Aswat, who is thought to have stayed in the madrassa with two of the British suicide bombers, is being questioned over claims that one ? Mohammad Sidique Khan ? telephoned him on the morning of the July 7 attack.

    Intelligence sources claim that there were up to twenty calls between Aswat and two of the bombers in the days leading up to the bombing of three Tube trains and a double-decker bus. A senior Pakistani security source said: ?We believe this man had a crucial part to play in what happened in London.?,,22989-1713139,00.html

    The same story repeated across the media. Now here is the Fox News expert John Loftus on Aswat.
    He was arrested for setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999. His accomplices jailed but Aswat let go free, as he was on sevral other occasions. "The only reason he could get away with that is if he's working for the British authorities."

    Well what happened next? The media shut up about Aswat and John Loftus got sacked from Fox News.

    Or what about Siddique Khan mentioned in the Times article. Well this from Charles Shoebridge on BBC radio. Shoebridge is a 12-year veteran detective of the London Metropolitan Police, a former graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and now a broadcaster and writer on terrorism in the UK.
    "The level of information coming in of Khan....backed up by US authorities...attempt to blow up synagogues etc......consistently overlooked ...suggest either a) a level of incomptence unusual even for the security forces or b)this man Khan may have been working for the security forces".
    Click below Shoebridge's photo for the BBC piece.

  8. ...I believe knowledge of the real nature and the level of evil intent of these people is greatly underestimated thanks largely to a pitiful joke of a media industry...

    This is almost right but goes off the beaten path in two places. Evil intent yes. Whose? Those behind Gore, Kerry, Bush [the S&CB puppets], Kissinger and Cheney [the movers and shakers] or the real power? As Deep Throat said, 'Follow the money.' Once you get there, it won't be possible to follow the trail any further. Secondly, the 'pitiful joke'- it's no joke. The papers were bought up one after the other after the other. Check Katy Graham's bio, her antecedents. Do your own research and it turns up very interesting connections. Good place to start is Bloomberg, look up ratings agencies and go from there.

  9. Thanks for the link James. And in the words of Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments "Through technical devices like the radio and loud-speaker 80 million people were deprived of independent thought.....subject to the will of one man."

  10. Honestly, guys. They say America is a paranoid nation, but I believe it was a Brit band who sang, "Paranoia the Destroyah!" I believe evil is much more banal. In fact, I agree with Hannah Arendt. Like entropy, it just keeps breaking things down, the horrors keep mounting (like the body count in Baghdad -- or Darfur), until finally someone decides to stop the chaos and impose order.

    Sadly, quite frequently, the someone is a dictator of some kind. Hitler imposed order after the misery of WW I in Germany (no one seems willing to note that now, but it's the main reason so many people supported him -- he wanted to trade entropy and chaos for order...obviously at a horrible price); and after WW II, who imposed order on lots of Europe, including Eastern Germany? Another dictator with a purgative sense of order.

    Ya get what ya pay for. And it's truest of all now in America, where our president is the result of the collective fortunes of thousands of wealthy people with right-wing beliefs. It's too diffuse to be a conspiracy -- don't be paranoid, boyos.

    But here's the good news: This, too, shall pass. Everything does.

  11. I'm not sure how banal the im=namtes of Belsen, Auschwitz and the gulags would have found evil. Susan. And as for a conspiracy, kind of interesting that the electorate of the US got to choose between two of the members of this bizarre society, Skull & Bones, or to give its original title, the Brotherhood of Death. Sworn allegiances to each other and to total secrecy about the order.
    Ineresting and serious documentary on theis group below.
    Includes contributions from Professor Anthony Sutton, author of Wall St and the Rise of Hitler, and Wall St and the Bolshevik Revolution.
    Just thought of a variation on Blake's famous line, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, then everything will appear to man as it is, infinite."
    "If the doors of perception are dulled, everything will appear to man as it isn't, banal and mundane."

  12. I prefer to quote Yeats: "The worst are full of passionate intensity; the best lack all conviction."

    Lack of conviction is what lets the ivy...and the fungus...grow. Yet passionate intensity is equally scary: That's what blew up subways in London and the World Trade Center here.

    "Skull and Bones" is a silly fraternity -- lots of old colleges have them. Certainly that must be true in England, too -- old boys are old boys everywhere, and all the old boys were young once.

    Anyway, I still think you give way too much conspiratorial credit to G.W. and friends. And, happily, the next election in our country will wash it all away and let the opposed, yet clueless and depressingly inept, Other Party have a go at fixing the world.

    Otherwise, Andrew, I'd like to know what you would prescribe as a solution? It's easy to identify problems, much harder to solve them.

  13. I think for starters, Susan, we better start investigating the evidence around attacks like 911 and 77 for ourselves rather than putting faith in the versions handed out by the authorities and lapped up by the media. One little detail for example for those who put credence in the official version of 911. The authorities pinpointed Mohammed Atta remarkably quickly as the leading hijacker. How did they do this? Simple, Atta's passport was found at the scene of the crime, or below the scene of the crime to be more precise. I'm not joking in this. The folowing from the 911 Commission Report.
    "Four of the hijackers? passports have survived in whole or in part. Two were recovered
    from the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. One belonged to a
    hijacker on American Airlines Flight 11. A passerby picked it up and gave it to an
    NYPD detective shortly before the World Trade Center towers collapsed."

    The main terrorist's passport just happened to somehow exit the plane on contact and sail to safety to the ground below. Perhaps if I invest in a lobotomy I might find this credible.
    And as shown, one terrorist passport wasn't enough. Two more found at the scene of Flight 93.
    To give an idea of the extent to which Flight 93 was pretty much vapourized here's some tv footage of the crash site from the day itself. "There was nothing you could distinguish that a plane had crashed there...There's nothing there except for a whole in the ground" The destruction so total that the plane seemingly vapourized , and yet TWO more terrorist passports discovered! All I can think of is these terrorists are so evil that an aura of invincibility is protecting their passports from destruction.

    Just one morsel from the banquet of hilarity that is the 911 Commission.
    And as for the dismissing of Skull & Bones...just an old boys network who happen to have 3 of the last 4 presidents and the last 2 candidates. And into its members completely the President refuse to speak, the current president was initiated whiole lying naked in a coffin. Nothing to worry about.

  14. Oops, that last sentence kind of came apart at the seams, didn't it.

  15. Andrew, I know you'll find this hard to believe, but about a week ago, a small plane crashed into a condo building in NYC. It was flown by Cory Lidle (he used to be a pitcher for the baseball team here in Philadelphia). They found out pretty quickly who was in the plane because...They found his passport on the street below! I kid you not. I think paper blows away in an explosion if it isn't immediately consumed by the flames.

    About Skull and Bones, again -- it's a fraternity for the cool guys on campus (my husband went to Harvard; they have a similar club there. All the old Ivies do and probably most schools do). After all, what are masons? Knights Templar? (Oops--that does kinda lead into Dan Brown's conspiracy theories.) Boy Scouts? Also, did you read David Mitchell's _Black Swan Green_ (came out in the spring)? Jason, the protagonist, is inducted into a boys' club -- The Spooks -- in darkest Worcestershire, England.

    Don't get me going on the 19th-century boys' clubs started at posh schools like Harrow & Eton... They led to birching brothels and postings to India.

    We're definitely gonna have to agree to disagree on the conspiracy thing. Anon, dear A.

  16. There is nothing more repulsive to me that a wingnut that believes in a conspiracy to blow up the World Trade Center. Was the 1993 attack also engineered by GWB? And was Kennedy murdered by the CIA? And does your head roll off if the duct tape loosens?

  17. I take it you find that bit about the passports eminently plausible, Tom. I however find it an laughably stupid. And if it doesn't repel you too much, here's a little on the 1993 WTC attack.


    * * * * *

    Thursday October 28, 1993 Page A1

    "Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart
    Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast"

    By Ralph Blumenthal

    Law-enforcement officials were told that terrorists were building
    a bomb that was eventually used to blow up the World Trade Center,
    and they planned to thwart the plotters by secretly substituting
    harmless powder for the explosives, an informer said after
    the blast.

    The informer was to have helped the plotters build the bomb
    and supply the fake powder, but the plan was called off by
    an F.B.I. supervisor who had other ideas about how the informer,
    Emad Salem, should be used, the informer said.

    The account, which is given in the transcript of hundreds of
    hours of tape recordings that Mr. Salem secretly made of his
    talks with law-enforcement agents, portrays the authorities as
    being in a far better position than previously known to foil
    the February 26th bombing of New York City's tallest towers.
    Mr. Salem, a 43-year-old former Egyptian Army officer, was used
    by the Government [of the United States] to penetrate a circle
    of Muslim extremists who are now charged in two bombing cases:
    the World Trade Center attack, and a foiled plot to destroy
    the United Nations, the Hudson River tunnels, and other
    New York City landmarks. He is the crucial witness in the
    second bombing case, but his work for the Government was
    erratic, and for months before the World Trade Center blast,
    he was feuding with th F.B.I.
    In one of the taped conversations between Salem and "Special Agent" John
    Anticev, Salem refers to him and the Bureau's involvement in making the
    bomb that blew up the World Trade Center. As Salem is pressing for
    money while emphasizing his value as a Bureau asset, the conversation
    moves in and out of references to the bombing and the FBI's knowledge of
    the bomb making:

    FBI: But ah basically nothing has changed. I'm just telling you for my
    own sake that nothing, that this isn't a salary but you got paid
    regularly for good information. I mean the expenses were a little bit
    out of the ordinary and it was really questioned. Don't tell Nancy I
    told you this. (Nancy Floyd is another FBI agent who worked with Salem
    in his informant capacity. The second tape obtained by the SHADOW is of
    a telephone conversation between Salem and Floyd -Ed.)

    SALEM: Well, I have to tell her of course.

    FBI: Well then, if you have to, you have to.

    SALEM: Yeah, I mean because the lady was being honest and I was being
    honest and everything was submitted with receipts and now it's

    FBI: It's not questionable, it's like a little out of the' ordinary.

    SALEM: Okay. I don't think it was. If that what you think guys, fine,
    but I don't think that because we was start already building the bomb
    which is went off in the World Trade Center. It was built by supervising
    supervision from the Bureau and the DA and we was all informed about it
    and we know what the bomb start to be built. By who? By your confidential
    informant. What a wonderful great case! And then he put his head in the
    sand I said "Oh, no, no, that's not true, he is son of a bitch."
    (Deep breath) Okay. It's built with a different way in another place and
    that's it.

    But if people like to hide from evidence because the implications hurt their senseibilities, well there isn't much one can do to persuade, is there?

  18. There is one little problem with the article you quoted... it isn't from the NY Times and it wasn't written by Ralph Blumenthal. The first couple of paragraphs were from an article in the Times but the rest is pure fiction. The article is available on the NY Times website so you can check it for yourself. A dead giveaway is the poor grammar in the paragraph before the supposed quotes. No NY Times editor would ever let that get in the paper.

    The actual article tells us that Mr. Salem was prevented from investigating further because the FBI was already using him as a witness in one case and was afraid that the defense would claim that the FBI had planted Mr. Salem as a mole to get information about the defense's case. In fact, William Kunstler made that exact claim. Nowhere in the article is any mention made that Mr. Salem knew anything about an attack on the WTC.

    But don't let this change your mind. After all, as you said, "But if people like to hide from evidence because the implications hurt their senseibilities [sic], well there isn't much one can do to persuade, is there?"

  19. More on the 1993 bombing here, Tom.
    Again here, the New York Times story is repeated.
    And below are the words of Andreas von B|low who was former State Secretary at the Ministry Of Defence from 1976-1980 and Minister for Research And Technology from 1980-1982, and member of the Bundestag's control commission for the German secret services; he is very familiar with how intelligence agencies work. In an interview January 12, 2002, Von B|low compared 9/11 with the first attack on the World Trade Center:

    In the middle was the bombmaker, a former Egyptian officer. He had pulled together some Muslims for the attack. They were snuck into the country by the CIA, despite a State Department ban on their entry. At the same time, the leader of the band was an FBI informant. And he made a deal with the authorities: At the last minute, the dangerous explosive material would be replaced by a harmless powder. The FBI did not stick to the deal. The bomb exploded, so to speak, with the knowledge of the FBI. The Official story of the crime was quickly found: The criminals were evil Muslims."

    Plenty more can e read at the given site. Also Tom, you have staryed silent on the main terrorist's passport's miraculous survival of the WTC crash which pinpointed Atta so conveniently. Does this mean youo actually find it remotely plausible? As I said, perhaps if I have a lobotomy I may start to become a believer in this frankly hilarious concoction.