January 1, 2002
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Swans' co-editor, Jan Baughman, asked what impact current events might have on the US-Russia relations, including but not limited to our withdrawal from ABM treaty, the potential for a trans-Afghanistan oil pipeline, etc. What do I think?
I think that to stand up and piss risks splattering.
First rule of interpersonal and international relations: Don't piss on the jackboots of a bully.
Second rule: If the front door is blocked, come around behind.
First axiom: Bullies can be had by good thinking, avoiding confrontation and picking opportunities carefully. Calculate the bully's trigger point. Work on fallback, feint, parry and thrust.
Second axiom: Symbols communicate.
Which is to say, the way to do a bully is to stay out of sight, work around rather than at, fake him out. Figure out how to sell in Peoria.
New Speak: I am a freedom fighter, you are a bully. No, no. You are a terrorist, I am a bomber.
KAPU: Beware god!
Yes, beware god (small and large cap versions).
Don't like the ideas of bully or barbarity? Try coercion, then. Don't like coercion either? O.K., Skygod believers seem to be MyGod believers which goes right along with MyCountry, Right or wrong, MyCountry believers. One can and often may be associated one-to-one with the other.
Some folks are proud to be fundamentalists when their fundamentalism is involved. Those folks tend to be minimally tolerant of other's fundamentalisms. One can blow up abortion clinics with relative impunity while the other cannot blow up commercial or military facilities with like impunity. Another can tolerate workplace deaths as essential to a productive system. Still others, often that same or similar others, believe deaths from vehicular accidents, from toxics, from contamination, from tobacco and so on and so forth are acceptable. What would you expect from the folks who worship death penalty and believe putting lots of folks in prison is right and proper? All of which is only a short step to war as punishment, as useful to impose beliefs in how things are and should be and, damn ya' to hell, will be!
So, beware god. Allahu akbar version or Jehovah-Yahweh-YHWH versions or Trinitarian versions. War as criminal penalty is right up there with Inquisitions, witch burnings, drawing and quartering, flaying in the names of gods (small and large cap versions). Note that all were quite acceptable at the times they were acceptable. Does a little barbarian lurk under the facades of mittelmind? That ain't barbarity, damn it, that is circus, ritual, right and proper, good TV!
To deal with probabilities related to Russia, pipelines and such, one needs to deal with god (small cap and large cap versions). War as punishment risks splattering. Yet, to piss like a man, you have to risk splatter. If, while standing up to piss like a man, I am wearing my oversize white ten-gallon hat and parting my long black leather riding coat, then how I piss will sell well in Peoria. Selling well is Peoria is what counts. Piss off!
I think thinking can be annoying. I am annoyed at spending so much time thinking about unthinkables. Anybody scanning my unthinkables can be annoyed at my annoying his or her complacency, pushing the mittelmind box. Should an annoyed mittelmind be so empowered and motivated, my annoying thinking may get me visitations by un-angels. Such a visitation could be annoying to me. My preference is not to be annoyed. Loop closing, system integrity intact.
I am as yet unvisited by un-angels. My previous encounters with them were quite unpleasant. I am annoyed that yet again there is a higher probability of un-angelic visitations coterminous with, but not necessarily limited to Republican administrations. I am annoyed that bulldozers are yet taking down rainforests nearby. I am annoyed that our collective culture chooses production over relationships, coercion over communication, locking up the food rather than sharing it.
I think I am privileged beyond the capacities of billions to grasp. Among my privileges are relatively unfettered thinking. I can tap-tap for hours on end should I choose. And I am the one who chooses. I have many dollars expended on quite sophisticated equipment on which to search out information or opinion and on which to tap-tap essays of opinion.
What of this largess can I find annoying? That my time spent thinking keeps me from time doing or not doing: working in the sunshine, being with my friends, with the plants and trees, walking with Bubba, the great dog. Scratching the warm, upturned bellies of the purring cats.
Privacy melts. Private property prevails. Coercion is the game. Power is its name. Skygod, Death or Darth Vader wears an oversized ten-gallon hat and a long black leather riding coat.
The Indonesian author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, (1) has been imprisoned by Dutch colonial authorities and by post-independence Indonesian authorities. His achingly beautiful, evocative novels were banned in post-independence Indonesia. His English translator, Australian Max Lane, was expelled from Indonesia for translating his works.
Toer spent many years in an abominable island prison. No reading materials were allowed. No writing materials were allowed. Possession of either meant death.
Toer composed novels in his mind. Thought, rethought, edited and thought again whole novels in his mind. When eventually released, he wrote them out, not one but several novels, numerous stories, long essays. This is a man whose thinking has been judged very annoying by the un-angels of his life. His works are so powerfully touching, so evocative of lives lived under conditions which I will never know viscerally. Mastery, purely so.
I think about whether or not we can or should judge a religion or a nation-state or a thought by the actions taken in its name. I think that there are circumstances when a smile while holding a loaded and locked gun may be more useful than a smile without a gun. I think that might and right come together when might happens to agree with right. I think that might, should it choose, will do in right.
I think that a machete will kill me just as effectively as a 15,000 lb. bomb if the intent of either machete holder or bomb dropper is to use their weapon and I am in the way. I think that inquiry into the intent, motivation, morality or ethics of either machete holder or bomb dropper at that moment may be superfluous. Too late. I cannot create and hold a novel in my mind alone. I cannot stand up to either machete used or bomb dropped with intent.
I compromise. I search for wisdom and compassion and find it, if at all, entirely one-sided. The bombs drop, the un-angels visit elsewhere and others. Wise bomb. Compassionate machete.
I notice that new and quite expensive traffic signal systems are being installed throughout Hilo, Hawaii. On top of some new traffic light housings are mountings for surveillance cameras, some already installed. I notice that there are more helicopters about as well as fewer tourists. I notice that military helicopters are now being used to ferry people arrested in DEA raids to federal detention facilities on Oahu. I notice FBI now has world jurisdiction and CIA, DIA have domestic authority. I notice Marine Recon team members around town. Posse Comitatus (2) is disbanding.
Bully: a word on which people seem to have a hard time agreeing around definitions or staying with a meaning. Starting as sweetheart or lover and becoming one who hurts, frightens or tyrannizes those who are smaller or weaker. Isn't that situation, however, descriptive of too many sweethearts and lovers who become abusive, preferring dominance, coercion and control, physically, if necessary, to a more balanced, giving, caring, sharing relationship? At times, bully has meant a companion or comrade, a pimp, a hired cutthroat or thug and a fine fellow. Ambiguity as well as paradox as the nature of actuality.
History: John Lukacs has suggested that much of what passes for written versions of history are both unhistorical and ahistorical in that a core component of human behavior is overlooked or unacknowledged. That core of human behavior is barbarity. Yet, in mittelmind, one man's barbarity is another's circus.
I go to the local Sunday market and notice it is not a mall. It is more like a suk, a covered labyrinth of vendors and personalities offering remarkably little branded merchandise and much of themselves. Anachronism.
Close to anarchy, that word which again frightens power-lusting un-angels bereft of communism as hate focus. Anarchy is to bullies as mysticism is to priests. Anarchy is personal, intimate, direct knowing and exercise of responsibilities within cooperative structures. Terrifying. Maybe the scariest thing about places like Afghanistan, much of West Africa, some of central Asia, Balkans and so on and so forth is anarchy. Somalia is seen as almost pure anarchy, a functioning anarchy we need to revisit forcefully we are being told.
Congruence: Congruent behavior is behavior which tends to be consistent: that is, walking talk and such expressions.
May it be argued then that the Bush II bureaucratic monarchy is congruent in terms of history by being a bully? When you got it, flaunt it kind of action drama? Are flowers stuffing gun barrels? Remember the power of symbols.
The Bush II automatons came on stage with a roaring entry blowing aside whatever sense other nations or peoples may have had about multilateral processes or power sharing, inclusion and other nice words. If there was any doubt to be had, the Afghan caper makes it perfectly clear that everyone from nation to school child will be henceforth either with or against, period, exclamation point, end of discussion. What we may label hypocrisy, denial and lies are to be understood as truth. Got it?
With an estimated 85% of annual world expenditure on military and related might in one bucket, plus a very willing and now demonstrated ability to use it; what other nation is going to do anything but an updated shuffle, "yassah, massa" Stepinfetchit routine? Do not piss on boots of bully, go around back of him.
There is no doubt that the USA has overwhelming military might. There is little contradiction possible that this military might is being used to define right. Might does make right, no? Assassination works. Torture saves time and gets answers. Civilian courts are too slow and not reliable politically. Surgical special forces incursions get the job done. They do. I think.
The 15,000 lb. bomb so cheerfully dropped now in three wars, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, was developed as a substitute for tactical nuclear weaponry. The design criteria were simple: do as much destruction as a 155mm. tactical nuclear artillery shell.
One of the psychological advantages of being a holdout on metric measurements is that few American folks can easily visualize 155mm in an artillery shell, that is a metal cylinder about 5 inches across and more than twice as long packed with explosives or other nasties like nukes or bio-weapons or noxious gases and such. One tactical nuke 155 mm. artillery shell is the equivalent of 15,000 lbs. of sophisticated high explosives -- 7.5 tons of assured destruction. Pack a Ford Expedition SUV with blast and get Big Bang for the Buck stuff! Look what a couple tons of fertilizer in a rent-a-truck did in Oklahoma City. I'll pass on the fuel bombs.
No bomber in the American arsenal can carry one of those 15,000 lb. bombs, it takes a big freighter plane. It is pushed out the back end and dropped on a parachute so that explosion is above ground to maximize destruction, like the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A mere 500 lb. high explosive bomb will clear an area about 400 feet around and blow down people and stuff a lot further out. Try to grasp the area of destruction and blow down from a 15,000 lb. bomb. Not in my back yard, thank you!
Carpet bombing with B-52s, for example, consists of payloads of high explosive bombs in the 500 lb. to 2,000 lb. range. The carpet reference has to do with the square footage annihilated per bomber load. Thinking in terms of square footage annihilated avoids thinking in terms of people and lives annihilated.
Cruise missiles average around 2,000 lbs. each. To be effective in a surgical sense, they work better with accurate targeting carried out by people on the ground calling in six or eight digit GPS coordinates. As the Israelis recently demonstrated, however, sophisticated smaller missiles can target a window in a house and go through it without touching the frame ergo targeted assassination using only one helicopter as launching platform. Made for TV movies using other folks' dead bodies as props.
"Puff, the magic dragon," one term for the early Vietnam-era gunships deployed in C-47 (DC 3) platforms were capable of putting a machine gun bullet in every square foot of an area the size of a football field in a couple of minutes. Current versions of gunships in C-130 platforms also carry cannons up to 155mm. These gunships can stitch every square inch of a football field sized area in a couple of minutes. Minimizes the utility of foxholes.
Moral of this story: as long as the USA and its allies are willing to deploy weaponry of this sophistication combined with the throw-weight involved, the probability of surviving any direct confrontation is not worth calculating. However, when willing to accept casualties in adequate numbers, there may be possibilities given competent strategic direction and sufficient numbers of those willing to make the sacrifices involved. It helps not to have much left to lose. Neither competent strategic direction nor sufficient numbers of willing folks are likely to be found among mittelmind modern taxpaying consumers.
On the ladder of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the first rung is survival, security. Creation of insecurity, the raghead bogeyman will get you, is also a quite effective coercive weapon when there are things to be lost, like job, possessions, family, place and such.
Strategic direction: Tweak the lion's tail. Dance around and make faces, distribute cassettes and videotapes, blow up this and that, until the heavy stuff starts. Then disappear as best possible until the heavies get called off. On the ground, no matter how well equipped, no matter how much Kevlar body armor and such, those left behind on the ground can be hit and annoyed into body bags: viz, Somalia. At this level, machetes will defeat stealth bombers since there may be more fanatics or freedom fighters (take your pick) than there are stealth bombers. I am not willing to bet on it, though. Bunker mentality military thinking keeps stealth bombers thousands of miles away from people with machetes.
What are and will be impacts of US bullying around the world? Who can or will stand up to the floods of unilateral abrogations of treaties and such? With everybody in the way now categorized as Indians, what are the probabilities other than reservation living? Not many are likely to stand up to be counted as "them" rather than "us." There will be lots of "Yassah, Massah!" compliance without much related action beyond the minimums required to keep the heavies on base and out of the air.
Corruption and criminalization of shadow governments will expand and expand even beyond the current exotic levels. Mad Max conditions will blossom accordingly. Quislings will become honored democrats seduced by largess and well-advised to stay compliant. The rich will get richer. Power lusts will mean good business for higher-class kinky prostitutes.
Folks will do what they can when they can where they can. Mittelmindness will triumph although now and then maybe some fuzzyminded folks will momentarily stick their heads up in some short lived efforts at reform or revision before falling back into various models of lethargic compliance.
Some will stick their heads up too high or do something stupid. The old hostage mentality comes out again: do us one and we will do you one hundred. Or one thousand. Or maybe millions. Viz, Cristalnacht (i.e. pogrom) of November 1938 in Germany. Viz, Cave Creek massacre in Colorado. Viz, Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki of WWII. The only good [fill in the blank] is a dead [fill in the blank].
First they came for the labor unionists. I am not a labor unionist, so I ignored them. Then they came for the leftists, I am not a leftist, so I ignored them. Then they came for the intellectuals. I am not an intellectual, so I ignored them. Now they come for school children, I am no longer in school. Then they might come for me. However, I am betting that they won't come for me so I can ignore them. I'll fly a flag or wear a t-shirt with a flag on it, put a flag in the window, a flag decal on the car, flag stickers on my letters. I'll smile and shut up, can't trust the neighbors any more anyhow. What the heck, we can play party games and avoid talking about anything serious.
Look, if a pipeline across Afghanistan keeps the motors running, who can complain, really! Good idea, anyhow, to keep the Saudi ragheads off balance. Likewise, we need to show the Russians that we can take over the Transcaucasus and get the oil and gas out on our terms.
Just because Britain and Russia got bogged down in the Afghan quagmires of history, no reason we will. They are both losers trying to put on a good show. Meanwhile, we'll show those Afghans by installing Brits, maybe even Russians as "peacekeepers" in Kabul. Rub the bitter salt in gentle like. Nothing lasts forever, so let's go for it now. Like a good starship captain, point a finger and say, "Make it so!"
Don't look at my finger, look at the moon!
Enigma has been cracked before. Will it be hacked this time?
1. Novels by P. A. Toer in English: The Fugitive, This Earth of Mankind (back)
2. § 1385. Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus: Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. [Bingo, your Wness, who is going to file the complaint? Even if they did, you could be out in time for the 2004 election anyhow.] (back)
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2002. All rights reserved.
This Week's Internal Links
2002 Predictions - by SWANS
The Government That Cries Wolf - by Stephen Gowans
Measuring Life in Scrap Metal - by Jan Baughman
Why War Now? - by Milo Clark
Russia's Sept. 11 - by Stephen Gowans
Ghost of Xmas Past - by Michael W. Stowell
Who Turned Out The Lights? - by Alma A. Hromic
Letters to the Editor (On "Un-American, Fly-Shit Melody" and Gilles d'Aymery)
Milo Clark on Swans
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