Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mearsheimer v. Mansoor on American war crimes

My friend John Mearsheimer sent me a debate he took part in with Colonel Peter Mansoor on PBS “Newshour,” October 25 here and here, about the Wikileaks release of 400, 000 army documents on Iraq. The debate is most striking for Mansoor’s conclusion, allowed to stand alone by the moderator Margaret Warner. Mansoor led American forces in the aggression of 2004. He agrees that fighting involves – what counterinsurgency or “COIN” always means as John names it – the wanton killing of civilians. Unlike John, however, Mansoor fantasizes that Generals Petraeus and McChrystal have produced something different rather than counterfeiting the old bad coin (h/t Andrew Bacevich). These are the kinds of wars, he insists, that the US must wage in the 21st century. With this frightening, self-destructive prayer of the war complex, the “Newshour” ends. But as I have said, for example, here and here, there is no future for bankrupt, declining America in these kinds of wars, and very likely no future for human life on the planet (consider Mansoor’s perspective, global warming, and the likely buying of future elections by corporate “politicians,” for example).*

Up to this provision of the last word by the moderator to the defeated Mansoor, however, the short debate was a slaughter. John pointed out that wikileaks documents reveal the torture of detainees, the killing of civilians and even, the murder with “legal” advice - are there any Bush administration lawyers, Goldsmith and Comey excepted, who should not be on trial or disbarred? - of Iraqis who had surrendered. They were shot from helicopters because “they could not be picked up.” In a debate I had in 1994 with John at the American Political Science Association on realism versus democratic internationalism, John explained why he is a realist by pointing out that the Jews in Germany, the Moslems in Bosnia, needed something to defend them from genocide. He suggested a state. I pointed out that this was entirely and rightly a moral argument on behalf of realism - that realism is, contrary to its common self-misunderstanding, a moral critique of moralisms - and that what neorealists conceive, in a supposedly value-free vein, as the national interest is, if the argument is to be coherent, a common good. See here. John’s realism has always had a strong moral element.

Here, he says rightly that the Wikileaks release shows that American conduct in Iraq was morally bankrupt. He speaks with a soldier’s outrage at this betrayal. As the leading current neo-realist theorist, he also speaks, more sharply than most, for American international relations specialists, across the old Cold War political spectrum, who initially thought the Iraq War was a mistake, and have sometimes come to see it as an emblem of imperial hubris and crime. John also rightly says that torture and turning a blind eye to our Iraqi trainees’ torture is “strategically foolish.” But the moral point is the deeper, ultimately driving one. Neorealism is converting itself, under the pressure of unending imperial devestation and a bleak future, into old fashioned prophetic realism**

Mansoor suggests bizarrely that Iraq was a sovereign state as of 2004 and imagines that American soldiers were facilitating the independent crimes of their Iraqi tuteees. John points out that the Iraqi government was imposed by American forces – even today, despite Obama’s so-called withdrawal – the Maliki government relies on 125, 000 American occupiers. Mansoor has to retreat on this point to an American pretence of “legality,” an odd, apologetic position for a conquering soldier – what “legality” did American aggression claim? - and one that no serious person, i.e. no realist of any variety or, in my vein, democratic internationalist, could take seriously.

Secondly, John points out that American soldiers did not abet, but courageously reported much of the torture. It was higher officials who deleted their information from the active files, pretended that nothing was wrong. The war criminals were George Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, and all those officers who did this. Under the doctrine of command responsibility – that an officer is responsible for crimes of war unless she took specific action against it - all are accountable for these crimes. The Tokyo War Crimes trials, conducted by the United States, sentenced Japanese generals to death for ordering crimes and for not preventing them. When Manfred Nowak, UN special rapporteur on torture, called again, Monday, for Obama to open hearings under the Convention against Torture and American law (the Supremacy Clause, Article 6 section 2 of the Constitution makes treaties signed by the American government the highest law of the land), he is demanding that America adhere to the rule of law and to its own commitments. When the New York Times downplays the story of torture and misdescribes it, as the depraved murderers at Corcyra do in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, as “harsh interrogations,” it betrays the law, the meaning of words, and decency. See Greenwald here and here. As John’s points reveal, Mansoor is covering up for these officials by pretending that ordinary soldiers, even those who carried out torture and murder, are the ones responsible.

Mansoor pretends that General Petraeus and McChrystal’s COIN moved away from such crimes - after 2007. Even the moderator asked him about what happened, on his account, between 2004 and 2006...

But as John points out, the US does high powered, weaponized, long-distance murder with small numbers of US deaths and large numbers of civilian casualties – exemplified, as I have written, in the use of drones, here. He suggests that the US is killing 10 civilians for every Taliban leader (note: US intelligence is not good, the US hasn’t killed Bin Laden in 9 years, and the Taliban, with whom the US are currently facilitating Karzai’s negotiations, are hardly the same as Al-Qaida…). Neocon think tanks say 5 innocents to 1, the Pakistani government says 600 to 1. I would say John’s is an apt but probably conservative estimate.

As John then says, 6 years from now, we will learn of the same kind of devastation from the next leak of documents. His point implies, as he has argued elsewhere, that the US should never have occupied Afghanistan (see here). The reactionary two step of American politics, always moving to the right, maintains this war effort and occupation even though it has no hope of success. But we can have the same conversation after Petraeus succeeds in prolonging the war, getting Obama, who has now held up drone attacks in Pakistan, to renew them, Mansoor speaking dead ideological words, or if he finally acknowledges the truth, replaced by a Howard Koh ot some other routinized part of this murderous, self-destructive machine (the war complex). John is prescient about the future. Mansoor and the "Newshour" are frightening.

PBS Newshour:
PART 1: Revelations About Iraq War Exposed »


MARGARET WARNER: And for more on lessons from the leaked documents, we get two views.

Retired Army Colonel Peter Mansoor led a U.S. brigade in Iraq in 2003 to 2004, then returned as executive officer to commanding General David Petraeus during the 2007-'08 U.S. troop surge. He's the author of "Baghdad at Sunrise" and now teaches military history at Ohio State University. John Mearsheimer, a West Point graduate and former Air Force officer, is a professor and co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. Welcome, gentlemen, to you both. Colonel Mansoor, beginning with you, what are the lessons that we get or what do we learn from this trove of documents about the Iraq war that we didn't know or fully appreciate before?

COL. PETER MANSOOR (RET.), U.S. Army: Oh, I don't think the documents provide any new information, if you have paid attention to the good reporting out of Iraq.

Most of what's been revealed has been reported before. But what the documents provide is a lot of the detailed granularity that was perhaps absent in sort of the general reporting from the theater.

MARGARET WARNER: And what, Professor Mearsheimer, struck you?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: Well, I agree with Peter that what these documents are very good for is filling in the details. We had a rough understanding of what was going on in Iraq. And we had certain intuitions.

For example, I think most people felt that there was a good reason to think that Iran was supporting the Shia in Iraq. But we didn't have a lot of hard evidence of that. And what these documents do is provide evidence.

But I would say, as far as the specifics are concerned, it does make it very clear how horrible the violence has been in Iraq since we invaded in 2003. And it also is quite clear from the documents that the United States has played an important role in making that violence happen.

Not only do the documents show that American soldiers and airmen have killed large numbers of civilians. It's also clear that we didn't do much at all to stop the Iraqis from torturing and murdering prisoners. This was a huge mistake on our part.

MARGARET WARNER: Let me go to Colonel Mansoor on that particular point. This report, or these -- all these documents, which are really unedited kind of field reports, does lay out in excruciating detail the brutality, torture, beatings, sexual abuse of Iraqis by Iraqi security forces, first of all, while American troops often looked on. Why didn't American troops intervene in those situations more often?

COL. PETER MANSOOR: Well, there's a couple of reasons. One is, Iraq was a sovereign state. And we didn't have necessarily the legal authority to stop the Iraqis from doing their business.

The other reason, though, I think there was a huge disconnect between our strategy, which was to transition security responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces, and the reality on the ground, which was, those security forces were fundamentally incapable of securing Iraq, and, in some cases, were complicit in the sectarian violence themselves.

So, our troops perhaps were disincentivized from reporting or from acting on what the Iraqi forces were doing, because their own strategy said we were supposed to -- our -- our way out of Iraq was to support these forces.

MARGARET WARNER: Is -- what -- do you agree, Professor Mearsheimer, that this indicates something about the cost of the sort of surge-and--transition strategy that we're now following in Afghanistan, where you surge in a lot of U.S. troops, you try to secure things enough, but then you pretty quickly start handing off responsibility?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I disagree with Peter.

First of all, Iraq was not a sovereign state. The United States invaded Iraq. And we basically ran Iraq for many years, including many of the years in which these abuses were taking place. We were in charge.

Secondly, it's quite clear from the documents that numerous cases are found where Americans were reporting these abuses. The problem is that people further up the chain of command, both the military and civilian individuals, didn't do anything to stop it.

There is no question that the Americans knew what was going on. It's not like this was happening in the dark, and we only suspected it and didn't really know about it. We knew about it, and we didn't do anything to stop it. We effectively turned a blind eye. And this was strategically foolish and, I think, morally bankrupt.

MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Mansoor.

COL. PETER MANSOOR: Well, you could see, going back to the strategy, when the strategy changed in 2007, and we began the surge strategy, with the fundamental priority to protect the Iraqi people, that all of a sudden these -- the blind eye wasn't turned to these abuses.

General Petraeus engaged the Iraqi government. And the worst of the sectarian actors, the Iraqi National Police, every brigade commander was fired and two-thirds of the battalion commanders were fired, and some of them more than once. And we were able to help clean up that organization, which today functions much, much more smoothly and with far fewer abuses than it did from 2004 to 2006.

MARGARET WARNER: But, Colonel, what about Professor Mearsheimer's point that, at least '04 to '06, that Iraq really wasn't a sovereign state?

COL. PETER MANSOOR: Well, we can get -- we can debate the legal definition, but we gave Iraq its sovereignty back on the 28th of June 2004, and it did have a sovereign government, by the legal definition of the term.

MARGARET WARNER: So, Professor, back to you -- and let's pitch this forward now firmly into Afghanistan -- what lessons can we take from this, from what we have learned, as we are in the midst of -- as the United States is in the midst of this surge-and-transition strategy in Afghanistan that might at least minimize the human toll of a war and occupation and transition out?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, it seems to me, from looking at these documents and reading all the press reports, that this kind of wanton violence just goes hand-in-hand with civil wars and with counterinsurgencies.

I mean, anybody who has studied the history of counterinsurgency knows that those who are engaged in that kind of warfare invariably commit all sorts of crimes. So, I would think that what this tells us about Afghanistan is that, as we increase the number of forces, and as we begin to move more and more against the Taliban, what we will end up doing is killing more and more civilians.

And Afghanistan will end up looking a lot more like Iraq. I don't see much hope at all that we will learn any positive lessons from what we have done in Iraq and then apply those positive lessons to Afghanistan.

MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Mansoor, is this sort of violence, especially to civilians, endemic to counterinsurgency, as the professor says?

COL. PETER MANSOOR: Well, these are very difficult wars. And it is war. People die in war, and because they do -- every insurgency has an element of civil war to it. He is right in that regard.
But I would have to take exception to the fact -- to his statement that we haven't learned anything and that civilian casualties in Afghanistan will -- will undoubtedly increase in the years ahead, because we have learned a great deal from the Iraq war.

Under General McChrystal, a policy began whereby our troops would actually take more risks on the battlefield in order to protect civilians. And what we have seen in the last year is that the number of civilians killed at the hands of the ISAF forces, the coalition forces in Afghanistan, has dropped dramatically.

So, I think there has been lessons learned, and they are being applied.

MARGARET WARNER: And final word from you, Professor Mearsheimer. I mean, there has been a change of strategy, at least vis-a-vis the civilian -- the civilians being put at risk.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, there's a couple of points to be made, Margaret.

First of all, the American military has always been a firepower-heavy military. And many of General McChrystal's subordinates were complaining about the fact that they weren't using enough firepower. And I would be willing to bet a lot of money that, as the war goes on in Afghanistan, we use more and more firepower as a way of preserving American lives.

And the end result is that more and more Afghani civilians will die. But even when we try to use military force in a discriminating way -- take the Predator aircraft that we use to kill terrorists from the sky -- all of the evidence is that we're killing about 10 civilians for every single -- quote, unquote -- "terrorist" that we kill.

So, what you see is that we're killing lots of terrorists. And I bet, five or six years from now, when the next thump of documents comes out from WikiLeaks, we will see much of what we have just seen with regard to Iraq.

MARGARET WARNER: Brief -- very brief -- Colonel, from you, a brief final thought about...

COL. PETER MANSOOR: Well, again, I think what the documents show, in an unfiltered way, is the messiness of these kinds of wars. But they are wars that the United States is engaged in, in the 21st century.

And it's the kind of wars we're likely to engage in, in the next two, three decades. And we are -- we can't just wash our hands of them.


COL. PETER MANSOOR: We have got to be able to engage and fight them effectively.

MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Mansoor, thank you so much, John Mearsheimer. Thank you both.


*In 2000, Ralph Nader made the apt joke that Bush was a large corporation posing as a human being.. Obama, though he has catered to oligarchy, is not. But in future, we are likely to see nothing but politicians stamped invisibly, as the uniforms of Tour de France bicyclists are stamped visibly, with the names of corporate sponsors. Or in the case of a President Palin, the disguised war complex itself, god speaking to it moment to moment – with a particular destructive and self-destructive madness…

**I make this distinction in Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? chs. 1-2.

***If the neocons live in a fantasy world, what can one say of Obama official, Howard Koh, potential Surpreme Court nominee, who says the US has killed 400 Taliban leaders in Pakistan with its drones but only 10 civilians? Guess the Pakistan government shut off one of the two supply routes to American troops in Afghanistan and allowed the Pakistani Taliban to blow up American trucks back to Karachi because those sharpshooters from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada just pinpoint those people half a world away in the tribal areas of Pakistan. But by the way, Mr. Koh, what American gets near enough to those areas, let alone speaks the language, to know who those bodies – the rare intact or identifiable corpses rarely detected by satellite cameras – are?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Institutional Lock-in: a conversation with Michael Schwartz, part 1

My friend Mike Schwartz who has written brilliantly on Iraq – see here, for example - recently wrote me a letter. Mike was one of the teachers of Social Relations 148 (along with Jack Stauder), a radical course for 400 students at Harvard in 1968-69 during the anti-Vietnam war movement. I led one of the sections along with Sue Neiman (there were 20 sections). Mike has always been an outstanding activist and scholar (I have written about his book Radical Protest and Social Structure: the Southern Farmers Alliance and Cotton Tenancy, 1880-90, which strikingly captures the common interests in fighting racism of poor whites and blacks). So I reproduce two social theory questions from his letter to me, and supply the beginnings of answers. The first:

“great to discover your blog. Went there and read the commentary on Uyghurs and torture [here]. Measured, substantive, and insightful…One point about your argument there: I like the metaphor that Cheney (not Bush) "bent the stick very far to the Right, far from the rule of law" so that Obama might not be able to bend it back. It suggests an institutional "lock-in" effect in which certain decisions become congealed policy. Here, however, is my question: what are the institutionally congealed elements that made it so difficult to reverse? In the case of torture, rendition, etc, it appears that they were easy to unleash, so why not equally easy to releash? It's a puzzle I have worried over in any number of contexts; maybe you have a good sense of how this works.”

The question Mike raises about institutional lock-in is a profound one. One way I think about it is this. There is a rightwing or reactionary two-step in the kind of two party competition (both catering to oligarchy) that we have here. See here. So every decent thing taken away or eroded - what happens generally to reform under capitalism, absent mass movements from below - has no strong tendency to reappear when the Democrats come back into power. In the case of torture and the rule of law, this effect is heightened because the entire Bush-Cheney administration committed crimes. They can't go abroad (even the former Secretary of State Condi Rice). In response to Wikileaks’ heroic release of documents on Iraq, UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak (the leading German civil liberties specialist) called again Monday for Obama to live up to his legal obligations as a signer of the Convention against Torture and commission an investigation. Any independent legal proceeding will result in many indictments. Though Obama commendably stopped waterboarding for a while, he decided a) to become an accomplice to torture, leaving the door open for more as soon as Palin or Romney or Petraeus or Hillary comes in, and b) to try to appear tough on national security issues so as not to be outdone by the war complex and the Republican screamers. A yo-yo of the Bush administration, the New York Times, emblematic of the corporate press, routinely deteriorates words. Other regimes torture, the Times; "reporting" says, but American waterboarding, for example, is but a "harsh interrogation method."* Torture is thus locked in because the elite will not send all the leaders of the Bush administration, with the possible exception of Colin Powell into the dock…

This is no necessity in a parliamentary system (in a capitalist regime). Note the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has launched legal investigations of the crimes committed by MI-6 in cooperating with the CIA'a torture and extraordinary renditions. Perhaps the crimes in Britain were not as extensive (though Tony Blair and David Miliband, I am sad to say – I was a student of his father’s – have likely criminal responsibility). But the Prime Minister can do something to preserve the rule of law even without perhaps going to the top. In America, in contrast, the crimes were far more extensive, the dependence on the war complex far deeper and harder to undo. For instance, the weapons manufacturer GE owns NBC and MSNBC which got the Obama administration’s “scoop” on the mainly phony – 50,000 troops and 75,000 Xe/Blackwater mercenaries remaining – shift in the Iraq occupation away from fighting. Olbermann and Maddow are often critical of Republicans and more rarely Obama – except when it comes to impeialist war plans, when they become as corrupt as Michael Gordon of the New York Times.**

While more than 2 million people are in prison in the United States – some 25% of the world’s prison population for 5% of its population as Andrew Sullivan estimated it yesterday here - and Clinton was impeached for bad sex in the oval office, war crimes from the tyrannical Right - "commander in chief power" - are not investigated. Obama has now made them a bipartisan legal regime in Jack Balkin's apt phrase. Here some additional thinking about the way the war complex makes America today particularly vulnerable to authoritarianism compared to Europe would be especially in order. Even so, I am not sure the lock-in – real enough now – was a necessity. As Andrew Bacevich pointed out in his talk in Denver – see here – Obama could have acted very differently when he came into to power, launched independent commissions as well as moved far more fiercely toward creating jobs and a green economy. He would have met fierce opposition – yes, but the current opposition (the birther movement, the propaganda that Obama is Muslim, the racist redbaiting that he is a “communist-socialist-national socialist – religious- foreign, not birth certificate holding other” – the inane Tea-Baggers spurred on by the Koch Brothers, BP and Fox news and Rove - is fierce…Of course Obama might have been shot like Kennedy, whose actions in the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis saved us from nuclear extinction, but whom the military elite – Lyman Lemnitzer head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Curtis Lemay – also fiercely opposed. Lemnitzer even concocted a plan for Americans disguised as Cubans shooting other Americans in American cities to be a pretext for war. See "Operation Northwoods" here. That is a shadowy story – showing that the military is often way crazy, a fact that deserves to be taken in, but also that it doesn’t always, let alone of necessity, get its way in policy. Of course, this crazed opposition in the military elite escaped the Warren Commission in its prima facie bizarre report…***

On the American aggression in Afghanistan (one that had more seeming justification among Americans than the plainly immoral invasion of Iraq), a kind of lock in has occurred with escalation despite Obama’s intention. Even Obama's back-up plan to escalate for a year and then pivot looks as if it will fail; the military wants to keep troops fighting through 2014 or longer. Obama had also intended to use drones to escalate in Pakistan – he has thus escalated the murder of civilians, see here – and downphase in Afghanistan. The cause of the escalation in Afghanistan is the power of the war complex - the military-industrial-commercial media-think tank– political-intelligence/covert operations complex and - this is a specific part of it - the reactionary two-step. Of course, this power also occasions Obama's murderousness via drones in Pakistan, recently blocked to some extent by the resistance of the Pakistan government. See here). The right wing criticism is always; though Obama is waging five occupations – the US is no longer overtly fighting in Iraq, but still has 125,000 troops there - and aggressions by drone in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, he's not tough, he's not one of us...The pressure moves always to the right. As a result: Petraeus, not Obama, has enormous power to decide whether the US stays fighting in Afghanistan for the next few years.

But Petraeus has no idea of what victory would consist in. To waste trillions of dollars on ultra-expensive mercenaries (Xe/Blackwater mercenaries get 10 times the pay of ordinary soldiers) for nothing is the war complex’s idea of utopia at the moment. Now Petraeus, too, has run up against reality: Pakistan closed one of the two border crossings for convoys to resupply American troops in Afghanistan and allowed the Pakistani Taliban to blow up trucks lined all the way back to Karachi. As a result, Obama had to scale back drone attacks and crossborder helicopter murders of Pakistani soldiers located supposedly near the Taliban.

As Obama has emphasized, Pakistan is the location of Al-Qaida. But Obama has sadly used moving out of Afghanistan to legitimize to himself murder by drones in Pakistan (the "only thing the US can do," according to Democratic “experts”). But some phasing down may be possible because even the military leadership knows that it can not engage in and lose so many wars and occupations at once. Note that the US is currently trying to encourage a deal between Afghan President and American-client Hamid Karzai and the Taliban. Nonetheless, only popular discontent - widespread already, but needing to rise up - will get US troops and missiles out of these places – make Americans more safe – and begin to bend the war complex “into plowshares.” See here.

Mike writes eloquently on TomDispatch which I highly recommend as do Bacevich and Chalmers Johnson (I link to Tom Dispatch on this website). Mike offered the following thought about Bacevich's and Johnson's evolution which also applies to Ray McGovern (the Presidential daily briefer for the CIA for four presidents over 27 years) or to Ann Wright, a longstanding diplomat who resigned over the Iraq aggression (one of three) and now works with Cindy Sheehan and was on the Mavi Marmara (an act of great courage):

“And, speaking of Bacevich and Johnson, who are both TomDispatch authors and friends of Engelhardt, who is my constant intellectual companion, the irony of their political migrations never fails to reach me, especially when they are speaking from their life experiences. I ask him about it quite frequently without getting satisfactory answers. He seems to think it is a natural progression. But I wonder how these migrations are animated and whether they are far more general than we know, among those who leave military/intelligence service and simply do not articulate their viewpoints.”

When one is in the military, the CIA or the State Department, I suspect one really sees the unvarnished reality of the Empire, and the murderousness – often for no reason - and self-destructiveness of much of what it does. For me, it was living in Pakistan as a teenager, seeing the oppressiveness of the military elite toward what became Bangla Desh – see here - the immense suffering, the hundreds of children at the Indian Ocean beaches near Karachi begging for Baksheeh sahib – give me some money – and not having the rupees, there were not enough drops in the Indian ocean – to help them. And I saw the Americans, my father, a New Dealer trying to help, but the others, officers, businessmen, embassy people, some very honorable ones, but most cynical... There were no American workers – just Pakistani servants and the vast body of the poor, the refugees from India at Partition still in the camps. The class nature of American foreign policy stood out before me in emblematic form. I learned also later from protesting the Vietnam war and being in the civil rights movement. One is there; one sees. And then one can act on it. Other people abroad saw, and I had acquaintances often in SDS, or in anti-war activities subsequently, for instance Peter Linebaugh, Beth Harvey and Boj Kibbee, who were children of State Department people with affection for democracy (David Linebaugh, as I have mentioned, hated, for example, US aid to the Pakistani dictator and his words are still with me*****).

Even inside the apparatus, one can see. Many Catholics in particular have a profound moral sense – being invited to be in the CIA or the military ostensibly to defend democacy against “commies” or terrorists, and then being forced to pursue reaction and see just what the Empire does, or even participate in crimes. Probably, it often gets to be too much. One CIA man Robert McGahee talks in the film “Hearts and Minds” about dreaming of climbing up to a roof top of a hotel in Vietnam with a sign "America Lies" and jumping off. Both Johnson’s Blowback and Bacevich’s Washington Rules, introduction, tell stories one might learn a great deal from and admire. The difference between ideology or partisanship and seeing and speaking the truth or doing philosophy is precisely that one has a stopping point. One will not deny what is before one’s eyes. There are some things one will not do or tolerate. One might even draw an analogy with Percival (Parzival) and the quest for the grail. There are, even in this wasteland of Empire, people who are genuine, who will not do monstrous things just because of "higher orders" or sleepwalk as "good Germans." Daniel Ellsberg, for example, or Private Bradley Manning or Julian Assange are notable examples (if Manning, who had been fiercely attacked and not spoken to the mainstream media, is not being framed). It is that which is so far lacking in Condi Rice who has done great crimes, though not in Jack Goldsmith and Jim Comey in the Bush administration. That the latter have not gone that far is, given their starting point – reactionaries who nonetheless believed in the rule of law – unsurprising. What is admirable about humans is not that we are noble and get it right all the time – no one comes close - but that finally and with great effort and suffering, some of us do sometimes see the truth, and against the odds, stand up for it.

*Ezra Pound once made much from the Right about the deterioration of words as a sign of the decline of Confucian "order." But a major sign of American decadence is also debasing of the legal and moral meaning of words. One might also think of Thucydides' description of Corcyra...

**Gordon co-counterfeited with Judith Miller the front-page stories on putative Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, provided by Cheney's informant Chalabi. Unlike the rest of the world which ran stories on American torture and official prevention of investigation of Iraqi torture last weekend, Gordon took the Wikileaks' release of 400,000 pages of army documents as a demonstration that Iran was connected to Iraqi murders of American soldiers - a seeming casus belli. This was what the Times took as the main story from the release.

***I never took the controversies about the assassination in deeply, but also did not know of Lemnitzer’s proposal which was only released in 1997 by a commission reviewing the Kennedy assassination and in 2001 by the Pentagon [h/tRobert Cohen], It makes the context in the elite rather different from what has made it into the New York Times or official statements. James Bamford summarized Operation Northwoods in his 2001 book Body of Secrets:

"Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war."

The words of the Appendix to the document, commissioned by Brigadier Geneal Edward Lansdale, Chief of Operations of the Cuba Project, are below (see also here):

"Since it would seem desirable to use legitimate provocation as the basis for US military intervention in Cuba a cover and deception plan, to include requisite preliminary actions such as has been developed in response to Task 33 c, could be executed as an initial effort to provoke Cuban reactions. Harassment plus deceptive actions to convince the Cubans of imminent invasion would be emphasized. Our military posture throughout execution of the plan will allow a rapid change from exercise to intervention if Cuban response justifies.

A series of well coordinated incidents will be planned to take place in and around Guantanamo to give genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces.
a. Incidents to establish a credible attack (not in chronological order):
Start rumors (many). Use clandestine radio.
Land friendly Cubans in uniform "over-the-fence" to stage attack on base.
Capture Cuban (friendly) saboteurs inside the base.
Start riots near the base main gate (friendly Cubans).[13]
Blow up ammunition inside the base; start fires.
Burn aircraft on air base (sabotage).
Lob mortar shells from outside of base into base. Some damage to installations.
Capture assault teams approaching from the sea or vicinity of Guantanamo City.
Capture militia group which storms the base.
Sabotage ship in harbor; large fires—napthalene.
Sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals for mock-victims (may be in lieu of (10)).
b. United States would respond by executing offensive operations to secure water and power supplies, destroying artillery and mortar emplacements which threaten the base.
c. Commence large scale United States military operations.

A "Remember the Maine" incident could be arranged in several forms:
a. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.
b. We could blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel anywhere in the Cuban waters. We could arrange to cause such incident in the vicinity of Havana or Santiago as a spectacular result of Cuban attack from the air or sea, or both. The presence of Cuban planes or ships merely investigating the intent of the vessel could be fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack. The nearness to Havana or Santiago would add credibility especially to those people that might have heard the blast or have seen the fire. The US could follow up with an air/sea rescue operation covered by US fighters to "evacuate" remaining members of the non-existent crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.
We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.[14]
The terror campaign could be pointed at refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement, also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.

A "Cuban-based, Castro-supported" filibuster could be simulated against a neighboring Caribbean nation (in the vein of the 14th of June invasion of the Dominican Republic). We know that Castro is backing subversive efforts clandestinely against Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Nicaragua at present and possible others. These efforts can be magnified and additional ones contrived for exposure. For example, advantage can be taken of the sensitivity of the Dominican Air Force to intrusions within their national air space. "Cuban" B-26 or C-46 type aircraft could make cane-burning raids at night. Soviet Bloc incendiaries could be found. This could be coupled with "Cuban" messages to the Communist underground in the Dominican Republic and "Cuban" shipments of arm which would be found, or intercepted, on the beach.

Use of MIG type aircraft by US pilots could provide additional provocation. Harassment of civil air, attacks on surface shipping and destruction of US military drone aircraft by MIG type planes would be useful as complementary actions. An F-86 properly painted would convince air passengers that they saw a Cuban MIG, especially if the pilot of the transport were to announce such fact. The primary drawback to this suggestion appears to be the security risk inherent in obtaining or modifying an aircraft. However, reasonable copies of the MIG could be produced from US resources in about three months.[15]

Hijacking attempts against civil air and surface craft should appear to continue as harassing measures condoned by the government of Cuba. Concurrently, genuine defections of Cuban civil and military air and surface craft should be encouraged.

It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday or any grouping of persons with a common interest to support chartering a non-scheduled flight.

a. An aircraft at Eglin AFB would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization in the Miami area. At a designated time the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft and would be loaded with the selected passengers, all boarded under carefully prepared aliases. The actual registered aircraft would be converted to a drone.
b. Take off times of the drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida. From the rendezvous point the passenger-carrying aircraft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly into an auxiliary field at Eglin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. The drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan. When over Cuba the drone will begin transmitting on the international distress frequency a "MAY DAY" message stating he is under attack by Cuban MIG aircraft. The transmission will be interrupted by destruction of the aircraft which will be triggered by radio signal. This will allow ICAO radio[16] stations in the Western Hemisphere to tell the US what has happened to the aircraft instead of the US trying to "sell" the incident.

It is possible to create an incident which will make it appear that Communist Cuban MIGs have destroyed a USAF aircraft over international waters in an unprovoked attack.

a. Approximately 4 or 5 F-101 aircraft will be dispatched in trail from Homestead AFB, Florida, to the vicinity of Cuba. Their mission will be to reverse course and simulate fakir aircraft for an air defense exercise in southern Florida. These aircraft would conduct variations of these flights at frequent Intervals. Crews would be briefed to remain at least 12 miles off the Cuban coast; however, they would be required to carry live ammunition in the event that hostile actions were taken by the Cuban MIGs.
b. On one such flight, a pre-briefed pilot would fly tail-end Charley at considerable interval between aircraft. While near the Cuban Island this pilot would broadcast that he had been jumped by MIGs and was going down. No other calls would be made. The pilot would then fly directly west at extremely low altitude and land at a secure base, an Eglin auxiliary. The aircraft would be met by the proper people, quickly stored and given a new tail number. The pilot who had performed the mission under an alias, would resume his proper identity and return to his normal place of business. The pilot and aircraft would then have disappeared.
c. At precisely the same time that the aircraft was presumably shot down, a submarine or small surface craft would disburse F-101 parts, parachute, etc., at approximately 15 to 20 miles off the Cuban coast and depart. The pilots returning to Homestead would have a true story as far as they knew. Search ships and aircraft could be dispatched and parts of aircraft found."

Source: "Pentagon Proposed Pretexts for Cuba Invasion in 1962," National Security Archive, April 30, 2001, "Annex to Appendix to Enclosure A: Pretexts to Justify US Military Intervention in Cuba," p11,

President Kennedy admirably rejected this proposal and removed Lemnitzer. That he was duped into the Bay of Pigs, developed by the CIA and army under Eisenhower, barely headed off nuclear exchange in the Cuban missile crisis, and finally deposed Lemnitzer demonstrates the dangers of lock-in. Given this evidence, sadly, no report of depraved conduct, by the US military or government, can be dismissed out of hand.

****I also have a wonderful friend and student Brenda Horrigan, who had been raised in an Evangelical family – followers of Pat Robertson, gone to a religious college in Virginia, joined the CIA, ultimately resigned when a friend in the State Department referred to one of her writings as "a good piece of rightwing propaganda," came to Colorado, saw the anti-democratic character of CIA covert operations, and worked hard to sever my school from CIA recruitment. The then Graduate School of International Studies barred CIA recruitment for 15 years, until after that organization became “dangerous enemy territory” for the Pentagon and Cheney.

*****I fortuituously received a letter from Peter this morning, indicating David's protests to Dulles about the role of US provocations in the post-World War II division of Berlin.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Poem: s o n g

Because she wanted t o c h a n g e the w o r l d,


because she wanted

living against wa r

on quiet days

the wind ran though

to take her life

joiningthousands to protest

Change the world

Phil Ochs

a thousand nights

I guess I betterdo it


while I’m

in Washington


hundreds atDickinson

because we all were the change

she was carried

foa m by a greatbreak ing wave

into the future

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Further thoughts on social studies and social theory: letters from Beecher, Wolff, Strong and Bernstein

Jon Beecher who now teaches history at Santa Cruz recalls that Alexander Gerschenkron, not Wassily Leontieff, gave the beautiful clock speech and the very striking silence of the faculty in the aftermath. See here. Someone who worked in both history and lit and social studies (one who isn't into disciplinary boundaries), Jon has a fine, self-deprecating sense of the complexity of everyone involved and speaks with some sadness of how Gerschenkron, a thoughtful man about Russian and German economic and social history as well as a Menshevik and hence a Marxian of one kind see here,* probably did not oppose the Vietnam war and in any case, had no sympathy with student opposition. Gerschenkron spoke out of a certain hubris and fear which denied wanton American murder in Vietnam (it took a long time for some faculty members to adjust to what students, having as Zen Buddhists say, a beginner’s mind, just saw). In contrast to Hannah Arendt who cured hysteria at the New School, Gerschenkron could not see that “these are not criminals, they are students.” Much European education and even American is bizarrely hierarchical, emphasizing the specialness or “somebodiness” of the professor and “his voice” and deemphasizing conversation. In contrast to taking notes on a “great professor”’s lectures, teaching is a form of mutual engagement and learning. This distinction perhaps reflects Gerschenkron’s and much of the then Harvard faculty’s failure: an absence of empathy or compassion even for those whom they once were, whom they had engaged themselves and were charged to teach, and of course, from whom, not only about Vietnam, they might also sometimes have learned.

By spelling out what expunging is, Robert Paul Wolff’s note also emblemizes just how arrogant – and to ordinary human beings comical - Harvard aspires to be. But what if the faculty member charged with remembering the name of the expunged, stubs his toe, misses a meeting, and the eschewed one sneaks again into Harvard Yard?

In Jon’s spirit, I would like to focus on some of the weaknesses that we students had as young people, making it up, a la Indiana Jones, as we went along. But, first, in retrospect, it is now obvious that the student protestors were right that the American war in Vietnam was murderous, even genocidal (three million Vietnamese dead) and self-destructive, betraying everything decent about American society. Those who blindly stood for order – including preserving the order of Harvard as the developer of napalm, a place of preparation for war criminals (Henry Kissinger, McGeorge Bundy, Sam Huntington on whom I will comment below, et al), a beneficiary of war contracts, and a trainer of officers in ROTC, inter alia – were wrong. That this wrong sometimes became extreme, pompous, silly and sad – Pusey’s speech about the barbarians who wanted to tear Harvard down stone by stone and dance in the rubble after the Dow sit-in here, or Gerschenkron’s spitting out “beat them, beat them, beat them” – now vanished as a kind of miasma, should not obscure the general obsession among the powerful with America’s and Harvard’s being “right.” A charming song by the Radical Arts Troupe about the punishments committee – the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities” - caught their tone: “We’re right, you’re responsible…”

To be a large success in foreign policy at Harvard – to be a person the President asks to serve, in Amy Gutmann’s words at the Social Studies celebration - one must largely believe in US imperialism (those like Steve Walt or Stanley Hoffmann, who are often subtle critics, intellectuals and for that matter patriots, people for whom there are sometimes acts the government commits that they will not support, are not “selected”). One can think the Vietnam war was a mistake, and perhaps Iraq – though one must leave these views out and commit to the (fortunately, somewhat reduced) occupation. But one cannot think, with say Chalmers Johnson, that the empire of bases and American militarism, then and now, threatens to destroy what is decent here (The Sorrows of Empire, ch. 6) or that torture is, if one exists, a crime that must be investigated. Put differently, Harvard’s and other leading academics have elaborated the framework for foreign policy out of which the Vietnam war and the Iraq war both came, not to mention the continuing occupation of Afghanistan and the relentless use of drones in Pakistan (see here). Intellectuals who are sometimes critics – faculty and students – are ignored or if trouble ensues, harassed and silenced. Certainly, no systemic theory of what is wrong with the greatest imperial power can enter either the government or commercial “public” discourse, even from the point of view of trying to turn the great ship, i.e. to transform America into a green manufacturing economy rather than a militarist casino.

But though right about the war, I and others were not nonviolent in outlook and had no idea of changing the system but trying to salvage even the people who had run it. Nonetheless what we were punished for, as action, was not violent – even the seizing of University Hall was a form of trespass and involved no violence (“touching an elbow” was as extreme as it got). In retrospect, given the comparative ferocity of the Harvard response (police brutality and punishments committees, which in my case and others, never even bothered to inform us that we were charged), what we did was shockingly little.** One has to work quite hard to empathize with the threat to the self-importance of Harvard which several thousand dissident students represented. I had been on the periphery of the civil rights movement but was more drawn to Malcolm X than to Martin Luther King. I had not then read “Breaking the Silence,” King’s speech on Vietnam. See here and here. But change the name Vietnam to Iraq, as my student April Guy did in studying that speech, and the words live today as vividly as they lived then. In 500 years, if humans are around to learn of American English, King’s words will be read. To compare these words with those of most international relations specialists about war – few outlast the newspapers, and some, for instance those I will relate below, it would perhaps be kinder to forget - is unfair.***

What King might have given us – and Mandela and Tutu go further in this – is a sense of how to take in the point of view of others and stop them without trying – even in words – to wipe them out. It is a larger sense – one that ought to occur to social leaders of the prevailing sort, but self-importance and hierarchy get in the way – of making things right and, at the same time, healing wounds. As a student, I rather liked Gerschenkron, and am saddened by where he found himself – a grotesque figure for whom one must apologize if one is of such a mind – “of course he was traumatized by the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution.”**** And what can one say of a faculty meeting that was “silent” before a mere image of students as a hippie oaf smashing a beautiful clock, President Pusey having actually smashed people’s bodies…?

I know many faculty members opposed the war and some opposed Harvard’s brutality - I particularly remember Bill Alfred, who had taught me Beowulf and the Seafarer making it a point to talk with me about it - but for the majority, the privilege was too great, the lack of concern with students, except those one personally taught, too accentuated. Again, this makes Michael Walzer and Marty Peretz, as Michael said at the Social Studies afternoon meeting, stand out for decency. See here.

For those who cannot yet help themselves – it is surely not good to make of oneself the caricature that Pusey or Gerschenkron made - perhaps the point of nonviolence is to see them as human, to give them an honorable way out, to heal wounds where one can. Of course, one has to stop them first and stop the war through mass militant non-cooperation – and trespass and strikes can be a good and coercive first step toward doing so (again, contrast the violent coerciveness of war). That is nonviolent tension, as King rightly says in his Letter from the Birmingham City Jail; it is not the same as violent tension.

After the beatings at University Hall, Jon remembers Barrington Moore at the university wide student and (some) faculty meeting that called the strike. Barry spoke of the importance of not harassing faculty members who refused to participate. Moore’s was a well taken point, a sense that though university life had come apart, one might still work with others, certainly not block those who were neither strikers nor “enemies” (harassing them would have been a good way to make “enemies”). I might add: students could certainly vote with their feet, i.e not go to classes, and did. There is of course an additional issue here about the limits of compassion. Hans Morganthau, the international relations specialist and opponent of the Vietnam war (his greatest moment), had a dark and apt view. He once remarked that other faculty members would come to his office at Chicago and say they agreed with him, but remained, for the small favors of academic privilege, silent in public. He had a certain contempt, I think, for them; there are things which require especially those who work in such areas – or are citizens - to stand up. And Morganthau was fiercely attacked by President Johnson and John Roche (they campaigned against “those pointy-heads in Berkeley and Cambridge and that German in the Midwest…” See my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? , ch. 2. But recognition of someone’s lack of moral fiber just then – one can always hope that they will grow or show up some other time - is hardly the same as harassment.

Still, Barry’s point, I might say in retrospect, is on behalf of nonviolence as well as decency and political judgment. Many of us felt at the time a desire to isolate those who were responsible for the war effort, and to talk with, certainly not go after, those who were not. In fact, no one that I knew in SDS had the attitude Moore worried about. During the strike, I went briefly to Samuel Huntington’s class with several other graduate students to try to argue with him about the war. He had toured South Vietnam for the State Department and given a statement to the Harvard Crimson – the student newspaper - about his findings. He mentioned the Hoa Hao and the Cao Dei, two Buddhist “sects” (he could have learned from Thich Nat Hanh, but was not interested in the opposition) which might “overburden the government with their demands.” I had thought he was going to suggest a potential pluralism in Vietnam as a basis for democracy a la ordinary political science. Instead, it was Sam’s distinctive view of “order” in “changing societies.” Government is a ‘frail thing,’ likely to collapse at the slightest opposition Sam worried, for instance, people saying there or here: stop napalming children. Had his famous forebear, also named Samuel Huntington, followed Sam’s advice, there would have been no American Revolution.*****

“[Fortunately] we are saved from this [disorder]“ Sam said, “by the style of Marshal Ky. He wears purple scarves, he flies jet planes, and he has made a deep impression upon the public consciousness.” I wrote a leaflet criticizing Sam's position and so remember his words vividly. Sam perhaps forget that the CIA organized the assassination of the American puppet Ngo Dinh Diem – something which, as the Errol Morris film “The Fog of War” shows, President John Kennedy did not know of and was presciently frightened – his own death near upon him – and saddened by. Sam failed to recall that Ky flew jets for the French army which had been defeated by the peasant movement led by Ho Chi Minh. The “deep impression” Ky made upon the Vietnamese public was not a good one. That Huntington was sent on tour by the State Department or taught courses at Harvard might be thought funny. Perhaps wisely, Sam would not engage with students.

But he could gild the lily. In the Crimson, Sam even suggested that peasants napalmed in the Vietnam countryside – or whose farms had been subjected to American ecocide to prevent their giving support to the National Liberation Front - had fled to the city as a voluntary matter. “Saigon had been hit hard” – note Sam's alliteration – “by the Honda revolution.” Every peasant fled his home to tool around on motorbikes and be cool in the bright lights of Saigon. Guess Sam never went to a refugee camp. To the Johnson administration and in the Crimson, he called this “urbanization.” *****

When someone stood up and asked a question in the class, Sam walked out. Even a bad answer (it doesn’t seem he had much else) would have been better.

Two years later, at a conference on East Asian Studies, confronted by Concerned Asian scholars on panels and in the audience, Huntington was forced to admit that forced urbanization was a more accurate way of putting it. But such East Asian scholars did not become the scribe for the Trilateral Commisson which published Huntington’s “Democratic Distemper” (1976), arguing for bringing order from changing societies home to America (in the last sentence, Sam even threatens a police state: “Democracy will have a longer life if it has a more moderate existence,” in other words, blacks, postal workers, students, women, shut up…), nor National Security Advisor in Jimmy Carter’s administration. Imitative of Carter’s concerns, Huntington even wrote the draft of Carter’s 1976 campaign speech on “human rights.” Though a Democrat who might have learned from Carter’s affection for such rights and notable, post-Presidential career, Sam was, instead, a notable inventor of reactionary slogans, for instance “the clash of civilizations,” realized by Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Sam did not have the luck, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, to recognize the importance of freedom of conscience as an American moral insight, a way of inspiring over time, admiration for America in every decent person. When I say that Harvard plays a big role in legitimizing and even shaping reaction, Sam’s career provides one notable paradigm.

As an afterthought, however, Huntington did write an interesting article on Bush’s unipolarism, suggesting that it would force others to balance against it…

A year before the strike, I had done well on comps and word traveled around the department. When I came in to the office in Littauer, Huntington, who was then the chair and whom I had never met, offered through the department secretary, to make me his teaching assistant. I said yes (thinking we might have a debate). The next time I came back to see about it, the offer had been rescinded. Many years later, I met Sam briefly with Michael Walzer at an American Political Science Association meeting (Michael, as a junior colleague, felt some affection for Sam, showing that there must be mitigating stories)…

Jon also speaks amusingly of Marty Peretz giving a lecture in social studies, under the scrutiny of Barry Moore and Stanley Hoffmann (Hoffmann was often kinder to graduate student ineptitude than Moore) and suggests that, perhaps his own was as bad. I think we have all given such lectures, particularly to an august company (I remember being at formidable Cornell philosophy department talk on a grant some years later and sitting silently with the graduate students while senior people, for instance, took apart the argument of a well-known and self-important Oxford professor. No students entered the conversation; me either…). What Marty did then, as Michael insisted, was not bad. It is a shame that as the owner of the New Republic and adherent to whatever Likud wants, he has taken the path of reaction, starting with the Contras, and espoused so fierce a racism that it has earned him notoriety.

Anya Bernstein wrote me of her participation as a freshman in a spring-long sit-in in Hamilton Hall against Barnard investments in South Africa (one must be grateful for the wisdom at Columbia and Barnard then, perhaps having learned from the harms done by calling the police during the strike of 1968). Some of her current students – and social studies students generally – led the way in protesting Peretz. She particularly emphasized an attractive aspect of the way Harvard has spent its money in recruiting a diverse, international student body, and is dedicated to working with students to make it possible – the transition is sometimes a harsh one, one across universes and into a, at first look, particularly unhelpful environment – to complement admission with personal and academic attention:

“Harvard has its failings, but one success is the fact that it is now a true meritocracy. My students come from all over the world, identify with every possible race and ethnicity and, crucially, come from all economic backgrounds. In my mind, Harvard’s greatest achievement in a very long time is its financial aid initiative (HFAI), through which students whose families earn $60,000 or less attend for free, and there is considerable aid for those whose families make even twice that. 25% of Harvard students now come from families making less than $80,000 a year.”

It is good to take in that Harvard has gone so far in recruiting a multiracial and diverse elite. This must also have happened under Larry Summers’ leadership for which, despite his racism and sexism, he deserves recognition. With the election of President Obama, one might think that this direction is the future of a decent American democracy, even as a capitalist, hierarchical, and not often sustaining of a common good one. That Obama, the very intelligent and decent multiracial candidate, was elected in the land of slavery and segregation struck the world as a kind of miracle, a renewal of American democracy after the darkness of Cheney. But perhaps the sense of fragility in America – because of the tidal wave of anti-Islamic, anti-Arab racism, the hysteria in favor of big business and banks increasingly grinding down every one else (the Republican theme-song: tax relief for the ultra-rich), the Supreme “Court” licensing of further flooding of money into “elections” as well as a certain fecklessness or adoption of reactionary policies by Obama and the Democrats – deserves also to be emphasized. America is in decline, and if it goes further to the authoritarian Right, this change in the elite may well be subverted.

Citing Clark Kerr, President of the University of California during the 1964 “Free Speech Movement,” at Berkeley, Tracy Strong also writes of the increasing isolation of the “stars” in modern academia as intellectuals connected by a parking lot. As Tracy says of the University of California, this mutual isolation is growing. In a memorable talk at my first meeting in Social Studies, Stanley Hoffmann once said drily of Harvard, “You will see the stars and discover that many of the stars are dead.” While “stars” may appear at great distances in beautiful constellations, they are not otherwise interactive…

My brother Wally once chaired the four biology departments at Harvard and got support for the building of a lunch room so that individuals could meet rather than simply, in their solipsism, go on. He had to fight to do it. Everyone wanted the valuable space for laboratories. Talk - who needs it? Particularly in imitation sciences – I mean the social sciences – dead stars only and rarely “revive” if something disturbs their complacency…

It was conversation, and even seeking the truth, that social studies then and now, to some extent, represents. Wolff’s relationship with Moore as senior tutor probably shaped him – see here - as my extensive writing once upon a time, on Marx and Weber in the context of German democratic revolution and German imperialism and Nazism, shaped me.****** Each of us and others have journeyed far, but the impetus was unmistakably in Social Studies. Bob spoke jokingly of the 50th gathering of Social Studies as the greatest gathering of social theorists since the last garden party of the Frankfurt School before the night of Nazism closed over Germany. This comparison is too grand. Still, the now multiracial Social Studies stands for something (the 100 or so students who demonstrated, four-fifths of whom were nonwhite). In 2010, Social Studies seems allergic to the racism of Marty Peretz and today’s America, even though Harvard took the money. Some of its members and graduates will continue to think deeply about social problems and how to understand them, will go beyond the needs of the elite (it is always a danger of universities that they encourage students and faculty, to some extent, to seek the truth). The program itself sought to accommodate the protest, not to throw demonstrators into the outer darkness (the latter is, however, not a bad place to figure some things out). This is hopeful.

“Dear Alan, My memory of "the Most Amazing Thing" is a little different from Tracy's. I think it was Alexander Gerschenkron (whose politics were more conservative than Leontieff's) who told the story. The suitor for the hand of the beautiful princess offers a wonderfully intricate clock to the king. The king is just about to announce the engagement of the princess to the clockmaker when another suitor enters the throne room. He has long hair, is sloppily dressed, and brings with him nothing more than a hammer. He then raises the hammer and brings it down on the first suitor's clock, smashing the delicate mechanism. The king then announces that the second suitor, the young man with the hammer, has indeed done the Most Amazing Thing and announces that it is he whom the princess shall marry. Gerschenkron told this story to an absolutely silent meeting of the Harvard faculty in University Hall, and his point, as I remember it, was that in making any concessions to student radicals, the faculty would be playing the role of the king, sanctioning and in fact celebrating destructive violence. I greatly respected Alexander Gerschenkron. It didn't surprise me that Richard Pipes regarded student radicals, including those who eventually occupied University Hall, as a bunch of brownshirts. But it made me sad to think that someone of Gerschenkron's intellectual distinction could find absolutely no justification or sense in the student protest at the time. . . .The one wholly positive memory I have of that time is of the strike meeting held in Harvard Stadium where thousands (literally) of students and faculty voted to go on strike and where Barrington Moore spoke eloquently, I thought, against attempts to shout down or silence faculty members who refused to strike.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your blog. I'm not normally a blog reader, but I do read yours with delight (often) and interest (always). And i've been fascinated by your account of the turmoil in Harvard's Social Studies program. I was a tutor in History and Lit in the late 60s. But for one year (1965-66) I also taught (with Ed Leites) the Social Studies sophomore tutorial. I did it because I wanted to do the reading. but I found much more than that: an amazing group of tutors (Sue Berger, Dom LaCapra, Paul Robinson among others) and wonderful senior faculty support from Stanley Hoffmann and Barrington Moore. Marty Peretz was a tutor that year too, and during the spring each of us gave a lecture. I would say that Marty's was a lot of hot air, except that, in its own way, mine was just as bad. . . .Yours, Jon (Beecher)”

“Dear Alan,

I read this very fast [see here] because I am deeply involved in a multi-part post on my own blog, but I wanted to take a moment to say that I think it is very fine.

One tiny bit of information that is eerily significant. When Harvard ‘expunges’ a student, it does not simply expel him or her. It literally removes all recorded mention of the person from its records,so that the person ceases to exist. It then assigns a senior faculty member to remember the name, lest the expunged person apply for readmission!! If that isn’t a perfect metaphor for an Orwellian world, I don't know what is.


“Dear Alan,

Alas, Leontieff accused the students of wanting to smash the clock...Kerr also defined the multiversity as ‘a group of highly intelligent beings united by a common concern for parking’ which though cynical (and not really right about UC in those days) seems more and more prescient.


*There are many and diverse kinds of Marxian social analysis, as of any important kind of political and social theory.

**I was “separated for two years” in a later round of punishments. We boycotted the hearings collectively. I knew indirectly that I was being charged, but never received any formal notification, even a letter. I found out both about the charges and my punishment reading the Crimson. This is one of many reasons why I view honoring the rule of law as of cardinal importance…

***I exempt, for example, Chalmers Johnson, Andrew Bacevich and Noam Chomsky from this point

****Gerschenkron ignored much in America. President Wilson financed White armies killing and burning in Russia; much of America was dominated by the Ku Klux Klan – Woodrow Wilson in the White House, Harry Truman in the Pendergast machine in Missouri, Mayor Stapleton in Denver et al; in the 1930s, workers had to seize the GM Flint plant for 44 days, machine guns trained on it by the national guard, to get a union…In retrospect, Gerschenkron seems an embittered man, unable to see in America what he once, as a Menshevik, opposed in tsarist Russia…

*****As my Emancipation and Independence, Chicago, 2011 will show, Huntington pledged to Ben Franklin after the Revolution that he would act to abolish slavery. He was clearly a dangerous and disorderly person.

******Unsurprisingly, as an academic serving the State Department, Huntington replaced, for Lyndon Johnson, Hans Morganthau who in 1964 had told the truth directly to the President, and subsequently in anti-war teach-ins around the Midwest. But a straight-man, Huntington spoke what the President demanded to hear.

*******Marx’s Politics and Democratic Individuality, part 3, illustrate these investigations.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Poem: Lan d s


4 girls in Birmingham


18th Street Baptist


4 girls

are not

Andy Goodman

I’m on my way

for got ten

to freedomland

James Cheney

l o o k a w a y

Mickey Schwerner

on my way

to freedom land


I’m on my way

P r i c e

Oh lord

buried in a dam

to freedomland

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Next Saturday, October 23 at 1: War and Conscience Weekend

I will give the keynote address on Vietnam and Iraq at a War and Conscience weekend Saturday, October 23, at 1 o’clock at the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, CO: 14350 W. 32nd Ave, phone: 303-279-5282. The rest of a broad and interesting schedule over Friday, Saturday and Sunday is below. The program includes Rob Prince and Haider Khan, two of my colleagues at the Korbel School (George Shepherd is also one of the organizers), reverend Bob Kinsey - the Green Party candidate for Senator, who of course is unusually eloquent, straightforward, and decent compared to the mainstream candidates - and Robert Latham, Vietnam and Iraq veterans, and a powerful play by Daniel Berrigan (for a poem which starts with the Berrigan brothers and the Catonsville incident, see here). One of the silliest reviews in the Sunday New York Times ever – and this is a hard competition among its reviews of political books - was by a neocon writing about Father Berrigan who had later gone to jail for beating on the wings of a jet plane. He hurt the plane, so the reviewer’s words implied, that crazy old man, beating on its wings with his hands until the sleepy guards at last arrived and took him away. I suppose the Times and its reviewers must often have a similar concern for drone missiles at Creech Air Force base but perhaps these are well enough protected to prevent the 14 recently arrested and others from getting near them, or impeding their daily, half a world away, spreading of death and a corresponding justified fury at America in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Only some crazy one would need to beat the machine wings of terror with his hands, in horror at murder of human beings by an allegedly civilized government and military, again and again, all over the creation; only a crazy person would seek to turn drones “into plowshares.”

Please circulate the following announcement and schedule to anyone who might be interested in coming, participating, and building a wider movement against these wars and militarism:

Social Responsibility Council’s Peace, Liberty and Justice Task Force invite you to participate in these events:

War and Conscience Weekend, October 22-24, 2010

Food, beverage and child care (with advance reservations) provided. Contributions welcomed.

Friday, October 22, 2010 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Iraq and Vietnam Veterans Speak Out

Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam conflict and the U.S. is once again enmeshed in not one but two unpopular wars, this time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the wars necessary? Can we “win” the wars? Should the draft be re-instated? Four thoughtful veterans will address these and other probing questions in this panel discussion. An audience “talk back” will follow the panel.

Moderator: John Hambright
Speakers: Dan Conerd, Progressive Veterans; William J May, Denver Chapter of Veterans for Peace; George Newell, Boulder Chapter of Veterans for Peace; Garett Reppenhagen, Iraq Veterans against the War.

Saturday, October 23, 2010 1:00pm to 5:00pm

Teach-In on Conscience and War in the Middle East

The Teach-In will inform the public about the issues and special interests that have brought the US into what Prof. Andrew Bacivich of Boston University has called the “Long War” without victory or end. The panelists will address the question: Have the Wars in the Middle East made Americans any safer?

Joint Chairs: George Shepherd, Prof. Emeritus of International Politics Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver and Gary Anderson, member First Universalist Church, Denver

1:15pm Keynote Speaker: Prof. Alan Gilbert, Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver

2:15pm Concurrent Panels:
Panel 1: Palestine and Israel Settlement: Can it happen? Chair Gary Anderson
Speakers: Prof. Rob Prince, Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver and former Ambassador of the Sudan Babiker Khalifa (invited).

Panel 2: What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?
Speakers Prof. Haider Khan, Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver and Rev. Bob Kinsey, United Church of Christ Minister (retired)

Panels 1 and 2 will repeat with the same speakers and topics from 3:30pm-5:15pm

Supper provided from 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Saturday, October 23, 7:00 p.m.
Activist Chamber Theatre’s (ACT)
The Trial of the Catonsville Nine: A Play by Daniel Berrigan
(Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.)

The Trial of the Catonsville Nine is a staged reading of Daniel Berrigan’s powerful and iconic Vietnam era play about an actual event—the burning of Selective Service files in 1968—an event credited with galvanizing support of “ordinary folk” against the Vietnam War. Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley and John Hambright appear as Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan respectively. Other cast members are: Don Bishop, Kathy Covert, James Durgin, JJ Hambright, Betty Nichol, Marion Rex and Steve Sealy.

Light snacks, beer, wine and soft drinks will be served after the play.

Sunday, October 24, 11:00am to 12:00pm. JUC’s Explorations! War, Conscience and Morality

Speaker: Rev. Robert Latham, former JUC Senior Minister, grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition. As a result of a challenging educational experience in seminary his religious view of reality was transformed. And, as a result of an equally shattering experience in Vietnam, his cultural perspectives were also transformed. On the wake of these transformations he discovered Unitarian Universalism and officially entered UU professional ministry in 1969.

In this provocative presentation: Lessons from Vietnam (Why Nothing Has Changed) Rev. Latham will share his lessons learned and invite your dialogue.

Activist Chamber Theatre’s (ACT)
The Trial of the Catonsville Nine: A Play by Daniel Berrigan

Friday, October 15, 2010

American aggression and Pakistani resistance, part 1

My friend and former student Pervaiz Safdar has spent his career in the Pakistani military. Having been educated at the Graduate School of International Studies (today the Korbel School), he is inclined to sympathy with an American point of view where such a point of view deserves sympathy. In the case of Pakistanis, this is, I am afraid, quite rare. His words aboutthe drone missiles, echo those of another Pakistani, Rifaat Hussain, a Professor of Strategic Studies at Islamabad University, to me and are powerful. They deserve to be given their full weight:

“these days Pakistan is really the worst target of all the known forms of the us imperialism. drone attacks, and now even the helicopter attacks --- including also the threats of physical military attacks, sponsoring and arming religious and ethnic terrorists, insurgency in balochistan province and the worst of all --- deliberately imposing on us the most corrupt and the most inefficient government of the world with a label of democracy, preceded by an american stooge's (general pervaiz musharraf) military dictatorship!”

American aggression against Pakistan is what the New York Times refers to elliptically in last Sunday’s long editorial, "Lethal Force Under Law” 10/10/10 here:

“The government is reluctant to discuss any of these issues publicly, in part to preserve the official fiction that the United States is not waging a formal war in Pakistan and elsewhere.”

I should underline that the US government is committing the crime of aggression against Pakistan – Article 2, section 4 of the United Nations charter bars such an unprovoked attack by a state on another people. The drones are murdering at long distance, by remote CIA control, many Pakistani civilians. That is what the editorial, with its elliptical phrasing about “the official fiction that the United States is not waging a formal war” – though much clearer than the administration – tiptoes around saying.

Taking the government’s word that it is somehow, from Creech air force base in Nevada targeting Taliban (if the US is knowledgeable enough to be accurate, how come Osama Bin Laden has still, after 9 long years, not been killed?), the Times appeals for some openness about how it selects and monitors targets, some care to preserve a figleaf of international law. Pervaiz’s anger and despair gives his words, even for the rare case where drones hit their intended target, weight.

Writing about drones 8 months ago ago in Imagine here, I suggested that one think of a deteriorated US at the end of the 21st century being attacked by drone missiles in Montana, Colorado and Nevada by the great power Saudi-China. I asked how each of us might feel when they blew up many innocents, along with some resistors and “terrorists,” and suggested that even those among us who had little sympathy for the latter would feel just anger and resistance toward the aggressors. See also Johann Hari here. This is but an application of John Rawls’ original position: put yourself in Pervaiz’s shoes and ask how drones from Creech air force base in Nevada, half away around the world, would seem to you. Think also of Kathy Kelly and the 14 honorable Americans who were arrested and recently tried – with the judge taking three months to think over the international law issues in the case - of civil disobedience there. See here and here.

In fact, the US is in the throes of militarism. Losing two wars and occupations is not enough. Instead, led by the bizarre advice of General Petraeus, the Obama administration has been instigating war with Pakistan, pushing Pakistanis into often justified resistance. Over Pakistani government protests, the US has been a continuing aggressor. If anything, Pakistan has moved up higher on the US priority list for aggression than the much touted by Cheney and the Netanyahu government in Israel, illegal and immoral bombing of Iran. Every day, from half way around the world, US drones murder Pakistani civilians. Petraeus is supposed to be a clever imperialist – the resuscitation of COIN is burbled about in mainstream circles (what I name the war complex) and especially by the tired and cynical arch-aggressor William Kristol, head of the Project for a New American Century and the Foreign Policy Initiative, editor of the Weekly Standard, student of Harvey Mansfield, worshipper of Leo Strauss, and reactionary fantasist, who still wants to conquer the entire Middle East…Note that Andrew Bacevich provides a lacerating critique (Washington Rules, ch 3) – see here.

Petraeus thought that the Pakistani government could just be taken for granted. He did not – and Obama and his foreign policy advisors (the Democratic “experts” who are always advocates of war) did not correct him. But as Gareth Porter indicates below, Petraeus’s murders (aggression) provoked the Pakistan government to block American convoys to supply the troops in Afghanistan. A Taliban attack while they were stopped then blew up many of the trucks. Obama, by then, had apologized for the murders. Yet the convoys for 7 days were not allowed to go through. In fact, Pakistan has the power to frustrate the American occupation, and the aggressors have to, at minimum, rein in Petraeus.

Yet the Pakistani government, a weak parliamentary regime is, partly, an American ally. It, too, is threatened by the Pakistani Taliban which has blown up civilians as well as murdering former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But the relation of its army and intelligence services, partly as a matter of government policy, partly as a matter of sympathy of individuals in the apparatus, to the Taliban is different from US’s complicated enmity (today’s Times –October 14, 2010 – indicates that US is seeking to divide the Taliban, negotiating in Afghanistan to find a way out; that is so far not the policy in Pakistan).

The US has increasingly, under Bush and Obama, moved to side with India against Pakistan. As opposed to being evenhanded, it aids a large and increasingly powerful democracy which exploits the people of Kashmir. Seized by India during the murderous conflicts in the partition of India and Pakistan by the British empire in 1947, Kashmir, with a restive Muslim population, is the initial K in the original Pakistan. To free Kashmir, a powerful cause among Pakistanis, Moazzem Begg and others trained in arms and perhaps terror (directed against civilians, though there is no evidence that Begg had anything to do with terrorism). Begg has written Enemy Combatant about his long imprisonment and torture at Bagram and Guantanamo. Here once again, the Bush administration reduced all conflicts involving Muslims to Al-Qaeda’s attacks in the U.S. The result is to insist blithely on American evils: its one-sided support of Israel in its occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its defense of Indian oppression in Kashmir where the US had no role initially and certainly, no “national” interest in supporting the oppressors. Bush and Cheney made of many Arabs and Muslims, those with just causes as in Kashmir or in Palestine, enemies when they were not. Such policies go beyond even the trumped-up aggression in Iraq. That Bush’s excuses were unusually phony, visible to those of us in the anti-war movement at the time, has now created a lasting distaste, even well up into the State Department, for American militarism. But the blind support of the US for Israel or now India moves many ordinary Palestinians, Kashmiris, Pakistanis and others into opposition to the US, and creates, as an outlier, recruits for Al-Qaeda.

In Kashmir last year, there was a huge uprising against India, as great as that of the green revolution in Iran. The Indian government slaughtered Kashmiris. The green revolution was covered in the American press; the Kashmiri rebellion left unnoticed. This is one of the more shocking examples of highly centralized commercial press controlled by the US government (American papers, even the Times, and even some leading blogs like Andrew Sullivan who did noble work on the “green revolution,” do a really good impression on issues of war and peace of what political scientists like Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski used to identify as a feature of “totalitarianism”: a controlled press (in Andrew’s case, however, this is clearly voluntary).

In the 1960s at Harvard, their Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy was a central textbook – one might say a bible** - in Government 1a, then taught to several hundred first year students by Friedrich. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were ostensibly exactly the same, though the aim of the Nazis had been to destroy “Jewish Bolshevism” and the Nazis were defeated decisively in 1943 at Stalingrad and in a dozen other battles in the Soviet Union – and then chased out, the Soviets heading for Berlin, long before the Normandy invasion of August 1944. All of this vanishes in Friedrich and Brzezinski’s nonetheless telling indictment of Stalin – not a hard thing to produce. But these regimes supposedly equally contrast with “the open society,” American democracy, a “non-ideological regime.” With regard to war and often to racism and ideas that sustain rapacious capitalism, nothing could be further from the truth. The clichés of this book faded during America’s aggression in Vietnam (Barrington Moore would sometimes satirically apply the six characteristics of “totalitarianism” to the United States; even the notion of two party competition – as Gore Vidal once quipped, America is the only one party system with two right-wings - may not sufficiently differentiate it). Taking in the ideologies purveyed in education gives a clue to the themes which dominate the commercial press.*** Given the absence of thought about Pakistan and Kashmir, perhaps American citizens – and even war “experts” – I mean the talking heads on CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the like – do not take in the magnitude of the American lurch toward India.

Yet how is the U.S. government to do this without alienating the Pakistanis? How is it to do this without strengthening the emerging Taliban in a society, wracked by an immense flood in the Sind, killing and further impoverishing millions of people, and which has nuclear weapons?

Perhaps only by a) not aggressing in Pakistan, and in particular not relying on drones, b) trying to do something to further negotiations about Kashmir or at least not simply side with India. The US government can aid India and attempt to move it to some more decent position But the U.S is used to being led by Israel and seems also to be led by India (even though there is nothing comparable to remorse for genocide against Jews, no internal Indian population in America comparable to – now very divided – Jews, nor a powerful and reactionary Indian lobby in Congress). This Petraeus or militarist policy seems to have given no thought to how to deal intelligently with Pakistan. And so the Pakistani government has now halted and allowed to be destroy convoys to supply American occupying troops in Afghanistan!

Porter makes the hopeful point that Obama may be forced to back off by Pakistan. The US military desperately needs supply routes to Afghanistan. The US has no forces or wealth (and one still hopes, with Obama. little desire) to try – madness as Pervaiz points out - to conquer Pakistan. But Petraeus’ policy is corrupt. Destabilizing Pakistan as Pervaiz suggests, leads deeper into quagmire (crippling US occupation even in Afghanistan, committing the US to greater killing of civilians and enmity in Pakistan, increasing the maneuverability of the Pakistani Taliban, and the like) even short of producing Taliban victory and possession of nuclear weapons. In Pervaiz’ words,

“coming back to america, why one small logic does not appeal to the policy makers? if with all their might, they cannot control a smaller, poorer and totally fragmented country like afghanistan, how can they ever hope to destabilize and control Pakistan and later also pretend that there will be peace in the world? and what about the american economic interests in the region for which they actually came here, if there is no peace. economic activity in the area can only thrive if Pakistan is stable and peaceful.”

Petraeus’ militarism, emblematic of that of the generals, is the most powerful element in the war comple; it forced Obama, short of being fiercely baited on the Right, to escalate in Afghanistan, providing only alternatives about escalation of 30,000 and 40,000 troops, and violating, through General Stan McChrystal’s press conference in Paris, the supposed boundaries of civilian\military relations. This militarism is also the most counterproductive. Far from stabilizing Afghanistan or Pakistan, even the byproducts of COIN, cutting off Al-Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistan through drones, is self-destructive. A better American policy, even for imperial purposes, would be to further India ambitions (under Bush, the US gave aid to Indian nuclear material, probably for its weapons program), but push gradually for elections, under international supervision, in Kashmir. The aim would be to produce an overall settlement and decline of tensions, between these two nuclear powers which have engaged in four wars since the tragedy of partition and run the danger, particularly because of American ineptness, of a fifth. See Badshah Khan: Martin Luther King of the Pathans here.

As long as Pakistan is forced to balance against India, it will fear the rise of an independent Afghanistan (a pro-American, pro-Indian Afghanistan). The Pakistani government and intelligence services (the ISI) have long backed the Taliban in Afghanistan as a way of securing influence there. Yes, they want to head off the Pakistani Taliban, with its bombings and mass murders of civilians and threat to a continuing weak parliamentary democracy. But they also want the Afghani Taliban in reserve against India, not to be surrounded in the case of likely war over Kashmir by the Indian army and a hostile Afghanistan. This is of course a straightforward great power realist picture, the evidence for which is in the policies. What I call democratic internationalism – an internal critique of sophisticated realisms - takes the idea of a common good and the interests of ordinary people more explicitly and seriously than realists, and sees that many of us have common interests against reactionary state policies – say, Obama’s massive use of drones or military surge in Afghanistan – in alliance with ordinary Pakistanis or Afghanis. See Gilbert, Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, introduction and chs. 1-2..

Here, too, some intelligent policy by Obama or even the American client Afghani President Hamid Karzai, say allying with parts of the Afghan Taliban to isolate Al Qaeda and permit an American withdrawal, might also accommodate Pakistani interests. According to today’s front page left hand column in the Times (10/15/10), Obama is apparently working in this direction. But intelligent American policy does not go along with Petraeus’ or the generals’ thoughts – to conduct unending wars, never winning, absorbing ever more of America’s now dwindling resources in the war complex’s bleak militarism (see here). They want to be fighting even when there is no definition or even hope of military victory, even during a depression when resources are scarce. Their voice is the baying of William Kristol and the American Enterprise Institute for more and more resources. As Andrew Sullivan and other conservative commentators pointed out last week, there is no continuing militarism and endless war without massively cutting the domestic budget, not providing jobs, foreclosing more families, robbing social security, and decimating health care. Roughly, this is the “program” on which the Republicans are about to “surge” to victory. Here, the most destructive and self-destructive elements, abroad and at home, in American policy stand out in relief.

Fortunately, if Porter is right, Obama seems to be tempering this aspect of Petraeus’s – more generally, militarism’s - craziness. U.S. apologies to Pakistan are not enough. Some scaling back of the drones is necessary. Cutting them out (except for a handful of cases like Bin Laden) – a long way up from here – would be a minimal sign of intelligence, not to mention decency.

One final point. Petraeus has been built into a great figure by the failed imperialists Cheney and Bush, and further puffed up by Obama (perhaps to avoid competition for President in 2012). Even though Obama tries to rein him in, the war complex now absorbs $708 billion a year, 2 and 1/2 times as much as the Cold War military budget. The reason for this is that the American occupiers are now privatized. Bush used one Xe corporation (Blackwater and other) agents, paid 10 times as much, for each soldier in Iraq. Obama’s “surge” in Afghanistan was 7 “civilian" mercenaries for every 3 soldiers. The republican idea of war, characteristic of America’s early leaders, was that citizens should be armed. A hierarchical, not even drafted, mercenary army was not what they had in mind. But even that would still be a public body. Today the dessicated American military has been eaten from within by Blackwater and other private companies. Petraeus and the joint chiefs are now the shadow heads of a privatized army, under the criminal and now escaped Eric Prince, the head of Blackwater, who has moved beyond the reach of law to Qatar.**** Dependent on nasty technological toys, it is not a serious or responsible military force.

Further, as Christopher Hill recently told me, Petraeus is working hard to replace competent State Department people in Iraq and Afghanistan - experienced professionals who have some grasp of local interests and would know better than to send drones flying here and there - with inexperienced, for profit lackeys. Blackwater and Petraeus – in reality, a collaborator in stripping away the American military tradition as a tradition of civilian rule over the military as in the “surge” in Afghanistan or drones over Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen – is privatizing the military, becoming more and more dependent on these private, beyond the law mercenaries. A financial casino and a tottering war complex - making more and more war, wasting more and more resources, with an empty mechanical quality (Cameron's "Avatar" got the company - the invading American effort in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan - to a t). Even in the era of Obama, one that rightly wakened the respect and hope of the world after the darkness of Cheney, this machine still seems bent on destruction and self-destruction.

Pervaiz sent me this letter following my posts about Peretz's racism and the social studies program at Harvard:

"respected dr alan,

*how ardently i like to be some where around you in your
classes! but, alas.

*may i also dare say that for similar reasons you should have
attended the condi dinner. i have seen that boycotts are ultimately
more helpful than harmful to the perpetrators of crime.

*i know the kind of committments you have and therefore do not
expect you to necessarily reply me. but please do confirm if i may
occassionally barge in?

*these days Pakistan is really the worst target of all the
known forms of the u s imperialism. drone attacks, and now even the
helicopter attacks --- including also the threats of physical military
attacks, sponsoring and arming religious and ethnic terrorists,
insurgency in balochistan province and the worst of all ---
deliberately imposing on us the most corrupt and the most inefficient
government of the world with a label of democracy, preceded by an
american stooge's (general pervaiz musharraf) military dictatorship!
you must have also known about 86 years of prison, last week to one
of our girls ( dr aafia siddiqui,a mother of the three, phd from m i t
and charged for attempting an assault on american soldiers with a
rifle snatched from them when she was actually under their very
captivity. among other things she was physically tortured to an extent
that she now wears artificial teeth. her photographs showing her half
dead and bleeding, were first revealed to the world by a british
journalist, miss yonne ridley, from afghanistan. she was kidnapped
from karachi. her little son was flown to Pakistan some months ago but
no one knows about the other two children yet).

*one thing i dont understand about the american policy. i know
they can bomb us to ruins. but how does that help america except for
some psychological consolation that they have successfully destroyed
yet another muslim country and this time at the behest of their new
found imperialist ally --- india.what a pity that the greatest super
power of human history should be at the cheap service of the two
countries [Israel and India] who actually depend on her for their own very survival! this
comment will look particularly strange with reference to india. but
few only know that it would have long ago disintegrated, had it not
been kept together by america. even now history will see that happen
in the coming few years.about twenty percent of india (about six-seven
states) in the east, is already practically out of the indian writ.
western media dont mention this. kashmir in the north may be the first
one to formally get out soon enough. but ---- coming back to america,
why one small logic does not appeal to the policy makers? if with all
their might, they cannot control a smaller, poorer and totally
fragmented country like afghanistan, how can they ever hope to
destabilize and control Pakistan and later also pretend that there
will be peace in the world? and what about the american economic
interests in the region for which they actually came here, if there is
no peace. economic activity in the area can only thrive if Pakistan is
stable and peaceful.

* lots of regards. pervaiz"

Saturday, October 9, 2010 by the Inter Press Service
Pakistan's Halts Convoy US to Reduce Tensions
by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - - By continuing its halt in NATO convoys headed for Afghanistan through the Torkham border crossing into a second week, Pakistan's military leadership has brought an end to the unilateral attacks in Pakistan pushed by Gen. David Petraeus and forced Washington to make a new accommodation.

Gunmen armed with a rocket torched 29 NATO oil tankers in southwestern Pakistan before dawn today, Saturday October 9, 2010, the latest attack on the supply line for international troops in Afghanistan since Pakistani authorities closed a key border crossing amid a dispute with the United States.

And it may make it impossible for Petraeus to make the argument in the future that the United States can succeed in Afghanistan, given the refusal of Pakistan to budge on the issue.
The halt in NATO convoys bound for Afghanistan and unhindered attacks on tanker trucks have continued despite a decision by the White House to direct U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to apologize to the Pakistani government for the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers resulting from a U.S. helicopter raid from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

Pres. Barack Obama has clearly abandoned the tough line toward Pakistan represented by cross-border helicopter attacks and accelerated drone strikes in an effort to reduce tensions.
U.S. and Pakistani officials have been engaged at various levels to find a way out of the impasse, according to one administration official. The official said some of the tensions should dissipate in the coming days, suggesting that the U.S. is eager to avoid further troubles on the border.
The Pakistani government clearly sees the border closure and the attacks on tanker trucks as giving it powerful leverage on Washington to stop all cross-border attacks and to strictly limit the number of drone attacks and the areas in which they take place.

In his press briefing Thursday, foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit attacked the drone strikes policy as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and said it "does not serve the larger strategic interests, especially in the context of our efforts to win hearts and minds...."
Pakistan's leverage stems from the fact that 70 to 80 percent of the U.S.-NATO logistical supplies for the war in Afghanistan go through Pakistan. As much 80 percent of the supplies that enter Afghanistan from Pakistan go through the Torkham crossing. A second logistics route through Chaman is still open.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday that 6,500 NATO vehicles are backed up along the entire 1,500 km route from the port of Karachi to the Khyber Pass.

Despite the claim by the spokesperson for the U.S.-NATO command in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Blotz, that the closing of the border crossing poses "no danger to ongoing future ISAF operations", replacing the Pakistani routes with alternative routes through Central Asia would be prohibitively time-consuming and expensive.

The crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations was the result of a decision by the Obama administration - which press reports suggest was on the basis of a strong recommendation from Petraeus - to act much more aggressively and unilaterally if the Pakistani military did not do more to attack militant groups in North Waziristan, especially the Haqqani group, which dominates the successful insurgency in eastern Afghanistan.

Unnamed U.S. officials were reported in the Wall Street Journal Oct. 2-3 as saying that there was less concern about upsetting the Pakistanis than there had been only a few months earlier. Two days later, the Journal reported, without attribution, that Petraeus had determined that the safe havens in Pakistan were a greater threat than he had previously thought.

The Petraeus decision to push for a unilateral escalation of force thus provides an additional element for the narrative that he will have to construct to protect his personal interest in avoiding responsibility for military failure in Afghanistan.

One element of the decision was to increase drone strikes in Waziristan dramatically to an unprecedented 22 in September - more than four times the average number in the previous six months. In the past, the United States had gotten permission from the Pakistani government for specific geographic "boxes" in which drone strikes could be carried out, as revealed in "Obama's War" by Bob Woodward.

Evidently that was not done, however, before the sudden dramatic increase in drone strikes in September.

The second element was to carry out at a series of cross- border helicopter gunship attacks in Pakistan that were not cleared in advance with the Pakistani military. During the cross-border strike Sept. 30, moreover, three Pakistani army troops were killed by U.S. helicopter fire.

Petraeus and his allies in the Pentagon apparently underestimated the determination with which the Pakistani military would react. When the closure was first announced, some U.S. officials said they expected the bordered to reopen within 72 hours - that is, by Oct. 5 -- according to the Washington Post.

Instead, the spokesperson for the Pakistani foreign ministry, Abdul Basit, warned that the closure of the Torkham gate would continue until popular anger over the U.S. attacks inside Pakistan had subsided. Basit also virtually invited attacks on the NATO convoys by suggesting that they would be regarded as "the reaction of the Pakistani masses".

Since then there have been at least six attacks in which tankers have been torched over the past week.

The Pakistani response should have been no surprise to U.S. officials. In "Obama's War", Bob Woodward, who had unprecedented access to top officials, said U.S. intelligence "indicated the Pakistanis believed the U.S. would not jeopardize their relationship", because of its dependence on the country's agreement to allow convoys to use Pakistani logistics routes into Afghanistan.

The intelligence analysis pointed out that the Pakistanis would not even have to close the border itself, but would gain sufficient leverage simply by allowing some militants to close key bridges or overpasses.

The Pakistani military leaders had threatened to close down the supply routes in September 2008, in response to a single cross-border raid ordered by the George W. Bush administration.

The Pakistani closure of NATO's main logistics route may influence the domestic politics of the Obama administration's policy toward the war. As Woodward's book reveals, U.S. officials have long agreed privately that the war effort in Afghanistan cannot succeed without a change in Pakistani policy toward the safe havens for the Taliban.

If the result of the crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations is a retreat by the United States, it would signal a clear end to the hope that Pakistan would change its policy on Afghanistan. That, in turn would strengthen Obama's hand in maneuvering with Petraeus over beginning a drawdown of troops in July 2011.

*Slithery name-changes are also a habit for Rove and other Republican authoritarians laundering big money into elections now.

**The other text was also by Friedrich. teaching, as if by rote, that constitutionalism is "effective, regularized restraint." I transferred out of Government 1 at the end of the semester.

***There is also an interplay here.

****Prince had been accused, based on evidence provided by two employees, of murdering another.