Proof pointing to the people guilty of weakening America

Summary: We, Americans, delight in creative explanations blaming others for our problems. “It’s not my fault” is our mantra. Here are two examples suggesting that we can find the guilty parties can be found in the mirror. We can do better.

Einstein about problems
He didn’t say it, but should have

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In these pages I’ve attempted to convey some of the astonishing aspects of 21st century America. None are more astonishing than our disinterest in learning from our experiences (both Left and Right), and the parallel behavior of Left and Right (about which they’re oblivious). I’ve written scores of posts documenting these phenomena.

The conclusion drawn about these posts by many readers: they accurately describe foolish behavior of the other side (the bad guys), but say I show bias and politicization by pointing out similar behavior by the good guys (which is so obviously different). How sad to see such willful blindness. It’s one of the reasons I wonder about our capacity for self-government. The blind need guides. Perhaps that’s how the 1% see their relationship with us.

Here is an example for each.

Bush = Hitler
The Day of Action protest, 18 March 2006

(1) Bush is Hitler. So is Obama

Many at the Left said that President Bush Jr was like Hitler. Zomblog and Ringo’s Pictures have collected examples. Lied us into wars, illegal government surveillance, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials. The Right laughed.

Now the Left applauds Obama, with his illegal surveillance programs, most aggressive-ever use of the Espionage Act of 1917. continued use of Guantanamo Bay, expanded assassination programs (including US citizens). Most of the same things they condemned Bush Jr for doing, plus more that Bush Jr did not dare do.

And now the Right condemns Obama as — Hitler. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a few examples. Google Images points to hundreds more.

This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle. Both are oblivious to the similarity of their behaviors to the behavior of those they despise. No wonder our politics have become so dysfunctional.

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Obama is Hitler

(2) Learning from our experience

Our wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan have long slow beginnings, then evolved in quite different ways to their eventual failures.

The Vietnam War arbitrarily began in August 1964 with the Tonkin Gulf incident. By 1977, thirteen years later the US had a sophisticate cadre of war reporters, knowledgeable enough to regard government statements with skepticism and able to independent research to find the truth. While it lasted, this skillful press did great service to America — for example, during the Watergate crisis.

Our invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001, marking the decisive break with our indirect involvement that began in 1979 with our support of jihadists against the Afghanistan government (and its support for rights of women, civilization, etc). The US government calls it Operation Enduring Freedom, one of the many post-9/11 unselfconscious Orwellian phrases of our leaders that should set off alarms in the minds of citizens.

Now, 13 years later, we have reached the “Vietnamization” stage of the war (which began in 1969, after only 5 years), having drawn down most of the soldiers we had there at the peak (from aprox 90,000 in 2011 to 10,000 by the end of 2014). But despite the far longer experience with modern war (i.e., fourth generation war), we have learned little. The same hawks who started and managed the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still dominate the news media as “experts”. In each crisis, like the latest in the Ukraine, journalists treat the statements of government officials as gospel — and those by hawks as reliable (however predictable). Their m.o. is a rush to a foreordained conclusion, propaganda is their game.

In Vietnam we gained nothing at great cost, but at least learned some hard lessons. In our post-9/11 wars we have gained nothing at great cost in blood and money, but have learned nothing.

We can do better. There is no point looking for people to blame, except the people in the mirror.

(3)  For More Information

Please tell me in comments if you find this section useful.

For good reason Internet discussions so often end with mention of NAZI’s. The Third Reich marked a decisive point in the evolution of western civilization; so much of what we are came from them and our reaction to them. For some examples see this post.

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Wisdom

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21 thoughts on “Proof pointing to the people guilty of weakening America

  1. FM remarks: This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle.

    Sadly true. George W. Bush’s policies remain immensely popular. Bush himself is personally unpopular, but his policies are beloved. Endless unwinnable foreign wars, torture, massive Orwellian surveillance, immense growth in the national security police state, deep erosion of the Bill of Rights, autocratic edicts by the president, disregard or outright breach of laws passed by congress using signing statements or the sequester — the public loves these policies and views them as proof of American “strength” and the toughness and manliness and resolve of our leaders, and clamors for more of them.

    It puts you in mind of the Roman senate who begged Tiberius on the island of Capri to give them edicts they could follow, and Tiberius’ contemptuous response: “How eager these men are to become slaves.”

    IOKIYAR (It’s okay if you’re a Republican) has now been joined by IOKIYAD (It’s okay if you’re a Democrat). Orwell’s doublethink in action.

  2. Yeah, America (and the Russians to some extent) are always looking to fight ‘another Hitler’ — and much of the rest of the world is fearing ‘a return of colonialism.’ Our drones fly over there to kill our imagined mini-Hitlers, and then we wonder why does everyone hate us?

    Why? The scars of colonialism are just too deep. Through the prism of colonialism, the USA will always be the enemy. There’s nothing we can do to change this. Everything thing we do, every sanction, every bomb we drop, every government we support, it just confirms their worst fears. It’s the western powers, come to steal stuff, dominate governments, and kill people. It’s the same old, same old, and it hugely stacks the odds against the USA everywhere it goes.

    Americans don’t get this, really, we’re watching that History Channel repeat tales of glorious WWII victories. That’s our coliseum; the Allies conquer the evil Axis every night on TV. Left and right, they’re all fixated on replaying WWII over and over. Blind to how people really see us.

    1. We do have a soft colonialism, though, in that our culture of materialism and mercantilism has been so polished and honed to perfection that it displaces all others. And as much as we are concerned about its inherent emptiness, for those to whom it is foreign it looks like a deliberate invasion, when in fact all we want to invade is their bank accounts.

  3. Not clear to me that the left loves authoritarianism if it’s Obama’s. There is a lot of disillusionment on the left, and loss of liberties is the main cause. The current Democrat establishment and hardcore supporters are o.k. with it but they’re not really the left anymore, except from current Republican points of view, which would consider the Second Coming of Reagan to be a leftist. It’s been a while now, but I recall a smaller number of rightists being outraged by the Patriot Act etc at the time.
    The disillusioned left don’t have a lot of choices, of course. Third party? Vote Republican? Don’t vote? Take over the Democrats, like an inverse Tea Party?
    As a relatively sane person, I had no illusions in the first place. Let’s face it, the spectrum of positions permitted to presidential candidates of either of the two “real” parties is pretty constrained, particularly on matters of “security”. Instead we are allowed to haggle over gay marriage.

    1. Gzuckier,

      Reference to groups is a shorthand, not like physics. It almost never describes everyone in the group. Esp in politics. There are rebels, dissonents, in every party.

      But it is incontestable fact that Obama remains popular in the Left, in the meaningful sense that they vote for him (no serious primary challenge, few defectors against the GOP), no public protests, and he retains the support of the Leftists in office.

    2. Editor:

      “But it is incontestable fact that Obama remains popular in the Left, in the meaningful sense that they vote for him (no serious primary challenge, few defectors against the GOP), no public protests, and he retains the support of the Leftists in office.”

      That is a strawman argument and doesn’t really hold up. Just because he didn’t have a primary challenger or have defectors from Congress against certain policies does not mean those on the left aren’t upset with his decisions and aren’t blindly supporting him. Those on the left support his OTHER policies, like health care for those who don’t have it, like equal pay for women, support of the environment, extending unemployment insurance, and the like. Most on the left are still quite upset about Gitmo remaining open, the two wars going on and on, drone attacks, surveillance, extrajudicial killings, etc and any others you listed, and do criticize him. I hear it all the time, people upset with that side of Obama’s administration. There were so few on the right that ever vocally criticized GWBush’s policies when all that hullaballoo was going on.

    3. Gzuckier gbutera,

      A strawman logical fallacy involves covertly replacing a theory or view with a different proposition. Things such as polls, votes, protests are all tangible evidence of popularity.

      You are using a strawman tactic by substituting *agree with all policies* for what I said — which was simple popularity. It’s quite daft to deduce that I said that people on the Left agreed with every one of his policies.

      Even the greatest loyalist seldom agrees with every policy of a President. Saint Reagan is loved on the Right today, but was often attacked by the Right when in office. Example:
      http://fabiusmaximus.com/2010/07/24/19644/

  4. To summarize, there are two parties following almost identical policies to the exclusive benefit of an oligarchy, to the point of taking over and continuing the policies initiated by the other party, but whose members vehemently disparage the opponents’ leader as a matter of course, eventually accusing him of the ultimate turpitude (being the new Hitler), while the majority of a population losing ground economically stands on the sideline.

    Looks very much like had been happening for decades in other American countries, where two parties with initially very distinct backgrounds and policies (sometimes known as “blancos” and “colorados”, or “liberals” and “conservatives”) end up as being mere factions of an oligarchy, still pugnaciously battling and disparaging each other as they vie for power, while the majority of the impoverished population stands on the sideline.

    A look at the history in the Southern part of the continent would be instructive as to where the “americanization” of the USA might lead.

    1. Guest,

      I learned in political science class 40 years ago that as the differences between parties shrinks, the personal invective increases. When there are substantive policy differences they form the basis for debate. When the differences are small, my opponent is Hitler — evil in human form.

  5. gzuckier whimpers: Not clear to me that the left loves authoritarianism if it’s Obama’s.

    It’s perfectly clear to me, and to anyone else who is sentient.

    Let’s run down the list, shall we?

    Barack Obama claims the authority to:

    [1] Wiretap and hoover up the emails and back records and twitters and social media of every man, woman and child in America, forever, storing them in gigantic data storage facilities in the Utah desert, without a warrant, or an probable cause;

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/10/fact-check-obamas-misleading-answer-about-warrantless-wiretapping-daily-show

    [2] Murder any American citizen without a trial or even charging hi/r with a crime;

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

    [3] Ignore laws passed by congress on his personal authority;

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/12/the-obama-administration-has-been-quietly-telling-local-police-forces-not-to-tell-you-about-this/

    [4] Kidnap American citizens and hurl ’em into a dungeon forever without trial and without charges or access to a lawyer;

    http://www.salon.com/2013/12/27/obama_signs_ndaa_2014_indefinite_detention_remains/

    [5] Make up and enforce secret laws, secret “kill lists” of American citizens to be murdered by death squads, and secret rules and regulations to which American citizens are subject at the mercy of giant federal law enforcement agencies, but which cannot be made public;

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/22/drone-memos_n_4144469.html

    [6] Not only the right to murder any American citizen without trial, but the right to refuse to explain to congress or the judiciary or the American people why he murdered those U.S. citizens, a right which even William the Conquerer did not assert (at least William agreed he had to explain to his barons why he murdered one of his subjects, but Barack Obama claims he is above even that legal requirement);

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/25/world/25awlaki.html

    [6] Most of all, to keep secret even the list of enemy nations and groups with which America is currently at war!

    http://www.propublica.org/article/who-are-we-at-war-with-thats-classified

    I’d say that’s authoritarianism with a vengeance. In fact, how much more authoritarian can you possibly get than these extreme measures? Is there any tyrannical power claimed by Tamerlane or Genghis Khan or Pol Pot which Barack Obama does not claim for himself?

  6. I appreciate the contextual information you provide in the “For More Information references”. They are kind of like the footnotes, or recommended further reading section in Bibliographies, in a formal peer reviewed paper.

    For example I found the paper by Bacevich to be a wonderful follow on/up to this post. I have a file on my PC entitled FM references now which as of today has a subfolder entitled “soft colonialism.”

    So thanks for trying to provide the “rest of the story” (the context) in your blog posts. I copied and pasted into my Strategy/Decision Making file this Bacevich quote:

    “:In present-day Washington, strategy — the principled application of power to achieve objectives of first-order importance — has become a lost art.” …. It has repeatedly failed to anticipate second-order consequences.

  7. Guest remarks: To summarize, there are two parties following almost identical policies to the exclusive benefit of an oligarchy, to the point of taking over and continuing the policies initiated by the other party, but whose members vehemently disparage the opponents’ leader as a matter of course…

    An apt summary. It seems to me, at the risk of sounding paranoid, that the billionaires have taken over both parties. The function of the Republican party’s obvious insanity (evolution denial, global warming denial, proposals to abolish the IRS, invade dozens of middle eastern countries, vaccination denialism, etc.) then becomes clear. Since the billionaires now control both American political parties, they have moved the Republican party so far into extremist territory that most Americans will vote for the Democratic party. And since the billionaires own the Democratic party too, this insures that they get their preferred policies enacted with the illusion of popular support.

    In effect, the two U.S. political parties are playing a game of good cop, bad cop. The Republican party puts up someone for president like Rand Paul, whose platform consists of arrant lunacy: shutting down of government, stopping vaccinations, ending the National Insitute of Health, and so on. Then the Democratic presidential candidate appeals to voters: “That other guy is crazy. But don’t worry, I’ll save you from him. Just vote for me, and everything will be fine.”

    Meanwhile, the likely Democratic presidential candidate, HIllary Clinton, has already given speeches laying out her policies: “We need to stop bashing the bankers, it’s not productive.” I.e., more GET OUT OF JAIL FREE cards for Wall Street’s financial crime lords. “America needs a more assertive foreign policy stance.” I.e., more endless unwinnable foreign wars. “I plan to include Republicans in my administration and I want to move toward the Republicans.” I.e., more tax cuts for billionaires and more slashing of social services for the bottom 90% of the U.S. population. These are of course exactly the policies the billionaires want.

    The entire good cop/bad cop political game is essentially Noam Chomsky’s process of manufacturing consent. Engineer a political process where the alternative (Republican lunacy) is so detestable that the American people wind up voting for policies they despise (Democratic laissez faire corporatist neocon hawks like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden).

    1. Thomas,

      “It seems to me, at the risk of sounding paranoid, that the billionaires have taken over both parties.”

      Not paranoid at all. What’s the point of being in the 1% if not to dominate society? What remains for the superrich on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, other than domination of people (or, to improve the lot of your follow people by guiding them to a better future)?

    2. “It seems to me, at the risk of sounding paranoid, that the billionaires have taken over both parties.”

      I tend to agree with you.

      However, note that the current world situation, between Iraq, Israel/Hamas, and Russia/Ukraine is becoming decidedly unstable – and that is bad for business.

      I’m not sure there’s much that can be done about ISIS, but a few well-placed telephone calls could lower tensions in the other two, Israel/Hamas and Russia/Ukraine.

      I predict these calls will be made. But this is a test of they hypothesis.

  8. This has not much to do with this post in particular but, when I read it I thought of many of the themes you post on this site and it gave me a chuckle.

    “Usually I spare myself from the news, because if it’s not propaganda, then it’s one threat or another exaggerated to the point of absurdity, or it’s the tragedy of storm-quake-tsunami, of bigotry and oppression misnamed justice, of hatred passed off as righteousness and honor called dishonorable, all jammed in around advertisements in which a gecko sells insurance, a bear sells toilet tissue, a dog sells cars, a gorilla sells investment advisers, a tiger sells cereal, and an elephant sells a drug that will improve your lung capacity, as if no human being in America any longer believes any other human being, but trusts only the recommendations of animals.”
    -Odd Thomas-

    Our authors seem to have the capability of creating in a fictional reality that which we can no longer create in reality, logical individuals.

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