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October 20, 2009

"Honduras: Too Late to Pretend There's Democracy"

Nell at A Lovely Promise:

Since posting 'Honduras: high price of the struggle' five days ago, I've had to add two more names to the list of those killed by the coup regime since Zelaya's return. I will continue to put any additional names there, so that the post can serve as a reference; pray that there will be no need.

As the Obama-Clinton State Department worms its way toward recognizing elections held under conditions of dictatorship, remember these men and women. As firms like Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates take in hundreds of thousands of dollars for being willing to put a smooth facade of lies on a brutal regime, remember their blood. Remember the courage and commitment for which they were targeted. Look into the eyes of Jairo Sanchez, whose funeral was yesterday; then make our government do the same.

What would be fun now is to listen to some guy describe previous U.S. government actions in other places—say, Indonesia. His voice sounds familiar, but I can't put my finger on who he is.


She found herself a job right away teaching English to Indonesian businessmen at the American embassy...

The Americans were mostly older men, careerists in the State Department, the occasional economist or journalist who would mysteriously disappear for months at a time, their affiliation or function in the embassy never quite clear...

These men knew the country, though, or parts of it anyway, the closets where the skeletons were buried. Over lunch or casual conversation they would share with her things she couldn’t learn in the published news reports. They explained how Sukarno had frayed badly on the nerves of a U.S. government already obsessed with the march of communism through Indochina, what with his nationalist rhetoric and his politics of nonalignment—he was as bad as Lumumba or Nasser, only worse, given Indonesia’s strategic importance. Word was that the CIA had played a part in the coup, although nobody knew for sure. More certain was the fact that after the coup the military had swept the countryside for supposed Communist sympathizers. The death toll was anybody’s guess: a few hundred thousand, maybe; half a million. Even the smart guys at the Agency had lost count.

Innuendo, half-whispered asides; that’s how she found out that we had arrived in Djakarta less than a year after one of the more brutal and swift campaigns of suppression in modern times. The idea frightened her, the notion that history could be swallowed up so completely, the same way the rich and loamy earth could soak up the rivers of blood that had once coursed through the streets; the way people could continue about their business beneath giant posters of the new president as if nothing had happened...

Power. The word fixed in my mother’s mind like a curse.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at October 20, 2009 03:59 PM

But is it too late for America?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 20, 2009 04:17 PM

Actually, the smart guys at the Agency certainly didn't lose count. They were the ones who supplied the Indonesian army with the lists of PKU members (and their families) to be murdered.

The PKU (the Indonesian communist party) was a nonviolent political party, but that didn't stop one former US government official from feeling good about his contribution to murdering half a million people:

"It really was a big help to the army," said Robert J. Martens, a former member of the U.S. Embassy's political section who is now a consultant to the State Department. "They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment."

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2009 04:44 PM

Actually, the smart guys at the Agency certainly didn't lose count.

Unfair to Obama! The fact that they gave lists of thousands of specific people to be killed doesn't mean they knew exactly how many hundreds of thousands of people ended up killed in the end. Just like Vietnam -- we had lots of lists of people to kill in the Phoenix program, but that doesn't mean we were able to keep track of how many millions of people we killed there.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at October 20, 2009 04:48 PM

Get with the times, Jonathan. Things said to seduce liberals before elections can safely be discarded as guidelines for the formulation of national policy after the victory is in hand.

Nun ist es die Zeit der Blut und Eisen, nicht wahr? Es gibt immer einen Ordnung, Kerl.

That bolded passage was about his mother, after all, and no promises were made about what would result should the son grasp the ring of power.

Obama the Rorschach blot; what you thought that you saw therein says everything about what you wanted to see, and very little about what was substantively there.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at October 20, 2009 05:10 PM

Hey N E, what do you know about Boris Pash? (O/T)

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 20, 2009 05:17 PM

Host with the Most:

I admire your Big League thinking, and you could be a star, but shhhh! We really can't let people be President if they start to spell that stuff out! If you don't understand, just do a little digging sometime, maybe in the writings of Roger Morris among other places, about what happened to then-leading Presidential Candidate (and CIA adversary) Senator Gary Hart back in 87-88 once he started talking about his big plans. (If you're not going to be the CIA's friend, be careful who you go boating with!)

Mention of the Phoenix Program reminds me that it and the very similar mass murder in Indonesia (not all that far behind Pol Pot)is really what lies beneath the smiley-faced counterinsurgency PR manual that Petraeus wrote to sell the Pentagon's supposedly "new" methods, which covert assassination director McChrystal proposes to implement in Afghanistan. I assume that the counterinsurgency will be especially traditional in the rural Balochi area in the south, not far from where those Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders were blown up just the other day, causing Iran to blame the US of all things. Those crazy paranoid Iranians!

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2009 05:30 PM

"Look Who Is Lobbying The Congress?"
The coup-masters have already spent more than $400,000 on Washington lobbyists

And honestly, our elected officials should STOP talking about FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY. There is only so much of hypocrisy that is palatable!

And may be, it is time for the President to go back to his own book and read it, to remind him what he wrote ( he could not have written that unless it had a tremendous impact on him)! May be, that will bring back the Obama, at least I voted for.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 20, 2009 05:56 PM

One thing we can do to prevent current, bloody history from being swallowed up completely is to put in front of our State Department, members of Congress, news organizations, and public the faces and words of the individual human beings who are risking everything for democracy.

One of the people who demonstrated outside the office of the high-priced whores of Chlopak, Leonard yesterday in DC carried a big picture of Isis Murillo, the boy who was shot dead by the military at the Tegucigalpa airport on July 5.

The failure of this administration to say a word in condemnation -- or even acknowledgement -- of that very public assassination was the sign that they'd tolerate anything. But we don't have to play along by pretending we don't see the blood they've splashed onto all of us.

Posted by: Nell at October 20, 2009 06:05 PM

Mention of the Phoenix Program reminds me

I am always reminded of the Phoenix Program. As I think I've mentioned, its one-time director later lived right across the street from my elementary school, although as far as I know he didn't give into his urges to electrocute the children's genitals.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at October 20, 2009 06:09 PM

Mike of Angle:

I didn't remember the name Boris Pash, but I wikied him and then looked him up in the index of Christopher Simpson's eye-opening book Blowback. I see that the early CIA assassinations go all the way back to Pash's work in Operation Bloodstone in post-war Germany, which doesn't surprise me much. That's just one of the many revelations of Simpson's fine book.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2009 06:59 PM

I agree with Nell about the crucial importance of reaching public perception, though I'm not sure people in the State Department or Congress will have the easiest consciences to reach. There's an opportunistic and very self-protective "ho hum, it was a decisive moment to strike hard" complacency there, in addition to a strong desire to avoid personal risk. A form of chickenhawk fever.

People definitely wouldn't like what has happened if they knew it. The frustrating problem is that's true of so many things. But I've met some people over the years who definitely had the courage to tell lots of people things they don't want to hear, and it won't reach everybody, but it will reach some people eventually. Every step toward a tipping point is an important step, even if it can't be seen in advance, but we have to make sure the tip is in the right direction.

So get Nancy on the phone Mike Meyer, and pester your friends and relatives too.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2009 07:56 PM

Colby lived your elementary school! I missed that post, but I did read Doug Valentine's book on the Phoenix program, which certainly makes me think Colby earned his boating accident in the mid 90s, though I suppose that he actually got that for the wrong reasons and not the right ones.

I am amused that the Kircus review of Valentine's book says the following:

"A crude, one-sided appraisal designed to prove conclusively that the Phoenix Program--America's antiterrorist program in Vietnam--was ""an instrument of unspeakable evil."" Valentine nonetheless affords an intriguingly detailed history of counterinsurgency efforts during America's post-WW II involvement in Indochina. . ."

In other words, it really was unspeakably evil, and Valentine has the nerve to say so.

As I remember Valentine's book, he wrote that all those spooky Phoenix program guys had later booked flights to Central America to apply their skill at torturing and disappearing and mutilating people.

You know, these folks don't disappear from the planet after one spot calms down. They move on and apply their trade elsewhere. If we don't know where they are and what they are up to, it doesn't mean they aren't out there doing it.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2009 08:20 PM

Jon, you were talking about Ted Shackley, yeah?

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 20, 2009 08:45 PM

Jon, you were talking about Ted Shackley, yeah?

Right, Shackley, not Colby. I know there's dispute over exactly how dirty Shackley got his hands at the time, but he was Saigon bureau chief. So, you know -- pretty dirty.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at October 20, 2009 09:02 PM

Ted Shackley headed up the Phoenix Program too? I don't think so, though he was down there doing his dirty deeds while it was in progress. I could certainly be wrong, but I think of him as a more hand-on evildoer, and he sure had his hands on plenty over the years. Antarctica is probably the only continent that he missed. Maybe Australia, though I wouldn't bet on it.

Shackley probably died in his sleep.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2009 09:14 PM

Another country heard from? Thailand...

India forced a chartered airplane enroute to Thailand to land in Mumbai over its use of a civilian call sign. Turns out that there were 205 U.S. Marines on board. Wonder what this was all about. Just a plane load of helpy helpertons, no doubt.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at October 20, 2009 11:07 PM

I read the Valentine book a long time ago--I have it somewhere. It got a really weird review by Morley Safer--I can't remember if I thought it was as badly written as he claims. But that's a strange thing to emphasize. The US is accused of running death squads and Safer gets bent out of shape by Valentine's writing skills. At least he didn't say it was all wrong, the way Kathy Kadane's material on Indonesia was treated, IIRC.


Posted by: Donald Johnson at October 20, 2009 11:48 PM

As for Valentine's book The Phoenix program, John Prados said it was important and Alfred McCoy said it is the "definitive account," and those are reviewers I generally trust. (Plus, I read it, and I thought it was excellent, and I trust me.) I don't know what Morley Safer was smoking, or maybe he had the same problem as Kircus in confusing what he could accept as true and what was true.

As for what's causing trouble in the Empire these days, Pepe Escobar has weighed in with his take on the recent suicide bombing of the Iranian Guard commanders and tribal leaders in Iranian Balochistan. Like most of his stuff, it's worth reading:

Posted by: N E at October 21, 2009 12:27 AM

I don't see why you people have to be such haters. The CIA and Suharto were just doing what they had to do in an imperfect world. You can't blame them for failing to correct every single little problem in the world in such a short time. They had a lot of things on their plate.

(Is it significant that N E can be matter-of-factly condemnatory of US crimes as long as the name "Obama" isn't mentioned?)

Posted by: Not Exactly Duncan at October 21, 2009 10:18 AM

Not Exactly Duncan:


Count yourself lucky that I don't answer that question.

Posted by: N E at October 21, 2009 01:32 PM

The way I read N E's posts, Not Exactly Duncan, is that they are attempts to divine what's going on now using a small yet revealing set of historical sources. In the 70s, parts of the USG were forced to reveal themselves a slight amount--and then Reagan came in, and the curtains closed again. As citizens we only get occasional glimpses of how the sausage really gets made, and it seems that Congress often doesn't fare much better.

So: given (for example) what Richard Helms admitted before the Church Committee in 1975, and how grudgingly he admitted it, what can we assume about how decisions get made in DC today? How independent and powerful are groups within the USG? How arrogant and prone to unauthorized behavior? How much capital would Obama need to spend to, for example, stop Predator attacks in Afghanistan? What is the reality of Presidential power when it tries to roll back military power?

Obviously N E's "take" often resonates with my own. I think "Obama's an evil bastard" posts are an utter waste of time, because they suggest that if we could just elect a better person, these problems would be solved. I don't think that's so. Call it the shadow government or the military-industrial complex, it's bigger and richer and haughtier than ever. This matters less when the President is wholly allied with those factions, as Bush was. But when a President shows some willingness to deviate, then gauging the shadow government becomes germane. It doesn't matter if the deviation seems paltry to us here on ATR--it's how the people on the inside perceive it that counts.

I realize that this is a very unsatisfying way to look at politics. If it relieves your anger to think that Barack Obama is a bastard or a moron or whatever else you like, go for it. You'll have plenty of company, at ATR and all over the internet. But consider that you might be strengthening the very forces that I refer to. The shadow governmental forces that drive policy--the people who don't have to get elected, don't care what you think, and are in place for decades--they WANT you to focus on Obama. They WANT you to waste time discussing whether Glenn Greenwald is doctrinally pure. They want you to look at the President and the Congress--your only dogs in the fight, unless you're a billionaire--and think, "Fucking useless lying assholes!"

Not that you asked, my reading on Obama is that he's a superb "public" President, but so far pretty overmatched when it comes to the private aspects of the job. That doesn't excuse anything that happens on his watch, but it does allow me to avoid wasting energy wishing he'd do things that recent history suggests are impossible, even though that state of affairs offends and outrages me.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 21, 2009 01:48 PM

Mike of Angle:
That doesn't excuse anything that happens on his watch, but it does allow me to avoid wasting energy wishing he'd do things that recent history suggests are impossible, even though that state of affairs offends and outrages me.

I am no expert on American politics or history and I do understand that the President ( any president ) does not have TOTAL control over what he would like to do. HOWEVER, what do you recommend the citizenry do to fight the "shadow govt", specially as you said, when it offends, outrages and disgusts ( me)? Are we just supposed to accept things as they are? That can not be. If one wants to change things for the better, one has to act. But I also understand that nonconstructive criticism of the president is NOT PRODUCTIVE. So, what is the option? What is the next step?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 21, 2009 02:39 PM

I like this comment thread. Mike of Angle, how come you're so smart and so funny?

So, I have this question which Rupa Shah's question brought to my mind. How big is the shadow government? I mean, of how many people is it composed? Surely we need an answer to this question before we consider what ways might be available to combat it.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at October 21, 2009 02:49 PM

They want you to look at the President and the Congress--your only dogs in the fight, unless you're a billionaire--and think, "Fucking useless lying assholes!"

Well, they're getting what they want, because I say that at least once a day.

I wonder what "your only dogs in the fight" means, though - the only way we can change anything is by working through Congress and the Presidency? I think that's a pretty serious misunderstanding of how social change happens. And who's making a stronger case for the "uselessness" of the Congress and the President if not Mike? They're just the public face of the "shadow government", aren't they?

Posted by: SteveB at October 21, 2009 02:51 PM

And who's making a stronger case for the "uselessness" of the Congress and the President if not Mike? They're just the public face of the "shadow government", aren't they?

Correct me if I am wrong but I thought, the shadow govt meant agencies, organizations and people who control the govt behind the scenes e.g. military industrial complex, the media, the think tanks, financial institutions etc that work outside the provisions of 'constitution'! And if they control the congress, how is the citizenry going to fight their power which has been invested in them by the congress itself?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 21, 2009 04:38 PM

Fun but weird kind of activism!
"Pranksters Fixing the World!"

and a call to action....
"Stand Up Or Roll Over?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 21, 2009 05:13 PM

And if they control the congress, how is the citizenry going to fight their power which has been invested in them by the congress itself?

Good question, and it's exactly why Congress is generally not a tool for challenging corporate/military power (rather, it's a tool for expanding, enabling, and funding corporate/military power).

How do you overcome that? Let's take the Vietnam war as an example: It wasn't ended by an act of Congress, it was ended primarily through the armed resistance of the Vietnamese people, and secondarily through resistance within the US military (soldiers doing "search and avoid" rather than "search and destroy", soldiers fragging their officers, etc.)

And so it will be with Iraq and Afghanistan. The US will eventually be forced to leave those countries through resistance, both nonviolent and violent, by the Iraqi and Afghan people. The enormous cost of these wars and the eventual difficulty the US will have in borrowing to fund them might also play a role. Calls to Pelosi's office won't (Sorry, Mike.)

I'm not saying armed resistance is the only answer, I'm saying that change comes by changing the conditions under which the Government functions, so that they no longer have any choice but to do the right thing, because it's no longer possible for them to do the wrong thing.

Another route to change is to scare the hell out of the Congress' corporate masters, so they become willing to enact some half-measure because they're afraid something much worse (for them) will come if they do nothing (which is why we're now seeing action on climate change and health care.)

The important thing to recognize is that, when Congress acts, it won't be acting to solve our problems, it will be acting to solve the problems of its corporate masters. So, for example, we have to "reform" the health care system because the people in the for-profit insurance industry who aren't brain-dead can see that trouble awaits them if they can't start using the power of the government to force people to buy their crappy products. So we get a bill whose main feature is mandatory insurance (to solve their problem) and which only incidentally benefits us.

Posted by: SteveB at October 21, 2009 05:43 PM

correction please....
"which has been invested in them"
it should read, "which has been VESTED in them".
And to everyone, feel free to correct my English....after all, it is my second language!!

ps posted a comment a while ago which has gone to the moderator.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 21, 2009 05:54 PM

SteveB, I suspect you and I disagree pretty profoundly when it comes to "how social change happens." I'm not even sure what that means. What's "social change"? The 1964 Civil Rights Act? Forcing Disney to accept gay marriage? Pants on women? All I know is what my life has taught me, which is that rhetoric is usually bullshit and things usually come down to money.

Rupa, if you want the MIC to wane quickly, figure out a way for a sizeable chunk of the MIC's beneficiaries to make more money doing something new. The non-crazy billionaire theory.

The other alternative is to collect all the little bits of money together into a pot. This idea is hugely appealing, but has genuine practical problems: who controls the pot? What happens if I don't agree with them? And why does the person/s controlling the pot, always end up acting like the elites?

I just deleted a big long paragraph about how my interest in meditation stemmed from these issues: knowledge of the power elites, and outrage over my own disenfranchisement. If you're interested Rupa, contact me directly. Comments from others suggest that I'm a bit of a broken record about this, so I'm trying to spare the uninterested.

Aaron, I don't know the size of the MIC, but I betcha somebody has tried to answer that question.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 21, 2009 06:46 PM

I take that back, SteveB--after reading your last post, maybe you and I aren't so far apart at all. Whether that's a compliment or an insult is up to you to decide :-). Re: Vietnam, I remember watching "Sir No Sir!" a while back and really being amazed at the level of military resistance during Vietnam. At the same time, don't underestimate the degrading effect that widespread drug addiction was having on US forces; perfect example of how the MIC is more about making money than ideology.

Members of Congress will serve whom or whatever pays the costs of getting elected and reelected. Some campaign reform might do wonders with that.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 21, 2009 07:02 PM

>> things usually come down to money.

or, perhaps, things usually come down to power.

The two are always aligned except, well, where it matters. The biggest obstacle to social progress is not lack of money but lack of power. And power does not always go where the money is (as Louis XVI found out the hard way) -- in fact it's money usually that follows power.

The key reason for the lack of social progress is not money but people's disbelief that another world is indeed possible (a disbelief apparently widely shared on this blog). Of course, there's a tight feedback loop between money and brainwashing/apathy (amply documented here), but in the end it's up to the people to imagine a different world. Anyway that's got to be the point of entry into that loop if you want to break it open.

Also, it does not help to be living in a quasi police state with millions of potential dissenters locked up in prison. Maybe once Obama evacuates Gitmo, he can turn the facility into the National Park for Leftwing Protest. (No cameras allowed so as not to distrupt the demonstrators.)

Finally, not that it matters, but I don't see what's wrong with popping Obama's balloon even if it makes us feel good. It's hard to get people motivated to dream up a better world when the messiah has already returned. A bit demotivating perhaps.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at October 21, 2009 08:31 PM

On a related matter, perhaps this is a good time to revisit the following passage from Obama's "Audacity of Hope":

“Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means—law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers, and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks.”

Just as the peaceniks plenty of advanced warning from Obama's literary works so did those who now profess themselves shocked by Obama's abject capitulations to Wall Street .

Posted by: John Halle at October 21, 2009 10:20 PM

The shadow governmental forces that drive policy--the people who don't have to get elected, don't care what you think, and are in place for decades--they WANT you to focus on Obama.

And if Obama were to take the dangerous step of overtly disagreeing with them, of in some way exposing them to the public, the consequences would be, um... would be... What would the consequences be again?

If he were to take a stand against his bosses and for, say, people without health insurance, Three things could happen: He wins, and that's that. He loses, and the public gets even angrier about health care then they already are, or he's crushed like a bug and things revert to the status quo.

Obama may have a lot to lose politically from not standing up to the assholes, but I don't see how the country would stand to lose if he did that.

So... yeah, I think it is kind of a relevant personal failure that he's so willing to capitulate.

Posted by: Christopher at October 21, 2009 10:46 PM

Whoa! We got some ATR star power tonight.

Theres Chazelle, Nell, Shwarz, Datesman...


Where's Caruso?

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at October 22, 2009 02:40 AM

The other alternative is to collect all the little bits of money together into a pot. This idea is hugely appealing, but has genuine practical problems: who controls the pot? What happens if I don't agree with them? And why does the person/s controlling the pot, always end up acting like the elites?

I don't think we need to remake society entirely from the ground up, this isn't some intractable problem of human nature - just taking a glance at Europe shows that even some tweaking of the knobs on your Standard Capitalist Democracy can produce very different outcomes.

We spend about 4% of our GDP on the military, Britain spends about 2%. Are British military contractors less greedy than ours? Is your average Brit more peaceable? Not really. It's just that Britain finally lost enough colonial wars, and the cost of empire finally bankrupted them. How many colonial wars do we need to lose? How long before the costs of empire bankrupt us?

I'm not talking about some Lennonesqe "Imagine all the people, living life in peace" vision; if the US was reined in to become no more militaristic that Germany or France, it would be an enormous boon to mankind. And an enormous boon to America. As the British example shows, the result of the collapse of empire is not civilizational collapse, it's miniskirts and the Beatles.

Posted by: SteveB at October 22, 2009 09:21 AM

Very interesting thread, dear to my own heart. Sorry I got busy yesterday.

Mike of Angle's view is of course closest to my own, though I stay away from talking about a "shadow government." The problem is the real government, which in connection with National Security is enormous, but in such matters what happens typically remains classified for many decades, and contrary to the ironic opinion of W, the President is not always the Decider, especially when it comes to implementation of policies. Plud, rven when the President is the Decider, there are factions within the government whose loyalty may well be elsewhere, especially when the President antagonizes military interests. When a President is highly independent in seeking change that the factions within the National Security State consider agains the national interest, disloyalty can and in the past has become the norm rather than the exception. Typically Democratic Presidents have run into this problem, most notably JFK, but Nixon was ruined by factions within the National Security State too.

I agree with Chazelle's view that criticizing a President can have beneficial effects. For example, I don't think Obama is calling the shots with regard to Honduras, and I don't think he is likely to spend any political capital on it right now, but I see no harm in criticizing him for that decision. He certainly could spend political capital on Honduras if he chose to, and it's certainly fair game to criticize him for not doing it. Those people whose pictures Nell has featured are dead, and that's a very real cost of neither Obama nor the State Department having done anything in response to the coup. My point has been just that the military, with the support of the GOP, are probably the real sponsors of the coup and certanly are the real supporters of it. Obama does have to think politically, and with some cunning or his enemies will destroy him. For good and bad, it seems to me that he does have some cunning and political foresight. That doesn't mean he can't be criticized for his silence and insaction.

My biggest objection to criticizing Obama is that it can essentially let the military and the GOP and other backers of and participants in the National Security State off the hook. In the case of Honduras, that doesn't matter because they don't care what you think anyway, but in other cases it can matter. For example, the military needs to take some heat for our continuing presence in Central Asia. For quite a while after the withdrawal from Vietnam, there was some professed concern about doing that again because of the potential downside, which related to the public perception of the military. Unfortunately, the National Security State responded mostly with a commitment to actively manage public perception, which they certainly do extremely well.

In a way, I am saying something similar to what Mike of Angle said: Give the proponents in militarism a downside to their practices, along with profitable alternatives, which Mike suggested. Such is the system devised for us that the only realistic alternative to Obama in the next election is likely to be a Republican hawk, so blaming Obama for his capitulations to the National Security State will accomplish nothing positive and possibly something harmful. Blame the military and the National Security State and perhaps you can eventually build momentum to change what has to change.

I disagree with Chazelle's view (which reminds me of the song Imagine) that the biggest obstacle to change is people's "disbelief that another world is possible." I agree that people need to believe in change to be willing to work for it, and they definitely need to work for it. So Chazelle's perspective is not without merit, but I think it's foolish not to recognize that we have some impediments to change that are very real. Some relate to the original structure of the government, which was set up to severely limit democracy; some arise from the complexity of international politics and economics, which are difficult topics even for those who have studied them, let alone people who haven't had training; some relate to the National Security State, which keeps people in the dark and intervenes in society and politics on an "as needed" basis to maintain its interests; and some relate to the way capitalism has shaped our culture and reduced everyone to being either predators or prey. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, but those are real problems that won't immediately go away even if millions of people become inspired. The inspired legions will still need to fix them. Quite possibly the inspiration does need to come first. That's why great politicians can have an impact, though they have to motivate people to DO something.

Getting money out of politics and government is key. Once that happens, Congress might become worth something instead of a bunch of complacent egotists who know little and do less except support the interests of their contributors so they can raise more contributions. Senators in particular don't even seem to have the self-awareness to see the inherent corruption in that process.

Fixing the US political and economic system isn't going to be easy, and getting our military out of the business of running the world is going to be even harder. I don't think it's remotely possible without a meaningful international dispute-resolution and enforcement system, which would involve increasing the power of the United Nations and generating a public debate we haven't had in the US since our domestic nationalist forces defeated Woodrow Wilson in the League of Nations debate. Right now there isn't even any prospect of such a debate appearing on the horizon, let alone a winnable debate materializing. So there's much work to be done. Eventually the need will be recognized, because the present system of the US policing the world will break down sooner or later.

As the climate heats up and resources deplete and the US economy increasingly struggles to sustain our role as the world's policeman, viable and stable international institutions with some meaningful power to resolve disputes and prevent wars are going to be imperative. If we continue to let the US dig itself deeper and deeper into Central Asia, it will eventually lead to ruin. It is quite possible that something may well eventually bring us into open war with Russia or China, especially because our own militarists are such insane ideologues that they can't imagine a world in which any real threat to US power is tolerated. Our stated policy is to maintain such massive military dominance that no power can rival us in any region of significance in the world, and yet, because we are dangerous, other nations can only forego their own sizable military expenditures at their own peril. (After all, look what has happened to Russia after the USSR was disbanded. We act like the Georgia on the Caspian is the Georgia General Sherman burned.) It strikes me as unlikely that we can sustain this enormously aggressive and even more enormously costly military policy over a period of decades, and if we try we will likely impoverish ourselves and our children and sooner or later create exactly the sort of nightmarish government that has always posed the greatest danger to world peace. And, of course, such a government would even sooner be a danger to those who oppose it here in the US.

Posted by: N E at October 22, 2009 12:04 PM

This is a long one, so please skip if that fucking Mike of Angle annoys you. :-)

Bernard, I struggled between saying "money" or "power" in my post, but chose money because that's the way power manifests in most people's lives. And using "power" allows for just the kind of wiggle-room you took--the power of ideas, the power of the imagination!

Any six-year-old can imagine a world much fairer, safer, kinder--BETTER--than our current one. Imagining isn't the problem; it's getting the money behind the good ideas and away from the bad ones. For every John Lennon (who got shot at 40), there's a George W. Bush (63 and going strong).

Lennon himself generally pooh-poohed the power of ideas--when he wasn't hanging every hope he had on them. Remember that he wrote "Imagine" at Tittenhurst, a 72-acre estate in Berkshire. If John Lennon had been Rory Storm in 1971, he would've been writing, "Imagine not living with mum at 30...It's not so easy but I'll try..." Lennon's ideas made him rich, but only after people with money saw how they could benefit. Would've been interesting to see what conclusions Lennon would've come to--too bad he got shot. By a guy with no real motive. Who pled guilty 'cause God told him to.

Ah yes, the power of ideas--really horrific ideas. Louis XVI found out the hard way

That model of social change is acceptable when it's pitchforks versus muskets; it's less inspiring when it's homemade dirty nukes versus the modern military. I understand why people cleave to this, but my opinion is that method wouldn't result in beneficial change, just a pile of corpses, 99.99% of which would be ours, not theirs. The revolution has to be fought, and won, in our hearts. And those hearts have to transform with a minimum of chaos and suffering in the physical world, because the technology amplifies things to an unimaginable degree. The successful idea will have to appeal to everybody, not just the have-nots.

Naturally I agree that imagination is essential to salutary change--I'm a freakin' writer--but here's an experiment: go find a rich person and tell him/her a wonderful idea that will make the world a better place. Then tell him/her a much worse idea with an immediate, direct financial benefit to them. You will see very quickly which idea becomes reality.

And if Obama were to take the dangerous step of overtly disagreeing with them, of in some way exposing them to the public, the consequences would be, um... would be... What would the consequences be again?

A bullet in the head, Christopher, fired by some "crazy" person. The details don't matter; but I can tell you right now that it couldn't be predicted, or prevented, and it certainly wouldn't have anything to do with the person's politics...John Lennon might disagree, but who gives a fuck--he's dead.

SteveB, I 100% agree with you that just a bit of twiddling and tweaking could do wonders for the US, and the world. History is screaming this at us every single day. We, the people fascinated by ideas, can hear it; them, the people fascinated by money, cannot. And so the country reenacts the same old passion play we've seen a million times before--only with nukes. Awesome.

N E, I would argue that a cursory glance at our economy suggests that we have ALREADY bankrupted ourselves in these insane pursuits.

None of this says to me, "Give up." It says to me, "Go inside and fix what you can fix--yourself. Then trust that the increase of harmony will manifest itself." I know, I know-it's not much, but it's all I've got. It will be fascinating to see what happens.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 22, 2009 02:55 PM

My biggest objection to criticizing Obama is that it can essentially let the military and the GOP and other backers of and participants in the National Security State off the hook.

OK, just for an example, when Obama continues Bush's policies on indefinite detention, how should I frame my criticism? I'm not being snarky here, I just honestly don't see how you respond to this without first stating that Obama is wrong to continue Bush's policies.

Or, to take another example, Obama has been criticized for his failure to stand up to Big Pharma, the health insurance industry, and the Giga-Banks. How do these attacks on Obama let these other bad actors "off the hook"?

Posted by: SteveB at October 22, 2009 04:33 PM

SteveB: I seem to end up getting asked about the "blaming Obama" issue more than anything else around here, but I really don't think it's that big a deal to blame Obama for something going on in his administration. After all, he is the titular head of the executive branch. I have already said many times why I think the National Security State is the real problem, and why I think people have an exaggerated sense of Presidential power, but that doesn't mean anyone has to like Obama.

Outside the area of the National Security State, I didn't say criticizing Obama is letting somebody else off the hook. I wasn't talking about that, but if I were to do so, I simply don't know enough often to judge how close Obama is to cutting the best political deals he can. Or thinks he can. In connection with health care reform, I find his deal with Big Pharma distasteful, but Congress is corrupt and the Senate is worthless and that's the crap we have to deal with, and sometimes compromises are necessary. There's a reason that we haven't had health care reform even though the need for it was apparent even in Teddy Roosevelt's time.

As for dealing with the Giga-banks, alas, they are far too powerful. It shouldn't surprise anyone that politicians don't fight the ultra-powerful unless they can get some benefit somehow from that fight, and if the economy were to end up destroyed, Obama would have a hell of a time. I'm not sure how easily Obama can hurt the banks without hurting everyone else even more, so he to some extent has the "don't cut off you nose to spite your face" dilemma. That being said, I don't think his handling of the banks issue or health care has been masterful so far. I am basically watching and waiting to see how all that develops.

Posted by: N E at October 22, 2009 05:45 PM

Mike of Angle:

WE may be mostly economically ruined, but not the THEY in WE. I certainly don't disagree that we're hemorraging wealth.

Poisons, plane crashes, bullets in the head--those are probably typically measures of last resort most often undertaken in times of crisis (though of course not necessarily always). Nobody shot Jimmy Carter (though John Hinkley was apparently stalking him in Memphis before he lost his reelection bid), but plenty was done to ensure Carter's political defeat.

Sometimes the comments people make suggest some sort of shadowy cabal that a President opposes and could "expose." The "forces" that foil Presidents are mostly people who are part of the government, albeit unelected, and it's typically just a question of them not following Presidential directives and instead implementing policies in a way that undercuts them or their precipitates failure. That can be done in really big ways--such as Brzezinski convincing Carter to support the Afghani resistance to the USSR and thereby provoke a Soviet response that helped ruin Carter politically; or the CIA encouraging Sadam to attack Iran, thereby sabotaging the hostage negotiations; or Richard Secord and others making sure that the rescue mission to liberate the hostages from the US embassy in Teheran was so poorly planned that it was bound to fail. Or a President can be undone done in a host of smaller ways by those implementing executive branch policies. It's a vast bureaucracy. You don't need to be Joseph Stalin to realize that personnel make policy.

It's fitting that you mentioned bullets through the head in a post about John Lennon. The Manchurian Candidate capability to control assassins isn't hypothetical. The use of hypnosis to perpetuate crimes has a long pedigree. The French were at the forefront in exploring the hidden abilities and weaknesses of the mind, along with the Austrians. (Mesmer was Austrian). I believe Freud studied in Paris. There was even a time when hypnosis was used to anaesthetize people during surgery. An entire debate raged in the French academy about whether hypnosis could induce persons to commit crimes, and that was long before such practices could be enhanced by drugs such as LSD, which was itself discovered as part of CIA research back around 1950.

When someone as hated by the Right and the intel agencies as John Lennon gets shot by someone like Mark David Chapman because of a novel (The Catcher in the Rye), that's pretty weird and more than a little suspicious. A fairly prominent British barrister named Fenton Bresler was suspicious enough to spend several years researching the murder and Mark David Chapman's background and write a book about it, exploring odd facts like Chapman's time in Beirut in 1975 during a Lebanese civil war. I thought Bresler made a strong circumstantial case for CIA involvement, at least for anyone who can believe such things. It's a good book, though I only read the British edition and once read that some things were edited out of the American edition. Imagine that!

I have my reasons for hating the National Security State, and especially the intel agencies, more than Presidents like Obama. I should caution, however, that I don't know if Langley is the main culprit these days. As I intimated in a recent post, the creation of our Special Operations Command in 1987 may have changed the playing field.

Posted by: N E at October 22, 2009 06:38 PM

N E--
Poisons, plane crashes, bullets in the head--those are probably typically measures of last resort most often undertaken in times of crisis

I'd sure as hell like to think so, but the lack of responsible processes of discovery, much less punishment, in the cases where foul play is fairly certain, suggests that it might be otherwise. Overt violence is only "last resort" if there is personal risk; one of the possible lessons of Dallas is that there really isn't that much. I mean, fuck--nobody even got FIRED.

And what's a crisis? Is JFK talking to Castro a crisis? Not to me, but to Bill Harvey and David Phillips, maybe. These people live in a vastly different world than I do--deception and violence is their job--and they're the ones making the decisions, not me.

That having been said, Jon and I have talked this topic over for decades and agree that there are much less dramatic ways to neutralize a modern leader--scandal, for example. But I think we assign our morality to these people at our peril.

That is, in fact, a major point of the mystery I've just finished, which draws heavily on the murder of John Lennon and the history of the Beatles. (And you thought I was just bringing it up because of Imagine. Oh no--it's all Lennon all the time here, and has been for three years. Oh, who are we kidding, it's been that way since I was ten.)

I read Bressler's book (UK ed.) and was deeply annoyed by its clumsy language. Any regular commenter here could make a better case than Bressler did. The facts of Lennon's murder, such as they are known, are extremely curious. When I began research for my project, I was perfectly content with the "crazy fan" story; now, I am not so sure. The lack of a trial means that we'll never know. BTW, Chapman's motive shifts: sometimes it's hatred of phoniness, sometimes it's to promote Catcher, sometimes it's obeying inner voices. The fact is, he doesn't have a reason for doing it. One thing Bressler did do well was remind the reader that plenty of people had access to Chapman while he was in jail, and so we cannot be sure that what reads as his untampered mental state isn't actually post-hypnotic suggestions and "blocking."

For deep background on the sequel, I was lucky enough to find a bunch of pamphlets put out by William J. Bryan, the Hollywood-based hypnotist who bragged that he programmed Sirhan Sirhan. Creepy.

Manchurian Candidates are simply too far out of most people's comfort zone to sustain a conversation, but I have to say that the more I read, the more I suspect that it is possible; and if it is possible, it has been done, I have no doubt of that. Drugs, hypnosis, the work of Jose Delgado--when you combine that with what the Soviets could (apparently) do as far back as the 30s, you get a deeply unsettling world of possibilities. The power of horrific ideas.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 22, 2009 08:59 PM

Aaron Datesman at October 21, 2009 02:49 PM:

The following does not asnswer your question but you may find the info interesting!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 22, 2009 09:11 PM

Mike of Angle:

Funny you mention Sirhan Sirhan. His case got me interested in the possibility of hypnotic control of an assassin for reasons you probably are familiar with.

You're right that the absence of any investigation into these things is problematic and telling. The only President to get an autopsy after dying in office was JFK, I believe, and that one wasn't legitimate; it was simply necessary because when the President's head is blown off, there has to be an autopsy. Nearly all Presidential assassinations and attempts in the last century have happened in the midst of a serious crisis. Of course, in JFK's case it wasn't a single event, but the American University speech, the back-channel to Khruschev, the commencement of a withdrawal from Vietnam, more or less the totality of what had happened during JFK's Presidency showed his intent to move decisively toward ending the Cold War. To the National Security State, THAT was a real crisis.

I assume that the absence of assassinations during periods of normalcy doesn't stem from morality. Assassinations, like coups, don't always succeed, and failure in such a venture need not be punished in a court of law. Anyone taking that gamble better have some serious protection in case of failure, and that's more likely when a powerful faction is unhappy. Otherwise, a would-be assassin would likely be exposed to the full consequences of his decision.

Hypnosis predates Delgado by well over a century, as does the exploration of its potential in crime. The 1890s were the golden age of hypnosis, and Bernheim himself conducted an experiment where he had a hypnotized person stab someone violently with a fake knife that the subject of hypnosis thought was real. (Hypnotism: A History, Forest at 244). There seems to have been some actual use of hynosis long predating the CIA too. Though it can't be proved for the reasons you mention, it is noteworthy that a lunatic named John Shrank shot Teddy Roosevelt during the bitterly contested election of 1912 because the ghost of William McKinley appeared to him and blamed Roosevelt for his death. Hmmm. That's a strange motive.

I wouldn't be all that surprised if the secrets of mind control weren't understood in some form even in antiquity. I read a book called Battle For the Mind (Sargant 1957), that compared John Wesley's religious conversion methods with Pavlovian mind control. I thought that book was fascinating. Wesley had an excellent practioner's understanding of how to take control of someone's mind with prolonged physiological trauma (for God, of course) and he didn't even have the benefit of hallucinogenic drugs or experimental research. Modern researchers are far ahead of that. For obvious reasons, Langley had a keen interest in controlling the mind of individuals AND groups. Helms didn't destroy all the MKUltra files in 1973 for no reason.

I share your view that any rotten thing that can be done has been done, and unfortunately, it seems to be easy to get away with anything that nobody will believe. Worst of all, those psychopaths who thrive in the world of spooks and black ops are well aware of that last fact.

One last point: I can't help but quibble with your statement that "the lack of a trial means we'll never know." Sirhan Sirhan got a trial. The jails have been proved by DNA evidence to be full of innocent people who got trials. But I agree that a trial is always a step in the right direction.

Let us know when your mystery is out. It sounds promising.

Posted by: N E at October 22, 2009 11:51 PM

A Brazilian journalist, Leonardo Sequeira interviews dissident author and professor Paul Street......

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 23, 2009 10:04 AM

N E, could you send Jon a list of books you've found helpful on the topic of mind control? I've read Acid Dreams, Search for the Real Manchurian Candidate, and browsed a bunch of others, but there's a lot of chaff surrounding the wheat, and I'd be interested to hear what you've read that stands up. Any good ones on the Show Trials of 1938?

What I meant by a trial is simply this: our ability to figure out what happened after the fact is directly related to the amount of raw data that is collected while the crime is still fresh. I believe there would be much less of a JFK controversy without the freak occurrence of the Zapruder film. The lack of a similar item in the RFK and MLK murders--which are just as fishy--keeps those two from embedding in the public consciousness. With Lennon, there is no record whatsoever to work from, not even photos.

Chapman's abrupt reversal from his original plea of not guilty by reason of insanity--which would've spawned a long and exhaustively covered trial--to guilty--which caused a mostly pro-forma proceeding, that reversal meant that we'd be left with garbled and contradictory news accounts as the only record of the crime. Even if the NYPD looked particularly hard--and Bressler's book suggests that they didn't--their findings are not accessible to the public.

I will let you know the status of the book, N E. I think it's the best thing I've ever done--but of course Lennon said that about "Sometime in New York City"!

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 23, 2009 02:48 PM

Mike of Angle:

I'll post something separate on the book list issue.

The JFK assassination is atypical in many ways. First, blowing off the President's head in public was an unusual choice, though perhaps that can be explained by the equally unusual effort to start a war with the assassination.

But there was (at least) one major screw-up that alone may have foiled the war plan: Oswald was taken into custody alive. Although the fact was concealed for the following several decades, someone purporting to be Oswald was photographed by the CIA in Mexico City visiting the Cuban embassy, presumably as part of a Cuban-sponsored plan to assassinate JFK. The problem was, the FBI could see that the person photographed by the CIA in Mexico City was NOT the Oswald the FBI had taken into custody and interrogated in Dallas. That fact was the featured topic of discussion among LBJ and Edgar Hoover on the day after the assassination. Had Oswald been killed instead of taken into custody, perhaps it might not have been possible for the FBI to conclude that he was not the person in the CIA station's Mexico City photographs. Even if it, it certainly doesn't seem likely to have been part of the plan for Oswald to be killed by Ruby on television in police custody.

Oswald's failure to be killed before being taken into custody, far more than the Zapruder film (which was not released to the public until 1975), decisively influenced the public's sense immediate of JFK's assassination. It takes a massive long-term propaganda effort to convince people that no conspiracy was involved in killing a President when the supposed assassin is himself murdered in police custody even before the President's funeral is over. That's just too much to expect people to swallow without an awful lot of seasoning. It's striking how many people today, far removed from that time, overlook that enormous fact and base their opinion either on a general discomfort with "conspiracy theories" that has been drummed into their heads or uncertainty about details that are inconsequential in connection with the general question of what happened. We don't need to be able to identify the shooters or know other interesting details to understand what happened.

The RFK and MLK assassinations are more than fishy, if I can quibble with your word just for the record, and anyone who wants details can read William Pepper's two books on the MLK assassination and the late Philip Melanson's several books on the RFK assassination and trial. There is some crossover, as Melanson also wrote a book on the MLK assassination (The MURKING Conspiracy) and Pepper (a British barrister) announced last year that he has been retained by Sirhan Sirhan. James Douglas apparently also is in the process of writing about the RFK and MLK assassinations, and if his oustanding book JFK and the Unspeakable is any guide, his future book will be excellent too. Anybody who wants to explore about how the media lies about all of it should read The Assassinations, edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease. That book contains some articles that are revealing about how the media and government together control and lie about this topic.

What gets embedded in the public consciousness is itself probably the most important and fascinating question, and unfortunately also probably the most difficult. What becomes part of the public consciousness, include what we might analogize to the public subconscious, depends upon human perception, and therefore the mind, so it directly ties into the question of mind control and cults, two longstanding interests of the CIA.

Posted by: N E at October 23, 2009 08:37 PM

Oswald being killed on television by Jack Ruby was the event that did more than anything else to embed in the public consciousness the idea that the Kenneday assassination wasn't the act of a lone nut but an organized hit.

Or, speaking strictly for myself as one little part of the public at the time, in my consciousness. On top of the impact of the event itself was the immediate reaction from my mother, who watched it happen with me: "Oh my God. They killed him." I was too stunned to ask who "they" were, and we never talked about it after that, so I have no idea who she had in mind, if anyone.

I've always found the mob theory more persuasive than most of the others.

Posted by: Nell at October 23, 2009 10:38 PM

Mike of Angle:

You are certainly right about the problem of chaff, especially as one moves farther and farther from academic books. But I think both of the books you mentioned by name are good, as are at least parts of Gordon Thomas's Journey Into Madness (I haven't read the whole thing). And I thought the Control of Candy Jones was fascinating and highly consistent with typical Cold War shenanigans in this area.

The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations by American Psychiatrists, by Dr. Colin Ross, provides a nice overview of CIA medical programs and some prominent personnel involved in them, as well as case studies of various prominent people such as Candy Jones, Patty Heart, Sirhan Sirhan, and Mark David Chapman. I have not read Ross's book but have simply used it as a reference, and I don't necessarily agree with his opinions or conclusions. I note that either he or his publisher considers Sirhan Sirhan and Mark David Chapman "self-created" Manchurian Candidates, a position I don't share. About Sirhan I think that position to be ridiculous and about Chapman I'm almost as skeptical.

In addition to Sargent's Battle for the Mind (Sargent was a prominent psychiatrist in London), other books that are very good on hypnotism and "mind control" are:

A History of Hypnotism, Alan Gauld, the definitive history of hypnotism from Mesmer and his theory of animal magnetism through the decline of interest in hypnotism in the early twentieth century. At pages 494 to 503 Gauld has an extensive discussion of hypnotism and crime, about which he notes: "In the second half of the 1880s, and for much of the 1890s, no aspect of hypnotism attracted greater interest, popular, medical, scientific and literary, than that of its possible adaptation to criminal ends." Gauld cites Hypnosis Will & Memory by Jean-Roch Laurence and Campbell Perry, 1988, as bringing the 19th century debate up to date. (I have not even looked at that book but probably will eventually get to it with regard to questions such as whether a hypnotic subject can be induced to commit crimes.)

Before continuing, let me pause to note that in the midst of the 19th century debate about whether hypnosis could cause a subject to commit a crime, President Garfield was assassinated by an unbalanced character with connections to Garfield's enemies, the lawyer Charles Guiteau. Two decades later, a young man named Leon Czelgosz purporting to be an anarchist (and not doing a good job of it) shot McKinley in front of a few dozen policemen to the satisfaction of Cabot Lodge and all jingo expansionists, and another decade after that a New York bartender with no grudge against Teddy Roosevelt shot him in the chest in Milwaukee nonetheless because McKinley's ghost told him too, at a time when Roosevelt had torn the GOP apart and antagonized its most corrupt elements.

Some people are perhaps more suggestible via hypnosis than others. This was not a taboo idea in the 19th century, or even controversial. George Du Maurier's 1894 best-selling novel Trilby featured the maleficent hypnotist Svengali, who hypnotized the main character Trilby and then controlled her thereafter. (It was typical of that time to think that women's minds were weaker and more easily controlled, of course.) And stage hypnotism was all the rage.

Derek Forrests's shorter history of Hypnotism also struck me as good. (Cautionary note: I am starting to sound like an expert, which I am not.)
Dominic Streatfield's Brainwash also seems good as to the CIA era, though I don't know if there anything on that in it that isn't also in Marks. Possibly there is a bit more on Pavlovian brainwashing--I just don't remember.

A book I highly recommend is Harvard and the Unabomber, by Alton Chase, both because it features some shadowy destructive psychological experiments that Ted Kaczynski became part of at Harvard during his undergraduate years as part of a study led by OSS/CIA-connected Professor Henry Murray. Kaczynski pled guilty at his eventual Unabomber trial and Harvard refused to produce its files to Alton Chase for his book, so less can be proved than undoubtedly happened, but Chase produces some a good narrative nonetheless and adds to it with some telling data from his general research about the vast influence of the military and CIA on universities during the Cold War. That book made me pity Kaczynski; what a waste of a brilliant mind. And it is frightening how deeply the CIA and military reached into academia. One wonders if they still do.

Anyone can go back and read the old 19th and early 20th century literature on hypnosis online, including an entire chapter on hypnosis in William James' Principles of Psychology, 1891 edition, as well as do a word search of the NY Times archives on hypnosis to see what was discussed in those earlier times in public. Oddly, the notion that the minds of men could be controlled by others seems more far-fetched to the public now than it once did, perhaps because recognition of that truth strikes too close to home now. But hypnosis is certainly real; of that there can be no doubt. A British doctor named Esdaile extensively used it during amputations in India in the 1850s, and his books are long out of copyright and can be found online too. But for the development chemical anaesthetics, Esdaile's methods might still be used. I have read but never confirmed that they were used during the US Civil War.

Finally, as an interesting aside, one of the more interesting characters in the history of the US intelligence bureacracy is a man named John Wilkie, the son of a famous Civil War newspaper correspondent and a journalist in Chicago himself before he was made the head of the Secret Service under McKinley by McKinley's Secretary of the Treasury, who also hailed from what was then an even bigger den of corruption than it is now. Wilkie anonymously published made-up story in the 1890s on the so-called Indian Rope Trick that had a huge effect on public consciousness thereafter, so much so that many people over the following decades claimed to have actually seen the trick. Which they had not. Only in recent years was it found that Wilkie had written that story. More interestingly, Wilkie was an amateur magician and stage hypnotist, and he apparently brought the use of his skills, and those who plied them even more expertly, notably Houdini, into the service of the Secret Service. The interest of the intelligence world in these skills did not commence with the CIA.

It's all interesting, and of course we now know so much more about the brain and about influencing it.

Hope that helps. I look forward to your book.

Posted by: N E at October 24, 2009 12:17 AM


I agree that after Ruby was shot, the question for most people became who were the "they." It wasn't the mob.

If you read James Douglas's JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he died and why it matters, I feel sure you will change your opinion. Douglas is a religious person and has been a peace activist for a long time, and he strikes me as sharing your beliefs and commitment to them very closely.

Posted by: N E at October 24, 2009 12:58 AM

I guess, this is how the President is controlled! And standing up to them may not be good for his health!

"Hersh: Military waging war with White House"

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 24, 2009 09:57 AM

N E: but I really don't think it's that big a deal to blame Obama for something going on in his administration. After all, he is the titular head of the executive branch. I have already said many times why I think the National Security State is the real problem, and why I think people have an exaggerated sense of Presidential power, but that doesn't mean anyone has to like Obama.

Well, yes you do think it's that big a deal. In practice, you never seem willing to concede that anything is Obama's fault. Just give him more time, and bear in mind the shadowy overlords of the National Security State that won't let him do what he'd really like to do. But just wait until the day comes that he rips off the mask!

I agree that "the National Security State" is the problem, but you seem to forget that Obama is part of the National Security State. He worked very hard to become part of it, and indeed its "titular head." (Heheheheheh, he said "tit.") Why then, instead of giving Obama the benefit of the doubt that he has done nothing whatever to deserve that I can see, shouldn't I just regard him as I regarded Bush, and Clinton, and Bush, and Reagan and his other predecessors: as the head of the National Security State?

I don't think I have an "exaggerated sense of political power." Whether I like Obama or not is irrelevant -- that's like whether I like Louis XVI or Amenhotep IV. (Like so many Obama apologists, you prefer to personalize the debate, into whether one likes or dislikes him personally, when what he does is what is being discussed.) The kindest thing I can say for Obama is that he became President without the necessary background to play the political game with any seriousness, and that he's therefore dependent on a bunch of vicious DLC thugs to help him play it. If that were so, however, why doesn't he use them, instead of playing helpless? But in fact, my whole criticism of Obama is based, not on exaggerated notions of Presidental power, but on the team he assembled after his election. I see two main possibilities: one, that he selected these people freely with full knowledge of who they are and how they would work, in which case he deserves to be regarded as simply one more titular head of the National Security State, and criticized harshly for it. Two, that he knew he was just a helpless newbie and needed experienced, knowledgeable hands to help him do his job; in which case, he never should have become President in the first place -- he's like an immature heir apparent kept captive in the palace by the Vizier and Queen Mother, but in that case it's still legitimate to pity his helplessness while harshly criticizing his administration. (Speaking of "Obama" in this context, by the way, is really just shorthand for "the Obama administration.") But he's still responsible for choosing the mentors (Liebermann!) and Cabinet that he chose.

Personally, the Dauphin's recent snide remarks about his critics 'from the left' as it were -- the G20 protests, the Equality March -- indicate that he's completely comfortable with the role he's playing. In which case, I feel completely comfortable with criticizing him harshly for the things he says and the things he does. Whether I like him or not has nothing to do with it.

For example: "... I simply don't know enough often to judge how close Obama is to cutting the best political deals he can. Or thinks he can. In connection with health care reform, I find his deal with Big Pharma distasteful, but Congress is corrupt and the Senate is worthless and that's the crap we have to deal with..." So many fun things here. How can you call Congress corrupt, for example, when you got on your high horse not so long ago over my calling Obama corrupt on the same grounds? (He is a product of the Illinois Democratic machine, after all.) "Or thinks he can" is entertaining too: one thing that seems pretty clear by now is that Obama has set his sights too low. I don't have to know what is the best deal Obama can cut to know that the deal he thinks he can cut isn't good enough. His corporate owners -- which whom he plays golf for hours; when does he hang out on similar terms with ordinary people? John Halle's quotation was a good 'un -- don't sit back benignly and hope he'll do his best for them, so why shouldn't the people who voted for him put pressure on him too? (How best to pressure him is a good question, but not one that seems to occur to you or even to interest you.)

I liked very much Christopher's question of October 21, 2009 at 10:46 PM. It might well finish Obama politically if he were to "take a stand against his bosses." It's interesting how many of y'all are evidently living in a spy novel of the 60s, but I doubt that Obama would be disappeared if he took a strong stand for a single-payer health plan; and he'd probably still live comfortably (compared to most Americans) after his term of office ended. JFK wasn't going against the National Security State, he was playing with it, "feasting with tigers"; maybe that had something to do with his assassination, I don't know or care. My only disagreement with Christopher is on the word 'capitulate' -- Obama capitulated as soon as he started running for office; he was already a willing collaborator by the time he went to Washington.

Posted by: Duncan at October 24, 2009 11:50 AM

Interesting article. Sometimes Hersh does great work, and then sometimes he is being used by his sources, and sometimes both. But it is certainly important to read his stuff, because those who leak to him seem to be powerful. So reading him can be a window into the National Security State, but read him with a critical eye.

My question for Hersh would be: What does he propose Obama actually do to "run the Pentagon." Does Hersh think tough talk would do that? It seems obvious to me that right wingers in the military want to ruin Obama's Presidency, and Obama certainly wouldn't be surprised to hear it. But if Obama doesn't do what Gates et al want, then Gates would just help the Cheney nationalist faction ruin Obama and we wouldn't hear any more about racism in the Pentagon.

Somebody seems to be whispering in Hersh's ear that we really need to cozying up to the Russians and worrying about China and global terrorism. My guess is that Hersh's sources (perhaps even Gates) support some agreement with the Russians and Iranians regarding the Caucusus and Caspian Basin (Georgia, North Ossetia, Chechnya, Azerbaijan). That kind of agreement or cooperation is endangered by our being at odds with Russia and Iran elsewhere, notably in Afghanistan and especially the Balochistan region, where we are engaged in the great pipeline battle leading to the newly built port of Gwadar that Pepe Escobar has written so much about. Blowing up senior Revolutionary Guard commanders probably made it harder to reach deals with Iran on other matters, and maybe US and British hardliners were behind the bombing for that purpose. That wouldn't surprise me.

It looks to me like some of our National Security interests, presumably the Gates/Scowcroft faction, want us to get along with Iran and Russia, probably because of the desire to develop the oil resources of the Caspian right there next to Scowcroft's Turkish clients, while the pro-Cheney jingoes have a more aggressive counterinsurgency agenda that will engage us fully in Central and South Asia but make it hard to pry the Russians and Iranians and Pakistanis away from the Chinese and may impede development of the huge oil supplies in the Caspian Basin.
None of that has much to do with racism, and once again the factions in the National Security State seem to present a choice between excessive militarism and aggression on the one hand, and insane militarism and aggression that might destroy the whole planet on the other. Great. But given those limited choices, my preference is to avoid the insane option.

The folks who leak to Hersh have their own agenda, and like every other faction in the National Security State, they are capable of deceit and ruthless brutality and all sorts of Machiavellian politics, including talking about racism when it suits them, but that doesn't mean they are always lying or always wrong, and it certainly doesn't mean that other factions aren't crazy and dangerous. I for one am glad that we didn't nuke China or the USSR back in the 50s and 60s, but Dean Acheson was still an untrustworthy prick with a lot of blood on his hands. What is frustrating is that someone like Acheson or Kissinger or now Gates constantly ends up the lesser evil.

Posted by: N E at October 24, 2009 12:12 PM


You can dislike and even hate Obama for deciding to be a mainstream practical politician, but once he reached that decision, at whatever age he reached it, it became impossible for him to do anything that would satisfy you and make success possible for him as a practical politician. The upside to his decision is that he does now have some power, whereas if he had followed your approach he would be equally as powerful as we are. The downside is that he has lots of blood and dreck on his hands and is subject to vast moral criticism in all sorts of ways. But I don't share your assumption that he is rotten to the core because he took a job that necessitates some bad moral conduct. Sure he criticizes things I wouldn't and professes beliefs that I don't hold. His job really doesn't give him flexibility there.

Maybe I don't share the assumption that Obama is rotten to the core because he is resisting worse forces, or maybe it's because I think it leads nowhere. So you hate Obama, so what? What next? I think it's a waste of energy and distraction, but if it energizes people that's great and I have no big problem witt it. I just think it's important that no one expect much better results with someone else as President if the National Security State is kept in place. That's what needs to change.

Posted by: N E at October 24, 2009 12:41 PM

I admit, I am naive and I believed a lot of stuff that was said and promised before the elctions. Various explanations have been offered for failure to deliver. We, as citizens are expected to be realists and understand the constraints under which the President has to work.
How am I expected to accept this? Before we talk about Democracy and Equality in another country, should we not look at our own country?

"At the same time, Obama’s victory could perhaps be stoking the fires of an ugly white backlash that gets taken out on defenseless people like the late John Deng. The arrival of a smooth-talking black president gets one kind of reception from white upper-middle-class AcaDemocratic liberals in a “progressive” town like Iowa City. It may elicit a very different sort of feeling from less privileged white people like John Bohnenkamp, Terry Stotler, and Greg Roth."

above from......
"True Crime: White Privilege and a Police Killing in an Obama-Mad College Town"

ps this is deviating from the running thread but does not the President have responsiblity for this? giving one speech on race is not enough. and certainly, the shadow govt does not control this or am I ignorant?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 24, 2009 01:44 PM

Rupa Shah:

Ugh, I hate the term "shadow government." And no, that terrible incident in Iowa City wasn't planned by secret forces of the NSA or CIA of Special Operations Command or any part of the federal government. It sounds to me like more ordinary prejudices and failings combined with terrible and tragic consequences.

I think Paul Street is right about many of his general points, especially the hypocrisy, but it's still good to end the white male monopoly on the Presidency. It will of course be even better when every person is treated with dignity by everyone else, but I'm not holding my breath on that. By the way, since that's a segue to cynicism in general, did you know that the statement in the Diary of Ann Frank where she said that she still believed people are good was made up and added by the publisher?

To those who believe political rhetoric, Obama must be a real disappointment. Personally, I get my disappointments elsewhere, but I'm not having supply problems either. I agree we need to fix our own country, and it won't be possible to fix it until we stop being the world's hyperpower and running it all as our Empire, which corrupts our politics, debases our morality, leads to vanity and hubris, destroys our economy, and constantly tempts us behave with pornographic barbarism toward our real and imagined enemies. There are all sorts of political and economic reasons for that scandalous state of affairs, and the evidence is overwhelming, and the most frustrating thing of all is that our venerated Founding Fathers openly decried all those things and tried to set up the government to avoid them. That didn't work, but they certainly prevented us from fixing anything.

Posted by: N E at October 24, 2009 02:17 PM

N E:
I watched a talk given by Prof Tony Judt, "What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy" where he stated ( not exact words), people get used to conditions, which are not acceptable, if they last long enough. I hope, I will not get used to condtions which are not acceptable because they have lasted long enough or that is the way they are.

And getting back to the original topic of this post, Honduras......

In any conflict whether in the African continent or ME or in Honduras, women and children are the major victims.

"Women of Steel, an organization within the United Steelworkers, wrote Clinton on August 31, asking her "to denounce this violence (against Honduran women) just as you have recently denounced such violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
( I am not holding my breath)

above from....
"Coup's Impact on Honduran Women"

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 24, 2009 04:21 PM

Good for you Rupa Shah.

The Hondurans are suffering from Mexico's curse--so far from God so close to the United states. And of course I'm sure you're right that women and kids get the worst of it.

Posted by: N E at October 24, 2009 06:27 PM

people get used to conditions, which are not acceptable, if they last long enough

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Posted by: NomadUK at October 25, 2009 07:10 AM

yes, nomaduk, there was some wisdom in the colonies once upon a time

Posted by: N E at October 25, 2009 09:03 AM

Specially for those who believe, Obama should not be criticised..........
power.....does it change a person so much! To use "corrupt", may be excessive in this situation.......or may be not, I do not know. And will I criticise the person and his policy? Absolutely.

"Obama's Dirty War On Immigrants"

ps If I am misinterpreting some commenters who may believe, Obama should not be criticised on foreign policy issues but can be criticised on domestic issues, I beg to disagree.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 25, 2009 11:03 AM

Rupa Shah: It's ok to misundrestand some commentators, as long as you're (at least) half as witty as Chazelle about it. A witty, elegant misunderstanding can be almost as enjoyable as good music--for those of us with a tin ear. Besides, some commentators are so bedeviled by contrarines that they openly admit to the vice even in their pseudonyms.

But here's a sobering thought. V.S. Naipaul has written that no political system can significantly rise above the character of its people. So maybe, Obama aside, we have the National Security State and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo for the same reason we have rampant greed and violence and pornography and a million different kinds of addiction.

uh oh, I shouldn't have let myself think about Chazelle.

Posted by: N E at October 25, 2009 12:55 PM

"as long as you're (at least) half as witty as Chazelle"

It will never happen in my lifetime. I am neither brilliant nor a scholar. Prof Chazelle is my GURU at ATR! As simple as that!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 25, 2009 03:11 PM