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July 29, 2010

Sympathy for the Devils

A few years ago I was talking about U.S. foreign policy with an editor at an ultra-fancy New York magazine. To my surprise, he explained that he definitely wanted the U.S. government to keep running the planet for our benefit (as he understood "us" and "benefit"). But he was unhappy that the Bush administration was so in your face about it to the rest of the world. That, he thought, was a real mistake.

And now, with Obama in office, for the first time in my life I understand the seething fury of the professional Republican class. From the outside, it seems crazy; what do these rich, powerful people have to be angry about? Either they're in office running a global empire, or they're formally out of power but making $850,000 a year as BP's Vice President for Public Relations.

But it does make sense. When in office, Democratic presidents do almost exactly the same things as Republicans. However, while carrying out the wars, torture, coups, etc., Democrats use flowery rhetoric about the Brotherhood of All Mankind, while receiving endless hosannas about their moral beauty from Barbara Streisand and the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

Here's how Mary Kate Cary puts it, in a column called "Where is the Anti-War Left on Afghanistan?" She was a speechwriter for George H.W. Bush and now is some kind of PR hack:

Despite the fact that President Obama has tripled our troop presence in Afghanistan and the Democratic Congress approved $33 billion more for what is now America's longest-running war, there's been an eerie silence from the left—no "die-ins," no beating drums, no anti-Obama protestors dressed in skeleton costumes. No one protesting the president's every appearance.

Maybe the antiwar left only protests when Republican presidents are in office. Maybe it's not about Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress, it was only about George Bush. Maybe for the antiwar left, it's not about pacifism or soldiers' lives or even what's in our national interest. Maybe it's just about Republicans.

So you'd be mad too if you were a Republican apparatchik. They're called criminals and monsters for doing pretty much the same things as Democrats. They're just more straightforward about it.

HOWEVER: The seething fury of the Republican base is somewhat different. They're mostly angry in the way Sunnis in Iraq are angry—they simply find it illegitimate that power is being wielded by someone outside their clan.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 29, 2010 05:09 AM

OK, but I'll bet the Sunnis have fewer delusional ideas about supply-side economics.

Posted by: grimmy at July 29, 2010 05:30 AM

If cutting taxes would pt the Sunnis back in power, they'd do it in a minute.

The self-identified left constantly berates the bushite/conservatives for hypocrisy, but never acknowledge their own nor even comprehend how infuriating it is to the right that Obama kills civilians, imprisons non-combatants without charges, runs secret torture prisons and wins the fucking Nobel Peace Prize while Bush is called a war criminal. What passes for the left in this country isn't protesting the Asian wars because they support them>

Posted by: drip at July 29, 2010 07:15 AM

You know, it's bad enough that the terms 'liberal' and 'progressive' have been rendered useless, but could people please stop using the word 'left' to describe these idiots? I'm going to run out of terms with which to categorise myself.

Posted by: NomadUK at July 29, 2010 07:20 AM

NomadUK -- I share your complaint. It is is why I used the unsatisfactory "self-identified left'" (and "Bushite/conservative") above. I don't know what to call the people who support the political parties. Right and conservative are just as misleading, unhelpful and aggravating as left and liberal and I want to puke whenever I hear progressive or libertarian used as a political identifiers. Still, we need to call them something, because warmongers, for example, doesn't distinguish Obama's war mongers from Bush's warmongers.

Posted by: drip at July 29, 2010 08:15 AM

Don't forget the corollary, though, Jon: the Democrats were as critical of Bush as they were (and it wasn't much) because he was a Republican. When their side is doing the invading, killing, maiming, raping, torturing, and looting, it's a matter of national security and any Republican who criticizes the President's war is un-American if not a traitor. And they hate the left in the US, such as it is, because it refuses to recognize how much better they are than the Republicans.

I realized this during the Obama campaign, when so many nice liberals were talking about how it's "our turn" to run the government. It's about party first and foremost.

Posted by: Duncan at July 29, 2010 10:07 AM

That PR hack, unfortunately, is correct. I just saw a couple of days ago some useless, insignificant, so-called progressive Congresscritter asked this same question on TeeVee & her response was well its, ya' know... different, it's my, our,, President now. (pretty sure this is close to a direct quote).

Meanwhile, a good many of those former Anti-War lefties were seen at NetRoots Nation last week, posing for pictures and genuflecting before Corporate/War Criminals like Harry Reid & Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: bayville at July 29, 2010 10:55 AM


"I'm going to run out of terms with which to categorise myself."

This echoes my view that other people constantly ruin everything, the fucking bastards.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 11:39 AM


To be precise, it's a cult, not a clan.

Duncan is right that liberals don't like people who see them as more or less equivalent to Republicans. Long ago I noticed that those on the left side of center on the political spectrum, myself included, are inclined almost reflexively to dislike views farther to the left than their own, whereas people on the right often admire views farther to the right than their own. (I've been wise enough to never come up with a good explanation for that.) Anyway, everybody seems to subconsciously agree that being farther right is better in some important way. I am sort of curious how that idea gets planted. It has a faint odor of 'daddyism' to me.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 11:50 AM

On the other hand, wasn't it just this week that the House approved the war funding, alas - but with three times as many Democrats voting against it as last year? About a hundred this time, thirtyish last time.

Like I always say, that glass is 3/16ths full.

As for labeling myself politically, I think I might be a democratic socialist, but in polite company I masquerade as a social democrat.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 29, 2010 11:52 AM

"the way sunnis in iraq are"? minus the massive ethnic cleansing, of course. other than that, their anger is similar. sure.

Posted by: anonymous at July 29, 2010 12:08 PM

U.S. politics is now about how corporations should run the world now, and also which ones. The Jeffersonians are long gone except in little cyber colonies like this. Now we have a split between international bankers and corporate multilateralists and energy companies and militaristic unilateralists enthralled with full spectrum dominance and irritated by diplomatic processes that impede results-oriented action. All those bullshit negotiations and conferences get pretty tiresome if you want to just go kick some ass and kill all the bad guys and anybody else unlucky enough to be around, a la Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. (Our modern heroes are drunk tormented bastards who wish the world were different, but since it isn't they are way tougher than everybody else, though reluctantly so.)

What this means is that when the New Yorker lets Sy Hersh loose, and Langley feeds him information, it isn't because they care so very much. It isn't even because there is an elite faction in favor of a return to US isolationism or adoption of The Good Neighbor Policy on a global scale. It's because the elite supportive of the internationalist banking faction that likes deregulation and a well-managed global empire doesn't want the crazy unilateralists like Cheney to kill the Golden Goose by overextending the US and destroying our alliances and generally fucking up everything so we go back to having European wars instead of European vacations. Something like this actually could happen and ultimately probably will, not because the Cheney crew is right about much of anything, but because the structural dynamics of the world economy will force finance capital to choose between Crazy and Less Profitable, and when push comes to shove they will always choose Crazy. We've been there, done that, and we'll do the same dame rotten idiotic murderous things again. Apparently it's in our genes.

I can't actually adequately put into words how much that sucks, and not many people can. But I almost always like reading them, even if it isn't good for me, so suggested additions to my depressing reading list are always welcome.

By the way, anybody who wonders how the earnest, moralistic members of the National Security elite view the snivelingly humanistic modern outlook prevalent in contemporary society can read Robert Gates' recent speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree, in which he stated:

"We live in an America today where the young are increasingly physically unfit and society as a whole languishes in ignoble moral ease. An America where in public and private life we see daily what the famous news columnist Walter Lippman once called “the disaster of the character of men…the catastrophe of the soul.”

You see, too much "ignoble moral ease" is ruining everything. We need to ward off the "catastrophe of the soul" that has deprived us of the character necessary for physical fitness and manly pursuits like war, forcing us increasingly to fight with robots and drones. The editors of most of the swanky publications have no problem agreeing with Gates. The members of the elite may disagree about strategy, or strategerie for some, but by and large all factions within the elite believe that the real problem is that most people are pretty useless.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 12:09 PM

And speaking of Nobel Peace Prize winning mass murderers, Paul McCartney: In Performance at the White House aired on PBS last night, and only a minority of the performers kissed up to Obama. Sir Paul laid it on thick, as you might expect, but Dave Grohl was more minimalist: "Paul, you're my hero. Mr. President: You're my other hero." Possibly sincere, maybe not. The majority of the musicians made no personal comments on camera. I especially liked Emmy Lou Harris's version of "For No One" and Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae's "Blackbird." They were all good or great, though - I enjoyed Elvis Costello's deadpan delivery of the double entendres in "Penny Lane".

In his own remarks about Paul, Obama seemed in particular to admire the fact that McCartney is the most successful [I understood him to mean, financially] songwriter in history.

What a charming, cheerful, friendly fellow our President is. And so well spoken, too.

I could have watched him on The View this morning, but it turned out that I gave my attention to other matters.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 29, 2010 12:41 PM

A corallary of this is that maybe Nader wasn't so crazy and irresponsible to run in 2000.

Posted by: Edward at July 29, 2010 01:20 PM

mistah charley, ph.d.,

Your comment reminds of a funny episode where the 5th Dimension musical group sang the Declaration of Independence to Richard Nixon in the White House. When they were done there was a stony silence, and then, following Nixon's lead, a perfunctory applause from the audience.

Democracy Now reported one time about an alternative Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted by: Edward at July 29, 2010 01:35 PM


Whether 'damned if you do' looks better than 'damned if you don't' depends on when you look, and I suppose whether you're near-sighted or far-sighted. Or blind.

But choosing the option of principled irrelevance has some problems as an option too. That's why the system needs to be changed to present better options. The amazing stability of the system is demonstrated by the fact that damn near everyone agrees about the need to change it, and during many different eras has agreed about the need to change it, and yet the overall system never changes much.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 01:38 PM

Third Party, Folks.
The OTHER two have turned US into a lynch mob, plenty of rabble rousers, NO leaders, NO vision, NO direction, ONLY targets and victims.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 29, 2010 01:39 PM

Reading Gates' speech I was almost tempted to forget that the Boy Scouts organization openly discriminates against gays and doesn't believe in religious freedom.


Posted by: None at July 29, 2010 01:56 PM

Re: the McCartney PBS special (which I did not see): apparently Paul took a swipe at Bush that was edited out. I don't know what this says about the wide-gauge Obama-worship, but it is a reminder that TV is a managed experience only masquerading as reality.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at July 29, 2010 02:25 PM

mistahcharley, ph.d.: On the other hand, wasn't it just this week that the House approved the war funding, alas - but with three times as many Democrats voting against it as last year? About a hundred this time, thirtyish last time.

Like I always say, that glass is 3/16ths full.

Thanks for the chuckle and the reality check.

Hard to have an intelligent discussion of the problem without making some distinctions within "the antiwar left", even harder if the main post and many comments accept the label as it's used by a Republican flack.

Truly, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't these days. I'm not devoting the same effort to protesting the Afghan war now that I did when it began, even though it couldn't possibly be as lonely as it was then. But it's probably past time to do so.

It wasn't until the drive to war on Iraq in 2002-3 that any significant number of liberals joined in any antiwar activity, with another wave as it sank in to the bamboozled that, hey, there *weren't* ever any weapons of mass destruction, and as Dean's candidacy provided a vehicle for activity.

I expected that portion of antiwar activists to fade away as soon as Obama was elected, particularly after his promise to "draw down" troops in Iraq, and they did. They never openly opposed the Afghan war. It just made them more and more uneasy as it ground on, and as Obama escalated it. Now, with the Wikileaks docs out, it's harder to pretend that the analysis that's guided real "antiwar left" opposition to it since October 2001 is just uninformed and unSerious opinion. A majority of Democratic voters opposed the Afghan war in the fall of 2009, with next to no visible protests against it (haven't seen more recent polling if any exists).

Intense, organized grassroots lobbying by the is what the antiwar left (as I'd use the term) has been doing, and that accounts in part for the 100 D votes in the House against the funding. Clearly, more of the same by itself isn't going to take that number to 218.

But let there be visible, active protests of administration figures and Pres. Obama on the war, and libs will run to distance themselves from protest organizers. "It's the wrong time!" "It's the wrong approach!" "You're hurting our chances to move the agenda" (with particular emphasis on guilt-tripping accusations that we clearly don't care about the unemployed and immigrants because we're "taking energy away from the fight" for job creation/stimulus/unemployment benefits and immigration reform). As if there were any such "fight" on the part of anyone in power but the people who are already actively opposing the wars.

Posted by: Nell at July 29, 2010 02:39 PM

I don't care what Mary Kate Cary thinks. Her pea brain really wasn't trying to have a nuanced discussion that included some type of respect for the "anti-war left". You could have written the post without her irrelevant drivel.

Posted by: An Outhouse at July 29, 2010 02:45 PM

I don't care what Mary Kate Cary thinks. Her pea brain really wasn't trying to have a nuanced discussion that included some type of respect for the "anti-war left". You could have written the post without her irrelevant drivel.

It's not irrelevant to how the world looks from inside their pea brains. I'm not endorsing the worldview of Republican hacks, just trying to understand why it's so filled with bile and fury.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 29, 2010 02:49 PM

My best bud showed me "In the Loop" the other day, which I highly recommend. It's the movie version of the British serial "The Thick of It", and covers the lead-up to the Iraq War and various shenanigans in the British and American government before the UN vote to approve the war. It has a pretty bold and cynical look at the warped, ego-driven shell that many apparatchiks live in. Also features some truly excellent cursing.

Posted by: saurabh at July 29, 2010 03:23 PM

Mary Kate Cary is exactly correct. Where IS the anti-war left on this?

Posted by: saurabh at July 29, 2010 03:23 PM

It's. Indeed interesting how the Political Geography shifts in its nomenclature as NE. was reffering to above. As an "Anarchist" I find myself far more comfortable reading Libertarian and Paleo-Con blogs than I can any of the nominal "left". Of course when it comes to Economic theory I think the Libertarians are insane, but I enjoy their dislike of Police powers, and I like the Paleo's anti Neo-Con, Anti-Israel stance. The Mainstream "Left" has been completely subverted by their own idiotic sectarianism. I see the Anti-War left devestated first by a split between a more inclusive Anti-Zionist component and a more mainstream faction. Whatever was left was sucked into the vortex of Obama worship.

Posted by: demize! at July 29, 2010 03:30 PM

The vile hypocrisy of the Democrats regarding Iraq was just the worst.

Under Clinton sanctions killed a million Iraqi civilians, and that was pre-9/11, so there wasn't even a passable excuse.

Sean Penn wasn't running off to Baghdad then, you will recall.

Obama is getting a pass from all the supposed lefty-types who freaked out every time Bush did anything. Can you imagine if Bush had essentially deputized BP to control the Gulf Coast after destroying it?

Chomsky says that we have two business parties. The Republicans are the party of big business AND small business; the Democrats are just the party of big business.

Posted by: seth at July 29, 2010 03:35 PM

I'd say rather: Republicans work for big business by pretending to work for small business. Democrats work for big business by pretending to work for "The People".

Posted by: saurabh at July 29, 2010 04:14 PM

Round the corner from my domicile is an Army recruiting station. During the end of the Bush years (maybe before, but I wasn't living here then), it was the site of liberal protests at least every weekend, but sho 'nuff, after Obama got elected they done disappeared. I commented wryly to my housemate, "Oh, I guess the wars ended then. That's nice."

Posted by: Rojo at July 29, 2010 04:46 PM


The whole world was and is and ever shall be full of vile hypocrisy, but I think you've been unfair to Sean Penn. The reasoning you use ends up too often serving as a justification for doing even worse things. More than one person from my boyhood home out West in Indian country told me in my youth that it probably would have been better to kill all the Indians instead of permitting the endless misery and poverty and hopelessnes of the reservations, which is probably a lot like Iraq under sanctions and which we have of course permitted for a long time. I guess Sean Penn should have gone there too, as well as to every other impoverished area in the nation and the world rather than just Haiti lately and Iraq a few years back, but I find it distasteful to fault people who do something for not doing everything.

The fact that we treat people horribly without anyone complaining doesn't mean no one should complain when we get around to killing them. That's like saying people who didn't complain about Kristallnacht should have just shut up about Auschwitz. I'm glad people who said nothing about sanctions still protested the war. I myself once ignorantly dismissed Ramsey Clark as a loon, just as others now dismiss me. So it goes.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 05:05 PM

NE: I can't speak for others, but I certainly don't see YOU as a loon, a well educated and intelligent Obamabot, yes, loon no. In fact, in my humble opinion, YOUR "One nation, indispensible, with weapons and ammunition for all" is the MOST revolutionary slogan I have EVER heard. More so than Stalin's "Loot the looters", and YOURS makes sense.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 29, 2010 08:45 PM

It seems to me that the pro-peace rhetoric is pretty similar to the small government rhetoric we see from the Republicans, while they increase government spending.

Each side has a neatly balanced hypocrisy to keep its opponents firmly in their political cubby.

It's all very depressing.

Posted by: Dena Shunra at July 29, 2010 09:44 PM


The only way officials are going to take the environment or human rights or disarmament or anti-imperialism or fiscal reform seriously is if they pay an electoral price for their retrograde positions. I strongly disagreed with Gore & Lieberman on just about everything; the NAFTA issue for me was emblematic of a whole host of issues. I voted for Nader in 2000 and would probably do so again.

The interesting thing about Gore is that he took a more hawkish position then Bush in that campaign; his politics are described in the book "Al Gore: a users manual". Basicly he was beholden to zionists among others. Once he was out of politics he was free to criticize the invasion of Iraq.

This example underscores the fact, which is implied in this post, that one needs to look at institutions rather then individuals. Both political parties seem to be part of the same sinister system.

Posted by: Edward at July 29, 2010 10:23 PM

Thank you Mike, you're a mensch, but I don't mind that lots of people would think I'm as crazy as Ramsey Clark, or crazier. C'est la vie.

I don't have anything to add to previous wordy recitals of my views about the President, but he is in big trouble if I'm an Obamabot. It's hardly a ringing endorsement that I think he's better than most of his enemies and rivals, including within the Democratic party. And his staff apparently sucks, which is almost equivalent to having a brain that sucks.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 10:42 PM


I understand those arguments, and because all solutions are poor due to the design of the political system, this dilemma invites subjective bias. I'm less inclined to abandon pragmatic answers, but I probably always have been more pragmatic than you sound to me. Anyway, you were certainly more informed than I was during the 2000 election. For me, coming around to where I am now, the view that Ramsey Clark is right about most things is a huge change from what I once thought. To say the least, it was not a conclusion I was eager to reach.

I have no idea whether change is more likely to come from movements within the two-party system or from a third party or just from entropy and collapse. Frankly, I think nothing work until people become more political AND more disciplined about defending their interests. That doesn't seem to be on the verge of happening. We have an atomizing society, not a uniting society, and it's obviously possible to manipulate people far too much. Alas, even smart, cynical people.

So yes, it's a sinister system, and of course all players are part of it. It needs to be changed.

Just for your info, the word 'zionist' has a negative emotional connotation to me, so I'm betting that's typical, and because Israel isn't going to disappear while there is still human life in the Middle East, and maybe on earth, I'd recommend rebranding of antizionism with the goal of finding a solution to that mess that might be friendlier to future human life and happiness among all people in the region. Not that the Israelis make it easy.

Posted by: N E at July 29, 2010 11:25 PM

Modern Democrats are afraid to start a war, but have no qualms about running them.

Modern republicans can't wait to start a war, but have no idea how to stop them.

Posted by: Amiable Anarchist at July 29, 2010 11:43 PM

Amiable Anarchist: NEITHER one knows how to WIN a war, apparently.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 30, 2010 12:36 AM

The point isn't to win the wars, it is to keep fighting them in perpetuity.

Posted by: demize! at July 30, 2010 02:32 AM


I admit I have perfectionist tendencies. Regarding zionism, there seems to be something fated or inevitable about the conduct of the U.S. and Israel. They are like drug addicts that can't break away from their destructive behavior. In one of his books, Norman Finkelstein illustrated with some examples that Israeli behavior parallels the behavior of people in other colonial situations. It makes me wonder how much free will people really have.

Posted by: Edward at July 30, 2010 06:03 AM


I like Finkelstein. Of course there are colonial parallels.

As to free will, do you remember the scene in Life of Brian where the mob has followed Brian home, and when he opens the shutters in the morning (standing stark naked) he discovers them outside. So he shouts at them to go away, but they don't and instead repeat what he said. So he finally, in frustration at their parrotting of everything he says, shouts "You are all individuals."

To which all the members of the mob reply, in unison, "We are all individuals."

Posted by: N E at July 30, 2010 08:18 AM

Free will

1)The documentary film about Ralph Nader, An Unreasonable Man, gets its title from the saying "The reasonable man adapts himself to circumstances as he finds them. All progress is due to the unreasonable man." Those who blame Nader for W. becoming president start with the assumption that the votes he got were taken from Gore, instead of being cast by their rightful owners for the person they wanted to give them to. They also neglect to consider that the inaccurate purging of "felons" from the voter rolls in Florida resulted in cutting Gore votes by much more than the number that went to Nader. The vitriolic hatred spewed in Nader's general direction is just one more aspect of the Terror of the Situation.

2)Over at Fafblog!, still as sharp but much less frequent than formerly (the quote here is from comments on the latest posting, in early June), a different Ralph said the following, in part, about Israel:

Ralph said...

Israel represents an angry people backed into a corner. That was the inevitable outcome of forming a new state based on religious affiliation, in a region where a historically competitive religion overwhelmingly predominates. The formation of the new Jewish state was, of course, a reaction to the massacre of millions of Jews by Germany, whose second attack on Europe was empowered by the punitive terms of settlement of its first attack on Europe. That first attack, in turn, resulted from... and so forth. And so on.

Letting all this history slide by, as I would advocate letting the history of Palestinian displacement by the state of Israel slide by, because what can you do anyway, I suggest that looking to the future is the only meaningful point of current discussion.

And for the future, I believe the only way out of Israel's lethal corner is for that nation to convert itself into a democratic, non-religious, non-ethnic state.

This will happen anyway. There remains only the question of how it will happens, and when. If Israelis want their country to survive as a place where Jews can have a stake -- not a 100% stake -- in the country, the transformation must happen sooner rather than later.

If such a resolution sounds impossible -- and of course it does sound impossible -- consider that when the alternative is dissolution and death, sometimes people's behavior can change.

This Jew hopes that Israelis find the wisdom and the strength to change course before their horrible game is played out, and their country is gone....I find I cannot assent silently to murderous, racist, fundamentally wrong actions carried out by citizens of Israel, by Jewish people like myself, with whom I feel both sympathy and kinship. [end of quotes from Ralph, June 3, 2010 at Fafblog!]

3)Erich Fromm's 1964 book, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, has the following chapter titles:

I. Man - Wolf or Sheep?
II. Different Forms of Violence
III. Love of Death and Love of Life
IV. Individual and Social Narcissism
V. Incestuous Ties
VI. Freedom, Determinism, Alternativism

In the last chapter, which deserves reading in full, Fromm develops a couple of points I'd like to mention now: That someone who is unaware cannot have free will, and that the free will we have as we begin a course of action can be overpowered by what happens as we continue along that course of action. Let us take as an example the sad story of Jayne Peters, formerly mayor of Coppell, Texas: deciding to conceal from her daughter the family's desperate financial straights after the death of her husband may have been a point at which she exercised free will. Months later, after lying to the daughter about college applications and acceptances (when nothing of the kind had actually happened), and the "gift" of a new car for high school graduation that was actually rented on the city's credit card, the culmination of the drama was, at that point, nearly inevitable.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 30, 2010 10:25 AM

Cute Kittens!

My last comment was on the serious side, so let's end on a lighter note with the following, also taken from the most recent Fafblog! comments:

Kittens in Afghanistan rescued by Marines

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 30, 2010 10:35 AM

demize: MY point exactly, 6-8 or even 10 years just doesn't seem in perpetuity to me. I thought the Cold War would last forever but ...???

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 30, 2010 01:47 PM

mistah charley, ph.d. Ralph makes a fine point and I have to AGREE with him.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 30, 2010 01:57 PM

I love kittens and Erich Fromm, but kittens do much better than Fromm on Youtube, which tells you more than you need to know about free will.

I agree with mike meyer agreeing with Ralph from Fafblog! that Israel isn't going to be a jewish state forever, even if the idea of a secular, nontheocratic democracy isn't presently kosher. Change before it happens often looks impossible, and then in hindsight it invariably looks inevitable.

And for book-lovers, Israel is Real is a really good book that I bet Ralph liked.

Posted by: N E at July 30, 2010 04:41 PM

Where are the "anti-war" Left? Why, they're all here commenting at tinyrevolution. There are far fewer of you than you might think. Everyone else wakes up in the morning and pays whatever it costs for gas to get to work, pay their bills (but just) and tries to avoid having to send their kids to schools that have lots of different people in them (read colored.) WTF are you people talking about anyway? Obama ran on a platform of escalation in Afghanistan (or "re-engagement.") What, did you think he was going to send in 30,000 social workers to get the job done? Use pez to pay for them??

Posted by: Anonymouse at July 30, 2010 05:05 PM

mistah charley, ph.d.,

I was thinking along the lines of external forces controling a persons behavior versus a person deciding on their own path; I think this could fit From's idea.

I don't agree with Nader that Israel is a response to the holocaust. I believe Finkelstein demolished this idea in "The Holocaust Industry". Zionism actually started at the end of the 19th century. As far as I am concerned it is a fascist ideology that emerged along with the other fascist movements at that time.


I looked at the amazon page for "Israel is Real" and it looks like a very Israel-centric book. Where is the Palestinian point of view? My favorite book on Israel/Palestine is "Facts and Fables" by Clifford Wright. I could mention some other books but I will simply also mention the website

Posted by: Edward at July 30, 2010 10:26 PM


Israel is Real is a general history of how an idea became a nation, and at least some of the problems that have followed from that. I haven't looked at it in a while, but I thought it an enlightened book. The book certainly isn't hostile to Palestinians, and it definitely isn't something any right-wing Israeli would like, but it isn't ABOUT the Palestinian perspective.

Now, throw a rock and you'll probably hit someone who knows more about Israel and Palestine than I do, but I like Gershom Gorenberg's books about problems Israelis have, and for the Palestinian perspective I've recently read some Rashid Khalidi and think very highly of him. And as I said Finkelstein is good too. And Chomsky on Israel of course.

I know more about the holocaust literature than I do contemporary Israeli-Palestinian issues, and I agree with you that Israel isn't directly a result of the holocaust. But the holocaust gave the creation of Israel a boost after World War II, and I don't think zionism is equivalent to fascism. Louis Brandeis was the leading zionist in the United States, and his views had no fascist characteristics. Nor were the members of the British elite who supported zionism fascist. Racist and capitalist, of course, but fascist no. So I don't think you're right to classify zionism as a fascist ideology unless you're reducing the word 'fascist' to a sort of generic equivalent to racist. But maybe I'm parsing that too finely.

Posted by: N E at July 31, 2010 01:26 AM


Minor correction. I don't think Nader would be dumb enough to say that "Israel is a response to the holocaust".

This is a comment by Ralph Dratman at

As you correctly state, Zionism has long roots extending into the 19th century, and probably before.

Long time lurker. First post (got to defend Nader's honor!). Love you guys.

Regards, Faheem.

PS. hate these little html boxes.

Posted by: Faheem Mitha at July 31, 2010 04:49 AM


Albert Einstein was a bi-national state not Jewish state type of zionist. I don't consider him fascist. Are a handful of examples like this enough to declare zionism free of facism? If I could find examples of Germans who were loosely associated with nazism but didn't support ethnic cleansing would that mean nazism was not a fascist ideology?

Just what was nazi Germany like anyway? We know how nazis are depicted in movies but what were they like in real life? If you met them would they be frothing at the mouth or would they seem like ordinary people? What are the characteristics of a population in a fascist country?

What nazis are most remembered for are the death camps but the extermination program was started during WWII. How does pre-war Germany compare with Israel? As Norman Finkelstein has pointed out, during this period the human rights problems in Germany were not as bad as those in the Jim Crow south.

At the begining of the 20th century, I believe Palestinians held about 90% of the land in Palestine. In 1948, through aggression, zionists destroyed about 500 Palestinian towns, expelled about 800,000 Palestinians, and seized 78% of the territory. They have continued commiting human rights violations and land grabs ever since. An ideology which is committed to territorial expansion and the superiority of Jews over non-Jews seems to me in spirit, if not technically, a fascist ideology.

Posted by: Edward at July 31, 2010 04:40 PM


That's an amusing comment from fafblog. The absurdity of U.S. and Israeli poisitions certainly lend themselves to satire.

In an earlier comment mistah charley, ph.d., quotes Nader as saying:

"The formation of the new Jewish state was, of course, a reaction to the massacre of millions of Jews by Germany.."

For other reasons, I think Nader was trying to soft-pedal his criticism of Israel during the campaign or to find a way to criticaize Israel without alienating Jewish voters; I would have taken a harder line. At any rate he was much better then the other candidates on this issue.

Posted by: Edward at July 31, 2010 04:57 PM

Nader is NOT the only Ralph


are not from Ralph Nader - they are from "a different Ralph" - and if you'll look, you'll see I said so.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 31, 2010 07:01 PM

Specifically, as Comrade Faheem as already stated, we are told that THIS Ralph is

Ralph Dratman

* Gender: Male
* Industry: Consulting
* Occupation: Computer Consultant
* Location: Cherry Hill : New Jersey : United States

His own stated blog, called "Newsfare", apparently doesn't exist, but the blogs he follows do:

Discovery News

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 31, 2010 07:12 PM


I agree that there are indeed aspects of fascism in zionism, but certainly not just zionism. All racist, anti-democratic authoritarianism has much in common with fascism. But I still wouldn't call zionism a kind of fascism, especially because no matter what intellectual conclusions our discussions lead to, we nonetheless live after the genocide perpetrated against the European jews under the banner of Nazism. That fact unfortunately taints any current debate about what fascism is, and taints it with emotional and psychological weapons of mass destruction. It imparts a 'low blow' quality to the charge. I also think that makes it a tactically foolish charge to make as a debating point whether or not it's true.

Your questions about Nazi Germany are very astute. If you want some answers about what fascism was like in the 30s for those then living, you might read Sebastian Haffner's excellent books. (Raimund Pretzel was his real name, but he wrote under a pen name to protect his family members remaining in Germany after he emigrated.) Haffner's writing is the best I have encountered on how Nazi Germany happened and what it was like to an intelligent person at the time. Haffner was a conservative, but unusually thoughtful and articulate. You can look him up on wikipedia as a starting point.)

You are certainly right that fascism looks much different in hindsight than it did before WWII, and many books written before WWII cast Germany and even Hitler and the Nazis in a very different light than nearly everything written since. Reading books written in the 30s will quickly make that clear to anyone who reads them.

I think you are also correct that the Jim Crow South was as bad as Germany before 1941 or worse, and the North wasn't so nice either (see Sundown Towns by Loewen). Plus, Nazi Eugenics was based on American and British racial theories and work (see In the Name of eugenics by Kevles). Domestic US politics had plenty of fascist tendencies, especially on the Right, including but not only in the military. You might not like the book for reasons of bias (sorry), but Joseph Bendarsky's The Jewish Threat details much of the pro-fascist and pro-German sentiment in the US military before WWII. I think the US military now respects Israel now for much the same reason that the officers corps of US military in the 1930s respected Nazi Germany: military might. They respect their authoritarian, right-wing toughness.

Also, I fully agree that genocide isn't unique to Germany. The thing is, it's not unique to fascism either. Putting aside that we have a pretty long pre-fascist pedigree at genocide in the US, I have no trouble imagining that the Japanese interned on the West Coast could have been murdered had the war gone badly for the United States and public resentment grown, especially if there had been a determined propaganda campaign like that the Nazis started in the early 1930s against Jews. I believe Stanley Milgram was of the view that it wouldn't be difficult in the US to staff death camps, and I concur. I also don't view that as unusual. I wouldn't want to be a prisoner in any facility anywhere, whether Texas or Israel or Pakistan or China or anywhere elwhere, if that facility was tasked with medical or weapons research. Dehumanizing others seems to be easy, and the incarcerated get the worst of it.

Here's the thing that I think you should remember. The United States was long committed to territorial expansion and racial superiority (see Gossett, Race: The History of An Idea in America). History thus proves that it is possible for a theoretically democratic republic founded on liberal principles with closed participation in practice but a quasi-functioning albeit somewhat corrupt two-party political system to do what Israel is doing now. Calling such a system 'fascist' is more of an insult than an argument in my eyes, because it makes the term 'fascist' so broad. A parliamentiary democracy like Israel, even with a theocratic component, is much more like what the the US was in the 19th century than what Germany was from 1933 to 1945. What's being done by Israel is evil, but non-fascists can perpetrate evil too.

All that being said, right-wingers everywhere dream about fascism, I'm sure in Israel too. Uniforms, constant military parades, Fox news everywhere all the time, lots of plush contracts with Homeland Security and the miliary, concentration camps where you can torture your enemies--it would be heaven for them.

Posted by: N E at July 31, 2010 07:34 PM


When do "fascist tendicies" become fascism? I don't really have a concrete definition to use to settle the question. In his introduction to "Sarajevo: A War Journal" Robert Jay Lifton writes of a genocidal mentality

There is, first, a sense of historical trauma...There is next an ideology of revitalization and cure...At some point-- and this is the crucial step--the ideology becomes genocidal...

Of course, as we have discussed, genocidism and fascism are not necessarily the same.

Interestingly, a post has just appeared at mondoweiss discussing "Israelo-fascism" at

It doesn't really support my contention, however, because it is discussing such a development now.

I think in general Israeli misconduct is minimized in this country.

Posted by: Edward at August 1, 2010 05:31 AM

"- and if you'll look, you'll see I said so."

Indeed you did. This reminds me of the "follow the directions" trick quiz I was given as a student one time. The first question on the quiz instructs you to read the entire quiz. The last item instructs you to disregard the previous items and hand in the paper. I flunked that quiz as well.

Posted by: Edward at August 1, 2010 05:38 AM

From the book refered to in the mondoweiss post, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004), by Robert Paxton, we have the following definition of fascism:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Posted by: Edward at August 1, 2010 05:51 AM

"I think in general Israeli misconduct is minimized in this country."

I'd even say it's purposefully ignored.

Paxton's definition of fascism is pretty broad. Anyway, definitions aside, I don't think we are in dispute about many basic facts. I think Israel has become an increasingly authoritarian, right-wing place that treats state enemies with brutality and consistently disregards the human and civil rights of Palestinians. And they have the violence addiction too, like their Uncle Sam.

A few years back I used to actually get emails from some Israeli/American right-wing group inviting me to go to Israelto watch some their special forces Rambos capture a terrorist and, I sometimes imagined, pull his fingernails out until he confessed while the audience ate popcorn. The marketing materials really did read like that. (Alas, I guess I fell in that demographic.)

Posted by: N E at August 1, 2010 07:32 AM

Israel and the Two Ralphs

First of all, I must admit that I could have communicated more clearly. Although I did not INTEND to confuse anyone in my "Nader - Israel - Free will" comment, clearly that happened, and there were things I could have done to reduce the chances of that.

With regard to Ralph NADER: his views on Israel can be seen in a March 23 2010 column, "Israel & Aid",

And with regard to Ralph DRATMAN, unknown to me prior to his appearance in the Fafblog! comments column: although his views are not as historically informed as those we sometimes find here at A TINY REVOLUTION, where our patron saint is the proprietor's grandfather, Prof. Lewis Hanke, Dratman shows a respect for the Palestinians that is unfortunately lacking among some people. This is why, in the spirit of the Fafblog! comments section, I wrote at the time, "Ralph, what you suggest is so crazy it just might work. I don't expect to see it tried in my lifetime, but then, I'm older than most people."

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at August 1, 2010 08:37 AM


The definition is broad but apparently it is an attempt to clear up an even murkier situation. One reviewer on Amazon wrote this about Paxton's book:

Paxton also tentatively offers a definition of fascism, but only after tracing the rise of various movements from their beginnings in the 19th century through the present day. Other historians and philosophers, he suggests, have written brilliantly on fascism, but have failed to recognize that their analyses apply to only one stage or another. He also notes that often definitions of fascism are based on fascist writings; he maintains that fascist writings while valuable were often written as justification for the seizure of power, or the attempted seizure, and that what fascists actually did and do is more critical to understanding these movements. Indeed, the language of fascism has changed little since the days of the Marquis De Mores.

He hesitates in offering both his definition and his analytical stages, saying that he knows by doing so he risks falling into the nominalism of the "bestiary." He demonstrates that this is a common failing of definitions of fascism which are often incomplete or muddled as they typically describe only one or two typically late stages. Other historians, for instance, split fascism into Nazism or Italian fascism, avoiding the problem of understanding their common elements by concentrating on their differences, insisting that they are incommensurable.

Posted by: Edward at August 1, 2010 12:17 PM

mistah charley, ph.d.,

I should have read your comment and Faheem's comment more carefully.

I think Ralph Nader has slowly been speaking more assertively about the israeli-Palestine conflict.

Posted by: Edward at August 1, 2010 12:31 PM

THE Facist, Nazi, Commie, Charlie, Radical Islamist,etc. IS the guy/gal/child standing in front of the crosshairs of YOUR scope. And vice-versa.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 1, 2010 03:16 PM


I don't understand what is gained by classifying zionism as fascism.

Posted by: N E at August 1, 2010 04:00 PM


What is gained by classifying any movement as fascist or any other way? As I mentioned earlier,I think there is a kind of censorship in this country about what can be said or considered about Israel. For many Americans the proposition that zionism is fascism is probably beyond the pale. Rememeber Desmond Tutu being barred from giving a speech at a college several year ago because he criticized Israel?

You may not agree with my contention but I don't think it is an outlandish suggestion. Put another way, I think Israel needs to be taken off its pedistal and subjected to scrutiny.

It would probably be safer and less controversial to say "zionism is a colonial ideology". I don't think there is much difference between the two statements, however; it seems to me fascism is just colonialism that got applied to rich Europeans instead of hapless third world people. Maybe I should propose this as a definition of fascism.

Posted by: Edward at August 1, 2010 09:48 PM


I see in your view a mix of desires for intellectual honesty and ends-oriented goals. Fair enough.

As to goals, what I have said is that I think it hurts you not helps you to equate zionism with fascism, and especially Naziism. You invite persuasive outrage in response to your argument by leading with your chin that way, and in a debate you will find yourself on the canvass. I don't have any doubt about that. In debate, hyperbole invites catastrophe.

As to intellectual honesty, I disagree with you but can understand your position. I don't really think fascism was just colonialism extended to Europeans, but it's not a wild claim, and I think there is some truth to it. Plenty of Germans, even those like von Stauffenberg who weren't Nazis, felt Poles and Jews and Slavs in general were inferior to Germans. And the Nazis certainly did try to colonize Eastern Europe. Plus, as I said, I think there certainly are colonial aspects to zionism. But I think there are differences too, and I don't understand the intellectual reason for overlooking the differences in order to stress the similarities. That seems to go back to the objective about goals, namely bringing Israel off its pedestal by saying that what it is doing is just like what the Nazis did, but that again I think invites an emotionally powerful reply full of deep sorrow and righteous anger. And it invites that potent response and a change of subject to the past for no reason, because the death of Polish children in 1944 does not justify the death of Palestinian children in 2010 in any moral universe worth its salt. In terms of persuasion, don't let that become the issue by talking about fascism and Naziism. It changes the focus of the debate away from Palestinians today to Jews sixty years ago and events about which the rest of the world appropriately feels some sorrow and shame.

Posted by: N E at August 2, 2010 01:29 AM

"...I think it hurts you not helps you to equate zionism with fascism"

I agree. In a public debate or op-ed I would be ill-advised to make the charge. I just don't feel like kow-towing to America's pro-Israel atmosphere here.

The vagueness of Paxton's definition is both a strength and a weakness for my argument. On the one hand it makes it hard to prove my claim. On the other it makes it hard to disprove it. Nevertheless, it seems to me Israel falls short of the "abandons democratic liberties" criteria; while Palestinians are essentially shut out of the decision-making or having important positions Israel is still a democracy for Jews. Technically, then, Zionism probably falls short of meeting Paxton's definition. It still goes a long way towards meeting it, however.

Finally, I would note that in the Middle East many people probably think of zionism as fascism. I have heard it refered to that way by Palestinians

Posted by: Edward at August 2, 2010 07:34 AM

"I have heard it refered to that way by Palestinians"

As Sun Tzu said: "If the worst thing in the world in the eyes of your enemy is a Nazi, and you want to provoke your enemy, call him a Nazi."

Posted by: N E at August 2, 2010 09:54 AM


That's true. At the same time who gets to decide who is fair and balanced and who is biased? Are Americans closer to the truth or are the Arabs? Your comment, which may be reasonable, reminds me of the way the U.S. tars its critics as "radicals".

Posted by: Edward at August 2, 2010 10:41 AM

Fair enough. But I wasn't trying to tar the Palestinians who make those claims as radical or unhinged, and I don't dispute their grievances are as real as the anger they feel. I was just pointing out that you may hear that sort of thing from people who have powerful grievances precisely because saying it is a kick in the nuts to the Israelis. It's not that they are biased as much as that they may actually be trying to be inflammatory because they're pissed. If I were them maybe I'd be just as pissed or even much more pissed. I can easily believe that. But they're still may be hurling insults to injure rather than making reasoned charges. Since I don't know who actually says this, let alone why, I concede that my assumptions may be wrong and unfair.

Posted by: N E at August 2, 2010 12:49 PM

Ralph from New Jersey: An update

Ralph Dratman and I have been in personal correspondence. This is a correction and extension of my earlier remarks about him.

With regard to his blog: It DOES exist, and can be found at He doesn't post as often as he used to, explaining that during the Bush years he hoped to get the word out about some basic facts, but now he doesn't see how his efforts could make even a tiny difference. He is cheered by the work of Rachel Maddow and John Stewart on commercial tv.

His blogroll includes the following, some of which I also read:

The Raw Story • Eschaton by Atrios • Talking Points Memo • Huffington Post • Emptywheel • Middle Earth Journal • The Oil Drum • Boing Boing • Hullabaloo by Digby • Fafblog • Energy Bulletin • War and Piece • Juan Cole • European Tribune • Counterpunch • Firedoglake • Duck of Minerva • The Automatic Earth • Daily Kos

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at August 4, 2010 09:55 AM

When I wrote "The formation of the new Jewish state was, of course, a reaction to the massacre of millions of Jews by Germany," I was not trying to ignore the Zionist movement, whose ideology ended up as the basis for Israel's social and political organization. Zionism existed long before Nazism. Yet I find it difficult to imagine that a powerful, militarized Jewish nation state would have come into existence had there been no mass extermination of Jews by the Nazis.

I'm a Jew myself, and I feel deeply connected with other Jews, including those in Israel. Unfortunately it seems that Israel's government is trying to get rid of the Palestinians in Gaza by a process of hostile attrition and bad faith negotiation, analogous to pre-1924 U.S. dealings with Native Americans.

Speaking only for myself, I find those particular Israeli practices and policies to be abhorrent.

Posted by: Ralph Dratman at August 4, 2010 01:27 PM

Ralph Dratman: AGREED.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 4, 2010 02:41 PM