Comments: NPR's Nefarious Plot to Undermine Howard Zinn

This part:

"She thought it was fair to use Horowitz to balance out leftist academic Noam Chomsky, who said 'Zinn had changed the conscience of a generation.'"

gets my hackles up.

Horowitz is a cretin. Chomsky's a genius. Balance? Say what?

Posted by Aaron Datesman at February 5, 2010 05:00 PM

She completely misses the point . The problem with the obit wasn't that there was a mention of Zinn as controversial or that someone who disagreed with Zinn was allowed to appear in the obit.

The problem was that the person they chose for an opposing viewpoint was David Horowitz.

Posted by darrelplant at February 5, 2010 05:11 PM

That is the usual problem with the chosen Talking Heads, (for the conservative side of the discussion) that they are lacking in most regards.

Yet no matter how moronic, once the Talking Head is chosen often enough, they become a cultural icon. Look no farther than Ann Coulter. Or Sarah Palin.

Posted by Elise Mattu at February 5, 2010 06:54 PM

Do we dare ask if NPR's response was a 'tortured response'?

Same old cowards.

Posted by Richard S at February 5, 2010 07:23 PM

"NPR was complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley, who died in 2008. The network was equally nuanced in remembering pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts (who died in December) and Robert Novak, a conservative columnist who played a key role in the Valerie Plame debacle and who died last August. NPR's obituaries of these men did not contain mean-spirited, Horowitz-like comments."

"Obituaries are news stories that place a person in time and history -- not tributes. For this reason, Zinn's obituary did need to mention that he was controversial and that some historians were dismissive of his work."

So their immediate assumption in discussing Zinn was that to place his work in historical context they had to soundbite a detractor, whereas such a methodology simply didn't occur to them in relation to Buckley et al.

Not that there's anything institutional going on here, mind.

Posted by weaver at February 5, 2010 09:42 PM

From the preamble, linked at the ombudsman's response, to the transcript of Siegel and Brand reading from letters:

Zinn, a professor, author and political activist, was unapologetically liberal
They just can't stop with the insults!

Posted by weaver at February 5, 2010 09:48 PM

I'm afraid that I have to disagree with your assessment of the NPR's ombuds-idiot's acknowledgement. Far from graceful, her only real comment was that the obituary was "flawed."

The of what she had to say was pathetic and lame excuses and irrelevant background on NPR's incompetent staff (Allison Keyes, Karen Grigsby-Bates, David Sweeney, David Horowitz and other unnamed staffers) and poor journalistic practices. Well, at least we know who the deuches at NPR are.

Posted by John Cosmo at February 6, 2010 06:21 AM

The most amazing thing was that they quoted Chomsky.

NPR NEVER acknowledges Chomsky even exists. Robert Siegel, the news editor of ATC, loathes Chomsky, and effectively blackballed him for as long as Siegel's been running things.

I was AMAZED to hear Chomsky's voice at all...

Posted by woody at February 6, 2010 11:01 AM

Wow, that's the longest FU apology I've heard in an eon.

Cretins. Good to know that more people will stop listening, and more important, stop contributing.

Posted by catherine at February 6, 2010 01:12 PM

You are right Mr Schwarz. The last sentence, "It would have been better to wait a day and find a more nuanced critic ---- to me at least, showed NPR's true colours.

btw, Prof Eric Foner wrote this for The Nation....
A few years ago, I lectured at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota (the hometown of the late, lamented Senator Paul Wellstone). Zinn had been there a few days before, and across the top of the student newspaper was emblazoned the headline ZINN ATTACKS THE STATE. I sent Howard a copy. We laughingly agreed that he could not have a more appropriate epitaph.

ps Prof Foner was I believe, one of the founders of "Historians Against the War". I had heard him in 2003 on C-SPAN and he was great.

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Posted by LindaQM at February 6, 2010 11:30 PM

Rupa Shah

Like Chomsky and Zinn, Eric Foner has much to teach. He understands the 19th century, especially the free soil movement and the progressies.

Posted by N E at February 7, 2010 12:49 AM


"They just can't stop with the insults!"


I saw that in Digby's observation of his death, she called him "the great liberal historian" or something very close to that. A fair number of commenters tried to correct her, but she either doesn't read the comments to her posts or chose to ignore them. My guess is the latter.

Posted by Rojo at February 7, 2010 08:09 AM

Digby thinks 'liberal' is a compliment, as I do as far as it goes, but it obviously wasn't respectful to call Professor Zinn something he wouldn't have called himself. It is my perception too that Digby doesn't spend much time reading her comments, but I doubt she meant to insult Zinn. She isn't Horowitz or even NPR.

I think Digby is razor sharp on some issues, especially the operation of the media and the nature of the right wing, but not very good at seeing the weaknesses of the Dems or how the overall system works. I don't read her regularly now, but I'm rarely sorry when I do. As far as I can tell, she doesn't know that much about the issues that interest me most, but she does have a good understanding of right-wing insanity, including in the military.

I just don't think Digby sees clearly how little the Dems offer ordinary people, or how much the party supports banks and other financial interests that harm ordinary people, which drives people into the arms of the GOP. I have no doubt that Profesor Zinn could have explained that to her.

Posted by N E at February 7, 2010 09:56 AM

Digby understands all that very well. She's just like so many other netrootsians in that she's convinced herself that Republicans are going to turn the earth into a smoking cinder if they get near power again, so put aside those qualms and vote Donkey. She and her readers just tend to get caught up in the echo chamber of their own paranoid fearmongering.

Her critiques of the media, I'm afraid, seem to primarily be about complaining that this or that talking head is too unfair to Democrats, with the implication being that if we could just replace Chris Matthews with Glenn Greenwald or something, the scales would fall from everyone's eyes and truth would reign supreme. Yeah, I guess if you like reading about how Republicans are crazy or media personalities are vapid, she's your one-stop shop.

You never see her or any of the other A-list bloggers talk about the fact that almost every media outlet is owned by a handful of mega-corporations and explore the consequences of that; they just kvetch about individual personalities on particular networks, combing the transcripts of the talk shows for hints of pro-Republican bias. Pretty myopic, if you ask me.

Posted by . at February 7, 2010 10:18 AM

"she's convinced herself that Republicans are going to turn the earth into a smoking cinder if they get near power again"

Well, the crazy wingnuts on the Right have indeed done a pretty good job of getting that partly done, and they have made some substantial efforts in the past to get it all the way done with nukes and simpy not quite pulled it off. So it isn't like worrying about that is crazy. It's crazy not to recognize that danger, which is all too real.

The problem is, if there isn't any form of real progressive movement on the left that offers most people something to improve their lives, people will turn to the right. That happened in the 90s, and though it's always hard to know what the intel community is up to (especially now that they have no real opposition or even meaningful public suspicions to worry about) the Perot movement and the militia movement in the 90s almost certainly wasn't spontaneous. There was far too much initial media support and too much intel infiltration and supervision of the militia movement. Given the almost complete lack of real controls on the intel world, and the increased power they have obtained, it seems almost hard to imagine that the intel agencies (principally but not only CIA) would have stopped doing the things they developed such expertise in during the Cold War, such as media control, infiltrating movements, pushing public opinion by manipulating events (including through violence), etc., and generally driving policy in the direction they want it to go (which is to the right).

Now the building movement toward the Right is happening again, just as it did in the early 90s, and it's not spontaneous this time either. (It seems insane to me, tinkering with Einstein's definition, to presume that things that happen over and over again are coincidences.) So what's the dynamic?

First, the GOP has to organize and inflame the right (see teabaggers), and the hell they raise makes options on the left more politically difficult and costly. The GOP does this automatically, though it undoubtedly gets support in its efforts from those sectors that favor it over the Dems.

Second, the titans of the corporate world control the Dem party establishment and pivotal Senators through money, obstructing legislation that would help people but hurt their financial interests. They do this automatically.

Third, the powers that be within the National Security State (Langley and the Pentagon) foreclose military and foreign policy options that they believe endanger National Security. They do this through control of the media and the the military and intel bureaucracy, and through collaboration with the GOP and the corrupt powers that be within the Democratic Party establishment, people like Joe Lieberman or Max Baucus They do this automatically too, in furtherance of National Security, which is a subject they have always viewed as within their exclusive provenance. The President is Commander in Chief when they agree with him.

Finally, and this doesn't happen automatically, the intel community, the GOP, and corporations all try to undermine the President's support with his base through their own media influence, including through contacts and through the use of infiltrators and/or bellwhether opinion-makers on the left who are under their control(NOT Chomsky). This is an old practice at which Pierpont Morgan excelled more than a century ago. It has happened extensively in the past, and was a subject of inquiry during the Church and Rockefeller hearings in the mid 70s. An important fact learned was that someone working for Langley doesn't even need to know that he is working for Langley, because the CIA operates covertly through undisclosed contacts, front companies, hidden accounts, and the like. Those capabilities certainly exist in our increasingly privatived corporate intel world too. We let all this originally be set up to fool the commies, but of course we ended up fooling us. These activities were banned after the Congressional hearings of the 70s, but nothing meaningful was done to prevent them from continuing to happen, and since they were illegal and concealed to begin with, the idea that the CIA doesn't stopped the practices because Congress reiterated that they were illegal is comically optimistic. Of course the intel agencies didn't stop when they got a slap on the wrist. Why would they have?

All these facts virtually force every Democratic President toward the right, because it makes corporate support more important to him, makes the push from the right stronger, and makes the left less useful to him. As he is forced to the center, his support on the left erodes more, reinforcing the shift. When the GOp inflames the right some more, the cycle starts again. As this happens, the right starts to build momentum and attract more discontents, who accurately see the Democrats as corrupt and beholding to the banks.

Soon the President has no base whatsoever, is surrounded almost entirely by self-interested and corrupt power-brokers, and confronts a powerful and disciplined opposition party that possesses momentum and energy and appears to offer a populist alternative to an institutional President who offers none of his own. But the populism of the Right is as genuine as that once offered by Hitler and Ernst Roehm.

Over time, what we get out of this more and more closely resembles fascism. We may not end up with a one-party state, unless that becomes necessary, but we do end up with a two-party state where only one party can actually do anything, and unfortunately what they do is always bad. All the Dems can successfully do is go along with it all and try to take credit for whatever is just a little less bad. That they blow their own horn so enthusiastically for doing so little sickens everyone who actually wants a society that is worth a damn.

Given the structure of the official government, with the Senate being what it is and money dominating politics, and given the covert capabilities of the National Security State, a popular movement on the left faces daunting challenges. It cannot possibly succeed without massive support for major, major changes. A charming, smart, well-intentioned President isn't even necessarily a step in the right direction. That is either a tiny step in the right direction, or just another fraud that prevents people from recognizing the need for real change. Maybe both, I suppose.

We really need to figure out what to do about this sorry state of affairs, because Lenin's question just won't go away: What is to be done?

Posted by N E at February 7, 2010 03:59 PM

Ah, but it was a charismatic, young, photogenic, intellectual Democrat, I believe, who actually got us closer to nuclear war than anyone else.

Anyway, I don't just mean that they're afraid of nuclear armageddon. I mean that they convince themselves that a nation that survived an actual civil war and a decade-long depression won't survive a new Republican administration. If you press them for details - like, what are talking about here, Cormac McCarthy's The Road? Mad Max? - they don't know what to say. They just know that they'll DESTROY the country. So they promise Democrats they'll be sure to vote for them no matter what, and then can't figure out why they get taken completely for granted.

Posted by . at February 7, 2010 04:53 PM

"Ah, but it was a charismatic, young, photogenic, intellectual Democrat, I believe, who actually got us closer to nuclear war than anyone else."

Now that's a view based on two possibilities--your having read nothing about that charismatic, young, photogenic intellectual Democrat and what happened during his administration, or your having read only a few books, which were unfortunately bad(and one of which is a particular disappointment because its author is much too smart for such poor work).

You're going to have to become much closer student of what is going on, and not just hypocrisy and the idiocy of politicians, to actually figure out more of what is going on. Don't get me wrong--it's good to be perceptive of hypocrisy and vapidity and moral corruption. It's just not enough. Alas, a couple of decades ago someone wise told me that Carl Jung had a saying about advice--it's best quality is that it never hurt anyone, because nobody pays any attention to it.

So keep barking up that tree if you must, but be keep your eyes peeled for the bear behind you.

Posted by N E at February 7, 2010 10:42 PM

Now that's a view based on two possibilities

There is, of course, a third possibility, which I believe has been canvassed before.

Posted by weaver at February 8, 2010 12:33 AM

It's interesting to me that people are declaring that they won't give NPR money. This, unfortunately, will just make NPR more dependent on its corporate paymasters.

The problem is that white supremacists like Horowitz and Brooks are the new normal. They represent corporate interests, and NPR puts them on the air to please the corporations.

How do we address this? Simple. If we don't like the fact that Glenn Beck has advertisers, we launch a boycott. People have been complaining for a while that NPR and PBS shouldn't have advertisers at all, but nobody ever launches a boycott. Personally, I think we should boycott every single corporation that contributes to NPR. Then, we tell CPB that we won't contribute until NPR and PBS reflect our viewpoints. Problem solved.

Posted by Wintermute at February 8, 2010 11:53 AM

I think we should boycott every single corporation that contributes to NPR. Then, we tell CPB that we won't contribute until NPR and PBS reflect our viewpoints. Problem solved.

I seem to recall, back when I used to contribute to PBS/NPR, that only something like 7% of the listening audience actually bothered to contribute during the pledge drives.

They couldn't even get people to contribute a few lousy bucks a year back when PBS/NPR were tolerable, which is one reason they went corporate when Congress cut the funding to CPB. You're talking about organising a boycott? Of corporations that own or manage a huge swath of what your average person consumes? A boycott launched by less than 10% of a fairly marginal radio audience?

This seems unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of corporate sponsors, the vast majority of whom would probably bail anyway if they could figure out a way to keep Live from the Met and Masterpiece Theatre going on a commercial station.

Posted by NomadUK at February 8, 2010 01:08 PM

This is why I don't listen to NPR any more except when I am trapped in my car with no other option than to listen to commercial radio.

Posted by karen marie at February 8, 2010 02:28 PM

An excellent point, NomadUK. Maybe we're getting the NPR we deserve...

Posted by Wintermute at February 8, 2010 02:30 PM

For its so called more nuanced critic, NPR should have called Ralph Nader.....
"Implementing the Thoughts":
Institutionalizing Howard Zinn

ps my local public radio produces excellent programmes so I support it with my contribution, specifying that it be used ONLY for local programmes and to bring programmes like Fresh Air, Here and Now, This American Life etc......and not a penny for ME, ATC and Weekend Edition.

Posted by Rupa Shah at February 8, 2010 02:33 PM

NPR's ombudswoman has acknowledged they got it wrong with their Howard Zinn obituary, and did so with a fair amount of grace.

Jon, you have been smoking again, haven't you?

Posted by empty at February 8, 2010 03:25 PM

NPR relies on mostly corporate money, but the local affiliates get nearly all their money from people. But not giving money to the affiliates would just make everything worse.

Posted by N E at February 8, 2010 05:17 PM

I have the same issue with the democratic party as with NPR. If we don't give the dems money, corporations will have that much more influence over the democratic party. However, corporate influence is already so large in the democratic party, I can't see the point of giving them another dime. In fact, by giving money to the dems, I'm easing the path for corporate influence by reducing their costs.

Posted by IronButterfly at February 9, 2010 11:42 AM


We do have a lot of Hobson's choices that lead to regret either way.

The whole structure of our government needs to be changed. It's not that we need new political parties (though we do). We'll get new parties when the system permits that. Unfortunately, we seem to have the most robust political mythologies ever conceived, and people accept our government structures, like the Senate, without reflection. That's ironic given that we started with a revolution and even actually enshrine the importance of revolution in our Declaration of Independence. The people badly need to rid themselves of some of their institutions.

Over and over again when discontent wells up (as it did when Perot got invited into the public arena on a red carpet) people throw their support behind some alternate candidate who, under the present system, is really just a false option to redirect public outrage. The stability of a plurality-wins voting system is a "law" of political science--Duverger's Law, and in practice in our money-dominated system it makes a third party victory inconceivable, at least until such time as a third party controls the media (which would mean that it certainly wouldn't be a revolutionary third party).

Of course, third parties are still highly useful to the pros who are behind the wheel of this dilapidated Hummer of a political system in which we are trapped passengers heading toward a cliff. The corporate media pushed Perot and let the Dems take the lead on finishing the destruction of organized labor via Nafta, along with deregulating the financial and media domains, and then that same media in the blink of an eye inflamed the public against the Dems and Congress, sending populism careening to the right. It was a pretty nice trick from a sneaky, rotten point of view. In the blink of an eye, disgruntlement about 12 years of the ravaging of America by the forces behind the Reagan Revolution became populist opposition to Clintonian liberalism and economic neoliberalism, and then in another blink of the other eye that popular outrage led to the Gingrich Revolution, which ravaged the county some more in the same damn way that the Reagan Revolution had.

Clinton was happy to go along with this process with his adept triangulation, and enough Dems in Congress, backed by financial interests, enthusiastically cooperated to please their contributers in the FIRE sectors of the economy too. The whole damn thing is a case study in how to conceal appalling corruption and collusion beneath the self-satisfied, self-righteous veneer of a two-party system that prevents the emergence of meaningful popular opposition as adeptly as any system ever has.

In our crummy system, third-party movements get promoted or ignored depending on the needs of the moment for those enormous corporate forces that we would be honest to acknowledge are, for all practical purposes, our present rulers. (The Supreme Court might as well say that too.) That goes for those on the left too--they only get promoted opportunistically to cut the legs out from under legislation or a Presidential initiative that isn't favored. When it really counts, we're forced to choose between supporting either an irreligious bankocracy that endorses militarism or a crazy military theocracy that supports banks. No wonder most people don't vote.

If you're the sort of citizen under the Constitution who is part of homo sapiens sapiens but doesn't own lots of shares of stock in the other kind of citizen, the kind that I think in all honesty that we should actually call our rulers, the whole thing sucks.

What do we need to do? Finance public elections. Pass a constitutional amendment that makes only human beings citizens. Most of all, and this is a big one, abolish the Senate and make "one person, one vote" the real law of the land so that credit card companies can't buy a cheap Senator in South Dakota or health insurers can't buy a cheap senator in North Dakota to have their way. The Senate sucks, even for most people in those small states who think they benefit from disproportionate representation, because the Senate always ends up serving elite interests. Always has. Most people in small states aren't in the elite either.

That's enough for one comment, but from those things meaningful political change would follow, because once the system isn't rigged in favor of corporate elites, what's good for most people should start to win out. Most real people, that is.

Posted by N E at February 9, 2010 02:02 PM

I don't think that passing an amendment will make a bit of difference to corporate personhood. History shows that SCOTUS makes the Constitution mean whatever it wants it to mean. (That's why corporations are "persons" in the first place.) We've been through this before: Congress passes an amendment to circumvent a SCOTUS ruling, and SCOTUS just interprets the amendment out of existence.

The real answer is to get people educated about what's wrong with the system, so that the culture makes it impossible for SCOTUS judges to do screwy things like that.

Posted by Wintermute at February 9, 2010 03:50 PM


That's a good point. I agree with the observation I saw attributed to Naipaul somewhere that no society can be better than the people who make it up. So getting people educated is vital. Even a good system can be ruined by a rotten public, which probably would be the elitist (and incorrect) view of what is wrong with America. But that isn't the problem we have.

A society with a bad system/structures can be worse than the people who make it up, and we have perfected that. Educate everyone without fixing these structures and people will be more aware of how they are getting screwed. And maybe then they'll fix these structures, which is what has to be done. If people became aware and don't fix the structures, nothing will get better.

Also, the constituency of the Supreme Court isn't immutable. The Court doesn't have to consist of conservative old gasbags with life tenure, even if they presently are that for the most part. Both President Roosevelts, TR from 1910 to 1912 and FDR in 1937, proposed that the SCOTUS should not be able to override the will of the people, which is pretty good democratic thinking. The elite recoiled from such a change, not surprisingly.

Similarly, Woodrow Wilson proposed changing some important features of our government to make it more representative too, like a parliamentary system. A professor of government before he became a politician, Wilson considered the Senate "a blemish" on our democracy. See Congressional Government: a Study in American politics, by Woodrow Wilson (1901) (viewing the "checks and balances" system as impeding democracy and preventing accountability)(available online). Some extremely mainstream figures used to recognize that we have some serious problems with the structure of our government, but nowadays nobody even seems to think about trying to fix these things.

It can be done, but we have to do it.

Posted by N E at February 9, 2010 05:59 PM

I have often suspected guys like Horowitz were already in the bag when they were "leftists" in the sixties and seventies.

This was the era when COINTELPRO was going full tilt. Back then anti-war meetings were always infiltrated by Feebs, CIA operatives, military intelligence agents and local police.

It's not much of a stretch to imagine Horowitz, who was around at the demise of RAMPARTS (whose investigative reporting exposed a lot of government heavy-handedness, to include infiltration of student groups) to be working as a government asset during those days and then see the light and be born again as a neo-conservative.

In my limited experience I've seen people like pre-neoconservative Horowitz who talk the talk and yet don't seem capable of feeling the feeling. Without empathy their rhetoric is hollow and their eventual drift to the right is predictable. I wonder how much of that is a natural devolvement of the spirit or, as I've suggested, a pre-planned career path.

Posted by Bob In Pacifica at February 11, 2010 10:11 AM

"." wrote: "Ah, but it was a charismatic, young, photogenic, intellectual Democrat, I believe, who actually got us closer to nuclear war than anyone else."

I'm guessing that "." is referring to JFK. There is a recent book, "JFK and the Unspeakable", which goes into the internal government struggle between Kennedy and the military-industrial complex. In fact, the high-tension Cold War struggle was constructed by the CIA, often without Kennedy's knowledge.

One of the biggest problems in American politics by both leftists and righties is that they ignore the motives and power of the permanent government and presume the only game being played is what they see in Congress. Anyone who looks at politics and doesn't take into consideration the institutional power of the military and the intelligence agencies, and the corporate backers for whom that power is invoked, misses most of what is happening.

For ex, why is the military budget so sancrosanct when all logic says that spending a half trillion dollars (allegedly) hunting down a few hundred radicals who only pay attention to the U.S. because we're in their countries? The easy answer is that the military and intel agencies are working for Big Oil. And sure enough, there does seem to be oil in the region. Who wudda thunk?

Here's another clue. In 2008 when Congress collapsed and gave the NSA et al all the FISA they wanted note that all of the argumentation was on the Democratic side, between "lefties" and "moderates". The Republicans were in lockstep for it. Now it was pretty obvious that a Democrat was going to win the next election. Why would the Republicans vote for such sweeping spying powers on Americans to be put into the hands of a Democratic administration? You already know the answer. Because the power never accrues to the administration. It accrues to the permanent government.

Posted by Bob In Pacifica at February 11, 2010 10:31 AM

Them's right pretty words, Mr. N E, right pretty indeed. But it'll never happen, because the CIA won't let it. At least, according to you. I wonder how the rich manipulated and controlled government before there were corporations? And who, pray, is going to "educate" the masses? Your paternalism always shows through.

Bob, one of the biggest problems I see in American politics is the widespread conviction that a young-ish, personable, good-looking politician who devotes himself to joining the permanent government as its figurehead and chief water-carrier, is somehow not part of the permanent government, but secretly is seeking to undermine it from within. Hence the Kennedy (and now Obama) cult.

The "left" I'm aware of knows quite well that the "game" isn't only "played in Congress," and has a lot to say about corporate influence and military and "intel" interests.

Posted by Duncan at February 11, 2010 11:10 AM

Am I the only one who wrote to the ombud to point out that lack of time to prepare it did not account for the problem with the obit of Zinn?

After making several points I suggested that she take the obits of those rightwingers back to the professional obit writers she'd consulted about the Zinn obit and report on how well they felt those obits met the same criteria for "balance." Did any of them quote a friend and colleague of the dead guy without "balancing" his or her view?

Posted by OppEd at February 11, 2010 02:36 PM

Mr. Schwarz, if you don't get back to your posting duties pronto, I am going to make another comment about JFK just to enjoy the subsequent 10,000 word stemwinders from NE and Conspiracy Bob.

Posted by . at February 11, 2010 05:18 PM

Bob in Pacifica:

I share each and every one of those sentiments, and the changes in the world since the end of the Cold War makes effective control of domestic politics crucial to our militarists, so I think it counter-intuitive to think that there are fewer shenanigans by the intel agencies these days. Rival powers are no longer the real problem confronted by the US military in this lingering "unipolar moment," to use the phrase coined by the vile Krauthammer back when all this began at the end of the Cold War. The biggest problem that all the Western powers now face is the management of public opinion among their own citizens. The US and the other Western powers (the Nato states, Japan, and Israel prominent among them) have unprecedented military and economic dominance. The biggest brake on what they can do militarily is domestic support for the extent of conflict they initiate. Russia has regrouped after losing most of its power and former empire, but it remains vastly outgunned, and though China is emerging as a military power, it doesn't have anything close to the military or economic might of the United States, Japan, and the EU combined, not even with Russian help. At present, the United States and Japan and Nato could destroy China and Russia militarily, and the Chinese and Russians know it.

The problem Western militarists have is that the citizenry of the Western powers, even in the US, does not support military aggression for reasons of pure self interest, and twenty years ago that was even more true than it presently is. The Japanese and German publics have huge historical reasons to not want to commit troops to foreign wars. It has taken time and deliberate, disciplined effort by the military and national security interests of the various members of the alliance and what might flamboyantly be called our corporate overlords to push NATO first into the Balkans and Eastern Europe and now into Central Asia, in the process transforming the alliance into an offensive force rather than a defensive force created on the protection of Germany and the rest of Western Europe. Likewise, it has taken time to expand Japan's security policy to permit Japanese participation in overseas wars, as is now the case. Neither the Japanese nor the German publics, nor even the American public, would support collective military action, whether in the Balkans or the Persian Gulf or the Caspian Basin, simply on economic grounds, though of course the corporate elites of those countries certainly do support exactly that.

The West has had to find a different rationale for its enormous collective push to capitalize opportunistically on the collapse of the USSR, and it has had to work to create domestic support for that rationale. That's why, as Perry Anderson notes, the leaders of the EU states make speeches for their domestic audiences but don't actually do anything to resist US militarism that appears to be unilateral. The EU elite, in conjunction with the US elite, supports military aggression to further their common interest while seeming to oppose the US for political reasons at home. It's all basically a political game. Because the ordinary citizens of all the nations benefit less and are less ruthless than their leades, occasional sacrifice among the citizenry has been necessary to inflame public opinion in the US or Europe or in Japan. This is nothing new, because the military has always been willing to sacrifice soldiers AND civilians in furtherance of national interests. Only making such prominent use of terrorism is new, but there are no other boogeymen left. The "terrorists" are about all we've got for the moment.

Duncan finds preposterous my (our?) assessment of what is going on in the world, including the enormous role played by the various Western intelligence agencies, which all routinely work together. He considers that crazy talk to be mocked, and in a sense it is, because when it comes to culture, perceptions are reality. To notice that the intelligence agencies infiltrate and control terrorist groups to control policy is considered crazy talk among the elite elements of our culture, even though the use of al qaeda in afghanistan in the 80s and then in Kosovo and the balkans in the 90s is well documented. That saying this out loud is taboo is the best "get out of jail free" card that anyone working for the intel agencies or special forces or even a private military contractor retained by the military could ever have. Alleging state crimes is considered lunacy, regardless of the evidence, which is for the most part classified, so perpetrators have no reason to worry about being held accountable. Ever. No one may participate in the media without sharing Duncan's view, and so the investigation of state crimes in the area of National Security is impossible. The whole subject is off limits.

That taboo, of course, is an open invitation to those who believe at any given time that such a crime might drive public opinion in the right direction to protect the National Security interests of the nation. A strong motive exists, with no chance of punishment, which is an awfully large temptation to any ruthless person. And so state crimes occur, and sometimes they are enormous. Nothing about this should be surprising, because it is the predictable result of the ordinary operation of Madisonian principles of power in the world we inhabit, but of course it is shocking. And it should be shocking. Some years ago the very fact of how shocking it is prompted me to begin to try to understand the 'why' of it.

Howard Zinn, having read and praised David Ray Griffin's first book on 9/11, plainly was aware of some of this, just as Chomsky is, but Zinn is now gone, may he rest in peace, and Chomsky is
very old and long ago took a different path that once must have looked more promising to him. Younger minds now need to take not of this pattern to address this problem, because it is the problem of the age and will not go away without being addressed. It is also the linchpin problem that will prevent the solution of all other problems, because as long as elements within the military and National Security apparatus have the ability to control events, they have an enormous ability to control the direction of policy, notwithstanding the appearance of democracy. Perhaps an election will need to be rigged from time to time too, but rigging elections is a minor covert operation in the bigger scheme of things. (Even Pakitan's ISI has an 'election unit.')

We live in times of great deception, and until the public sees just what is happening, it will not be possible to restrain our burgeoning militarism and imperialism. It is too easy to blow bugles and wave the flag after the nation has been attacked, even if only by a motley crew of suspicious characters who vanish into the rubble of their own supposed destruction. The forces of militarism and greed that drove the world into two world wars and several smaller wars of equal horror on a smaller scale in the last century have not vanished from the earth, and the Western powers, increasingly dominated by financial interests and with an increasingly misled citizenry, are pushing for a repeat of those conflicts, perhaps on a larger scall again later this century, and perhaps not as much later as we would like. Material factors drive us forward, much as Chomsky suggests.

The elite leadership of the Western Powers has done everything necessary to get Nato involved in Central Asia, including now with Japanese and German participation, albeit for the moment only a relatively small participation. Two decades ago, even that small participation by the Germans and Japanese would have been unthinkable, but the threat of terrorism and the pressing demands of collective security against it have accustomed many of the citizens of Germany and Japan to a military role, just as the citizens of the US have come to again consider themselves indispensable to the security of every far corner of the globe. In the US, twenty years ago, the public of the US was fed up with the CIA and wanted a peace dividend, and now almost no one in public life even dares speak of such a thing. We have simultaneously fought two large wars and continue to occupy almost the whole world, and the anti-war movement has all but given up trying to be noticed. If this trend continues, where are we headed?

Posted by N E at February 11, 2010 05:21 PM

mister nobody

i didn't want to disappoint you, whatever you are!

Posted by N E at February 11, 2010 05:29 PM