Comments: Glenn Greenwald on "The Universality of War Propaganda"

When the Pike commission asked Henry Kissinger in the 1970's why we abandoned the Kurds after supporting them as part of a campaign to destabilize Iraq, Kissenger replied, "We are not missionaries".

Posted by Edward at June 30, 2010 09:54 AM

hey, that's a pretty neat trick--linking to greenwald linking back to you a couple of years ago. Well done!

greenwald's post is very good, even though i don't really like his mishmash of examples all that much

edward--kissinger also said 'covert action should not be confused with missionary work.' Apparently people once commonly mistook him for a missionary and he was determined to set them straight. Just as a point of honesty.

Edward's comment reminds me that Greenwald got carried away engaging with Goldberg and Klein when he conceded that 'any decent human being has a natural desire to see oppression of the type that the Kurds suffered under Saddam alleviated.' Oh really? I think nobody really cares much about the Kurds now any more than they cared about the Kuwaitis 20 years ago or presently the people or Turkmenistan or Iran or Ossetia or just about anywhere else far away. Not that people suck, but caring about far-away strangers in any kind of real sense is tiring, because there are so many of them and they never call or write. In a general feel-good way, maybe people care, but not seriously.

And even the general feel-good way is almost always phony. Put a group of such innocent, far-away strangers on the wrong side of our government, whatever the issue may be, and they quickly again don't matter at all (see edward's comment). Or they can even become the most loathsome, vile, subhuman wretches ever, like Palestinians now, or Jews once upon a time. So it goes.

Posted by N E at June 30, 2010 10:47 AM
Not that people suck, but caring about far-away strangers in any kind of real sense is tiring, because there are so many of them and they never call or write. In a general feel-good way, maybe people care, but not seriously.

And even the general feel-good way is almost always phony.

100% yes. It's always, always bullshit.

Amusingly, as far as I can tell Jeffrey Goldberg wrote about the Turkish government massacring Turkish Kurds during the nineties (with U.S. support) exactly zero times. Yet somehow no one cares about Kurds more than old Jeff. I guess he felt so strongly that he felt it would be dangerous to express it in public.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at June 30, 2010 11:04 AM

What would we say if the Chinese sent a gunboat with their marines up the Mississippi River claiming they were protecting their laundries in Memphis? -- Will Rogers

Posted by MC Squared at June 30, 2010 11:55 AM

How specifically is the U.S. invasion of Iraq not as bad as the taking of the Sudetenland? We didn't embark on a programme of ethnic cleansing? No, we paid Iraqi gangs to do it for us.

I don't think we should be afraid to make these comparisons. I understand why Greenwald doesn't want to, but.

Posted by Cloud at June 30, 2010 01:20 PM

The Kurds. Everybody hates the Kurds. The Iranians, the Turks, the Iraqis-- unless they love them because someone else hates them. It makes the whole enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend thing very complicated. Take a look at Bahman Ghobadi's movies Marooned in Iraq and A Time for Drunken Horses and Orham Pamuk's bookSnow for enlightening treatment of the Kurds. Nobody, not even moronic blog people, uses the plight of the Kurds for anything but an excuse for anti-social behavior.

Posted by drip at June 30, 2010 02:33 PM

At least the Kurds should know by now that Kissinger WILL lie to ya. Something America can't seem to figure out.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 30, 2010 05:06 PM

N E, re Kissinger: Apparently people once commonly mistook him for a missionary and he was determined to set them straight. Just as a point of honesty.

Again, you think Kissinger was interested in being honest? Really? Seriously?

I don't think anyone ever mistook Kissinger for a missionary. He was attacking a straw man beloved of our political leaders, the notion that the US is a missionary, and has too often squandered its blood and treasure in aid of ungrateful foreigners. (Some, for example, think that Woodrow Wilson was a missionary for self-determination, or wanted to be, or something. It's amazing how snowed many people are by the, whatchamacallem,MiCfic.) People like Kissinger are in favor of what they call Realpolitik, except when the US or Israel is at the receiving end of it.

This reminds me, I need to track down that excerpt from one of his books where Kissinger claimed that he'd put the Allende gang on notice that they'd better respect human rights, because Washington was watching; but we have transcripts of his phone calls to them, in which he assured them that the US would protect them from the wishy-washy human rights fags, so just keep on doing that voodoo they do so well. Did I mention that honesty has never been K's strong suit? Did you know they're spelling "gullible" with an R now?

Posted by Duncan at June 30, 2010 09:44 PM

"I think nobody really cares much about..."

The historical record for countries "saving" other people seems pretty bad, at least for Europeans. Cuba and now Venuzuela, however, have been successful in helping others. The Marshall plan was also a succes. In the past people from around the world participated in the struggle against facism in the Spanish civil war.

I thought one of the big ironies of Bush's invasion of Iraq was that once no WMD's turned up the purpose of the invasion had to change to promoting better government. The Republicans seem to care little about human rights and suddenly they were being dragooned by Bush into having to support such policies. Bush actually kept playing this game on them repeatedly on different issues.

Posted by Edward at June 30, 2010 10:10 PM

I care about the Iraqi people, and I have gotten emails, phone calls, and even VISITS from some of them (who are now my friends). I have blogged about them, written LTEs about them, gone to DC to lobby for them and to protest, written poems about them (and won awards for one poem), and cried about what has happened to them. I have printed up the names of the dead academics and posted them in my office. I have raised funds for them and donated to organizations that are trying to help them. I have made displays to commemorate their deaths. I regret that we could not get the display up at the local UU church when Obama came to town. It is impressive to see 3,000 stakes with a laminated card on them remembering the Iraqi civilians killed. We also put up signs saying that each card represents over 100 fatalities.

I have probably done more than this that I cannot even remember right now.

I think the main thing that got me to care about them so much was the vast INJUSTICE of the US invasion, war, occupation and destruction of them and their homes and their country. And the fact that this injustice has been ignored or glossed over by my many of fellow Americans has really disgusted me..... and caused me to pull away from them. I don't want to know them or be around them. I have become friends with other Americans who (like me) do care about what happens to Iraqis.

I just wanted to say that it is not 100% bullshit or phony when people care. And in this day of the internet, you can write and call with people on the other side of the planet who were strangers just weeks ago.

There was a good story on This American Life about a guy who befriended several Iraqis and talks to them regularly by phone.

Posted by Susan at June 30, 2010 10:13 PM

Goldberg's, and Joe Klein's, reaction to this blindingly obvious point is just bizarre (mentioned in Greenwald's updates). They really do live in a bubble. I can't imagine how they would have reacted if Greenwald had pointed out that part of the reason the Japanese were able to blitzkrieg down through South-east Asia was because the various local populations did little to resist them, being more than happy to watch Tojo's boys kick out British, French, Dutch and *cough* American imperialists.

Rather a pointless and silly inter-journo stoush all up, although it did introduce me to the term "Villager" which I'd not come across before, so that's something.

Posted by weaver at June 30, 2010 10:28 PM
I just wanted to say that it is not 100% bullshit or phony when people care. And in this day of the internet, you can write and call with people on the other side of the planet who were strangers just weeks ago.

There was a good story on This American Life about a guy who befriended several Iraqis and talks to them regularly by phone.

Yes, I was just listening to that. I don't think that regular people don't ever care about regular people somewhere else on earth. I don't even think that it's bullshit if a regular person was close to people in Iraq and claimed they were motivated to support a U.S. invasion for their well-being (although that would be very stupid). But I do think that governments (including those of Cuba and Venezuela) are never genuinely motivated by this, even if some individual government officials within them sometimes are. And in fact those individuals usually end up quitting.

The people in government (or its Goldbergian penumbra) are always like what John Adams famously described:

Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de tres bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul, and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God service, when it is violating all His laws. Our passions, ambition, avarice, love, resentment, etc., possess so much metaphysical subtlety, and so much overpowering eloquence, that they insinuate themselves into the understanding and the conscience, and convert both to their party..."

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at June 30, 2010 11:20 PM

Err, Duncan, I was being facetious. Geesh.

By the way, one thing Sy Hersh is right about is that Henry K lies like he breathes. (So you're right too!) Henry K seems to really enjoy lying even when it doesn't seem to serve any purpose. I know I've said that before, as I have been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive repetitive redundant disorder ("OCRRD"--the two r's is an important part of the condition). This makes me think you aren't hanging on my every word, and there's almost nothing worse for those of us afflicted with OCRRD. So please, try to read what I write more carefully, if only as an act of compassion.

I'm not aware of Henry admonishing Allende to observe human rights, but it doesn't surprise me. Then again, giving the green light to Operation Condor wasn't very nice either, among Kissinger's many crimes, what with all that torture and throwing left-leaning college kids out of airplanes into the ocean without a parachute and the like. The only things I know Henry K said in regard to Chile are that he didn't see why we had to let a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people and that nothing important happens in the South because the axis of history runs from east to west. Both those are paraphrased but enough for anyone to find them.

If you want to know more about Chile, you can go to GW's National Security Archive to the Chile Documentation Project and read all the slimy documents released a decade or so ago. GW's National Security Archive has lots of important documents online with regard to other atrocities too.

Posted by N E at June 30, 2010 11:22 PM

susan

yes, 'nobody' was an overstatement. keep up the good work.

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 12:59 AM

weaver

I know the Chinese and the Koreans would disagree with that opinion about why the Japanese were able to blitzkrieg so easily through southeast Asia, but I don't know much about how the Japanese behaved farther south. The French were so terrible in Indochina for over a century that perhaps you're right that the Japanese were considered an improvement--I really don't know. Still, I feel sure Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong would have fought the Japanese with just as much determination as they fought the French and then the Americans.

Goldberg and Klein are doing what they get paid to do. Staying in taht bubble is one of the terms of their employment.

By the way anyone interested, John Adams wanted to be President "for life" if he couldn't be King, which would have been even better for him. He must have been drinking when he wrote that passage. Either that or it was written attacking some supposed usurpation of power by Jefferson or something like that. Power isn't too consistent either.

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 01:12 AM

I know the Chinese and the Koreans would disagree with that opinion about why the Japanese were able to blitzkrieg so easily through southeast Asia

Well, not if they know where South-east Asia is.

The Viet Minh fought, alongside American OSS officers, against the Japanese, but that was nearer the end of the war.

And just a note from the style guide: "Viet Cong" was a pejorative term used by the American invaders and their quisling allies in the government and military of "South" Vietnam roughly meaning "Vietnamese Commie". The correct term is National Liberation Front (NLF). Calling them the Viet Cong is a bit like referring to the American Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression".

Posted by weaver at July 1, 2010 02:18 AM

weaver

Touche as to where southeast asia is. Ya got me there. I just meant to signal that people in Asia didn't view the Japanese all that positively, and maybe that was true farther south too.

The death of FDR at the end of WWII was a tragedy (though quite timely for our hawks and imperialists, ergo no autopsy) for several reasons, but FDR's anticolonialism and different plan for the future of southeast asia is most definitely one big reason. FDR drove Churchill nuts with his commitment to ending colonialism, including the British empire, and FDR never said a good word about what the French had done in Southeast Asia. Whether Ho Chi Minh knew of that, or whether any communications occurred between him and FDR, I have no idea, but those who participated in the OSS-Viet Minh collaboration you refer to seem to have known of FDR's view because I just looked it up (which I wouldn't have succeeded at without your tip).

See the paragraph at the link below that begins "When I was in Vietnam in 1991" and includes the sentences: "They [the Americans and Vietnamese who worked together in 1945] believe that if FDR had lived the U.S. would have supported the August Revolution and Ho Chi Minh's leadership of the Vietnamese. They see Truman as more anti-communist and as altering the direction of FDR's anti-colonialism. They blame Truman and say FDR was their 'friend.'")

https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/AdvisingTheVietMinh.html

All I'd correct about that is that it went far beyond Truman, who had been selected to replace Henry Wallace precisely because Truman could be controlled. The GOP, Democratic Party elite, business world, military, and incipient National Security State were all against FDR by 1944, but they had a problem because FDR's VP Wallace was even worse in their eyes. (Confirmation of this can be found in a strange place, a book called Conspiracy of Silence by an M.D. named Harry Goldstone who examines why and how FDR was blackmailed into accepting Truman as his VP to replace Henry Wallace in 1944, though not because Goldstone liked FDR.)

There's no way I can follow the style guide you refer to, because my ignorance of it is too great. I don't know a word of Vietnamese, have never been to Vietnam, don't really know any Vietnamese people, and am just a hair too young to have friends who learned about Vietnam the hard way. In fact, I have only read a handful of books from the reading list at the site I linked. So I'm happy to say 'National Liberation Front' instead of 'Viet Cong" if that's less offensive. I don't intend any insult either way, but then again, I also don't think there is anything wrong with people having been or being communists. I have often called myself a 'communist' just to piss off rightwingers even though that's of course not accurate. However, I have noticed that the Reading List referred to at the above link, prepared by Dr. Ernest Bolt at the University of Richmond, uses the term 'Viet Cong', and Dr. Bolt seems to be very friendly with a whole lot of those former National Liberation Front members who worked with 'Uncle Ho.' So I am hopeful that I may be forgiven, as I usually am after I say something stupid, because in my experience people are almost always forgiving about that sort of ignorance unless they sense that you actually hate them, which naturally puts them off.

Thanks for helping educate me on this stuff. I don't even remember hearing of the August revolution before, but I'm glad to see that people in Southeast Asia knew what FDR tried to do for the world even if the OSS and FDR's political enemies in the military brass and the rest of the US elite didn't let him pull it off. Someday maybe the American people will wise up enough to give their best leaders a chance to succeed at making the world a little better instead of a hellhole. I harp on this because people need to recognize the problem to do that. (And perhaps because I suffer from OCRRD!)

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 09:47 AM

I don't know if it's particularly offensive for any one individual to use "Viet Cong" when the term is so widespread in "respectable" media and academic discourse - though the fact that this term of abuse is so habitually used as an official label is indicative of the pervasive nature of certain doctrinal strictures. Apropos of which, you won't find many "respectable" commentators referring to any American invasion of Vietnam either.

Of course, I also tend to get shirty when people talk about "Lollards" or use "Luddite" as a synonym for "backward technophobe", so maybe it's just me. I wonder what the statute of limitations is for these. Does "vandalism" insult Vandals?

Posted by weaver at July 1, 2010 10:41 AM

Whether vandalism insults Vandals is a good question. I don't even know if the Vandals are Spaniards now, or Italian, or French, or where they ended up. Where are the Vandals for goodness sake? Perhaps I'm partly a Vandal myself. I wonder. That could explain so much.

As for other usages, I've given up gyped even though I really haven't met a real gypsie, as far as I know anyway. And of course even though people out in farm country where I was raised still occasionally use that slang verb 'to jew' someone, and not in a good way, I don't use that either since losing my overalls and corn-seed hat. Best of all, I remember as a boy being accused by a neighbor's father of being an "Indian giver" because I wanted one of my crappy toys back from his son, which I think had a double irony. First, the whole state in which I was raised, South Dakota, was an Indian nation more recently than most of the rest of the country, until our wasichu ancestors stole it. Second, I think the guy's family was part Indian, which I'm betting he wasn't crazy about that. I wonder why.

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 03:20 PM

Everyone knows the Vandals are from Huntington Beach, CA. I don't know what that Yurpan nonsense is that N E is going on about.

Posted by Rojo at July 1, 2010 07:10 PM

...and can I be forgiven for using the term "Luddite" about myself, especially if I routinely mention what the Luddites were actually about if I suspect they're unfamiliar?

Posted by Rojo at July 1, 2010 07:11 PM

Rojo

I forgive you.

P.S. Is Yurpan like Mercan?

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 07:28 PM

N E: Facetious, eh? As I've suggested before, don't give up your day job for comedy, though if the Obama team calls you for help with their speechwriting, go for it. Meanwhile, keep digging yourself in deeper.

"I'm not aware of Henry admonishing Allende to observe human rights, but it doesn't surprise me." Oops, my bad, my error. It was not, of course, Allende whom Kissinger claimed to have admonished, but the Pinochet regime. That was a lie, of course, as the telephone transcripts revealed.

It's interesting that all of your deep, deep reading on the Vietnam War never informed you about the names of the actors involved, or of the actual history.

Posted by Duncan at July 1, 2010 07:44 PM

Oh, and PS: "But I do think that governments (including those of Cuba and Venezuela) are never genuinely motivated by this, even if some individual government officials within them sometimes are. And in fact those individuals usually end up quitting."

You may be right where the US is concerned, but you're missing something. I won't dispute that Cuba and Venezuela as states are no more moral than any other state. Castro is a dictator, which would ordinarily endear him to US elites; Chavez, despite the lies of Obama and his media goons, is not a dictator, but as we know, elected leaders aren't inherently good guys either, unless they are US Democrats. The thing to bear in mind is the quality of the aid Cuba and Venezuela give to other countries, and who is helped by it. Cuba has sent its doctors to many poor countries (including Venezuela) and helped many poor people; I don't recall offhand whether Cuba's literacy programs have also assisted literacy programs in other countries. Granted that Castro started and sustains that program for his own malicious and dictatorial reasons, the people who have been helped are better off for it, and they are the bulk of the population in those countries. US aid, including the Marshall Plan, primarily benefits US business elites and secondarily local elites; when we engage in "humanitarian intervention," we usually kill large numbers of people. Even granting that such aid is only meant for PR purposes, I'd say that Cuban aid has generated better PR than US aid has generated, but it has also done a lot of real good. The US' lack of interest in doing any real good for most people, even for PR purposes, is striking by contrast.

Edward: "I thought one of the big ironies of Bush's invasion of Iraq was that once no WMD's turned up the purpose of the invasion had to change to promoting better government. The Republicans seem to care little about human rights and suddenly they were being dragooned by Bush into having to support such policies. Bush actually kept playing this game on them repeatedly on different issues." Um, this is all false. The Bush regime did talk about democracy promotion, but never intended to do anything about it; they only permitted the Iraqi elections after a lot of nonviolent resistance by Iraqi Shiites made it too embarrassing not to permit them. And having done so, they interfered further so that the will of Iraqi voters was effectively nullified. Iraqis have been voting all along for immediate withdrawal of US troops, for example, which Bush and Obama simply ignore. The US deserves no credit whatever for "promoting better government" in Iraq -- our leaders have done their best to block better government there, quite successfully too.

Posted by Duncan at July 1, 2010 08:02 PM

Duncan

You're hurting my feelings again, you bad boy. I think I've actually got a modestly good understanding of the Vietnam War at this point, though it's all derivative of people who lived through that period as adults and wrote about it. And as I told Weaver, I'm no expert. I don't quite know why your ragging on me about that, but then again, if it's fun for you, knock yourself out. I guess I'll just have to keep on having OCRRD without your compassion, or laughs.

Thanks for the Raymond Williams tip anyway.

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 09:28 PM

Duncan

I didn't mean to say that the US never does any good, and I doubt I did say that. And that goes for other states too. Certainly you're right that Cuba and Venezuels seem to be offering lots of medical and other beneficial development assistance, and I tend to think the US does more good than you think it does. Many people support programs and assistance abroad, even people who aren't as good as Susan, but I do stand by what I said on the whole. I won't belabor the point, but obviously any professed concern being used to justify military action or covert meddling or the like is VERY suspect. When warmongers shed tears, watch out. That's what I was getting at.

Posted by N E at July 1, 2010 10:31 PM

The coolest aspect of Greenwald's latest dustup with lying scum warmongers is that he's been given the opportunity to live out the "I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here" maneuver:

Godwin of Godwin's Law appears in his comment section to explain that the Law was intended to discourage sloppy, lazy, frivolous Nazi comparisons in order to clear the way for subtantive ones.

But, despite that, and despite the thorough and well-deserved savaging Jeffrey Goldberg got from his commenters, I understand that the lurkers support him in emails...

Posted by Nell at July 2, 2010 12:01 AM

Nell--

DId you mean Joe Klein's commenters? He got trashed (I did my small part). I had the impression Goldberg doesn't have a comment section and I didn't see one on a quick visit to his site (though I've been known to miss things right in front of my face).

When I've visited I've noticed Tom Friedman at the NYT doesn't have a comment section for his column either. I suspect that along with all the deluded folk who like him, he'd get more than he want of people pointing out just how little we think a Pulitzer is worth these days.

Posted by Donald Johnson at July 2, 2010 12:42 AM
Godwin, at Nell's cite: It was, in fact, with a heavy heart, dismayed at how quickly the enormity of the Nazis and the Holocaust was being eroded in political culture, that I set out to inspire people to think more deeply about glib comparisons.

I've never bought this notion. People who compare something to a superlative may be exaggerating the nature of the thing being compared, but how does this diminish the superlative itself? By definition it remains superlative, especially if people engaged in hyperbole keep using it as a yardstick. I see no evidence whatsoever that calling a merely bad politician a "fascist" leads to people having a less derogatory view of fascism, that comparing a smaller massacre to the Holocaust gives the impression the Holocaust was no big thing, or that styling every unloved dictator a "new Hitler" will mean that if a real new Hitler came along we'd be bereft of anything to call them. And I'm super tired of the ludicrous claim that such overblown rhetoric "insults" the victims of the superlative evil used in the comparison.

Just for the record.

Posted by weaver at July 2, 2010 02:13 AM

Weaver--way to challenge orthodoxy! Of course you're largely right, because by now most people have no sense of old-time fascism at all, and you can't diminish their sense of nothing that much.

The great utility of Hitler, and why he can't be cheapened, is that we fought and defeated Hitler, (albeit reluctantly and for some even grudgingly) so we slayed the dragon. That means we are wielding the Sword of Righteousness, so you can't cheapen what Hitler did, because that would dimish us too.

Never mind all the ugly realities underneath, both the preceding events that took him to power in Germany with much outside assistance and those event subsequent to his death when we absolved all the Nazis and put them to work for us. Forget especially that Hate hasn't vanished from the earth, and forget that it flourishes even now, causing sadness among some people who still do for good reason remember that old-time fascism:

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/06/30/israels_press_political_leukemia/?ref=fpblg

(The linked piece by Uriel Procaccia is very good.)

Posted by N E at July 2, 2010 10:04 AM

"Many people support programs and assistance abroad, even people who aren't as good as Susan,"

Thank you for the compliment, but I have to say that I do not support programs and assistance abroad by either the US military or the US government. I think they should stay the fuck home until they learn how to behave.

And I probably won't live long enough to see the day where they learn how to behave.

And after seeing how Canadian police acted at the G20, I think they should stay the fuck home too.

On another note, I am at the RESISTANCE FOR A NUCLEAR FREE FUTURE WORKSHOP in Maryville TN this weekend. Got to meet some of the original Plowshare Eight. Someone from LA gave me a US Peace Dollar (silver coin) from 1923. Never knew we had a Peace Dollar. The eagle is standing with olive branches in his claws.... really blows old Ashcroft's stupid song out of the water.

Anyone living out New Mexico way, check out DISARMAMENT SUMMER convergence action encampment.

By the way, the food is EXCELLENT here at Maryville College. Dorms are nice too, except for the roommate who turns up the A/C and freezes me!

Posted by Susan at July 3, 2010 11:04 PM

Susan

Lots of programs and assistance abroad aren't government programs, let alone military, though of course there are a lot of private phony assistance programs of the National Endowment for Democracy ilk. Still, I don't see why we should end EVERY government program abroad. I don't favor ending the Peace Corps just because, like everything else, it can be and at least occasionally has been abused.

I too didn't know there was a Peace Dollar in 1923, but I'm not so surprised. From our present perspective as warrior cultists, it really is shocking how non-militaristic the nation was in the 1920s. Most people were appropriately sickened by World War I, and many were also disgusted by how much companies like DuPont profited from the war. Hard as it is to believe, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and other minor powers even OUTLAWED WAR in the Kellogg-Brians Pact of 1928, which shows that too much hope shouldn't be placed in treaties without workable enforcement mechanisms (which is of course why Wilson had fought in vain for those mechanisms). I have a hunch that Colonel David Grossman is mostly right about what has caused this ugly national sea change.

I admire those Plowshares people and what you're doing. I need all the good examples I can get, so thanks.

Posted by N E at July 4, 2010 10:48 AM