[Of course, the dead hand of state censorship was heavier under the Soviets than in our ultra-modern, low-carb authoritarian system. We prefer witless diversion over outright repression, tasers over bullets, and the eager self-censorship of cozy, coddled media dullards over direct intervention by government functionaries -- although, to be sure, if repression, bullets and direct intervention (along with KGB-style torture, rendition, detention without trial, etc.) are deemed necessary, our elites are more than willing to oblige.]
But despite the glaring transparency of the NYT's stovepiping duties, it is still instructive to watch these operations in action now and then, if only to keep one's bullshit detector in fighting trim. And a story by Thom Shanker highlighted in the Times on Saturday provides an excellent example of this venerable and pernicious process.
The nugget of "news" in the story was unsurprising -- but its implications were no less disturbing for that. Shanker, in the usual cringing courtier mode of our higher media, funnels the usual unexamined, unquestioned spin of the usual anonymous "senior official" to let the rabble know that the poobahs on the Potomac are gearing up to fight even more wars simultaneously all over the globe. Specifically, what we have is -- as Shanker puts it in the inelegant prose that characterizes most NYT pieces - a "rethink [of] what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time."
No, what we need now, says Shanker's Anonymous Militarist, is the ability to fight every damn body every damn where in every damn kind of way. Not just a two-front war, but three-front wars, four-front wars, counterinsurgencies, police actions, nation-building (with the preceding nation-destroying, of course), on and on, all at the same time.
Nowhere -- absolutely nowhere -- does the story give the slightest space for even the briefest consideration of a viewpoint that questions in even the mildest way the assumption that the United States should and must be prepared at all times to wage war on multiple fronts all over the world, forever. No, this "need" is simply a given -- for Thom Shanker, for the New York Times, and for the bipartisan Beltway elite.
But let's give credit where it's due. We should note that Shanker does not rely solely on the word of the anonymous Senior Pentagon Official in preparing the American people for decades of endless war. To provide some needed context and nuance on this issue, he also quotes two Serious Experts. Who are they? Try not to laugh when you hear.
One of them is Thomas Donnelly, the author of the report published in 2000 by the Cheney-Rumsfeld group Project for a New American Century, which we have detailed so often in these pages and elsewhere. The other is astroturf "liberal" Michael O'Hanlon – yes, the same Iraq warhawk who falsely painted himself as a progressive opponent of the Iraq War who had been "converted" to the noble cause by Bush's vaunted "surge." That's right: the "perspective" on the Administration's move to a multi-war strategy was provided by two ardent proponents of aggressive military intervention around the world.
Donnelly's PNAC report -- a blueprint followed faithfully by the Bush Administration -- openly yearned for a "new Pearl Harbor" that would "catalyze" the American people into adopting PNAC's global militarist agenda wholesale. The report also called for imposing an American military presence in Iraq -- even if Saddam Hussein were no longer on the scene. Here are some of the points of Donnelly's report on behalf of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, and other PNAC members. And remember, these were set down in September 2000 -- long before PNAC's longed-for "new Pearl Harbor" in September 2001; you know, the day that "changed the world" and has been used to justify the Terror War and the further militarization of American society. As we noted in the earlier PNAC piece, Donnelly, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, called for:
And note this point from the 2000 PNAC report:
That earlier piece also had more about the mindset of this "expert" called in by the Times:
Donnelly, a former journalist and legislative aide, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs last year that America should look to its "imperial past" as a guide to its future. Reviewing The Savage Wars of Peace, a pro-Empire book by journalist Max Boot, Donnelly cites approvingly the "pacification" of the Philippines by American forces in 1898-1900, in which at least 100,000 Filipinos were killed in a bid for independence. He also points to the U.S. Army's success in subduing the Native American tribes in a series of small wars, and, closer to our time, the efficient "constabulatory operation" in Panama, which was invaded by the first President Bush in 1989. Similar "savage wars of peace" – pacifications, counterinsurgencies, police actions, invasions – will be required to maintain the new American Empire, says Donnelly.
And here too, George W. Bush has clearly echoed the thinking of the PNAC members who now surround him in the White House. Speaking at a Republican fundraiser last August, the President seemed keenly aware of the heavy price in blood and treasure the nation will have to pay to maintain its imperium in the New American Century: "There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland."
This now has become the theme of the Obama Administration as it seeks "to develop the ability to 'fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars.'" But what else to be expected from a new president who chose to retain the militarists' hand-picked Pentagon poobah – longtime Bush Family factotum Bob Gates – as head of the nation's war machine? This unprecedented action -- carrying over a Defense Secretary from the regime of a party vanquished at the polls – was entirely Obama's decision. Thus he is not being sandbagged or undermined or played by Bushist moles in the Pentagon, as many Obamalators like to believe; the people in the Pentagon now are there because the new president wants them to be there.
Donnelly, bless his heart, is admirably open about the assumptions behind the strategy shift, telling the NYT:
“We have to do many things simultaneously if our goal is to remain the ultimate guarantor of international security,” Mr. Donnelly said. “The hedge against a rising China requires a very different kind of force than fighting an irregular war in Afghanistan or invading Iraq or building partnership capacity in Africa.”
"The ultimate guarantor of international security": i.e., the old dream of global Pax Americana – with the world's nations in the same position vis-à-vis the "guarantor" as they were under the ultimate model for our militarists: the "Pax Romana" in days of yore. Of course, one of those old Romans had a better description of the reality of such guarantees of security. The historian Tacitus put it the mouth of a recipient of Rome's international security, the British chieftain Calgacus:
A rich enemy excites their cupidity; a poor one, their lust for power. East and West alike have failed to satisfy them.... To robbery, butchery, and rapine, they give the lying name of "government"; they create desolation and call it peace.
Creating a desolation and calling it peace is also high on the list for O'Hanlon, an incontinent quoter who is dragged out at every opportunity by the stovepipers to give "liberal" cred to their warlike designs. As we noted in August 2007 – in the midst of the escalation and "ethnic cleansing" operation in Iraq known as the "surge," O'Hanlon was prominent among the "liberal hawks" who were pushing the truly barbaric "solution" of partitioning Iraq into ethnic enclaves – by force, if need be. As noted below, another of these barbarians was the man Obama picked as his vice president: Joe Biden. (See original for all links):
The idea of a three-way split of Iraq between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds has long been mooted in some quarters -- Joe Biden and "liberal" intellectuals like Leslie Gelb and Peter Galbraith were early enthusiasts -- and it is now gaining force within the foreign policy "clerisy" that Glenn Greenwald and Arthur Silber have been dissecting in recent days. Firedoglake points us to the incisive commentaries of Reidar Visser, "an actual expert on the regional aspects of Iraq and its history," who has lately been debunking the deeply ignorant and murderously arrogant "partition" proposals of Galbraith and others.
Visser takes aim at one of the most hideous of these proposals: "The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq," by respected "scholars" Michael O'Hanlon (see A Tiny Revolution for more on this fine mind of our time) and Edward Joseph. When I first read of these gentlemen's work, I thought it must surely be a parody, a take-off on the deadly serious, genocidal fantasies of Philip Atkinson, who, on a website hardwired to the rightwing power grid of Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey and Dick Cheney, called for Bush to nuke Iraq, repopulate it with Americans and declare himself President-for-Life. The O-Hanlon-Joseph piece for the highly respectable Brookings Institution partakes of that same kind of murderous fantasy. As Visser notes:
...using cool academic language, the authors review the nuts and bolts of relocating somewhere between 2 and 5 million Iraqis in order to create new ethnic federal entities. Snippets from this part of the report probably speak best for themselves: “we advocate where possible dividing major cities along natural boundaries” (p. 16); “on the actual day of the relocation operation, Iraqi and US-led coalition forces would deploy in sufficient numbers to look for snipers, cover the flanks of the civilian convoys, inspect suspicious vehicles for explosives and conduct similar tasks” (p. 17); and finally, on p. 24, “this [internal border] control system would place some burdens on Iraq’s internal trade and other aspects of its economy. It would complicate the efforts of individuals to cross from one region to another to visit family and friends. For the most part these burdens would be bearable. For individuals or businesses that need to make frequent crossings across Iraq’s new internal borders, or those willing to pay for the privilege, an EZ pass system [sic] might be developed to expedite movements for those with important and regular business to conduct.”
"On the actual day of the relocation operation...." Try to imagine such a day, when millions of Iraqis are uprooted and forced to move to other areas, all under guard by "Iraqi and US-led coalition forces." Actually it's not that hard to imagine, for we have seen it before: in faded photographs and newsreel footage and films like "The Sorrow and the Pity," "Shoah," and "Schindler's List." Less familiar in the popular imagination but perhaps even more apposite are the "relocations" of ethnic populations carried out by Josef Stalin, when whole peoples, such as the Chechens, were uprooted and transported by force to other regions. Or we could of course look closer to home, at the "Trail of Tears," the deadly removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to concentration camps in Oklahoma.
These kinds of scenes are precisely what the clean-limbed O'Hanlon and his partner envisage for Iraq, followed by a life ensnared by checkpoints and passes and internal border controls. It may sound harsh, brutal and inhuman, but not to worry: "For the most part these burdens would be bearable."
I have a suggestion for Mr. O'Hanlon. I propose that he subject himself to such a regimen, then come back and tell just us how "bearable" it is. He doesn't even have to move five million Iraqis under armed guard to participate in this experiment: he can go to Palestine right now, where the people already live under his kind of "soft partition." Let him try it on for himself, just for a few months -- not the lifelong sentence he proposes for the Iraqis. We can even give him an "EZ Pass" to expedite any "important business" he needs to do.
And so in the recent story, O'Hanlon – described by the Times as a "liberal-centrist" – is trotted out to put a positive, progressive spin on the multi-war plan. It's a "good start," he says, because the Bush-Obama war chief Bob Gates has said that other parts of the government need to pitch in more on the imperial project; the Pentagon can't run the world all on its own. At least, that's what I think O'Hanlon said. His "insight" is such mushy, think-tank wankery that it's hard to divine any genuine content in it. Like Shakespeare's malapropic Dogberry, O'Hanlon is "too cunning to be understood." Here's the quote:
“We have Gates and others saying that other parts of the government are underresourced and that the DoD should not be called on to do everything” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “That’s a good starting point for this — to ask and at least begin answering where it might be better to have other parts of the government get stronger and do a bigger share, rather than the Department of Defense.”
Whatever you say, Kev. But I sure hope you don't waste your next EZ Pass out of Gaza to dredge up boilerplate like this.
So there you have the considered, professional and, above all, serious analysis of the New York Times and its "experts." A strategy to commit the United States, and its cannon fodder – sorry, its citizens – to the service of a war machine capable of fighting endless, multi-level, violent conflicts simultaneously around the world does not occasion any demur, objection, pause for thought or – God forbid! – the slightest consideration that an ever-expanding, ever-meddling global empire of more than 700 military bases in 160 countries, and the aggressive foreign policy which put them there, might not be the best way to guarantee the peace and security of the American people. (Much less the bombed, droned, death-squadded and meddled-with targets of the strategy.)
No, when it comes to expanding American domination by force, menace, violence and death, our bipartisan courtiers and conduits of empire agree: It's all good!
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.
This story was published on March 15, 2009.