Conventional Idiocy

David Sanger has been writing the conventional wisdom for as long as I can remember, but this morning he has really become John McCain’s talking puppet. In trying to justify why we should be sending troops to Syria and Libya, he quotes Romney Neo Con Eliot Cohen.

To Mr. Obama’s critics, the root of the seeming absence of American leverage in the Middle East today is a light footprint that was simply too light.

“I think the way to understand Obama’s approach — I wouldn’t call it a strategy — is that he has a uniform preference to keep most problems at a distance,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies who worked for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and helped develop Mr. Romney’s critique of Mr. Obama’s approach. “That is what the light footprint has been all about. And it’s run out of gas.”

I have no patience for Sanger or any of the Beltway buffoons who managed to convince us for 60 years that the United States needs to be the unpaid policeman of the world. How much blood and treasure in useless wars that will never solve Sunni-Shia conflict, is enough for these chicken hawks? Obama’s did exactly the right thing in Libya,and he is right to stay out of the Syrian Civil War. I will say what no one seems to acknowledge. Ambassador Chris Stevens had no business being in Benghazi with a two person security detail. It was only his own self inflated sense of invulnerability that brought him there and there is no reason to change Obama’s new “light touch” foreign policy, just because Stevens made a mistake.

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42 Responses to Conventional Idiocy

  1. JTMcPhee says:

    I wish that “unpaid policeman of the world” phrase would magically disappear from the language. “We” are not acting as policemen, not even as old Chicago or new New York cops. “We” are, in Mayor Daley’s immortal words, “not there to create disorder, [we] are there to PRESERVE disorder.” And more important and even double-down more stupid, to act as a bunch of frikkin’ mercenaries for various warlords and economic interests of multiple post-national or pretend-national corporations that are clearly inconsistent (to put it mildly) with the interests of ordinary wealth-creating and job-doing citizens who fund all this fun. “War is a racket,” was and is: Smedley Butler was right. The amount of financial and “performance” fraud conducted and gotten away with by the whole Pentagram Province is amazing, and it’s a tribute to the stoic idiocy of all those hundreds of millions of us who make it possible for the Few, the Proud, the Army Strong etc. and their wildly incompetent (when it comes to that fundamental job skill, “advising whether to commit the nation to war — actually, in fact, doing much or most of the commitment deciding by controlling the information and stocking up on certain weapons” and of course “winning wars”) leadership to go award each other medals for valorous acts in unnecessarily picked fights, or simple duration “in the service.”

    Pretty hard, almost impossible (maybe other than executing Osama bin Laden, finally) to point to much in the way of “success” on the part of the whole MIC thing, especially if “success” is not measured by protecting THEIR way of life, which deserves some study as an example of parasitism/metastatic tumor writ very very large, against Budgetary Attacks by A Tiny Cabal of Evil Congresspeople and anyone in the Executive who might DARE to question F-35s or 600-ship navy or any of a host of “bases” being implanted everywhere across the planet, and all the rest.

    But for me, at my age, why the fuck should I even care any more? As I often say, it’s too big, it’s got momentum, it’s gathering speed going downhill straight at Dead Man’s Gulch where the long frail trestle across the chasm has been short-changed on the infrastructure-maintenance scale, and the engineering inevitability is a gigantic train wreck with tons of casualties.

  2. Alex Bowles says:

    Something about the closing remarks in that Post piece seem very wrong.

    Peter Feaver, a National Security Council official in the Bush administration, defended the generals’ need for perks and large staffs, noting that when they entertain foreign dignitaries they are bound by military standards of pageantry and protocol that don’t exist in the State Department.

    “The military is trapped in an older cultural time warp,” Feaver said.

    Trapped, I tell you, trapped! Helpless, stranded, and alone they suffer horribly from an inability to fight their way out. Also, is it really possible for the Pentagon to trigger a diplomatic incident and / or an armed attack on America by failing to offer others enough…pageantry?

    The tail is wagging the peacock something fierce.

  3. JTMcPhee says:

    @Jon Taplin
    When I was in the service, I got detailed to the golf course at Ft. Rucker, AL. My job was to wander around out in the driving range, with one of those little ball-picker-upper things with a snout attached to a drum. I was to do this while the range was operational, and fucking officers tried to hit me with their shots. Don’t get me started on what debasement is involved for GIs at the hands of the Brass. It’s endless, and it’s worse now than it was when there was a mythical Citizen’s Army.

    And one of my squad-bay mates at Ft. Eustis, VA, was crew chief for the fort’s commanding officer’s personal military-provided airplane. A general who back then had to be content with just a Beechcraft King Air twin turboprop, none of those 737-class or private-jet planes, which my buddy got to keep spiffed up all the time so the Gen. could fly off for expensive meals here and there at lobbyist expense (it was the center of the Army Materiel Command at the time, all those procurement dollars) and to his favorite thing, professional golf matches all over the country.

    Granted, the baksheesh and shit are nothing new under the sun. But I hate the fucking fraud that it hides behind, that these people are all “defending our Freedoms and Way of Life.” That is bullshit of the most refined sort. It’s a War Department, NOT a “department of defense,” and what they do is mostly insane. The whole “Global War on Terror,” the infinite appetite for MONEY to buy WEAPONS, the endless perks and bennies for the 1% at the top of the O-series (and even E-series — Sergeant Majors live high on the hog too.) And of course it’s the kind of irremediable insanity that is driving people like me always closer to our personal edges, in the horror of knowing where it’s all heading and the stupid fucking inevitability of it all.

    In the meantime, Our Government is replenishing the armory of Israel, and engaging in other wholesale idiocies.

    Who. Fucking. Cares.

  4. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Probably my reentry into these sweepstakes is unwelcome, given my last perfervid go ’round, but you guys, you guys…

    In the fairly uneventful years 1988-1991 I worked at The Center for International Security and Arms Control (CISAC, now still more peaceably renamed), and, look, we did two things from a very interdisiplinary, creative mix of perspectives: we briefed BOTH teams for nuclear arms control treaty negotiations, and we mulled and sponsored new iniatives for global peace. OF COURSE militarism is a racket, the world over! Jesus. And yet OF COURSE THE U.S. MILITARY AND ITS ARMORERS ARE NOT MERE MERCENARIES! Y’all know that it’s variously both more honorable and more dishonorable, even murderous, than that, and greatly more complicated. Yet still, the world’s bloody dangerous, far beyond the ken of our Romper Room West Wing and its Fisher-Price standards of statesmanship and the national security interest. The powers arrayed against us are not only militating but are killing us already. Those twin facts excuse no military or pecuniary excesses on our People’s behalf, but facts they remain. And who remains Commander-in-Chief is a young man so inexplicably, transparently truant from his defense responsibilities that he cannot stand but to surround his Cabinet Table with others older, wiser, more accomplished, hardened and serious. I’m not trying to rerun this past election. This is here and now. And deadly as hell.

  5. Fentex says:

    A little bit off-topic, but related to outrageous expenses in the U.S, I recall in the past as people debated Obama care wondering if the U.S had two choices for improving it’s return on health spending – a system more like Frances or Singapores where the best examples of single payer/socialised health care were copied.

    Or better committing to markets and killing the inefficiencies and gouging of the current model by forcing more stringent competition on hospitals and insurers.

    This article, from an apparently slightly ideological perspective, seems to make a strong argument for the efficacy of competition.

    And it occurs to me that the observation in it that this demonstration of competition in action is possibly due to Oklahoma’s different regulatory environment supports the argument that increased devolution to states will provide the laboratories in which entrepreneurship and other innovative solutions can reinvigorate and improve the countries health, literally and metaphorically.

  6. Fentex says:

    I don’t think there’s any need to jump on poor Stevens and blame him for getting himself killed.

    The worlds a dangerous place and no matter what the Presidents policy someone, somewhere, some time is going to get killed by someones politics – either the Presidents ambitions, enemies of the U.S’s purposes, or as a third party in events beyond them.

    Until evidence proves anything different this Benghazi things seems like a one off event in which opponents tried to exploit an opportunity. It was hardly a threat to the existence of the U.S.

    I can’t quite figure out why the issue has any legs – it’s hardly surprising there are people who would want to assault representatives of the U.S is it? And odds are they’ll sometimes do some damage regardless of the Presidents particular policies of the moment.

    Libya is a nation with some turmoil trying to organize itself after forty something years of dictatorship, everyone there might find themselves caught up in some loons violent plans and on the wrong side of a sucking power vacuum.

    This kind of thing is always a threat, like being hit by a drunk driver. Maybe Stevens was a little careless but given how sane Libya is (don’t believe the doom criers just yet, Libya is dealing reasonably well with it’s situation) I rather think it’s more a compliment to the situation he could be misled into thinking it more secure than it turned out.

  7. Rick Turner says:

    The sister of a good friend of mine works in the US diplomatic corps. She said that whatever troops (Marines, I believe) were in Benghazi were there to protect information…computers and hard drives…NOT people. That consulate was a CIA post, simple as that, and the attack was against our spy agency. That’s how it goes in the spy biz. And the folks there should have been very aware of and afraid of an attack. The bad guys…well, the other bad guys…aren’t as stupid as “we” would like to think they are. I cannot imagine that they did not know that there was a US spy nest in their midst, and of course they were going to take advantage of any turmoil that might provide cover and distraction from their goal of destroying that spy nest. And any of our people who were on the ground must have known that they were/are in constant mortal danger. That’s the game…

  8. Rick Turner says:

    So, Hugo, what are the “good” reasons for us to be militarily involved in the Middle East and Africa? Aside from the platitudes re. bringing freedom to the world, and all that stuff… Oil? Minerals? Make-work for the MICC?

  9. Rick Turner says:

    Bring back the draft…and make sure that the sons and daughters of every politician and corporate big wig cannot weasel out…

    And then see what happens…

    We’ll be outta there fast…

  10. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Rick, did I say something about military involvement? About Africa, or the Middle East? Did I refer to “reasons” good or otherwise, for anything? Or are you pulling a straw man gambit…

  11. Rick Turner says:


    Hugo, what am I to make of this emphatic statement?

    I feel that they are mere mercenaries hired and paid by the MICC…which is a way of saying they’re paying themselves by convincing the public that these expenditures are honorable and necessary. That suckers get pulled into the game is a tragedy…and then we’re called upon to “support the troops”…while letting the troops’ bosses off the hook. Cannon fodder…that’s what the troops are, and they’ve been bamboozled into thinking they’re doing an honorable thing.

  12. JTMcPhee says:

    @Hugo St. Victor
    Most of the danger, and here I am reading from recent dips into Barbara Tuchman’s stuff, like “The MArch of Folly” and “The Proud Tower,” and one personal favorite, Gary Schroen, CIA paramilitary fixer’s book “First In: How The CIA Spearheaded The War On Terror In Afghanistan,” comes from sociopaths being turned loose with certain kinds of skills and money and weapons and authority over men and women to wield them behind some spooky shield of “national interest” that is never clarified or defined.

    There’s a lot of people, including some near relatives, who have done their careers doing sneaky-pete stuff that more often than not is pot-stirring, instability-creating, and what I guess could be called “fund-raising” for various unavowable evils that are ALWAYS justified as “necessary for our national security,” even if the actual game is running drugs or peddling weapons or some little internecine budgetary or who-gets-to-advise squabble. It does not take too much dipping into the vast technical and doctrinal and procurement literature of the larger MIC, the global entity that is happy to sell weapons and tricks here, there and everywhere for a buck two-eighty and a long night with a lovely whore, to see the real nature of the Racket-Beast. (One favorite, I think it was Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that sold back in the height/deeps of the cold war thing some extremely large, extremely precise metal-machining equipment to the Rooskies for maybe $50 million, who then replaced all the propellors on their submarines with much better profiled and smoother ones that did not cavitate hardly at all, rendering helpess “our” hundreds of billions of dollars in submarine listening gadgetry used to track the Soviet missile and attack subs, requiring more hundreds of billions in more of that idiot tail-chasing that we like some crazed hound are now doing without even much of an “enemy” to justify the “jobs programs” that the MIC is operating on a constant fraud footing. And this is the Best We Humans Can Do? Purely rhetorical, of course.)

    No doubt there are people of good faith both in the State Security Apparatus and the Larger, Ever Larger Military, working alongside the other ferrets and jackals and tapeworms that populate our sneakypetery in Langley and elsewhere, like across the Bay here at MacDill/Centcom. But WE as far as I can see ARE indeed acting as mercenaries for people in places like Israel and Saudi Arabia and Kabul. And now “pivoting” toward Asia and Africa and South America and the Polar Extractable Regions. And for chrissake PAYING for the “privilege.” With pallet-loads of tons of non-sequential used $100 bills, and wasn’t the CIA so PROUD that they thought they had suborned one of the Afghani warlords by “gifts” of money and a bunch of Vi-fucking-agra, who then once again turned on “us” in favor of his tribe/family/clan?

    There’s millions of examples on all sides, people full of depravity as Rodrigo Borgia, who bought the Papacy in 1492 and anointed himself “Alexander VI,” and you think Obama is just a babe in the woods and maybe so, but he’s a babe with a pen to sign a finding that Hellfires somebody and their neighbors to kingdom-come.

    Like you say, it’s complicated, and no doubt, humans being so agile at coming up with better explosives and “smart delivery systems,” and now being able to designer-build a nice plague virus or bacterium, are a deadly stupid fucking species, when you integrate all the areas under all the curves. That’s no reason to simply accept that “those people behind the screen” are doing goddam ANYthing that benefits either the US or humanity in the long haul. We’re more like what I read of Italy during the 1400s — lots of little feuding tricky machiavellian-educated fiefdoms all playing the current round of the Great Game, personally profiting but at the expense of horror and misery for the most of the people all of the time. (Did you note that “Call of Duty: Black Ops” took in $500 million in the first weekend of its release? Have you ever immersed yourself in any of those murderous simulations, warfare as people are starting to recognize where the Troops are not fighting, them and their Band of Brothers, for any sensible goal or virtue, but merely to stay alive and take vengeance on relatives or maybe even opponents — complicated, again — of people who killed some of their buddies who were only within range because of stupid fucking geopolitical idiocies that have the US and our wealth protecting the oil states and Israel and now the Chinese mining interests in Notagainstan. Like we were on a different tack with in Angola, the CIA arming and training and propping up a murderous flake named Jonas Savimbi, whose AK-and-RPG-totin’ ragtaggers were actually attacking nominal US (actually post-national) mining properties there, and CUBAN troops, brought there by those anti-capitalist Soviets, were protecting, DEFENDING, US ha-ha mines from CIA Capitalist attacks. Riddle me how that all worked, again?

    As I often say, there’s a need for a spiritual awakening, a common revulsion at The Way Things Are Done, and some kind of simple moral compass heading, like the Jesus version, not the Jamie Dimon twist, of the Golden Rule, to start measuring all our actions by and directing them. And I have lived long enough and read and seen enough of human behavior to know that is one seriously futile wish. We are evil, we can rationalize, and we finally have in the hands of some of us the keys to technology, innovation if you will, that can and most likely will kill all of us. My personal mantra is becoming “I don’t, CAN’T care.” There is no medicine for this actual worldwide melancholy.

    Happy Sunday, it was a beautiful day here in St. Petersburg, sunny, clear and cool. Sharp air says our version of winter is a-coomin’ in, the salt water is clearing of algae and you can see the bottom again. My dogs are just LOVIN’ the change from summer-heat prostration. Love is the answer — ah, what was the question, again?

  13. Mark Morris says:

    The company was Toshiba. I swore I would never buy anything from them ever again. I was an ignorant innocent back then.

    Here are some interesting writers that give us a history and explanation of how and why American culture is the way it is:

    A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America”
    By Colin Woodard

    “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America” by David Hackett Fischer

    “Deer Hunting With Jesus” by Joe Bageant

  14. Hugo St. Victor says:

    As JTM and Mark imply, it’s difficult not to put this into an “Americanist” perspective, the perspective of practitioners of the surprisingly homespun Yale School of what used to be American Studies but now has morphed into literary theory and close textual analysis under the flag of “American Cultural Studies”. The disciplinary shift in emphasis tells. The former field was about evenly betrothed to schools of journalism and to graduate concentrations in American Literature; was devoted as much to ethnology, ethnography, gumshoe field reporting as it was to the now unfashionable chasing after a unifying Anthro Theory, the elusive “Science of Man”; was, like our Woody Guthrie, happily bigamous — in our case, with Historiography-as-of-the-Humanities warming the other bed of Historiography as Positivistic Social Science, quantifiably certified by a Justice of the Peace as damned lucrative for any enterprising university president or ambitious gradschool dean. The newer scholars, who by dint of old-fashioned academic piracy leapfrog from New Haven to Durham to Atlanta and Nasville — wherever the endowments lure — receive, mint and then subsidiarize dissertations upon such trendy things as The Metaphor of the Jungle Plantation in French Indo-China 1937-1948, or, on the more Positivistic and pseudo-Continental West Coast, The Neopostmodern Dialectal Gerschistelischte Oompah of Vietnamese Concubines from 1945 to Dien Bien Phu: A Quanto-Historical Analysis. Margaret Mead, be damned. Damn the Smithsonian, All Careers Ahead!

    A hallmark of our old trade is wit in all its endlessly dark or bellyachingly funny American forms. Twain, he da Man. Everything and anything is a “text” which, with a rigor reluctantly recalled, we “grid” out by category of its cultis over against the more or less socioecomic status of its cultural source. (JTM probably will recognize in this the tried-n-true AlphaNumeric appreciations of field officers in the benighted military intelligence services). As though we are folklorists in pay of the Library of Congress we tramp about looking for our own, beautiful and ugly People, expressing themselves in their own, wondrously and endlessly various, but more often unconsciously derivative, ways. Together we Yanks make for quite a hymn. But maybe it’s so cacophanous that it cannot be appreciated this side of the universities Cambridge, McGill, and Mexico. I do worry about that. And love it also.

    Rather like Mark Twain we as a rule are perfectly ambivalent toward the anthropogenic technologies of human communication, today spelled in plural form. As we know Twain (and for that matter, Gen. Sherman), coming of age in the time of the steamboat, the railroad and the telegraph, made good use of those quaint means of communication. He also hated the Telephone. At the same time, were I, say, Andrew Mellon, or William Dean Howells, perhaps I’d have steered our friendly Mr. Clemens away from investing in the “type compositor” and instead toward the publishing rights to John Robert Gregg’s “Shorthand Method”. But that’s just me. Hell, I travel with a full on “com rig” provided by the Business Services division of AT&T Bauer, Orvis and Fitch; yet, in the spirit of the hardass Marine who cubbed me, I still gots my redundancies for back-up: steno pad, bruised Hermes Rocket compact manual, thrashed Nikon F, a ruggedized old Sony cassette recorder with various microphones, and a boxful of Eberhard-Faber No. 2 blue lead pencils. If we still had copy editors and payphones I’d probably carry also a roll of dimes, suitable in a pinch for squabbles with union boors and gun thugs alike. Similarly, were there publishers still willing to cut a check for investigative field reporting, I might brandish a Texas Bankroll of “unsequential used $100 bills” with which to salt desk clerks, police dispatchers, barkeeps and other gossips for leads on interviewees. They just don’t teach such venerable methods (excuse me: methodological instrumentalities) in English departments and fancy schools of that thing called “Communications”. More’s the pity. Transitory fads in education really don’t matter much, though, so long as you don’t mind burning student cohorts miseducated by the miseducated. The fads don’t much matter because the bought Navy Department and the decrepit labor unions still operate the most effective systems of education in our country.

    We Boomers probably should try to keep our “Movement Nostalgia” in check. It can cause us to view defense work, diplomacy, modern activism through the purple lenses of psychedelic Granny Glasses, no matter how battle-scarred we otherwise may be. Movement music of course is a deep, cold well of sweetwater. Movement sex likewise is unforgettable. Peace, fleeting. Peacemaking, our heretitary duty.

    It turns out that there are far more forms of peacemaking than I could’ve imagined from doting upon the American Songbook. I’ve been astounded to see so many of the finest, necessarily crypto-Humanist, scholars in the world unifying their academic work in such multivarious assaults upon the “sociopathy” and even the psychopathy of our hired briggands and their greedhead, camp-following whores who wholesale bloodlust. Some of the battling peaceniks are poets, musicians and visual artists, yes. Thank God. Some of the other peacemakers today are physicians, engineers, physicists, diplomats, ethologists, literary theorists, even Americanists. And still others are hardass Marines. Believe it or not.

  15. Jon Taplin says:

    @Fentex My understanding was that Stevens was in Benghazi to visit a friend and did not want a big security detail. It should not have been his choice.

  16. Rick Turner says:

    Another thread turning into “the more words typed, the less meaning communicated…”

  17. Steve White says:

    Jon, if Stevens was in Benghazi just to visit a friend and declined a big security detail, why didn’t the administration tell us that instead of making up the story about the you tube video? why the big cover up?

  18. rhbee says:

    Earthbound we be. Somewhere between Stone Arabia and MexAmerica. It’s a desert out there says Ambrose on his way out. Too bad Tom Robbins.

  19. len says:

    Jon Taplin :@Fentex My understanding was that Stevens was in Benghazi to visit a friend and did not want a big security detail. It should not have been his choice.

    He should have been a charge d’affairs, not an ambassador. This one is screwed up but I don’t think the administration was covering up more than a botched operation where they have to protect existing assets. IOW, some facts aren’t coming out but it isn’t hard to pick it apart.

  20. Rick Turner says:

    Frankly, I don’t see why this whole thing is such a big deal given that there is an NGO (or several…) at war with us; they had assets on the ground in Benghazi; they saw an opportunity to strike another blow in the Great War Against the Infidel; and they struck when and where they could. It would not surprise me to learn that they had no idea that they were killing the American ambassador; they were just hitting available targets.

    The administration got caught in the fog of war, simple as that. Yes, it’s too bad that four of our guys got offed…but they knew they were part of this war. It’s not like they were simple minded missionaries being boiled up by the natives in some cliched horror adventure movie. Benghazi was a CIA post, and as such a target. It’s not much different from Gary Powers being shot down over the Soviet Union many decades ago, only he got captured, not shot. Spies are “fair game”…and that includes our guys. We’ve been playing the assassination game for many years; so have the bad guys…it’s just that their names have changed ethnicity now.

  21. len says:

    The big deal appears to be John McCain has a grudge with Susan Rice because of remarks she made in 2008. OTW, yes, it’s a service job and dangerous. I’ve a friend who was in that business and it is dangerous. Also the close relationship of the CIA and State is highlighted. The mystery IMO is the militants knew more about timing and location than they should have so something went wrong operationally.

    OTW, it’s a tragic event but not unexpected. I’m pissed the event is being used politically. The Republicans don’t seem to be learning.

  22. Steve White says:

    Len, don’t you think the Democrats started using this tragic event politically by pushing the false narrative about the you tube video? They could have said “no comment” or “it’s classified” or whatever. Instead they made up a bogus story. Why?

  23. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Rick, lots of meanings, returning to three, from a personal and Americanist perspective, connecting: (a) discussions here of contributions to musical heritage, its imitation, theft and loss; (b) the zombie undead state of the erstwhile Press; and (c) nostalgic formulations of U.S. military strategy and foreign policy. An attempt at entwining these strings into a cord, a chord, accord. D’accord?

  24. Rick Turner says:

    Len, yes. Our “diplomatic” corps are basically soldiers at mortal risk in the field, and they know it. We’re supposed to believe, however, that they are non-combatant diplomats above the deadly fray. That’s just more bullshit.

    Steve, the media pressure on our elected and appointed officials is so intense that they often say too much or the wrong thing too quickly. She should have shut up. Fog of war stuff…

    Hugo, D’accord…

    And now we have Israel and the Palestinian stooges…the pawns of the Wahhabi, etc…going at it again. What I fail to understand is why the Israelis don’t have Palestine virtually blanketed with surveillance drone aircraft…which technology Israel was the first to use, and incredibly successfully so two decades ago…the Lebanon war. With eyes in the sky, they could pinpoint exactly where each and every rocket launching site is and simply take out those sites. The problem is, of course, that Hamas and friends situate those sites in residential neighborhoods, using their own civilians as human (media) shields. In a culture that glorifies suicide but also knows how to manipulate world opinion, that’s a tough one. But the Israelis could be more vocal about it all. If I were premier of Israel, I’d simply say that each rocket launching site will become a crater, and that any civilians who live near said sites are going to be unfortunate collateral damage.

    The underlying problem, of course, is that the Palestinians and their puppet masters are dedicated to killing off every Jew in the Middle East, and until they get off of that, there will be no peace. Not that the Israelis are helping the matter much…

  25. len says:

    @Steve White

    No. I think the bureaucracy ground down the talking points and then she was sent on the TV hat in hand doing the job she is trained to do. I think the “outrage” is politically manufactured by party hacks who were looking for any thing they could find to win the election knowing they had a losing candidate.

    Most people don’t really accept the fact that the State Dept is intricately entwined with intelligence operations and that when one goes south, bad stuff can happen. How many consulates and embassies were bombed in the Bush years, how many prompted this level of political outrage and who did they investigate? This event had causes and revealed a flawed operation. Figuring that out is important. Pushing Rice around really isn’t. As far as I can tell, she did the job she is trained to do.

    If I were questioned directly about my job, trivial as it is, with the papers I’ve signed, I’d hem and haw too. That’s just how national security works. You sign up for life.

  26. Steve White says:

    I don’t have a problem with Rice. I think she did what she was told to do. I’m just curious why she was told to push a narrative that was pretty clearly false. I agree the bureaucracy ground down the talking points. But why?

  27. len says:

    My guess: the operations went badly and until they understood exactly why, they invoked need to know. Politically rocky but the right move. IOW, the inconvenient truth for John McCain et al is they weren’t protecting the White House. They were operating according to established protocols given an interagency significant event where assets have been lost and compromised. There are reporting hierarchies that trump the public’s need or right to know. Until the end points of those are satisfied, they will lock everything and everyone else out. That is the right thing to do.

  28. JTMcPhee says:

    @Steve White
    Why? Maybe to give “conservatives” something else to flap at, in the nature of yet another false equivalence-shiny object distraction from their own fairly unAmerican (dare one say it) activities and dialogue? Keep pushing the talking points, now… Yah, the Democrat Party is all at fault for all this, right? Nothing to do with all the ranks and ranks of “conservatives” embedded in the whole hierarchy by decades of Red Ascendancy, of course, leading to what sure looks like national-suicide behavior if one is at all concerned about the long haul. See, e.g., imperial aspirations and climate change, and my new current favorite book, Tuchman’s “The March of Folly.” More proof of human cupidity and stupidity…

    But of course in the fog of demagoguery and self-serving BS, in a climate where artful dissimulation is applauded and well-paid, where the Carville-Matalin bipoles are the secret model that goes to bed every night laughing at how easy it is to distract and fleece the rest of us, who knows anything any more? This ain’t hardly a new condition — ask Machiavelli, who at least made a few bucks off sneering at the idiocy of his fellow humans…

    Few enough words? Void enough of meaning?

  29. Steve White says:

    Does invoking “need to know” require disseminating lies? Is “the fog of war” really a good enough excuse for an administration either being very wrong about what happened or intentionally misleading the public? I guess it is, at least for everyone but a Republican party hacks.

  30. Rick Turner says:

    Who needs to know? And who wrote the talking points? Did she get deliberately thrown under the bus? How about that for a conspiracy? Feed disinformation to your public speaker so they’ll get caught at it.

  31. JTMcPhee says:

    @Steve White
    Oh good — a new consistent viewpoint to learn new stuff about dissimulation from! I’ve been missing Warstler and that other guy. Maybe this is just a problem of small sample size and really you are a Jeffersonian Progressive, but what I hear is subtle, yes, but oh so clever disingenuity. Not as clever as David Brooks, or Krauthammer, or Buckley, but consistent maybe.

    It seems to my geriatric recall that the “Democrat Party” Hacks hardly have even a tiny corner on the market in intentional misleading of the public. I cite you anthrax, yellowcake and other WMD dissimulations, the “fact” that Hussein was per Cheney et al actively supporting al Quaeda and tied to 9/11, not only the Iraq I and II military things but the whole Afghanistan idiocy of which the true huge misbegotten nature and outrageous cost/wealth transfer are finally starting to be acknowledged. And of course Ollie North and all the people he was associated with, who couldn’t remember anything, and there’s no reason for me to spoil my dinner by recalling all the other shit that the Reds have saddled us with, including trickle-down and de-regulation and now the freakin’ Beltway-bandito fraud that sounds so horrible, the OMFG FISCAL CLIFF! that just DEMANDS that SOCIAL SECURITY BE PRIVATIZED INTO THE HANDS OF WALL STREET, AND MEDICARE/OBAMACARE DESTROYED BEFORE IT KILLS (us rich folks’ extra mansion and megayacht) BECAUSE OF YOU KNOW, THE DEFICIT! (that just WHO ran up again? and just WHO can print money and stop wars and all that stuff?) And yes, the evil little people who make up the various directorates lie across party lines, sho’nuff. It’s a little picayune to be picking on supposed, not even proven, unlikely to be borne out by House investigations, “insinuendo,” in one of Mayor Daley’s immor(t)al bits of coinage.

  32. Steve White says:

    Let me see if I understand your point. You’re saying I shouldn’t worry about being misled by the Obama administration because previous administrations have been significantly more deceptive? Okay, I’ll rest easy now. Thanks for the advice.

  33. Rick Turner says:

    There is the distinct possibility that she mis-spoke because she was mistakenly given bad information…info that seemed plausible, but was really fog-of-war wrong. The big mistake was the rush to reveal too much too soon before the info was properly fact checked and vetted. I still don’t see this as more than an unfortunate tempest in a teapot that is being exploited by a bunch of losers.

  34. Hugo St. Victor says:

    But isn’t it fairly nutso, how each party characterizes the other? So narrowly focussed on each other’s skeletons, real and, more often, confected and spun as cotton candy? At some point it feels to me like older guys bitching over beers about ex-wives, or else like smartass NYU punks announcing the fact that the U.S. once had been unkind to Filipinos, or that an omnipotent Creator can’t make an immovable rock. This is why I’ve always looked to radicals, artists, anthropologists, and the very old for a more sweeping view on our political pathologies and promise.

    The two parties we’ve got are what we have to work with, and neither one makes any Hegelian sense: they keep enobling then besmirching themselves, keep self-contradicting, keep reinventing, and taking their turns at bat. Our legacy isn’t the legacy of one hoary political organization or the other. Our legacy is a far more vast collective patrimony of every vice, every virtue. Panoramic and pointilist both. It’s banal as hell, yet often soaring. What other power has lain out such a long, weird smorgasbord? The Party ain’t the parties. They’re not the bill of fare and nobody came to feast on account of them.

    Three generations of my family have trusted in Native elders who’ve trusted us, and man, talk about “longview”! They watch our shit come and go, go and come, and though much of it embitters them still see a narrative arc bending back toward a reckoning with the Good. My late acquaintance Paulo Freire, a Brazilian almost defined by his intercourse with native peoples, once struggled through a Marxist interpreter to explain to me why he insisted on calling this older wisdom “the dialecticity of patience and impatience”. Now, that’s either a funny pastiche of post-Hegelian, Continental horseshit or else it’s one of those rare distillations that gets better with age. Take your pick.

    You folks at this table always, since I’ve known you, have been too large in thoughtfulness to be bounded by the ups and downs, the nobilities and depravities of one political party. No Yank is made to adjust to society anyhow, much less to a national political organization. Our common creed is to make and remake our society, to upbuild our culture, and to make its institutions suit us. At least that’s what I was taught.

    Villains and heroes are for the Saturday matinee.

  35. Hugo St. Victor says:

    also, permit me: JTM, your #14, above, really rang home. Thank you for taking the time to balance so many things in your unique voice. It’s a feat, I recognize, to be at all equable about stuff that’s pissed us all off for so many years and probably will do until each of us croaks his or her last.

  36. JTMcPhee says:

    @Steve White
    Better go back and read my toomanywords again. Your mischaracterization of what I said is nicely in keeping with what I am sensing is your politics and your style. Keep hammering away, good buddy — though in your case, of course, it seems less like hammering and more like how toe fungus infiltrates the nail beds… But after all, concentrating on one small set of messages and infiltrating them into the culture as Received Truths is how the Reds got to where they are today.

    And no, lying by any “administration” is not a good idea, in so many cases is just yet another slug of stupidity leading to prosecutions for lying to Congress but not for, of course, the actual substantive felonies, but of course as you are hearing here, and can if you care to look into the Redbrouhaha elsewhere, what you are stating as “everyoneknowsfact” are “lies” might be something a whole lot less “sinister.” And remember of course that “sinister” is one of those root-jump words that rhymes with “Leftist” that smells like “Socialist” that stinks like “Communist” which of course “conservative Rightists” would until so very recently rather have been “Dead Than Red.”

  37. len says:

    Does invoking “need to know” require disseminating lies?

    Yes. To confuse your enemy, absolutely. What is wrong is when you disseminate lies to lead your own nation into a war where there was nothing to hide. See George W. Bush.

  38. Rick Turner says:

    BTW, who “needed to know”? I didn’t. I’d be much happier if some of the “news” had a three or five day lag so “they” could get it right. And I wonder if the “lies” this time might not have been simple “mistakes”. Why does everything inflate into conspiracy? There’s too much “crying wolf” going on, and we’re going to miss a real event at some point because of finally not believing that everything is a conspiracy. I believe there are conspiracies, just not quite as many as are promoted. For instance, I have an acquaintance who is now completely into the “chem trail” conspiracy theory I think he’s nuts…but he can point to a number of actual conspiracies as his justification for believing this. Syphilis experiments, LSD experiments, poison cigars, etc., etc. Our government has been involved in a lot of really weird shit…

  39. len says:

    I agree and true. A kid in the office hit me with the entire “moon landings are faked and aliens are russian experiments” rants the other day. He cannot be dissuaded despite the fact that he is living in the town that built the rockets and trained the astronauts.

    This was my prime fear of the web before the beginning of internet time: amplification of superstition through repetition and assumption of authority. It is the ultimate conspiracy generator. Take a few odd facts and and a web of oft repeated assumptions and away they go.

    The problem of “need to know” is it can leave significant gaps to be filled in and the imaginations take over much like finishing a puzzle with close but force fit pieces. Then they send someone to the talk shows with overpolished scripts.

    What actually happened is fairly obvious now. How it became a brouhaha politically is also obvious. Somewhere in the email trail is a directive to edit some language. Find the author of that and you can find out why they took the information about terrorism out. On the other hand, the Brits told the press withint 24 hours and the fact that Rice still hit the circuit with a bad story reveals some bureaucratic incompetence. Big whoop.

  40. Hugo St. Victor says:

    len’s casual dicta serve to coalesce stuff that’s been rattling around since I was first vetted for a clearance. Len, aren’t our overseers creating a mystique, through which any teenage nerdazoid could drive a truckful of Found Paranoias and Conspiracy Notions? In a democracy is that good, or bad? I’ll cut to it: my full file, redacted of course, is forthcoming from the FBI. No antagonistic FOIA play, I just asked them, out of respect. I need to know now what are the state of my clearances and what the scoring of my vettings to pursue work in e.g. the District, Maryland, Redondo Beach, Berkeley, Livermore. I don’t at all care — indeed as a stubborn anti-credentialist I’d be happy for anyone to inspect my hamper — but Jesus you can’t even mention such perfunctory beaurocracy without punks flipping out! And frankly I find it darkly funny, this imbecilic response, because the Feds obviously didn’t care that I’d co-lead the “Divestment Movement”, consistently filmed, beaten, trampled by them. Big Brother, it seems, is home-ported in Panama. So I really don’t get what anyone is bitching about. The biblical rain falls on the just and unjust alike. So what? What else is new?

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