UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

March 23, 2009

FLOTSAM & JETSAM: HAS WASHINGTON GONE MAD?

Sam Smith

Has Washington gone mad? Certainly there are other factors affecting political matters, but if you are feeling that those in charge - regardless of party - are strangely disconnected from reality, you may be on to something.

When Washington is engaged in something absurd - like starting or escalating a bad war - its establishment coalesces around a set of presumptions of questionable logic and then approves - with the media's strong support - huge sums to test them.

One cause of this dysfunctional behavior is the great power vested in the capital. Among the advantages of such power is that you can blow a large number of bucks and bodies on a problem before you finally have to face the fact that what you're doing isn't working.

For example, soon after September 11, our leaders and much of our media drew the conclusion that our salvation lay in world dominance - in empire.

Within just days we moved from tragic reality to delusional myth. Empires don't have their major military and economic icons damaged or destroyed by a handful of young men with box cutters. Empires don't turn suddenly phobic at everything foreign, everything sharp, every place crowded. Empires don't jettison their Constitution and turn on their own people out of blind fear. Empires don't get hopelessly bogged down invading two small countries - one which had a military budget less than two percent of ours, the other with a gross domestic product smaller than the cost of the bombs we were dropping on it.

Something similar happened in Vietnam. The journalist Bernard Fall early in the conflict noted that the French, after their failed battle at Dien Bien Phu, had no choice but to leave Southeast Asia. America, with its vast military, financial, and technological resources, was able to stay because it had the capacity to keep making the same mistakes over and over.

The same was true of the hugely expensive war on drugs, which has been going on for over three decades and only now is it becoming somewhat acceptable to say so.

Now we are launched on a bailout of our financial system that no one can explain, no one knows where the money is going, and no one knows who is really going to benefit. An inordinate amount seems to be going to the wealthiest corners of the country while Congress and the White House remain stunningly indifferent to the more modest yet more critical needs of ordinary Americans. It all doesn't make sense but few seem interested in having it do so.

If you start to apply logic, it just doesn't work. It's not unlike those struggles one occasionally has trying to introduce the real into a fitful dream. The fantasy grabs back control all too easily.

Driving the fantasy are comforting words like stimulus and a trillion here, a trillion there. After all, how can you spend a trillion and not have it work? Unless it doesn't.

The irony is that Washington loves to define others as mad - the Palestinian insurgent, the skeptic concerning some badly resolved mystery such as the JFK death, an Illinois governor engaged in what seems now to be a somewhat modest scam, or - most recently - those fearful and crazy "populists" who have the nerve to be furious over what's going on.

By Washington's standards, insanity is the disease of the weak. Just look at the difference in the way the Governor Blago and the Bernie Madoff scandals have been handled: Blago is crazy but Madoff is just an evil genius.

The key issue is power. By the capital's rules, the powerful may be wrong, they may be corrupt, they may even be naive, but they may not be insane, because that would cut too close to the bone, threatening the widely accepted Washington thesis that power proves wisdom.

One way to help figure out what's going on is to count the bodies. Healthy people don't leave a trail of victims as they go through life. On the other hand, the disordered, no matter how convincing their claim to normalcy or how noble their purported purpose, produce a wake that tells a different story. The body count of the fiscal crisis is not comforting.

At the moment, much of Washington seems to be run by two groups: the crazy and those afraid to challenge the crazy. The latter group sadly includes our president, who owes his election in part to those who created the fiscal mess and relies on advisors who contributed to it. Saner economic voices are found on the Internet but not at the White House.

For those outside the capital and not responsible for the current crisis, knowing that a significant portion of what's happening isn't going to help or will help the wrong people, isn't based on logic and isn't being pursued in a rational fashion, may not be of much comfort. But it may save some time and angst searching for logical solutions in barren fields and guide our efforts elsewhere. Such as to an approach more like those of those fearful and crazy populists - the ones who started the fight for the graduated income tax, election of the Senate by direct vote, civil service reform, pensions and the eight hour workday. Now there's insanity we can believe in.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Troop suicides outnumber casualties. said...

6 Years On ... 'Soldier suicides skyrocket' and America is OUTRAGED over AIG's paltry $159 million
This week marks the beginning of the 7th year of the US war on Iraq, we're 7-1/2 years into bombing Afghanistan, with 17,000+ more troops now headed that way thanks to the changes wrought by a new administration, and now have US drones bombing Pakistanis at an increased rate ...

America is outraged, OUTRAGED, that AIG execs got $159 million (or is it now $200+ million?) of our money. Where is the outrage over the fact that we're still spending $720 million EVERY DAY on this continuing illegal occupation of Iraq!! Condoleeza Rice is again spewing nonsense, "We never tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11." W. is on the speaking circuit (yes, seriously!) talking about his "momentous" years in the Oval Office while hundreds outside the Calgary Chamber of Commerce demand his arrest as a war criminal. Cheney is still declaring victory in Iraq and proclaiming the economy is crashing because "stuff happens".



– Ed.


Editorial by Janice Matthews, continued:

And while these "leaders" spin in circles convincing us it's all necessary and for the good, soldiers and civilians keep dying, keep being wounded, keep losing their homes and any semblance of a life they remember, and ultimately, keep losing hope that this will ever end. In fact, American soldiers are losing all hope to the point they're killing themselves (and others) in greater numbers than ever. At this point, more soldiers are committing suicide than are being killed in battle (see article below that generated this passionate outcry).

Last month, a lawyer representing Guantanamo detainees disclosed that the torture at Gitmo is WORSE since Obama's inauguration, including "beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike" ... "including with laxatives that induced chronic diarrhea while they were strapped in their feeding chairs. "Several of my clients have had toilet paper pepper-sprayed while they have had hemorrhoids." The DoD's Admiral who reviewed these charges acknowledged yes, there have been some cases of "misconduct." Not to worry, though. Reuters also tells us, the same day, our new Attorney General Eric Holder visited Gitmo and pronounced, "The Guantanamo prison is 'well-run now,' with no signs of inmate mistreatment."

Why the focus on torture and war crimes this week, as we begin yet another year of this God-forsaken occupation of a sovereign country and continued bombings of two others? Because US soldiers and alphabet agency employees--OUR neighbors, brothers, sisters, cousins--are the ones participating in or witnessing this! So the following report from Mark Benjamin on the extent of PTSD and mental illness leading to murder and suicide by these same soldiers is absolutely relevant to every one of us. If we take 18 year old kids from typical American life and dump them in the middle of absolute carnage and chaos for a few years, do nearly nothing to help them deal with the aftereffects when they come home but expect them to "reintegrate" into society, and then refuse to listen to them when they beg for help (through words or actions), it just doesn't seem entirely surprising when we learn of the results.

http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=20090322180554158

March 23, 2009 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Troop suicides outnumber casualties. said...

6 Years On ... 'Soldier suicides skyrocket' and America is OUTRAGED over AIG's paltry $159 million
This week marks the beginning of the 7th year of the US war on Iraq, we're 7-1/2 years into bombing Afghanistan, with 17,000+ more troops now headed that way thanks to the changes wrought by a new administration, and now have US drones bombing Pakistanis at an increased rate ...

America is outraged, OUTRAGED, that AIG execs got $159 million (or is it now $200+ million?) of our money. Where is the outrage over the fact that we're still spending $720 million EVERY DAY on this continuing illegal occupation of Iraq!! Condoleeza Rice is again spewing nonsense, "We never tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11." W. is on the speaking circuit (yes, seriously!) talking about his "momentous" years in the Oval Office while hundreds outside the Calgary Chamber of Commerce demand his arrest as a war criminal. Cheney is still declaring victory in Iraq and proclaiming the economy is crashing because "stuff happens".



– Ed.


Editorial by Janice Matthews, continued:

And while these "leaders" spin in circles convincing us it's all necessary and for the good, soldiers and civilians keep dying, keep being wounded, keep losing their homes and any semblance of a life they remember, and ultimately, keep losing hope that this will ever end. In fact, American soldiers are losing all hope to the point they're killing themselves (and others) in greater numbers than ever. At this point, more soldiers are committing suicide than are being killed in battle (see article below that generated this passionate outcry).

Last month, a lawyer representing Guantanamo detainees disclosed that the torture at Gitmo is WORSE since Obama's inauguration, including "beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike" ... "including with laxatives that induced chronic diarrhea while they were strapped in their feeding chairs. "Several of my clients have had toilet paper pepper-sprayed while they have had hemorrhoids." The DoD's Admiral who reviewed these charges acknowledged yes, there have been some cases of "misconduct." Not to worry, though. Reuters also tells us, the same day, our new Attorney General Eric Holder visited Gitmo and pronounced, "The Guantanamo prison is 'well-run now,' with no signs of inmate mistreatment."

Why the focus on torture and war crimes this week, as we begin yet another year of this God-forsaken occupation of a sovereign country and continued bombings of two others? Because US soldiers and alphabet agency employees--OUR neighbors, brothers, sisters, cousins--are the ones participating in or witnessing this! So the following report from Mark Benjamin on the extent of PTSD and mental illness leading to murder and suicide by these same soldiers is absolutely relevant to every one of us. If we take 18 year old kids from typical American life and dump them in the middle of absolute carnage and chaos for a few years, do nearly nothing to help them deal with the aftereffects when they come home but expect them to "reintegrate" into society, and then refuse to listen to them when they beg for help (through words or actions), it just doesn't seem entirely surprising when we learn of the results.

http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=20090322180554158

March 23, 2009 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is appropriate that the Department of Fatherland Security will be moving into the St. Elizabeth's mental hospital in southeast Washington DC.

Beyond parody.

April 4, 2009 4:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is appropriate that the Department of Fatherland Security will be moving into the St. Elizabeth's mental hospital in southeast Washington DC.

Beyond parody.

April 4, 2009 4:09 AM  

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