MD Understanding Quality And Power

From: Mark Steven Heyman (
Date: Sat Dec 11 2004 - 04:32:59 GMT

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MD Understanding Quality And Power"

    Hi Sam,

    Er, actually it wasn't in either you or Chomsky, it was in me - and I
    wouldn't claim to have been an intelligent progressive thinker. But I
    promise to give you a good slap if you make the argument :-)

    msh says:
    Sorry. Didn't mean to sound defensive. I was just sort of stunned
    by how bad the argument is. Having heard it decried so often by
    folks wanting to justify aggression, I expected it to be more

    Which makes the important question - what is a 'system wide threat'?
    We could have a good discussion about whether Al Qaeda qualifies, for

    msh says:
    Yes, this is a valuable question. Since the destruction of the
    American system by an external power would involve nothing less than
    a full invasion and occupation of the homeland, such as what is
    occurring in Iraq, I'd say that there is no power on earth capable
    of accomplishing it. So the question is moot, and is raised only as
    a scare tactic in trying to persuade the American population to go
    along with the expansionist agenda of its leaders. Sadly, this
    tactic seems to be working.

    > msh says stuff about the brutal dictator argument

    I think the argument is invalid (in other words, I don't believe that
    this was the motivation for the USG to act as it did), but I'm not
    sure the reasons you give are the best, for the 'consistency over
    time' point that I mentioned before. In other words, it's not a
    logical fallacy for the USG (or one of their defenders) to turn
    around and say 'we've changed' - this is the neo-con argument, isn't

    msh says:
    Yes. I left open the the possibility of the neo-con response to see
    what you might make of it. You seem to be aware of the argument's
    obvious invalidity, so great. That saves us a lot of time.

    What shows the argument to be a fallacy is that the USG is not
    applying the same criteria elsewhere, eg Sudan, Congo, Zimbabwe etc.
    So at most the argument can be supplementary, it is not enough in and
    of itself (in other words, if Hussein had been Gandhi-like then the
    justification of the war would be significantly weaker).

    msh says:
    I don't see how, if the argument is invalid, it can have even
    supplementary value. But as long as we can agree that the "brutal
    dictator" argument is worthless when advanced by an aggressor who
    clearly supports brutal dictators, then I'm happy.

    There remains the question: if this was the truth behind the
    motivation for the attack, would it be a sufficient justification for
    invasion? In other words, if the leadership of the West are now
    committed to a path of liberal/humanitarian intervention, is this a
    good thing? I ask this because Tony Blair gives a lot of evidence for
    acting in this way (Kosovo/Sierra Leone/Iraq etc).

    msh says:
    Well, I think it's wishful thinking to believe that the leadership of
    the West, after more than 500 years of deliberate and very often
    extremely brutal power concentration, has suddenly experienced a
    humanitarian awakening. And there are realpolitik explanations for
    the west's actions in both Kosova and Sierra Leone.

    So I think a lot of skepticism is warranted. Were this truly the age
    of the New Humanitarians, I would expect to see at least these events
    in short order: Cessation of support for Israel in its 37 year
    history of brutal occupation of illegally held Palestinian
    territories; immediate discontinuation of all financial, military and
    business support of all totalitarian governments, not just Cuba and
    North Korea; immediate and continuous support of all majority UNSC
    and UNGA resolutions. Well, William Blum puts it succinctly. Here's
    what would happen if he were the new Humanitarian President:

    "I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured
    and impoverished, and all the many millions of other victims of
    American imperialism. Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to
    every corner of the world, that America's global interventions have
    come to an end, and inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state
    of the USA but now -- oddly enough -- a foreign country. I would then
    reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay
    reparations to the victims. There would be more than enough money.
    One year's military budget of 330 billion dollars is equal to more
    than $18,000 an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.
    That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the
    fourth day, I'd be assassinated."

    > msh said:
    I can't imagine anyone claiming that the US or GB or any other state
    is an absolutely evil imperial aggressor.

    Have you read Robert Fisk recently? - he thinks the West arranged for
    the murder of Margaret Hassan in order to generate sympathy for the
    war against the insurgents. Or see John Pilger's latest article on
    ZNet for an example ("How Silent Are The 'humanitarian' Invaders Of
    Kosovo?"). Perhaps they are not making an 'absolute' claim, but their
    positions are pretty extreme, IMHO.

    msh says:
    I read Fisk whenever I can; his stuff crosses my desk pretty
    regularly. I find him very credible, most of the time. I don't know
    the article you're referring to, but will take a look. Can you point
    me to it? Given what we've learned about the activities of our spy
    agencies over the years, his idea is certainly not out of the
    question. But, if he's making the claim without credible evidence to
    back it, if he's just expressing his unsupported opinion, then I
    think he's abusing his journalistic privilege.

    Haven't read the Pilger piece, but will, and get back to you.

    msh before:
    > However, it is absolutely true
    > that the US and other nations have engaged in numerous acts of
    > imperial aggression. This alone is reason enough to view any
    > current or future acts of aggression with a suspicious eye.

    I'm happy to accept that the US has acted as an imperial power in the
    past, and that a significant part of their current actions can be
    explained by reference to strategic imperial concerns. But something
    being 'imperial' does not, by definition, make it wrong. It was an
    imperial action by the British Navy that abolished the international
    slave trade, for example.

    msh says:
    This is a bit sly on your part. I don't think we should quibble
    amount the meaning of imperialism as violent conquest in the pursuit
    of material gain versus a rare benevolent imperial act. Do you?

    > msh said before:
    > ... this brings up the whole issue of viable threat
    > assessment and rational response.

    Is this an example of what you called a 'Platteral shift'?!? When I
    was using the word 'defended' I wasn't just thinking military - I was
    thinking of things like e-mail arguments as well.... :o)

    msh LOL:
    Sorry. More anticipation than shift. The Platteral Shift is a
    highly refined dialectical tactic; I wouldn't presume to use it
    without proper training. Besides, I believe it's patented. Right,

    msh before:
    > When the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing occurred, US authorities
    behaved more or less rationally,...
    > 9/11s, disarming Hussein, or democratizing Iraq, we were
    consciously murdering the Bathist regime's VICTIMS.

    I am wholly with you that the issue is about a properly rational
    analysis of threat and response. I am not convinced that it is an
    accurate description of current US military action in Iraq to call it
    "consciously murdering the Bathist regime's VICTIMS".

    msh says:
    I agree that my point was made too poetically, with a little dose of
    exaggeration for effect. Hussein's victims are not being consciously
    murdered in the sense that this is the purpose of the attack and
    occupation. As I've said before, the USG and UKG would have been
    delighted if all the innocent civilians had simply left the country
    prior to the aggression. The murder is conscious in the sense that
    the aggressors KNOW that their tactics will lead to the death of
    large numbers of innocents, and they nevertheless proceed.

    Also, I mentioned the OK City attack because I want you to make note
    of the difference in the way the USG went about apprehending and
    trying the domestic terrorists versus their full-scale attack on two
    countries in response to 9/11. This obvious difference is evidence
    in support of my position that some innocent civilians are regarded
    as more valuable than others.

    > msh says stuff about the corporate media:
     .... The corporate media are concerned with maximization of profits,
    as well as centralization of power, yada, yada, yada...

    Yep. Those who benefit from the system want to see it maintained
    (which doesn't, in itself, make it wrong - those who benefit from
    human rights want to see them maintained as well).

    msh says:
    Sure. But the immorality occurs when the benefits for a few come at
    the expense of the multitude of others. I can argue that modern
    corporations are not founded for the mutual benefit of all. And I
    don't see how any advancement in human rights could be said to have a
    negative effect on humanity as a whole. In fact, this sounds like a
    logical impossibility.

    msh later:
    And, as you suggest, there are also people who absolutely will not
    commit or contribute to abominable acts dictated by the system. It's
    just that such people are usually weeded out long before they can
    take a public stand. There are great exceptions of course: William
    Blum (US State Department), Philip Agee (CIA), Scott Ritter, Dennis
    Halliday, Ramsey Clark, Richard Clarke.

    I don't know much about many of those names, but I do know about
    Scott Ritter, who seems to have been vindicated by events.

    msh says:
    You might find the others worth looking into. Lots of info available
    on the net. Richard Clarke is the Bush insider who blew the whistle
    on the fact that the Bush and previous administrations were looking
    for reasons to invade Iraq long before 9/11. A day or two after 9/11
    he was just about ORDERED to find a connection between the WTC
    attacks and Saddam Hussein, though he knew none existed.

    Enough for now.

    Mark (Steven Heyman) (msh)

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