Sunday, May 29, 2011

Revisionist History Day, 2011


Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history -- Ussama Makdisi's Faith Misplaced: U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, and watching Emily.




Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order:
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi

Friday, May 27, 2011

TGIF: Lawless Government

Everyone pays lip service to the rule of law. Indeed I’ve never heard of anyone rejecting it as undesirable. (It has been called impossible under prevailing circumstances but that is a different point.) So why is the principle so flagrantly violated with almost no public outrage?

Take President Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war. Even if we grant that he could legally enter that conflict by his own unilateral decision – a big if, which we’ll explore below – the War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires him after 60 days to cease operations or ask Congress for authorization to continue. One week ago today the clock ran out on the Libyan intervention, yet Obama has neither ceased operations nor asked for authorization.

He’s violated the law.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Thank you, Sen. Paul...

...for your attempt to hold up passage of the Patriot Act.

Lowest of Lows

When we're talking about Congress, identifying a low point is problematic. But in terms of public displays, nothing is lower than its marathon ass-kissing session the other day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, by implication, the Israel lobby. Simply disgusting.

The next time you hear a member of Congress (with one or two obvious exceptions) talk about freedom, justice, self-determination, and democracy, remember that scene. Palestinians need not apply.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

TGIF: End the IMF

The IMF has fostered long-term dependency, perpetual indebtedness, moral hazard, and politicization, while discrediting market reform and forestalling revolutionary liberal change.
Read the rest of TGIF: End the IMF here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gotta Read this


Something of Kevin Carson's that I just found:
If libertarians like to think of “a fair day’s wage” as an open-ended concept, subject to the employer’s discretion and limited by what he can get away with, they should remember that “a fair day’s work” is equally open-ended. It’s just as much in the worker’s legitimate self-interest to minimize the expenditure of effort per dollar of income as it’s in the employer’s interest to maximize the extraction of effort in a given period of time.

For the authoritarian “libertarians” who believe “vox boss, vox dei,” this suggestion is scandalous. The boss is the only party who can unilaterally rewrite the contract as he goes along. And it’s self-evidently good for the owner or manager to maximize his self-interest in extracting whatever terms he can get away with. Oddly enough, though, these are usually the same people who are most fond of saying that employment is a free market bargain between equals.

For most of us who know what it’s like working under a boss, it’s a simple matter of fairness that we should be as free as the boss to try to shape the undefined terms of the labor contract in a way that maximizes our self-interests. And most of the Wobbly tactics grouped together under the term “direct action on the job” involve just such efforts within the contested space of the job relationship.

Further, these are the very methods a free market labor movement might use, in preference to playing by Wagner Act rules.
Read it all here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

After bin Laden?

So it’s imperative that we not be fooled by appearances. The policymakers will not be using bin Laden’s death as grounds to dismantle the thousand U.S. military installations around the world, to stop supporting torture-loving dictators when they serve “American interests,” to end the violations of Americans’ civil liberties, or to defund the trillion-dollar-plus national security state. That gravy train, which gives prestige to “statesmen,” shapes the global order American-style, and lines the pockets of contractors, is not going to end merely because one man was shot by Navy SEALs.
Read the full op-ed here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aristotle and Standup Comedy




How many comedians have one-liners about Aristotle? The only one I know of is the incomparable Shelley Berman (official site here), from whom I learned much in my youth:
Some people say Aristotle died in Chalcis, Euboea. I think Aristotle died of Chalcis Euboea.


Berman these days plays Larry David's father on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Classic Berman is here.

Friday, May 06, 2011

TGIF: No Laissez Faire There

What’s often unappreciated is that writers sympathetic to the free market have disparaged the Gilded Age as broadly illiberal and contrary to the spirit of free enterprise.
Read TGIF here.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Op-ed: Obama's Broken Guantanamo Promise

The latest leaks of classified documents, which show that the U.S. government imprisoned hundreds of men at Guantánamo Bay on the most dubious “evidence,” brings to mind the question, Why hasn’t President Obama kept his promise to close the infamous prison that will forever stain America’s honor?
Read the rest of my op-ed here.

No Clean Hands

Even if one believes in capital punishment and thinks it the appropriate penalty for Osama bin Laden, consider who ordered it and what else he has authorized in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. That's more than enough to be disgusted by the news out of Pakistan the other night.