Monday, March 12, 2012

Fear, Loathing and Allergies

How can the weekend massacre of at least 16 sleeping Afghan citizens get any more shocking and disgusting? When the New York Times goes along with the U.S. government's propaganda machine, and attempts to whitewash what was essentially an act of terror into a pesky glitch. They bemoan the fact that this temporary aberration in our humanitarian effort makes us look bad. How unfair is it that the Taliban will get to seize on an "unfortunate event" by a lone gunman for some propaganda? The Times quotes one unnamed American military official as saying "the fear is that all these incidents, taken together, play into the Taliban’s account of how we treat the Afghan religion and people. And while we all know that’s a false account — think how many the Taliban have killed, and never once taken responsibility — it’s a very hard perception to combat.”

Yeah, it's hard out there for an invading military machine which commits atrocity after atrocity, night raid after night raid, drone attack after drone attack, to actually be called out for committing them by the real bad guys, isn't it?

The Times goes on to make the diagnosis that the Afghan people have developed an "understandable allergy" to a decade of American occupation. As one reader pointed out in the comments section, the use of the word "allergy" in describing the outrage and despair of an occupied people is cavalierly dismissive. An allergy, after all, is an abnormal reaction to an innocuous substance. In its insidious choice of words, The Times is deriding blowback by the victims of American imperialism as an unhealthy overreaction. An earlier article in the same newspaper describes the American invaders as being under siege:
American officials scrambled Monday to understand why a veteran Army staff sergeant, a married father of two only recently deployed here, left his base a day earlier to massacre at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan. The devastating, unexplained attack deepened the sense of siege for Western personnel in this country, as denunciations brought a moment of unity to three major Afghan factions: civilians, insurgents and government officials.
Not once to we hear any details from "the paper of record" about the actual victims of this massacre. A  majority were children, but like all "collateral damage", any vestige of the human beings they once were has been glossed over in favor of how their inconvenient deaths have presented a dilemma to the American overlords.  The real victims are the maligned invaders, it would appear. This is like the kid who murders his parents and then whines to the judge about being left an orphan. Here is my own comment in response to the Times article:
The unnamed military official quoted in this article has some chutzpah. He has the nerve to complain that this massacre and other abuses will be used as propaganda fodder by the Taliban, and that the occupying Americans are just warm cuddly puppies who totally respect the people whose Korans they burn and whose corpses they desecrate? This is either an indication of monumental ignorance, or imperialistic arrogance of epic proportions.
The Afghan people have been occupied against their will for a decade. The children murdered in what was really an act of terrorism have never lived in a country that was not occupied. And all the Americans seem to care about is how this "isolated" bad behavior puts a monkeywrench into their strategy and their psy-ops campaigns to win hearts and minds.
The American response to these outrages is always the same: express some shallow and unctuous regrets, throw some bags of cash at the impoverished "collateral damage", promise some vague accountability, cover up as much as possible, claim that these escalating abuses are isolated instances and above all, blame the victims if they continue to resist the benevolence of their invaders.
President Obama fit in his condolence call to Hamid Karzai while riding in his limo on his way to watch his own kid play basketball on Sunday. While he considers the massacre "tragic and shocking" it in "no way represents the exceptional character of our military."

We ought to rename this country the United States of Arrogance.


DW2000 said...


The Times has been disgraceful covering this.

In a follow up article:

"Following the attacks, the Taliban threatened vengeance, as the insurgents often do after Western actions they depict as atrocities."

"Western actions they depict as atrocities."!!!!

What does the Times consider it...
"a regrettable accident?"

Even the phrase ..."As the insurgents often do..." has a very peculiar ring.

This Imperial power is out of control.

Suzan said...

I heard something a little bit difference in one of my regular reading places.

What if it was a group of guys who did it - you know, like the urinating on the corpses?

Wouldn't it be a Pat Tillman-sized tribute to remake it as a long gunman glitch?

Happens all the time there, I hear.

Love ya,


P.S. And re: The Times' lies - can you believe that people still believe we are EVER leaving?

Kat said...

The use of this word always makes me discredit the news source. (not directed at you DW-- I know you're quoting.)

James F Traynor said...

A couple of years ago I remember reading about an interview with a Brit SAS noncom on his opinion of American Special Forces in Afghanistan. He said, as I remember, that they were well trained but he worried that "...they see every Afghan with a beard as Osama bin Ladin." The comment worried me even more.

Denis Neville said...

A lone soldier attacking two villages, killing sixteen and wounding others, and burning the corpses? An isolated incident carried out by one rogue soldier?

The Afghan witness accounts of American soldiers, laughing, drunk, and shooting, are more believable than the US spin.

“Afghans to US Military: Be at Least a Little Ashamed,” a medley of photographs of US troops in the country:

The USA is the evil empire. These soldiers are a by-product of the policy of the criminal regime in Washington. They are the ones who unleashed the dogs of war.

This is reminiscent of the Haditha massacre when some US Marines murdered 24 innocent Iraqi civilians. The Marine Corps tried to cover up the fact that Marines deliberately shot unarmed men, women and children. And what was the end result? It languished in military courts for over six years and in the end not one of the Marines involved was indicted or faced any penalties.

So, limo Commander-in-Chief Obama's empty words of "holding people accountable" are meaningless.

“The US can't withdraw until the Afghan Army is fully trained by these US troops.”

Ann Jones, “Dead Americans, Dead Goats, and Half a Million Gunmen on the Loose,” writes that “[Afghan] Civilians live in dread of the legacy of the Obama strategy: the presence of half a million gunmen on the loose, in search of a sponsoring khan.”,_playing_the_game_in_afghanistan/#more

The United States of Arrogance!

James Singer said...

Tom Paxton would understand. We trained them to kill and that's what they're doing. What's so difficult about that?

Fred Drumlevitch said...


This column of yours is outstanding. So much of what happens, long term, is due to the way the mass media frames things, and the public therefore perceives things. Much of the media's response to this massacre has been inadequate — so the public interpretation will be too.

Normally, I would say more here, but having not posted anything on my own blog in two months, I decided to write something there.

But I do want to say that this post of yours really gets to the heart of the matter.

@Denis Neville:

Yes, your reference to Haditha was right on, that was what I immediately thought of as I wondered what would be the ultimate consequences to the perpetrator(s) of this massacre. One could even make the case that the lack of consequences for the perpetrators of Haditha at some level (even if only subconsciously) figured into the decision of the current perpetrator to undertake his massacre.

Valerie said...

After the Haditha massacre I read an article in Vanity Fair that broke my heart. It showed how young so many of these soldiers are and described the stress they are under doing tour after tour of duty in a constant state of hyper-vigilance. They are totally unprepared emotionally and psychologically for this kind of life. - And that doesn't even begin to address the constant brainwashing that goes on.

I am not in any way excusing the behaviour of the soldier who did this horrible thing. But quite frankly, I am surprised it is such a rare event. The tragedy is that so many of these soldiers are also victims of an evil Military Industrial Complex that doesn't care about them or the thousands of innocent people they hurt. Their goal is to keep people fighting and hating each other - their profits depend on it.

John Chaldu said...

To quote Noam Chomsky, "These are all unpeople, so, naturally, nobody cares." So sad.

James F Traynor said...

Also, after our invasion of Iraq, I remember reading about a reservist, a major, who became convinced (not that he needed it) of the justification of the invasion when he observed, from a plane, Iraqi shepherds tending their flocks.

I really think that a large portion of our population has become almost completely irrational. It's a sort of mass hysteria not unlike that of the German public during the 30's. Were an individual in our society to behave the way we've collectively been behaving over the past few years he or she would have been hospitalized.

Valerie said...

I agree @James Traynor - I often look at the mentality of particularly the religious right in the U.S. and think to myself, "This must be how reasonable Germans felt during Hitler's time - watching their country slipping over the edge." What is our country coming to? I feel like I don’t even know many of my fellow Americans anymore.

My mom just sent me this hateful diatribe that was attributed to Bill Cosby (which he denies)floating around the Internet justifying hatred of Muslims and blaming poor people for not having a work ethic (and therefore are undeserving of government aid - alluding to unemployment benefits.) There is so much hate filled propaganda floating around the Internet and on Fox that sweeps up ordinary citizens who should know better into a kind of conditioned bigotry and hatred of "the other."

me again said...

I just read in TruthDig that the soldier who killed the 16 Afghans over the weekend was on his FOURTH tour of duty. I can't help but think about child soldiers and how the trauma of their experiences messes up their minds to the point that their psyches are desensitized to human suffering and they become merciless killing machines. It seems like this is what happens with some of these American soldiers; the experience of war is turning them into amoral monsters. Either that or they have been unstable all along (and the military doesn’t screen them out) and wartime gives them the venue to vent their psychotic hatred.

DW2000 said...

Karen, your columns have amazing..and the comments here are consistently interesting and the references very informative.

In that spirit, I would take issue some of today’s comments

I think that comparisons to Nazi Germany should be treated with extreme caution.

The American public today is hardly in a state of mass hysteria...there are no huge is much more passive.

The religious right is no different than in the past..Think of the Scopes trial era, Prohibition, etc etc etc.

Even though there is a lot of regression, there is a lot of progress too. The opportunity to be openly gay in society is a new development. The much broader opportunities for Blacks is obvious. (This is not to ignore the voting laws, brutal unemployment, police stop and frisks etc)

But while the US is a very disturbing place right now, it is not a "fascist" state— a comment one that is often seen online.

And it is not anything like Nazi Germany. (During Hitler's time, we would not have dared to make openly critical print or on the street)

The union busting of the 19th century, the Palmer raids, the McCarthy era....the forces of reaction, of domination by a few have always had a huge place in this society.

The brutality overseas is constant. This is not a new low.

The US government has pursued the policies of imperial capitalism very consistently.

This is a country founded on slavery and is not getting worse. Some things are worse today...and some things are better.

Comparisons to Nazi Germany only serve to blur the understanding of that time and place.

Anonymous said...


Valerie only said referred to the Germans who were NOT involved in the mass hysteria (and sadly they were the minority), not the Nazi’s themselves. There may not be the same kind of mass demonstrations, but our version seems to be the millions who tune in to hate-radio every day. That’s the way they got Rwandans to hack other Rwandans to pieces. I think we need to be very aware of all of history--that is the only way to prevent repetition.

Denis Neville said...

@ DW2000 – on comparisons to Nazi Germany

I remember reading William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, telling about the experience of how easily one could be taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state; how surprising and sometimes consternating it was to find that notwithstanding the opportunities one had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions, calculated and incessant propaganda, made a certain impression in one’s mind and often misled it; and how seemingly educated and intelligent people would parrot the outlandish assertions.

Shirer wrote about “how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.”

Given the large number of people who rely on Fox News, isn’t this we something we should be concerned about? Are not the experiences, of trying to make contact with a mind that has become warped by and for whom the facts of life have become what Fox News says they are, similar?

When asked, what is a fascist? Vice President Henry Wallace wrote, “The really dangerous American fascist…is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way...His method is to poison the channels of public information. With the fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power…They demand free enterprise but are spokesmen for monopoly and vested interests. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjugation.” [inverted totalitarianism]

DW2000 said “The American public today is hardly in a state of mass is much more passive.

How many anti-Nazis in Nazi Germany later said, “If only, instead of being passive, we had resisted, we could have stopped Hitler.”

The continued erosion of our civil rights has been a frequent topic on Sardonicky. Witness the resentments and bigotry that lurk beneath the surface of our nation –Islamophobia, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments, Planned Parenthood demonization, wars on women and science, etc. The Nazis used “values” to launch state repression of their opponents. Watch closely what the self-righteous right is doing in the states, stripping women of their human rights, and being cheered on by many churches. There are disturbing similarities between the German Christian Church and the Nazis and what is being done today under the guise of Christianity.

Is there any essential difference, not in brutality but in basic philosophy, between our attitude of American exceptionalism and our armies of democracy and the Nazi belief in Teutonic superiority and inferiority of other races? Obama decries the senseless slaughter of those Afghans and says justice will be done. But where is the outrage and justice for the 100,000plus innocents Iraqi civilians killed by our shock and awe aggressive war? “Look forward, not backward” has been his refrain on that senseless slaughter.

When intellectuals like Obama abandon liberal principles, engage in empty platitudes about dialogue and cooperation with the opposition, and abdicate their role as "truth-tellers,” it is easy for demagogues to lead a society over the brink to disaster.

Too many people fail to understand the power and allure of evil. “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Valerie said...


We may not have a central figure like Hitler who people are rallying around - but we do have a single bigotted message that a good half of the country are buying into and repeat amongst themselves.

We are scapegoating a group of people defined by their religious beliefs.

We don't have stadiums full of people getting stirred up by a message of propaganda but we have Fox News which in effect does the same. (I wonder how many stadiums Fox viewers would fill).

Our government used 9/11 as an excuse to attack our civil liberties in the name of security and we have been in a constant state of war ever since.

I sure see a lot of similarities between what is happening in the U.S. and Nazi Germany.

You know, the Nazi's didn't get into power overnight. It was a slower process, particularly at first.

And for the record, I said, that I understood how the rational people in Germany must have felt watching their country slipping off the edge. I think most of us here can see that our country is falling off a cliff and we are stunned that so many of our fellow countrymen and women are so easily propagandized into going along with it.

Valerie said...

Oh and one more thing - I disagree that the religious right hasn't gotten worse. They have far more control over the Republican Party and American politics in general than they ever have in the past. I grew up Southern Baptist and what I am hearing in church - the political messages delivered from the pulpits of the now "corporate" churches is a far cry from the "salavation" messages that I heard in childhood. We had a far better seperation of church and state in this country in the past.

And for the record - I don't think Blacks would say there has been much progress since the 70's - in fact, with this economic collapes and loss of meaningful well paid manufacturing work, I would suggest things are getting worse for people of colour in this country.

I think our country was steadily improving in our democratic values until the 80's. From there, it has steadily gotten worse.

But you just go on your Mary Sunshine way, thinking that our country isn't going to hell in a hand basket. The Germans in the early days of Nazi Germany felt the same way.

me again said...

In case you missed it, Chris Hedges has another brilliant article in TruthDig about the Supreme Court holding up the Obama Administration's war on whistleblowers.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Take your pick: Either our better angels are winning (as argued by Steven Pinker) or we're right to point with concern to the devils of fascism (see Godwin's Law).

Comments about where the US now stands along the spectrum of democratic states and totalitarian states must be viewed as conditional or partial or in flux. The US is on a moving train of history that seems to be moving faster with each presidential election. Are we moving in the right direction or not? If we keep moving in this direction, where will we be in ten years? That’s the issue of concern and the measure, not how far we’ve come since the days of slavery or women’s suffrage or the McCarthy period.

Most progressives believe we are barreling down the tracks in the wrong direction, away from democratic principles and towards fascist principles.

A snapshot of our status among nations at this moment does not tell us the whole story. It’s the trends that trouble many of us. You can argue the glass is at least half full compared to the days when slavery was legal and, again, it’s more than half full compared to the Congo or North Korea or any other poster child for a broken or totalitarian state.

But shouldn’t a reasonable comparison be against what we were twenty or forty years ago, or compared to other western democracies with similar cultural histories, or measured against the letter and spirit of our very own Constitution? Anyone who asserts that things are getting better in America -- that the glass of democracy is getting less empty and more full – will lose credibility, I suspect, among most in the salon of Sardonicky.

Elsewhere Karen has written brilliantly on the new emptiness, the wrong headedness taking us closer to the side of authoritarian states. Political leadership, economic fairness, civil liberties, foreign policy, the environment: From the point of view of Americans capable of reflection, is the country getting better or worse in these important categories? Is there any basis to argue that things are getting better or are likely to improve or are not going to be getting too much worse, given our most recent political practice and the political outlook?

Dictators centralize power and use it unjustly. Has the White House been amassing power and using it without respect for checks and balances written into the Constitution? Totalitarian states are ruled by demagogues. Is demagoguery a problem in the US? Totalitarian states sharply curb civil rights? Is there are trend in that direction over here? Totalitarian states control through force and propaganda? Is the US abusing its military power and resorting more and more to propaganda at home and abroad with the cooperation of the media? Totalitarian states arm to the teeth and invade other countries, or get their way by threatening war. Do people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Iran have any reason to view the US as aggressive? Have we ever had such long wars, and so many underway at the same time? Totalitarian regimes harbor war criminals. Need I go on?

The US is in serious trouble AND the trends are frightening. Patience and words of calm are no longer appropriate in light of what’s happening and where we're headed. According to Godwin's Law, allusions to Hitler are not always inappropriate.

Zee said...

@Valerie, @Jay and @Denis--

I guess that I do not see DW2000 as a Little Mary Sushine.

Rather, I hear a commenter who—in both remarks on this thread—has expressed a pretty good understanding of: (1) where this country has come from—complete with its history of oppression and genocide; (2) how much has changed for the better since its Founding; (3) where we have failed or refused to live up to our purported ideals—and yes, even retreated from them; (4) and how far we have yet to go to become a nation “with liberty and justice for all.” I did not see any evidence whatsoever that DW2000 views this nation through rose-tinted glasses.

If DW2000 sees that “Some things are worse today...and some things are better,” well, so do I. Because they are. Even if serious threats to democracy are taking place today.

I don't believe that I heard DW2000 say “It [fascism] can never happen here,” or that we should ignore the lessons of—and warning signs from—history, when the seeds of fascism threaten to take root.

What I believe that I heard DW2000 say is that whatever the current threats to liberty extant today—and I agree, they are myriad—this is NOT Hitler's Germany, far from it.

I shake with anger every time I hear someone from either end of the political spectrum casually liken Bush or Obama or whomever to Hitler. I become equally angry when I hear suggestions that, as a nation, we are anywhere close to being Hitler's Germany at its zenith of horror.

To make casual claims that we are close to that point dishonors the memory of six million or more innocent people who were seized, transported, tortured and murdered in a crime of unimaginable magnitude. Moreover, it diminishes the crime itself.

Reading between the lines, that is what I see in DW2000's remarks.

No, we should not ignore the analogies—indeed, warning signs—that you, Denis, have made between the rise of Hitler's Germany and our country in the present day. Nor should we ignore the “trends” to which you have pointed, Jay. We must be vigilant and assertive in our fight against a government with tyrannical ambitions.

But is has been ever thus, since the Founding of the Republic. There has been, and always will be a tension between individual liberty and democracy and the natural tendency of men and women in government to seek ever more power for themselves.

"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." --John Philpott Curran, 1790

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@DW2000: Your points are well-taken, but I think that Denis, Valerie, and Jay have answered them, very thoroughly and eloquently, and better than I could have. I hope that you'll give strong considerations to their answers.

While I agree with you, DW2000, that comparisons to Nazi Germany (and hyperbole in general) can be overdone, I think it is clear that with respect to many issues — including but not limited to militarism, intrusive and repressive police activities, actions to stifle revelations of governmental misdeeds, largely-successful control of the political narrative communicated by the mass media, anti-union actions by both government and corporations — the comparisons to fascism and totalitarianism are not unwarranted. And the establishment of Nazi Germany is simply the best-documented and most well-known case. Furthermore, there are other economic and social similarities of 1920s - early 1930s Germany to the contemporary U.S. such as industrialization and labor issues, the generally-liberal social atmosphere of Weimar Germany city life and the reputation of their universities, an economic crisis, and an undercurrent of religious intolerance that would be unleashed by demagogues, all of which further validate the analogy.

As in many other spheres, the sum is greater than the parts. Individually, anti-progressive actions, violations of long-held constitutional rights, and military operations — especially when those things are rationalized for economic or national security "reasons" — may not be understood by most citizens as a move towards fascism/totalitarianism, but when taken together, viewed as the big picture of totality and trend, the conclusion should be very disturbing. Unfortunately, the implications of that totality and trend weren't understood early enough in Nazi Germany. By speaking out, and making some admittedly imperfect comparisons, we're hoping to contribute to the issues and implications being understood sooner in this country, and their terrible consequences arrested and reversed.

Valerie said...


I think it is important that we compare our country to the direction it was going in the 60's and 70's and the rights and freedoms we enjoyed in the 70's and 80's to the present day. We are NOT moving in the right direction. If we enjoy remnants of what was good political policy coming out of those periods in American history now, it does not mean that things are ticking along OK with a few bumps in the road. To say some things are better - comparing the plight of people of colour now to people of colour under slavery - and some things are worse, is to trivialise the terrible downhill projectory that this country is moving.

Neither you nor DW2000 read our comments carefully enough. No one is comparing the U.S. today to Nazi Germany at its height. Rather we are seeing significant parallel trends to how a fascist government put different aspects of its power into place – like setting up a strategy to move in for “the kill” in a chess game - which allowed them to take over at one point - rather quickly.

When I lived in Germany in the 80's, there were many older Germans I spoke to about the "Nazi Time," as the Germans refer to it. They had very good perspective of what happened and why - making few excuses for their country. As Denis stated so eloquently, the problem was apathy and an attitude that "this too shall pass." That Hitler was bad in some ways but good for Germany in others. That people who were concerned were over-reacting. (Sound familiar?)

One of the men I spent a lot of time talking with was a Jew who ended up in Auschwitz. He lived in Berlin and said that in the early days, most people didn't consider Hitler and his Brown Shirts much of a threat. They were so extreme. The average German believed no one would get on board with such irrational bullies. The reason so many Jews didn't leave Germany, as things slowly worsened under Hitler, was they believed things would swing back politically - that reason and compassion would prevail. This is what happens when people refuse to read the writing on the wall because it interferes with their comfortable paradigm of what the Western World/ Western Democracies are like.

We need to take the erosion of civil rights, the transformation of our mainstream media from good investigative journalism which challenged our government and kept it honest into a group of government stenographers and the militarization of our police VERY seriously. The fact that our government just put into place the NDAA allowing for the arrest and detention of basically anyone the government wants to label a domestic terrorist and the arming of our police like a military force (as opposed to a community policing force) to use against American citizens SHOULD concern every thinking person in this country. Yet see how few citizens are concerned.

The only thing challenging the descent of our country into a faux democracy of a handful of haves and mostly have nots is the Occupy Movement. Do you not see how easily members of that group – leaders - could be arrested and charged under the grey veil of domestic terrorism and simply disappear? Do you really think it can’t happen in America? Twenty years ago, I would have said, “No!” Today and in the near future, I say, “Yes, it could.”

Valerie said...

Part 2 (response to @Zee)

According to my German friends who lived through the Nazi Time, they also never thought there would be night raids where German/Jewish citizens would be taken away to mysterious places and held there (killed there). It was inconceivable that the reasonable, intellectual German people would “allow” that to happen or that their government could go so wrong.

Do not underestimate the political machine that is being put into place. It is ripe for a totalitarian dictatorship – maybe not of a central figure, but certainly of a behind the scenes oligarchical group of people who have a militarised police at their disposal.

To say some things are better and some things are worse in America today is to say, “Not to worry, things aren’t so bad. Don’t be vigilant. Everything will come out in the wash.” To me, that sounds a little too Mary Sunshine -ish considering the seriousness of the times.

Jay - Ottawa said...

More on the evocation of Goodwin's Law --

Does one have to equal or surpass the numbers of the Holocaust and related Nazi crimes in order to qualify as a Nazi or a fascist? I don't think so. In this matter quality and the levels of government and national infrastructure involved are far more defining than quantity.

Guided by the rubric of "eternal vigilance" -- talk about preaching to the choir!!! -- I bring to the vigilant the following tidbit, which will not appear in the MSM any time soon. By way of comparison, the report about the 16 Afghans who lost their lives, presumably at the hands of a lone grunt who snapped on his fourth tour, can't hold a candle to the following report involving (1) people at the very top (2) doing lots worse than a sick sergeant (3) on more than one command level and (4) with implications that are deeply troubling, on-going and open-ended.

No, we're not quite "there" yet; but we sure are getting there.

Zee said...

@Valerie (and @Denis and @Jay, too)--

After a second reading on my part, you're correct: “Neither you [Zee] nor DW2000 read our [Valerie's, Denis's and Jay's] comments carefully enough. No one is comparing the U.S. today to Nazi Germany at its height. Rather we are seeing significant parallel trends to how a fascist government put different aspects of its power into place – like setting up a strategy to move in for “the kill” in a chess game - which allowed them to take over at one point - rather quickly.”

Well said, and point well taken. My apologies not only to you, but to Denis and Jay, as well.

Still, I feel compelled to defend or clarify at least some of my remarks.

I most definitely did not say—merely by stating that some things are better and some things are worse in America— “Not to worry, things aren’t so bad. Don’t be vigilant. Everything will come out in the wash.”

Believe me, I have been vigilant regarding encroachments on those civil liberties that have most immediately affected me over the past 30+ years, and defended them vigorously with telephone calls, letters and e-mails to politicians at all levels of government, along with numerous published—and many more unpublished—Letters to the Editor in New Mexico's major papers. I have reason to believe that my efforts—along with those of an organization that has both money and mobilization skills—have swayed things my way through the years from the local to the national level.

So I know about being vigilant about my civil rights, and I know that activism is required to retain them. They may not be the rights that are of utmost importance to most participants in this forum, but all civil liberties—like all politics—are seen most clearly locally. This point was made in the video clip embedded in the Salon article to which @Jay provided the link

Yes, I did say that some things are better and some things are worse in America today, and from my same local perspective that is true. I see some truly remarkable things these days. I attend a mainstream church with an openly gay pastor, where gay and lesbian couples can worship, participate and be themselves. Who would have thought it in sixties and seventies and eighties, to which you point as the apex of our positive trend in civil liberties? These people are my friends, and I will defend any future encroachments upon their rights with the same vigor that I defended those most immediately affecting me.

Yes, there are truly dangerous, negative trends too, and I share your concerns about them. I believe that I'm on record in this forum (See, for instance, the December 15 thread, “The United States of Gitmo.”)—and over at Reality Chex— as being an ardent defender of the Bill of Rights and promoter of the expansion of civil liberties in general.
I've said that the National Defense Authorization Act is a disaster for civil liberties as was the Patriot Act before it, and so is the enormous surveillance apparatus that this country is building, exemplified by New York City's effort to spy on the Islamic community beyond its jurisdiction.

Could it soon happen here that dissidents are “disappeared” under cover of anti-terrorism laws? Yes, it could and I don't believe that I have ever denied it or suggested otherwise. But at the moment, what can I do about it other than trying to be better informed—which I am doing—and then harassing my Congresscritters and the President—which I am also doing, and, of course, remaining vigilant and being outspoken where I can?

Both in this forum and outside, we have discussed various strategies to make our political system more responsive, and I don't know that we've gotten very far along on that topic. I'm open to further suggestions, but this may just be a case where the kettle is going to have to come further along to a boil—hopefully not a full one—before things change for the better.

Valerie said...


I think you took my comments to be directed at you and they were mostly directed at DW 2000, whose position you defended. It was DW who took offence at the Third Reich comparison, "Comparisons to Nazi Germany only serve to blur the understanding of that time and place." and to whom I referred to as Mary Sunshine-ish because of his/her comment "This is a country founded on slavery and is not getting worse. Some things are worse today...and some things are better."

You don't need to apologize - DW's comment and your "siding" with him or her has allowed for a good discussion.

We in the Sardonicky Salon are intelligent people who have similar values but that doesn't mean we aren't going to disagree from time to time. DW 2000 wasn't rude or scathing. And I don't believe anyone's response was either. This is a lively group with strong opinions based on a lot of thought and in many cases research.

And I will agree that things are much better for gays and lesbians in America than they ever have been. But otherwise, I don’t see America as better off – unless you call having a lot more stuff (mostly cheap and made in Third World sweat shops) as adding to our quality of life. - Me, I think all this stuff is a two edged sword and we (and the people who make it) have paid and will continue to pay a terrible price for our materialism. But that is another discussion. Time to move on to Karen's newer threads.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

"Believe me, I have been vigilant regarding encroachments on those civil liberties that have most immediately affected me over the past 30+ years, and defended them vigorously with telephone calls, letters and e-mails ..." — Zee

"So I know about being vigilant about my civil rights, and I know that activism is required to retain them. They may not be the rights that are of utmost importance to most participants in this forum, but all civil liberties — like all politics — are seen most clearly locally." — Zee

Zee, you further talk about defending the rights of your church pastor and members of your congregation who live an alternative lifestyle. You said: "These people are my friends, and I will defend any future encroachments upon their rights with the same vigor that I defended those most immediately affecting me."

All very admirable, I will say. However, I hope that your very significant empathy, and activism, can extend further afield, to people with whom you have no acquaintance, and to rights possibly relevant only to people that you do not know. At the risk of provoking annoyance in the regulars of this blog by bringing up a quote that is often overused, and that you undoubtedly know, there is the famous Martin Niemöller statement about them coming in turn for the communists, trade unionists, and Jews, and then him because of failure to speak out for those previous groups. In his quote, failure to speak out was attributed to not being a member of those groups — but I contend that equally dangerous to the body politic is failure to speak out because those whose rights are under assault are not friends.

I understand your point, Zee, which emphasizes the "local" element of politics. However, the powers that be — be they political, economic, or of some other type — have become truly accomplished in the time since 1945 at effecting divide-and-conquer. And a defense of rights based on one's "local" concerns, rather than either broader concerns or the totality of all local ones, will too often cause the greater picture and the necessary epiphany of scope to be missed by most people, leading to an inadequately-unified defense, and ultimately, to most rights being lost.