Monday, September 9, 2013

Screw the Psy-Ops

In another sign of how tenuous the Empire's case for attacking Syria is becoming, New York Times columnist Bill Keller "went there" today. He implied that to oppose this war (he never calls it a war, of course, because that would defeat the purpose of his sanitization) is to be anti-Semitic. He compares today's anti-war sentiment to the "armchair isolationism" that allowed Hitler to come to power:
Many pro-Israel and Jewish groups last week endorsed an attack on Syria, but only after agonizing about a likely backlash. And, sure enough, the first comment posted on The Washington Post version of this story was, “So how many Americans will die for Israel this time around?” This is tame stuff compared with 1940, when isolationism was shot through with shockingly overt anti-Semitism, not least in the rhetoric of the celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh.
When a solid reason for going to war is not available, you pivot to shaming the recalcitrants into developing the required patriotism -- and while you're at it, play the old divide and conquer card by very lazily and derisively shuffling the right and the "left" into the same demented deck:
Isolationism is strong in the Tea Party, where mistrust of executive power is profound and where being able to see Russia from your front yard counts as mastery of international affairs. But sophisticated readers of The New York Times are not immune, or so it seems from the comments that arrive when I write in defense of a more assertive foreign policy. (In recent columns I’ve advocated calibrated intervention to shift the balance in Syria’s civil war and using foreign aid to encourage democracy in Egypt.) Not our problems, many readers tell me.
Isolationism is not just an aversion to war, which is an altogether healthy instinct. It is a broader reluctance to engage, to assert responsibility, to commit. Isolationism tends to be pessimistic (we will get it wrong, we will make it worse) and amoral (it is none of our business unless it threatens us directly) and inward-looking (foreign aid is a waste of money better spent at home).
Get it? We are all Sarah Palin now, our opposition to bombing for corporate profit simply an indication of our brain cell loss. Keller's classic of a doublethink column is obviously part of the Obama administration's "full court press" underway this week to win hearts and minds. It is how they psy-op the Enemy (which, let's face it, is us.)

 But judging from the reader responses to Keller's pabulum, our psyches are refusing to be opped. My posted comment:
Were George Orwell still alive to write a revised edition of "Politics and the English Language", he might have used this column as an example of the pompous verbiage necessary to get people to go along with war. Obfuscation trumps elucidation every single time.
Examples: Mr. Keller substitutes "spine in your diplomacy" for bombing the hell out of Syria. "Foreign engagement" and "activist foreign policy" become euphemisms for maiming and killing and destroying everything in sight.
And above all, instill the guilt. Because in the absence of any hard evidence of exactly who ordered the gas attacks (and the Obama administration is refusing to supply proof, even when confronted by an Associated Press FOIA request), guilt is all they've got. So absolutely, compare launching an unprovoked attack on Syria with FDR defending us against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. And while half-heartedly admitting that likening Assad to Hitler could well be over the top, do it anyway. Some of it just might sink in to guilt-ready pliable minds.
How does Mr. Keller shame us? Let me count the ways. We are anti-social, irresponsible, isolationist, selfish, cynical. We are not getting with the official program. What is wrong with us anyway, that we can't patriotically cheer murder by drone, Tomahawk missile and bunker buster bomb in order to make ourselves feel all warm and gooey inside? You'd think we didn't believe in Biblical revenge, or something.
If it wasn't the New York Times and if they don't constantly threaten to cut you off at the knees if your language lacks sufficient sophistication, respect, and "thoughtfulness", I would have added this: 


annenigma said...

But it's not isolationist to be the only major country refusing to sign on to ban land mines? Or the only one to refuse to become a member of the International Criminal Court? I'm sure there are many other examples. We wonder why Obama isn't advocating for a war crimes trial for Assad if the evidence is so slam dunk. Evidently we don't belong so we don't get tried there - best to stay away.

But no other country is filing either. Could it be that all that rock solid 'evidence' implicating Assad doesn't amount to a hill of beans and wouldn't hold up in any court? Oh but it's enough to take our country to war.

Even if it was solid evidence, it wouldn't be admissible in court because it is illegally obtained signals intelligence obtained in violation of international law. They might end up trying Obama, Bush, or Cheney. So we have to go to war instead. Besides, we know how much Obama hates legalities anyway. Wars and secrecy are his modus operandi.

And where is Israel when it comes to joining coalitions of the willing? Every time they lobby and urge us to throw a war party in their neighborhood, they just sit back and cheer. Did Obama forget to invite them? Aren't they being enabled to remain isolationist?

At this point I just wonder if the USG fears that the citizens will feel too empowered if they actually listen to us and back down on war. The lobbyists will surely see that as a dangerous threat and precedent, and that includes AIPAC. It would only encourage us to use our new power in the future and we might actually expect our wishes to be heeded again.

No, no, no. They can't have that. It probably keeps Obama up at night and sends a chill down the spine of all war hawks. That threat needs a war of it's own - a propaganda war. It's a good thing the government's massive broadcasting capabilities and influence can now be legally directed at us as of July of this year. Just in time!

"A new feature in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act would legalize U.S. government propaganda directed at the American people, with the belief that successful wars require domestic acceptance", writes Lawrence Davidson.

No, I still can't see this war train falling off the tracks.

annenigma said...

I attended a townhall meeting with Senator McCain on Friday and the only issue that came up was Syria. After hearing nearly everyone give an unqualified and unconditional 'NO' opinion to this proposed war, McCain cut off the microphone and ended the meeting saying two things. He wasn't there to get our approval or opinion (it was a sales job meeting), and that he would go back to Washington to deliver this message that he imagined hearing:

"You have to be convinced this is a worthwhile endeavor."

WHAT? Everyone was shocked and outraged, thinking we sent our message loudly and clearly that we were totally opposed under any condition, but too late. McCain slipped out the back with his self-composed message for Obama.

So allow me to repeat the end of my last post which was a quote given in 2012 which shows the government definitely anticipated this serious People Problem.

"A new feature in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act would legalize U.S. government propaganda directed at the American people, with the belief that successful wars require domestic acceptance", writes Lawrence Davidson.

Zee said...

I am totally baffled by the mad “logic” that is persuading so many on the right and left that it is absolutely “imperative” that we launch some type of strike on Syria.

I can't recall where I read it, but apparently some Israelis and some American Jews believe that if we strike Syria, Iran will be so pre-occupied with shoring up Assad that it will be forced to slow—or abandon—its nuclear program, a supposed "win" for Israel.

What BS!

Apparently our “calibrated intervention” is going to be “unbelievably small,” according to Secretary of State John Kerry:

Wow! That'll scare the socks off Assad and really divert Iran's attention from its nuclear program...NOT!

Not that this is necessarily true though: there have been several articles that have suggested that a much stronger “calibrated intervention” is planned, in which case all bets are off:

“[U.S. military officers] express concern — if the initial attack isn’t substantial enough — that Syria could use such agents again. So there is stepped-up military planning for a strike that could be double the size contemplated two weeks ago, spread over 72 hours and calling in B-2 or other warplanes to deliver bigger bombs than those atop Tomahawk cruise missiles.”

Under the “pinprick scenario” the very best outcome that we could hope for is that Assad would simply ignore it and get on with his business of eradicating the “rebels,” something that he already seems to be accomplishing reasonably well.

And Iran will go along with business as usual.

More likely, however, Assad will feel a face-saving need to strike back—especially if our “calibrated intervention” is more than a pinprick—and there's only one “target” close enough to hit that could be considered a “proxy” for the U.S.: Israel, of course.

Israel will naturally strike back, and then, almost certainly, Iran would become involved too, as it has already threatened:

'Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, indicated it was equally resolved to defend Assad.

"We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region," Araqchi told a news conference. "These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region." '

Faced with at least a two-front war—and maybe more—what other choice will Israel have than to resort to nukes? Even if they don't, we would then have to become involved because Israel's survival would now be on the line.

And since it would take some time for us to mobilize for a war in both Syria and Iraq, Israel is certain to take a shellacking for quite some time before we get there. How many Israelis will die before then?

How could any of these scenarios be of “benefit” to Israel?

As many of you have gathered from my earlier comments, I am a staunch supporter of Israel's right to exist, even as I acknowledge that it has made many stupid mistakes since the 1967 was.

This could be their stupidest--maybe even fatal--adventure yet.

annenigma said...

Israel has quite the stockpile of WMDs of it's own - chemical, nuclear, and biological.

Israel has not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty nor the Biological Weapons Convention. I believe that would make them isolationist.

Noodge said...

@ annenigma: How many times have the Israelis used chemical weapons on anyone?

Dragging Israel into this conversation is a problem. In the interests of full disclosure: I'm an American Jew. I lost family in the Holocaust. I had relatives (now deceased) who had numbered tattoos on their arms. I also have friends living in both Israel and Palestine, on both sides of the wall. I have been on both sides of the wall. I have seen the best and the worst of what Israelis and Palestinians have to offer, and I support the right of Israelis and Palestinians to go to bed at night secure in their own homes, under the auspices of a government that enjoys their consent.

But I also know that there continues to exist a fairly broad streak of anti-Semitism, both in the US and internationally, which claims that Jews control the American government (among other things), and claims that any time the US takes steps that might benefit Israel, it must be at the behest of Israel. The circular reasoning is overwhelming. It's also a claim made of no other government on earth, no matter how close their ties to the US or how beneficial our actions might be for their interests. It's telling, for instance, that despite the fact that the Saudis have lobbied us far harder than the Israelis to support the Egyptian generals and to bomb Syria, it's Israel that draws the attention of the media and the critics.

And while there are a number of Jews who have been too quick to raise the specter of anti-Semitism, (a sensitivity born of long experience), there has been a great deal more anti-Semitism cloaked as criticism of Israel (which is NOT to say that there isn't a great deal of legitimate criticism of Israel).

What I can be sure of is that, as a Jew, if I ever open my mouth in support of Israel there will be those ready to tell me that I have some greater allegiance to Israel than I do my own country, that I'm willing to countenance killing Arabs in order to benefit Jews, or that my religion has blinded me to the evils being committed in the name of my religion.

None of which could be further from the truth, yet the notion persists. So it has caused me, and many other Jews I know, to not only keep our voices low when discussing anything that might touch, even tangentially, on Israel, it has also made us reticent to point out anti-Semitism when we see it.

While the thought of being called out as an anti-Semite has stifled some anti-Israel criticism, it's just as true (if not more so) that fear of being labeled un-American has kept many Jews silent on a number of issues (like school prayer), not just on support for Israel.

It's fair to ask: Why single out Israel? What is it about Israel that leads anyone to believe they have enough leverage over the US government to insist we do something as extreme as go to war? It's not like Israel has any oil.

Zee said...


Extremely well said, and I agree with every word that you have written above. I hope that nothing that I have written previously would lead you to believe that I buy into any nonsense about rich, powerful Jews—and Israel—secretly running this country or being a deciding factor in whether or not the U.S. goes to war again in the Middle East.

And how could I be “anti-Semitic?” My wife of 39 years was born to a Cuban, Roman Catholic father and an American, Jewish wife. So she is both Hispanic and Jewish, though a practicing Progressive Christian. Go figure.

But please, PLEASE, PLEASE, can we all just let Noodge have the last, well-reasoned words here on the topics of Israel, American Jews, anti-Semitism etc., as they relate to speculation as to who/what is really behind the coming war with Syria?

I don't want to see another “discussion” of the sort that drove “John in Lafayette” from our midst some time ago; I still become quite angry every time I recollect that sorry event.

To me, it all seems quite clear. The blame is to be laid squarely on the shoulders of a hubristic but nitwit President who couldn't govern his own mellifluous words without a teleprompter to read from, and, possibly, an equally feeble-witted Congress, should they vote to strike Syria in blind support of the village idiot.

annenigma said...

I believe Noodge addressed me, Zee.

As I mentioned, I attended Senator McCain's town hall meeting about Syria. He gave all the reasons that we should support this war, and Israel played prominently in his sales pitch. He's not the only politician or administration official to do so.

I've also read in the news that AIPAC was launching a major lobbying effort for Congress to support this war. I wish we had an American lobbying group to represent our interest in our government! It struck me as being rather unfair that they have a greater influence with Congress than the rest of us. So I didn't pull the Israel issue of of thin air to insert in this discussion.

I was simply pointing out facts that others might not be aware of regarding Israel's WMDs and decision not to join the world stage in condemning them, or at least not applying those norms to themselves. I think it's important not to be so fearful of offending others that we don't become educated and allow others to educate us by sharing facts.

Tara Crowley said...

This blog garners impressive and researched comments. I, however, respond to all of this with a resounding "What a Clusterfuck!" I think the US population is telling our Commander in Chief quite clearly that we do not want to take military action in Syria. And telling folks like John McCain, who obviously don't want to hear the message. Of the people by the people for the people? I think not.

Pearl said...

Noodge: We have had long discussions many times on Sardonicky about this
issue. First of all you asked a question of when did Israel ever use
chemical warfare on anyone? They have used illegal U.S.cluster bombs in Lebanon, land mines and other vile instruments of war in their other conflagrations which they

I am a Jew, my husband is not and neither of us are religious. His step
father was Jewish and all their friends and my husband' s closest friends as well. When we went to Israel in l959 because of McCarthy persecution which prevented my husband from working as a Nuclear Physicist in the U.S, we had
no negative opinions of Israel, quite the contrary. Why would we go there
for a contract of 4 years with the possibility of a lifetime stay if we
didn't like the government or the way the country was run? Even Izzy Stone
whom we admired spoke of the openness within the country to welcoming
residents of different opinions.

But the four years we lived there was an eye opener and not in a good way. I
won't go into it all again because I have related our experiences several
times on Sardonicky when these issues reappear.

You are entitled to your opinions and feelings but let me ask you, have you
lived in Israel, have you followed the programs of the outstanding Jewish
Peace Organizations who are up in arms about what is going in the country (some headed by reformed rabbis)? Have you recognized the propaganda which is not totally honest that is using emotional blackmail to keep people
from asking too many questions?

I am just taking the time to write this because I don't pay attention
anymore to being considered an anti-semite or worse, a self-hating Jew. I
think that the current behavior in Israel regarding Palestine, refusing to follow agreements about settlers, ad infinitum is destroying itself and the reasons that so many Jews who escaped the concentration camps and found refuge in Israel, are turning against its policies. They were already doing that when we were there and their policies are creating more anti-semitism than people like
myself could ever possibly be. And yes, my next door neighbors, good friends for several years had tattoo numbers on their arms yet asked me to help them get out of the country when we left.

So there is another side to this story and if Jews (mostly the older people)cannot abide differing opinions and label us or are afraid to speak up if they agree, are not helping the situation. Most of the younger American Jews are now questioning it all which is a healthy sign. I am sad to think that
the country is committing political suicide, especially aligning themselves with the military mentality of the U.S. - their sugar daddy - receiving huge
amounts of money that pays for their military machinery. It will and is
already backfiring. Some of the progressive writers of Haaretz are writing excellent articles about their concerns and I hope you will access them.

It is interesting that now that they have to expose Kerry's goof that if
there were a challenge to Assad to give up all the chemical warfare items in stock in Syria, we would be happy to join in but that it could never happen, - the official response is the reason that Russia picked up on this possibility is because of the threat of the power of the U.S. to make some kind of attack which frightened them. Never mind that Obama was about to lose face and credibility because the American citizenry are up in arms
against any kind of a war with a looming negative vote in Congress. They spin things well.

annenigma said...


I forgot to answer your opening question.

Answer: The chemical White Phosphorus in 2006 in Israeli-Lebanon Conflict; in 2008-2009 during the Gaza War; and 2009-2012 against Palestinians. I can't tell you specifically how many times though.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have extensive reports.


Noodge said...

@ Pearl: First of all, happy birthday!

You change the subject. This discussion, at least my end of it, wasn't about Israeli treatment of the Palestinians; something on which we share some pretty common ground. As I stated previously, I am very much in favor of the Palestinians having the opportunity to live under a government of their own choosing, and that necessarily includes the Israelis getting off the West Bank, at the very least.

But I was talking about the idea that somehow Israel (read: the Jews) controls the workings of the American government. I was talking about the way American anti-Semitism (which is real and persistent) labels Jews as being un-American and disloyal (See "annenigma's" comment about how AIPAC is not American).

Again, I point out that the Saudis seem to be having a much greater influence over our policy in the Middle East these days than the Israelis, yet for some reason the belief persists that the US is being led to war by Israeli and American Jews. Why is that?

My personal experience in the Middle East was mostly on the West Bank, where I stayed with the family of the former mayor of Bethlehem. I only spent a few weeks in Israel proper.

@ annenigma: Phosphorous bombs, as horrific as they are, are not considered chemical weapons. The US, by the way, still maintains a store of chemical weapons, ostensibly for retaliation should someone use them against us.

I wonder how it is you can claim AIPAC - an organization made up almost entirely of American citizens - is somehow not American. Else why would you say "I wish we had an American lobbying group to represent our interest in our government!"

I am not a member of AIPAC, but if I were, I would probably resent your intimation that I am somehow not an American.

Jay - Ottawa said...


"I wonder how it is you can claim AIPAC - an organization made up almost entirely of American citizens - is somehow not American. Else why would you say "I wish we had an American lobbying group to represent our interest in our government!"

You're distorting what she said so as to make a straw man you can easily knock down and charge with anti-Semitism.

Now let me speak for myself. Let's see if I come off as an anti-Semite. I hear your declaration about having lost family in the Holocaust and I am sympathetic. More than half the remaining members of my own family (through marriage – I’m the goy) is Jewish. A few of them are found in the AIPAC camp but just about all the rest are in the Tikkun camp. None is of the self-loathing type, and so over the years I’ve had a fine introduction to Jewish contributions to Western civilization.

Because of a comment or comments here today, you’ve been moved to play the anti-Semitism card. This site and its regulars jump from one topic to another. Commenters can’t say all there is to say, good and bad, about everybody in one post and at the high bar mandated by the politically correct. As you know, sometimes our criticism descends upon one lone individual in office, sometimes one policy, sometimes one guild (think bankers), sometimes one entire government.

If today a commenter focuses on the bully tactics of Israel, does he/she thereby become an “anti-Semite” for singling out Israel and developing his/her argument at length? No more than another critic on another day might be called “anti-American” or “pinko” for expressing relief at Russia’s grant of asylum to Edward Snowden.

One consistent strain I’ve found at Sardonicky is that commenters often criticize the powerful –– whether persons, groups or nations –– who habitually kick around the downtrodden. They don’t like the bully who lords it over the underdog.

In the Middle East, Israel is seldom regarded as the underdog. Sometimes, a Sardonicky commenter may focus on Israel’s bully tactics and behavior, but no one here does that exclusively and repeatedly. They should no more self-censor themselves on the merits of Israeli policy and actions any more than you should in stating your case in defense of Israel.

The government of Israel, in contradiction to its own heritage, has for a long time carried on as a bully. It is in possession of weapons of mass destruction. It is deeply involved in undermining its minorities and its neighbors. It has committed world-class crimes, which cannot be excused by invoking the Holocaust or pointing to existential threats from neighbors. Are all Israel haters anti-Semitic? Might there be reasons other than prejudice for hating Israel?

Despite being the big dog in the Middle East and frequently abusing its power, Israel continues to enjoy massive, ongoing and uncritical support from Washington. A fair-minded person should be able to see that injustice and say so without being labeled an anti-Semite.

Closer to home, AIPAC helps the Israeli bully carry on unchecked as a bully because AIPAC, much like the NRA, exercises undue sway over the Washington scene. Any politician who pushes back gets attacked in the media and hounded out of office.

You may quarrel with my assessment of Israel and its lobby here in the USA, but please don’t call me an anti-Semite. Yes, there are anti-Semites; but maybe, just maybe, stern critics of Israel are as fair-minded as can be and vastly outnumber those who are in fact anti-Semites. We should not conflate the two.

Noodge said...

Jay: You're setting up a straw man of your own.

But first, to "annenigma's" comment. How else to take it? AIPAC members are Americans. The latest Gallup poll places support for Israel at 64% among the American population.

By saying that "I wish we had an American lobbying group to represent our interest..." her implication is clear: AIPAC is not an American group and is not representing American interests.

Well that just ain't true, at least not according to Gallup. And since AIPAC is made up almost entirely of American Jews, the further inference is also clear: American Jews aren't REALLY Americans. One simply can't pretend otherwise.

And what is an "American interest," anyway? I'd say something on which nearly two-thirds of the population are agreed is an interest. Much as you might have it otherwise, that's the reality. Nearly two-thirds of the American population believe Israel deserves our support.

Now, for the record, I believe AIPAC is wrong in the way they approach things; they are far too hawkish. They are part and parcel of the school of thought that says support for Israel means giving the Israelis whatever they want, even (especially) at the expense of the Palestinians. Not only is that wrong, it's not in Israel's long-term interests (which depend ultimately on having a safe, secure Palestinian population lving alongside).

Which brings me to your straw man. This conversation is not about criticism of Israeli conduct; and I never once said all criticism - or even most criticism - of Israel is rooted in anti-Semitism. Some of it is, most certainly, but that was never my point either way. If I thought all harsh critics of Israel were anti-Semites, I would have to number myself an anti-Semite.

My point is that saying that American Jews (like AIPAC members) who support Israel are un-American is anti-Semitic. Saying the American government is in the thrall of Jews, even to the point of going to war for the benefit of the Jews, is anti-Semitic. Saying that, but for the Jews the US would be on the "right" side of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, despite overwhelming public support for Israel among the non-Jewish population, is anti-Semitic. And most importantly for this conversation, saying the United States is about to bomb Syria for the benefit of Israel and at the behest of American Jews is anti-Semitic (and I say this as one adamantly opposed to bombing Syria).

And that is the last I will say on this.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Nodge, Thanks for taking time to respond. In particular, I want to salute the wisdom that prompts you by example to suggest that we leave it at that.

Irrespective of any statement that might have left itself open to the charge of anti-Semitism, I hope there is agreement that no one here ever intended to advance the anti-Semitic line.


Noodge said...

Jay: I will say this much more: If I didn't have such a great deal of respect for those who leave their comments on this site I wouldn't bother to respond to any of them. Also, I appreciate anyone who takes time to respond to me and point out where my train might have gone off the rails.