Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 03, 2006

Lost Because Of Translation

The war on Iraq that is.

Rumsfeld's last memo (leaked to hit Bush by whom? Rumsfeld? Cambone?) includes as one point a "reverse embed" program. Iraqi soldiers would embed with US troops so help U.S. troops learn Arabic and culture. But how would those embedded Iraqis learn English?

The Baker/Hamilton plan will demand an increase in US troops embedded in Iraqi forces. How will these embeds talk to the Iraqis?

The decisive but missing ingredient of the war are translators. Without translation there is no intelligence, without translation there is no training Iraqi troops, without translation there can not be any decent relationship. Without translation the war is lost.

The lack of translators was discussed in the media as problematic in 2003, 2004, 2005 and in 2006 is of course still the problem.

Training troops to a decent language level takes a lot of time:

"It's easier to train someone to fly an F-14 than it is to speak Arabic," said Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association.

One would have expected the DoD to start a program for this obviously needed capability immediately after 9/11 or at least when the first problems occurred.

But as Fred Kaplan documented, the Department of Defense has yet not even started to train very, very basic Arabic to its guys on the ground.

In August 2004, nearly three years after 9/11, the DoD released a Defense Language Transformation Roadmap (pdf). The roadmap included deadlines for certain Arab language training projects. To "Establish 'crash' or 'survival' courses for deploying forces" the planed date is September 2007.

The troops deployed now and throughout the next year will hardly be able to understand, or say, "yes", "no" or "thank you" in Arabic. Until this year, even U.S. officers were not demanded to take any foreign language course at all.

Missing the capability itself, the military awarded huge contracts to private contractors to provide translators. Titan, now bought by L-3, did so exclusively over the first years and it currently bills some $70 million per month for translators in Iraq. U.S. civilian linguists are payed up to $15,000 per month now. That price is up from $7,000 a year ago. Their job is mostly base bound intelligence translation.

Iraqi civilian translators do get $1,000 per month now and they are those who go out into the field and take real risk. Of Titan employees alone at least 216 have died in Iraq, more than 600 were wounded. They and their families get attacked and when they get wounded the trouble only starts.

But of course there is the ever high believe in technology and the DoD has tried several products that claim to translate English to Arabic and vice versa. So far, with many millions spend, nothing really works and even the better stuff is pretty useless:

"If you ask, 'What color was the car?' it will be looking for something like blue or red," he said. But if the person responds by asking which car or says he didn't see a car, the system will not be able to translate, McCunne said. "It's a fairly limited type of communication," he added.

The language problem will not go away and I find no sign that there are any real attempts to solve it.

The militray is stuck in a bureaucracy fight about language training management and has not even started any broad basic training. The contracters certainly know how to bilk the public, but they were not and will not be able to provide linguists in sufficiant numbers and with sufficiant capabilities. Technology solutions sound fine but are useless in a dynamic and dangerous environment.

As former Marine Colonel Thommas X. Hammers said:

Insurgencies like that in Iraq are defeated not on the battlefield but by good governance and effective police work. The United States will not achieve either if it can't understand what its allies are saying, much less what its enemies are saying.

But then, if one has another ten years to get the job done ... their just may be some chance of success.

Posted by b on December 3, 2006 at 01:47 PM | Permalink


Inferior people learn to speak English (or French, or...) so that they can understand their Lords and Masters! That holds for the subjects of colonialism, old style or new, imported slaves, and for business partners who are dominated.

The Nazis didn’t follow Polish courses, did they? How many Americans learnt Tagalog - the main Philippine dialect?

Who holds the best record here? The Brits perhaps, but only because their empire was so large and it was a while ago...face to face diplomacy was frequent, reading of texts also...a necessity factor...

Languages, and writing systems are imposed along with conquest, always.

As far as I can see, many of the members of the Iraqi Gvmt live in Mayfair or Kensington, they have joined the Masters, so to speak. They may be brushing up on Paki slang, and French for the menus, care of their chauffeurs and arrogant waiters or pedagogical cooks!

People who are fluent and expert in ‘Arabic’ in the US, either native or learnt, are discriminated against anyway. Just wearing a T shirt with Arab script on it can get you in trouble...One can’t at the same time stigmatize a ‘people’ (itself a fanciful construction), their appearance, dress, language, accent, religion, expertise, world view, and then expect to be successful in hiring in-country experts.

Nobody cares to listen to and understand the Iraqis. There is no point to it. They are to submit.

B’s post makes the contradictions stark.

Posted by: Noirette | Dec 3, 2006 2:37:32 PM | 1

I think we were just expecting them to speak to us in the language of flowers: the ones they were supposed to be throwing at us...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Dec 3, 2006 2:57:09 PM | 2

Comprehensive poat on the subject b,


..... as Mr. Rumsfeld says that the Iraqis must “pull up their socks,” and suggests that reconstruction aid should be withheld in violent areas to avoid rewarding “bad behavior.”

Which would suggest that the barrel of a gun in your face does all the translation necessary. Besides, they're banking on the Iraqi politicians to tell the Iraqi people what we want.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 3, 2006 3:33:59 PM | 3

I had an Iraqi roommate a few months back, who was looking for work, and found himself being recruited by a mercenary firm for translation purposes. They sold it to him as being on the base, safe in translation, etc. Then when he got the contract, it said that he needed to be in good physical shape for external missions. He told the recruiter "no thanks" and she began to hassle and try to blackmail him with the results of his background check, which is, of course, illegal.

Fortunately, he saw through it and just began ignoring her, but these are immoral, desperate people. Not a good combination.

Posted by: Rowan | Dec 3, 2006 3:49:33 PM | 4

Languages, and writing systems are imposed along with conquest, always.

1066 - The Battle of Hastings - one exception that comes to mind. Tons of French words dropped into the language in what followed, but basically English survived.

Posted by: Hamburger | Dec 3, 2006 4:43:41 PM | 5

These clowns couldn't know how to run an empire if their lifes depended on it. Since no one in their family has ever risked life in this imperial endeavour, they just don't care.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Dec 3, 2006 4:45:58 PM | 6

Great post b, lost in translation indeed.......


To this day the rebels identify themselves by the acronym FULRO, which stands for Le Front Unifie de Lutte des Races Opprimées, or The United Front for the Struggle of Oppressed Races. They are fighting against the threat of genocide from the Hanoi government, just as they have had to fight discrimination for at least two centuries. In recent decades that has meant Montagnards could not have passports because they were not allowed to leave Vietnam, and Montagnard teachers could not teach classes in their own language. "Today, they are being forced to speak Vietnamese, take Vietnamese names and intermarry," said Morris, a native Oklahoman. "What's happening to them is exactly what happened to American Indians in this country. Interestingly, some of the gravest concern for the 'Yards' has been registered by American Indian Vietnam vets."

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Dec 3, 2006 5:10:33 PM | 7


1066 - The Battle of Hastings - one exception that comes to mind.

I beg to differ. English is esperanto of North Sea Europe. Look at your handle for starters.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Dec 3, 2006 5:17:46 PM | 8

By 2004 the targeting of translaters was noticeable. This was a sure sign the insurgents were serious, and knew what they were doing. From an insurgent's point of view, translators are traitors, always, (and dangerous), and are normally killed.

Our side seems not even yet to have figured this out. The linked story makes clear how negligent and sloppy the US and its contracting firms were about protecting these people.

Posted by: Gaianne | Dec 3, 2006 5:32:14 PM | 9

From uncle continuing saga of, the war at home:

Somebody should translate this.... doh'

Idea of Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq Seems to Fade

...[D]espite the Democrats' victory this month in an election viewed as a referendum on the war, the idea of a rapid American troop withdrawal is fast receding as a viable option.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are signaling that too rapid an American pullout would open the way to all-out civil war. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has shied away from recommending explicit timelines in favor of a vaguely timed pullback. The report that the panel will deliver to President Bush next week would, at a minimum, leave a force of 70,000 or more troops in the country for a long time to come.... Even the Democrats, with an eye toward 2008, have dropped talk of a race for the exits....

The group never seriously considered the position that Representative John P. Murtha... took more than a year ago, that withdrawal should begin immediately. The group did debate timetables.... But explicit mention of such a schedule was dropped.

In statements on Thursday, Democrats from former President Bill Clinton to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to agree that hard timelines could invite trouble....

"We're not going to do anything to limit funding or cut off funds," says Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

This is so wonderful. The Democrats aren't even making me wait until they take office to watch them sell out their most devoted, and perennially betrayed, supporters.

I foresee that dedicated Kosniks et sim., who have spent the last few years making anti-war noises and selling the Democrats as the only hope for peace, will emerge as actual apologists for continued war, now that "their" party, with its legislative majorities, has undeniable buy-in and responsibility. This is another subtle effect of the two-party machine and the lesser evil mentality -- they pull the internal Left back into line. People just can't stand the cognitive dissonance, and if they can't give up the institution, they have to give up their convictions instead.

Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion
Can't find anything on Ko$ about it. They're just figuring out that Feinstein shivved 'em. I guess it takes awhile for a dinosaur to know it's been shot.


It's going to be a New Day with the New Democratic Majority

Coke or Pepsi ?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 3, 2006 5:33:26 PM | 10

Well, sure, after Hastings, there was a mostly Germanic language in England. That said, the Norman conquest surely wiped out the previous Anglo-Saxon language, which was tremendously modified, and the whole elite spoke French until late into 100-years war. In fact, it's quite clear that if the English crown had managed to take over France (even moreso if the Plantagenets had managed it), then the whole "English" nobility would've spoken French for the centuries to come, and at the end of the day, it's quite possible that English as such would be in the position of Gaelic nowadays.
And, by the way, the main reason why the locals didn't switch totally to French after 1066 was that the invading force was numerically ridiculous to begin with, and didn't represent a major power that backed it - like the Romans conquering a new province -, that is, it wasn't France invading England but some rebellous Northern province who decided to pay a visit to their neighbors beyond the Channel.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Dec 3, 2006 5:52:46 PM | 11

Kevin Costner is considering a new film, starring himself, wherein he plays a lone Marine Corps Captain who is sent to hold a distant fort in Anbar Province.

Bureaucratic mixups leave him stranded out there. He begins to meet and get to know some of the local Sunnis, learns their language, and finds out they are actually more civilized than the spinmeisters and louts back at General Headquarters.

I won't spoil the ending for you, but it is a real heartwarming story.

I've mailed him three copies of the script so far, but for some reason he keeps mailing them back.

Posted by: Antifa | Dec 3, 2006 6:56:25 PM | 12

hahaha... Antifa, you never, ever fail to crack me up!

Posted by: | Dec 3, 2006 7:45:08 PM | 13

Uh, #13 twas $cam

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 3, 2006 7:53:52 PM | 14

Uncle $cam #10 - what did you expect - the Democrats and dKos seem be to busy electing the new President in 2008 to be bothered with actual down to earth congressional work.

Posted by: Fran | Dec 4, 2006 1:32:51 AM | 15

Afghanistan - same management, same problem: Report Faults Training of Afghan Police

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.
Police training experts who have studied or had first-hand experience with the American effort in Afghanistan said they agreed with the report’s findings, and some said they had warned for years that field training was the backbone of a strong program. But they said additional problems needed to be investigated, including the quality of private contractors and the cost and effectiveness of relying on them to train the police officers. In particular, the experts questioned why the report focused on United States government managers and only glancingly analyzed the performance of the principal contractor in Afghanistan, DynCorp International of Virginia.
Under orders from the Defense Department, the company has deployed 377 police advisers to Afghanistan, roughly half the number the United States has deployed in Iraq. Police training experts say far more police advisers are needed in Afghanistan, which is roughly the same size as Iraq. The report says that management of the DynCorp contract by United States government officials in Afghanistan has fallen into a state of disarray; conflicting military and civilian bureaucracies could not even find a copy of the contract to clarify for auditors exactly what it called for.
NATO Says Kills 70 - 80 Taliban in Fierce Battle
KABUL (Reuters) - NATO troops killed 70-80 Taliban in a fierce battle in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said on Monday.

A reconnaissance patrol hunting Taliban engaged a large group of fighters on Sunday about 9 miles from the village of Musa Qala in Helmand, a stronghold of the Islamist guerrillas and the main opium-growing province in the world's major supplier.

In a four-hour battle backed by attack helicopters and close air support, the ground commander estimated 70-80 guerrillas were killed, a NATO spokesman said.
NATO confirmed on Sunday that a civilian MI-21 helicopter, with a crew of eight, chartered to ferry supplies had crashed in Kandahar province.

The Interior Ministry said at least some of those on board had died, but NATO said its ground forces had not reached the wreckage and it did not know the fate of the crew.

The helicopter was owned by U.S. security and logistics firm DynCorp International.

Posted by: b | Dec 4, 2006 1:35:28 AM | 16

Krugman Two More Years

So Mr. Bush will keep sending other men’s children off to fight his war. And he’ll always insist that Iraq would have been a great victory if only his successors had shared his steely determination.

Does this mean that we’re doomed to at least two more years of bloody futility? Not necessarily. ... He’s still the commander in chief, but the new majority in Congress can put a lot of pressure on him to at least begin a withdrawal.

I’m worried, however, that Democrats may have counted on the Iraq Study Group to provide them with political cover. Now that the study group has apparently wimped out, will the Democrats do the same?

Well, here’s a question for those who might be tempted, yet again, to shy away from a confrontation with Mr. Bush over Iraq: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bully’s ego?

Posted by: b | Dec 4, 2006 2:03:35 AM | 17

The CIA and The Militant Who Eluded It in Norway

Krekar hasn't always been an enemy of the United States. He fled northern Iraq in 1990 and received asylum in Norway after claiming he had been persecuted by Saddam Hussein's security services.

After the Persian Gulf War of 1991, he returned for long visits to his Kurdish homeland, which was under the protection of U.S. warplanes maintaining a "no-fly" zone. In early 2001, he said, he and other Kurdish leaders met with three CIA officers to discuss how to overthrow Hussein.

Posted by: b | Dec 4, 2006 2:23:24 AM | 18

Anyone considering work as a translator may want to speak to Sibel Edmonds, or Chaplain (ex/retired) Yee(?) before signing on the dotted line. But I don't see why they're having such problems. A lot of Israelis are fluent Arabic speakers & all have military experience - quite relevant in fact!!

Posted by: jj | Dec 4, 2006 3:34:13 AM | 19

Reserve combat engineer battalions may be Iraq-bound

The Pentagon is developing plans to send four combat engineer battalions of reserves to Iraq early next year to boost security in Baghdad, senior defense officials said Wednesday.

The battalion strength would total about 3,500 troops, officials said, adding that the units would come from around the United States and have already done a tour in Iraq. Officials said there has been no final decision on which battalions will go.

Combat engineering is bridge building under fire, cleaning minefields and obstacles and all those things that need to be done to help in a fighting retreat. When Sadr's guys take down the bridges across the Tigris, these guys will be needed. Four batallions is quite a lot of specialized troops.

Do I smell some desperation?

Posted by: b | Dec 4, 2006 10:48:30 AM | 20

Cloned Poster @ 8,

English is not an esperanto anywhere.

Maybe you meant English is a lingua franca of North Sea Europe?

My point was that the Norman conquest of England did not result in the imposition of Anglo-Norman French on the inhabitants.

P.S. There are many possible denotata for my "handle" - a sandwich, however, is not the correct one.



Posted by: Hamburger | Dec 4, 2006 12:16:08 PM | 21

Two excellent posts up by Badger (missing links)

Azzaman says some Iraqi opponents of an international conference fear ending up in the dock


Sources said there is clearly anxiety among a large number of Iraqi politicians about the idea of an international conference on Iraq such as called for by UN secretary general Kofi Annan to fend off civil war, which [opposition to the international conference idea] is to prevent carrying out of demands for establishment of supervisory councils and international court proceedings against 76 individuals from the Iraqi political circles, including ministers, vice-ministers and party heads, with respect to whom files have been assembled on their involvement in operations of killing, kidnapping, and purges, in addition to files relating to corruption of a political nature connected to countries and regions. And the sources said party leaders have held meetings with small elected officials in their parties where the discussion was about the fact that officials in the international council are in possession of documents and evidence that is difficult to refute accusing a group of Iraqi politicians, and some thought this [files and evidence] is an American surprise [because the Americans] have kept this under wraps for a long time.

Plugged-in Saudi writer: The Baker-Gates program will reflect the Saudi wish-list


So: A more aggressive military strategy, particularly vis-a-vis Iran, less talk of discussions with Iran, as part of an overall change that includes among other things toppling the Maliki government. This is the Saudi wish-list, and it is also where the Baker-Gates program is heading. Nice to know where the decisions are being made.

Posted by: Bea | Dec 4, 2006 12:48:49 PM | 22


Mr Death Squad Goes to Washington


No one in his right mind is suggesting that exiting Iraq was ever going to be a tidy business. But that doesn’t mean we have to ignore that the man invited to sip tea with the president is holding a common household drill dripping with blood and brain tissue. Hakim keeps trying to wipe it off with his clerical robes to the amusement of the President – who has no clothes to help out his guest. Snickering in the corner, the assembled media dignitaries mind their manners and pretend not to notice.

Posted by: Bea | Dec 4, 2006 3:00:03 PM | 23

All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage. There are still far too few Arab language– proficient military and civilian officers in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. mission.
Baker/Hamilton Report (pdf)

Posted by: b | Dec 6, 2006 12:49:41 PM | 24

Transforming Robin Sage

Robin Sage has been the litmus test for soldiers hoping to earn the coveted Green Beret. Company E, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, is being tasked to make the Robin Sage exercise even better by incorporating language, culture, tactics, techniques and procedures from the current battlespace into the existing program.


The ultimate goal is to have linguists take on the task of the G-forces, as the addition of language and culture scenarios into Robin Sage is a major point of the transformation. “Language will remain a huge portion of the course,” Hester said. “We are looking at a number of initiatives that will incorporate language personnel in the 10 target languages taught at the school into the exercise.”

The use of linguists will require the students to operate in their target language to gather intelligence, to instruct the G-forces and to build relationships. The goal is for students to utilize their language skills throughout the exercise.

The long-term solution is to add linguists, as has been done at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., to build the G-force. Those linguists would work for the 1st Battalion year-round. But Hester noted that the new personnel will come with a price tag. “Resourcing will play a big role in the transformation of Robin Sage,” he said.

In the interim, the plan is to have three linguists per target language within the G-force. Since students are now going through the SFQC in cohorts geared toward a specific language, when that language appears on the student load for a class, linguists in the target language will participate in the program. “They will come out and assist us in specific scenarios,” Hester explained.

In August, two student teams whose target language is Arabic traveled to the National Training Center to participate in a pilot program known as Desert Sage. The exercise was designed to make the UW exercise more relevant by targeting language and cultural training in a realistic combat environment.

Major Terry Hodgson and Sergeant First Class Daniel Hahn headed up the pilot exercise. “The NTC has a contract to provide Arab role players for each NTC rotation,” Hahn explained. “Our class came in five days early and, later in the exercise, were integrated with conventional forces.”


In a larger sense, the exercise helped show that the students are more capable now of communicating in their target languages than ever before. “It showed us that trying to communicate complex thoughts like op orders was difficult, but that they could get the ideas across,” Hodgson said.


Both agree that the atmosphere that challenged students to utilize their language skills could be replicated in the Pineland exercise. “There’s no way we can replicate a desert environment, but we could replicate some of the language and culture aspects by simply bringing two or three cultural role players to Pineland with us,” Hahn said.

re the "language and culture aspects" these special forces "guerillas" incorporate in their final exercises, apparently a significant portion of the people in the rest of the world are much like north carolinians

More than 400 such civilians — 60 in Randolph County — volunteer during each Robin Sage exercise. They provide the team with food and transportation and test the soldiers’ ability to build rapport with locals.

In Randolph County, “Pineland Bob” Snyder supplies the team with food. Snyder is retired, but many of the auxiliary work as firefighters, deputies, doctors and business people. Some are second- or third-generation volunteers.

“I consider it a necessity for us to be here. When they go into another country, they are going to meet all kinds of people,” Snyder said. “Maybe something I will do will save somebody’s life.”

Robin Sage tests Special Forces trainees

but even a fluency in english-US wasn't enough save one trainee in 2002

An officer was killed and another soldier injured 23 February 2002 in a training exercise near Fort Bragg when a sheriff's deputy shot them in what has been called "a tragic case of mistaken identity and fatal misunderstanding." 1st Lt. Tallas Tomeny, 31, was killed when Deputy Randall Butler from the Sheriff's Office in Moore County, N.C., shot him after an attempt to subdue him with pepper spray failed. Sgt. Stephen Phelps, 25, also shot by Butler during the incident, is listed in fair condition at First Health of the Carolinas in Pinehurst, NC. The two soldiers thought Butler was a participant in the training exercise known as Robin Sage.

The use of local law enforcement in Robin Sage is not uncommon. The use of civilians allows for realistic portrayal of a native population during Robin Sage, which takes place in the notional country of "Pineland." "Some of the auxiliary are in fact police officers

When he pulled them over, Butler noticed the soldiers were carrying a bag with a partially disassembled M-4 carbine rifle. Tomeny and Phelps were wearing civilian clothes at the time to avoid detection during their mission. Deputy Butler acted with the belief that he was in imminent danger and responded according to his training. The soldiers were convinced that the police officer was role playing in the exercise, and they were acting as part of a legitimate training exercise. [source]

Posted by: b real | Dec 11, 2006 12:25:17 PM | 25

what is clear of this empire as with others : - it has no understanding of their own culture let alone that of others. in fact, they are congenitally incapable of that understanding. it is the profound emptiness that exist in the stomach of all empires. they are scopophiliacs - they have no capacity to comprehend even qualitative movements in the culture(s) they violate & annexe

for them language is a matter of pure mimicry. if it is difficult for the to understand the imperatives of a spanish speaking people then understand the utter impossibility of their understanding the intricacies of arab

sure, the best of them may arrive at a t e lawrence form of mimetism - but it is a nice story with something significant left out - the truth

the transgression the plus total (& incidentaly a question my friend slothrop never mentions) is the way the culture(s) of this particular empire have done the most profound damage of any empire - it is benjamin's truth of the barbarism hidden with the acts of culture

& in those terms i doubt we have ever arrived at the kind of barbarism we have arrived at today

& with their scopophilia they cannot see - when looking at the madness of zaire/drc - that that madness is merely a mirror of the madness of a washington dc - it is easy for them to speak of tribes of clans or of sects - but the dissaray, the deconstruction is particularly western

when comrade chavez speaks, on the contrary he has both a profound political & cultural understanding of what he is doing. & what he is doing is not without irony or humour. the oppressed are like the old field negroes - they understand the movements of the master better than he knows them himself & that is the masters weakness & finally his downfall

& because of the work done by the cia in the 1950's with their associations of cultural freedoms & other front groups we have a very clear idea indeed of how they perceive their own culture & the culture of others

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 11, 2006 1:01:32 PM | 26

we need to have another philosophical tete-a-tete on the merits of "empire." I believe the model misleads too many to find an irreducible evil other while the machinations of virtual power--global capitalism--go unnoticed.

this war is a global war. a world war not defined by the interests of nation-states or some vestigial periphery/core antagonism, but a war of a networked global society. we'd all like to go home and mind our own business. impossible.

things are different.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 11, 2006 11:11:13 PM | 27

imo. everyone here should carve out a little holiday time for the van crevald decline of nation-state book.


Posted by: slothrop | Dec 11, 2006 11:13:39 PM | 28

It'd be easier than reading Kolko's "End of Socialism."

Anyway, what you describe, the willful misdirection, is called "Globalization," the war of corporate capital vs. non-participation in the current dominant world system, and a semblance of self-determination. Read John Taylor Gatto to learn how the education system was purposely designed to encourage this type of thinking and the rôles it prepares us for, and to keep us from thinking more holistically. This thinking is analagous to auto-immune disease, where, through confusion, the body mistakes itself for other and attacks itself rather than living at peace with its environment: We humans attack fellow humans rather than adopting a system for sanely and sustainably answering our needs.

Posted by: Bob M. | Dec 11, 2006 11:48:21 PM | 29


borat is fucking brilliant.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 12, 2006 12:15:39 AM | 30

is it too reducible to point out that the world currency is the u.s. dollar?

Posted by: b real | Dec 12, 2006 12:24:50 AM | 31

global currency would be a better way of phrasing that

on the end of socialism, just read this, which made me think of the kolko book

green left weekly: Could you comment on Chavez’s project for “socialism of the 21st century”?

marta harnecker: The truth is we have many critics. Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, said that when socialism failed in the Soviet Union, the West said that socialism died and so did Marxism. Galeano said that the socialism that is dead is not our socialism, because the socialist project that we are defending is fundamentally humanist, democratic and based on solidarity. The socialism that died was a bureaucratic socialism that the people did not defend, because there was no real participation.

I think Chavez knows this. Chavez knows that you can only create a socialist society of the future if the people, the most humble, the poorest, the most exploited, participate in this process. The great merit of Chavez is that he is a leader who promotes popular organisation — who is convinced that the force of this process is in the organisation. Chavez is always calling for more organisations and inventing new organisations. At times, too many. It is a creativity that gives the possibility that everybody can be organised.

Posted by: b real | Dec 12, 2006 12:31:09 AM | 32

Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World

Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World visualizes the strong correlation of values in different cultures. Countries are clustered in a remarkably predictable way.

Huh. Imagine that.

Posted by: Monolycus | Dec 12, 2006 12:31:35 AM | 33

@Slothrop - could you say more about the bk???

a war of a networked global society

Is this shorthand for a war of the Wall St. Predators?

As I've watched I've thought it partly came about because Nature Abhors a Vaccuum & the xUS. govt. has relinquished most of it's functions apart from foreign policy & engineering wars. (chose "engineering" 'cuz the Predators are inc. taking over military functions, hence "waging" seemed a bit wrong)

Posted by: jj | Dec 12, 2006 12:51:04 AM | 34


they are not digs at you

but i think you miss things in the belly of the beast

& perhaps i am too close to the carnage that capital & empire wreak

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 12, 2006 2:05:41 PM | 35

there is little doubt the declining legitimation of the nation-state and its institutions coincides w/ the globalization of capital. the old nationalist defenses of a way of life against the political and economic globalization of life no longer work. think global, act local, doesn't work. one of the genius implementations of new media by capital is to excise the local as locus of dissent and disengagement. there are some intriguing moments in which the "networked society" seems to offer counterhegemony: subcomandante marcos, falun gong, seattle protests, the intermittent mobilization of protests and boycott like the sinclair broadcasting episode in 2004, and even the usual presumptions of european sophistication masqueraded as the obverse of "american empire" on blogs such as moa, and so on. yet, these examples do little to rescue the nation-state institutions and the resources of development expropriated by global capital. against this juggernaut of exploitation, the distractions of local answers to an eminently global problem make things worse. the local struggles are rhetorical defiances but not real moments of counterhegemony because they do not consolidate practice around an ideology aware of the totalizing impact of global capitalism. the collapsing legitimacy of the state, the schizoid proliferation of "movements," the growing influence of religion, the subterfuge of reason by postmodernist illusions of autonomy from right and left libertarians, the new forms of leftism dismissing the commanded economy while slyly embracing free market capitalism, and the nightmarish collapse of the m.e. and africa into fractally "local" contests for survival; these are all demaging effects of an information society guided by global capitalism. and none of this can find redress by the impulse to go back home and mind one's business. if/when the u.s. leaves, we will see very quickly how much the fantacized integrity of the local survives this crisis of globalization.

I don't think we can afford to find out.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 12, 2006 5:31:02 PM | 36

quick thought on think global, act local, doesn't work and the distractions of local answers to an eminently global problem.

the network requires juice to facilitate global connections & transactions, so the only point at which one can truncate the global is the local. think global, destroy locally. plenty of cell towers w/i a small radius of every local community. satellite dishes, power grids, substations, etc. the network can only thrive if enough neurons & hubs remain intact.

Posted by: b real | Dec 12, 2006 5:47:32 PM | 38

@Slothrop, glad you started off w/"globalization of capital". Thinking about the dismal state of the dollar & the plutocracy, it occurred to me that one cannot have a stable country if it's run by a Plutocracy that has no vested interest in the viability of the currency in it's own country. They have nothing to lose from plundering the country, then shipping their plunder overseas while the rest of us are destroyed.

As an economist, would you give us some background on when it became legal for them to just ship their money overseas whenever they wanted in whatever amounts they wished? Thanks.

I recall in beg. of the 80's the French Bankers destroying the last attempt by the Fr. govt. to pursue policies that actually benefitted its citizens. Bankers said F*** You, we'll just take our money & go elsewhere. Or could banks always shift their capital, but not individuals?

Posted by: jj | Dec 12, 2006 6:01:00 PM | 39


i'm gonna go take out a,,sid26_gci214106,00.html>nap, baby.

i don't mean to say network society is intrinsically bad. globalization is not in-itself evil. i'm saying what passes now as forms of networked dissent are incompetant. total hegemony requires a unified theory to guide counterhegemony. and if the forces of insurgency were guided by a comprehensive understanding of networked capitalism and the demise of the modern nation-state, then i'd say leaving and "defeat" of american "empire" is a good thing.

I don't want to jackup a nat, btw. that would interrupt my "apocalypto" download.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 12, 2006 6:04:55 PM | 40


i'm no economist.

i too would like to know more how the weird expansion of global capital endures these massive accumulations of capital. once i'm done w/ some end of year projects, i thiought i might take a stab at "explaining" w/ many questions some of these bizarre contradictions.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 12, 2006 6:10:52 PM | 41

shit. i emphatically distinguish my "collapse of nation-state" thing above from>brooks's bullshit (warning: not work-safe or a site for persons who dislike vaginas).
it would be a mistake to think, as brooks does, the u.s. is any less victimized by the decline of the state!

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 12, 2006 6:28:32 PM | 42


what i find most disconcerting is always your search for the 'theory' comes with the baggage of divesting your particular empire of all its quite specific crimes, crimes that are quite specific to its movements & to its collapse. you have argued implicitly for well over 2 years now that the armed forces of the empire (for you the thugs of int capital)must stay in iraq or the apocalyspe follows. it seems you are blind to the apocalypse that is happening before youre eyes & just as importantly you have never spoken here - especiallly in jurisprudential terms - of the very qualitative destruction of 'rights & laws' within those united states themselves

you have never dicsussed the hamdan or the padilla or the lyn stewart - nor have you spoken of the removal of habeus corpus - you act as if & you infer that these shifts within the ideological state apparatus are of only paranthetic importance, if at all. & the absence of these questions has always worried me

for me what b real has just said makes sense today as when it was articulated by ho chi mihn, ben bella, mao tse tung or all the movement of matin america today who have their very real genesis in the extra parliamentary movements of the 60's & 70's - & that particular thesis remains -think global destroy locally & perhaps its most eloquent spokesman is eduardo galeano & its most proficient activist - brother chavez ( in the sense that he is taking great risks)

i have always been worried that your search can be infinite & in its way a form of nihilism, a form of destruction of acts

& there is something terribly paternalistic in the way you describe the other, almost consistently - whether it is 'old europe' covering her crimes in a shabby dress or the third world fighters who are doomed to losing, in your analysis

mine, on the contrary is tquite another apple entirely - i see through all the chaos of the latter part of the twentieth century - the death of empire & the beginning of quite another movement which has its roots everywhere - in latin america it is most clear because its humanism is the most obvious mechanism but i also see something of the same happening in the middle east & south east asia - & the presence of the empire, the armed presence of the empire will only forestall the inevitable & will make the bodycount so terrible that this intricately implicated world will be left paying the bill for a long time to come

the american empire is dead - it just doesn't know it.

we are witnesses to the most obscene displays of power that in some senses have nothing to do with profit but have everything to do with an absence of vision & what they do is mask the very real impotence of imperialism itself - which in this case is specifically, distintively american

& i will say it again - the material benefactors of this occupation over 98% of them are entitites of the united states & are themselves not complicated international conglomerates - their beneficiaries are americans

& it is this blindness in your discourse, this wilful absence of specificity worries me & worries me still

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 12, 2006 6:44:34 PM | 43

& also while i can get if off my chest

you have brought much here - often with rigour but there are questions that i have mentioned before but there are others even more worrying - that whenever you speak of shïites or sunnis or arabs or persians - there is a complete absence of specificity, there is a complete absence of physical & concrete knowledge as if you have never met an arab in your life - they are in your discourses - the mob on the margins or at the deep heart of the question who are ready to cut off everyone's throat including their own. you have never spoken of them as political entities for example - i think you do not have a strong understanding of what has happened in 'modern' iraq & that before that modernity i feel you are flying blind - that you either don't know what happened but are making instinctive guesses based on theoretical assumptions that leave the details out

far be it for me to be the defender of empiricism here but we who are shoulder to shoulder with you have always supplied you with the facts or the substances of our researches - people other than me have provided a river of forceful, coherent collection of facts & you have not responded with facts my friend

you have implied in short order we are a little imbecilic for not understanding the borgesian reaches & subtleties of international capital while always & not incidentally missing out on moments on the horrors of abu ghraib as they might have happend 5 centuries ago

the death squads for example slothrop - you have never spoken of them within the context of a framework of u s armed force as all the evidence of the last 50 years would direct us - the fact that what happened in el salvador & honduras have direct & concrete links to what is happening in iraq

these concerns worry me, they worry me greatly

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 12, 2006 7:02:26 PM | 44

geez. i don't seek justifications of the us of u.s. power since nagasaki. i'm only pointing out the decline of local sovereignties everywhere condemns as nostalgia any belief when left "alone" the anti-immigrant militiamen, crazed jihadists, indigenist movementarian casino owners, happy immigres strolling the french countryside, etc., when Left alone will all be fine. it seems more than obvious to me what the world does not need is another militia fighting for an audience in heaven with the one true god. and i have supplied as many "facts" to support the view nothing in the m.e. looks to be now, presently, or the longrun a felicitous confluence of struggles throwing off the yoke of global capitalist oppression. and in any case, it looks to me the u.s. may be praised in the future for unwittingly liberating shia and kurd and chastening zionism along the way.

your implacable faith that whoever dares injure u.s. "imperialism" is our hero is betrayed over and over by the facts. we need strong global institutions to restrain capital and deploy the means of violence to squash the threat of chaos created by so many conflagrations of "local" ambition. sure, it's a drag the u.s. and nato are the only agents or stability. but, do you have a better solution? again, leaving is no solution because it is obvious the region will suffer even more violence and uncertainty because leaving concedes as a solution the expansion of factionalism and chaos at the expense of the fantasy we can retreat to out "states" which increasingly no longer exist as refuges from conflict in the m.e. "sorted out" by 4g gangs w/ nuclear weapons.

"leave"? you're high.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 12, 2006 10:55:38 PM | 45

You're Fried, Slothrop.

Do you have a random Marx word generator to crank this drivel out?

Posted by: Proudhon | Dec 12, 2006 11:14:50 PM | 46

proudhon fucked my rooster. i saw him.

Posted by: bruno bauer's wife | Dec 12, 2006 11:25:30 PM | 47

One thing I think you're missing here slothrop, is that after the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, the soviet defeat in Afganistan, and now with the U.S. (and yes it is a) defeat in Iraq is the fact that at some point the military occupation is consumed in its ability to broker (its desired) political movement on the ground. Its how 3rd,4th,or5th generation guerrilla warfare expunges its more powerful and unwanted alien invader. Unfortunatly, the fractionalism you worry about is tactically a central character initiated by the occupation (divide&conquer)-- and but is then again trumped, within the population in the will to resist. In this way the resistance, or at least the will to resist devolves out of identification (and thus, control by) of higher (national) socio-political structures and into structures of clan, tribe, gang, etc where their tactical identities become more opaque and resistant (whether they call it formally, a resistance, or not)to the tools of subjugation.

You're basically asking for the occupation, the occupation that put this entire devolution into motion, to now what? Divest itself of "its" interests, that it has ruined its reputation, killed a half million people, and spent a trillion dollars on? To ask the government that embroidered this whole Yah-Hoo democracy fraud onto the consciousness of the country in order to butcher Iraq into a prime-cut client state -- to suddenly spin a 180 degree and stand anew a selfless blind justice directing the traffic of civil war.

I'm suprised at such bald face Idealism.

Even so, if it were all possible, its not. Because the fractionalism you worry (with good cause) about, was the blunt instrument of U.S. policy that set the pieces of fractionalism in motion, that is after all "what they do". And you know as well as anyone, that they have'nt the vaguest notion of either the gravity of what they have done, and least of all, of how to reassemble the fragments now cutting their feet to ribbons.

The U.S. military, in Iraq, is obsolete. What can it do? It can't win anything, it can't stop anything, it can't fix anything, and no, it cant't teach anybody to do what it cannot itself do.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 13, 2006 2:57:00 AM | 48

anna missed. too often here what is confirmed historical evidence serves the vilification of "empire." let's parse some of the moa myths:

1. u.s. does divide & rule. yes, to a certain extent. but i question now the ridiculous unsubstantiated belief shared by some here the u.s. planned and executed w/ proxies the hakim assassination and the al askari mosque bombing.

2. u.s. caused the civil war. no. this is ridiculous. it's obvious the region was headed towards some kind of "adjustment." the u.s. occupation was a catalyst. but to prefer the kind of "order" condemning kurds/shia/christians/marsh arabs et al. to perpetual subjugation by sunni henchmen, is disgusting.

3. the u.s. has lost the war. no. or rather meaningless supposition. the u.s. has lost 3000, injured 50000 sevicemen. this is a very small number.

4. u.s. is uniquely responsible for this catatrophe. europe sans gb is especially immune from culpability because it has no neocolonial ambitions in the region. laughable condescension of posterity.

5. u.s. is enormously vulnerable in ways the rest of the west and indeed the world are not because the war will bankrupt america. oh yes. but , as america goes, so goes the rest of the world. let's see how china and germany fare with $250 oil and the collapsing value of american assets owned by the world's bankers. oh happy days. be very careful what you wish for.

6. u.s. leaves, the people of m.e. will take care of their own business. true. only after the progroms decide by murderous attrition who's who. read cole's entry for today. he of course would never admit it, but the fact no party in this disaster can bargain from a position of strength is a good thing assured in many ways by u.s. occupation and israel's delicious weakness.

two years ago i argued the u.s. might eke out a kind of victory based on divide & rule ultimately inspiring what would happen anyhow: the partition of iraq. it looks like this may well happen with the added benefit of reduced israeli control over the territories, forced reconciliation of u.s./iran/syria and weakened monarchies. and the kurds and shia can make their own histories. or at least feel like they do. hurray for the u.s., comrades.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 13, 2006 11:37:27 AM | 49


and for the last two years my analysis has been undeniably more correct thban your's.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 13, 2006 12:08:18 PM | 50

yours. sheesh.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 13, 2006 12:12:24 PM | 51

2. u.s. caused the civil war. no. this is ridiculous.


it's obvious the region was headed towards some kind of "adjustment."

and you think this adjustment would have been to drive the sects further apart? when all signs do not point in this direction. the goal of new middle east is to divide thru religeous factions. how could this ever have happened w/out pitting one side against the other? you cannot have a nationalistic iraq w/ these divisions that were imposed apon the new constitution . this is the problem w/sadr and the socialist baathist party. it was not the sunni influence that had to go, but the socialism for the privatization to be implemented.

the u.s. occupation was a catalyst.

for the worst backwardness, not furthering a secular society.

but to prefer the kind of "order" condemning kurds/shia/christians/marsh arabs et al. to perpetual subjugation by sunni henchmen, is disgusting.

a secular iraq doesn't have to be like this. sheesh is right.

Posted by: annie | Dec 13, 2006 1:11:12 PM | 52

missed a few italics w/quotes..

Posted by: annie | Dec 13, 2006 1:13:25 PM | 53

and you think this adjustment would have been to drive the sects further apart? when all signs do not point in this direction. the goal of new middle east is to divide thru religeous factions.

and you and others here say it's the u.s. who has caused this?

i'm sorry. that's just crazy. c'mon. we've spent a lot of time reading those stacks of books and articles on m.e. history. and at the end of our lessons, you say this?


Posted by: slothrop | Dec 13, 2006 2:19:24 PM | 54

i say without the catalyst of invasion, occupation, the debaathification resulting in 100,00's of jobs lost, the dismanteling of all civic programs, the deathsquads, the support of shiites while total disenfranchisement of sunni influence, it would not have happened. remember, the sunnis were not by any means the majority in the baathist party tho they were the rulers. sunnis and shiites did not live in divided neighborhoods in baghdad for the most part. they intermarried and co existed. the army was tho baathist was not sunni. had a nationalistic approach been taken towards both the army and the infrastucture the civil war would not have occured. how pray tell would the agenda of dividing the nation into religeous regions have taken place w/out a fermenting division by sect? that is absurd. the badr's were originally imported from iran. the shiite arabs (sadr) want to align w/sunni arabs. this is the threat to the bush agenda.

Posted by: annie | Dec 13, 2006 2:55:38 PM | 55

I can imagine a scenario. In which the U.S.was invaded by an alien and stronger military force. Its not clear exactly why this force descended upon America, because several underlying reasons appear to be masked by the justifications made public by the invading force.

Many here, prior to the invasion, would have agreed with the invaders, that America had become a rogue nation personified by feckless leadership and foreign adventurism. Indeed, many here distraught over this degenerative state of affairs, and disheartened over their own impotence to effect change, came to in secret, a willing desire for invasion, if only it would topple the leadership.

But, the invaders were more clever than that, and so came to capitalize on that frustration and use it to for their own mysterious ends. First to scuttle resistance to the invasion itself, and then later to fashon wedges of influence to divide the people and formulate an enduring occupation.

Knowing that America was a religious country, the invaders made a calculated decision, and chose to engender support for one religious group at the expense of the others. In retrospect it was an obvious choice, not only because the Cathloic Church was the largest religious sect in America, it promoted certain values the invader could appreciate. Like for instance anti-individualism. Not to mention the clear association the other large religious sect, the Baptists, had in supporting and enabling the former regime, particularly its hapless but brutal leader.

Prior to the invasion, many would have argued that religious divides in America were a thing of the past, and made irrelevant ever since the election of J.F.Kennedy, intermarrage, and practical political accomidation.

But it was apparently not so, at least since the invasion, whereby the invaders disparaged and demonized the Baptists as militant rum running religious fanatic individualists drunk with fascist power. And at the same time enshrined and empowered the Catholics with key military and government interm appointments that would secure in long delayed elections, demographic , financial, and political control. The Baptists have of course, in response have lived up to their name and splintered into several "party of God" incarnations attacking the Catholics as "un-American commie sellouts".

Over the years the situation has degenerated with a vengence. From the early Baptist bear trap and hunting rifle attacks on the invasion force itself, through to the steady escalation of attacks on the Catholic "collaborators". That presumably, have disenfranchized the baptists back into their worst stereo-typed white trash forced trailer park nightmare into a fractured militancy where even the KKK has reemerged as one of the most feared insurgent factions, attacking both the invader and collaborator alike.

But now too, the Catholics have also become suspicious and alarmed at the level of Baptist reprisal attacks, have begun to reconsider some of their "Catholic City" legislation aimed at pushing the Baptist factions still residing in the city back into the rural areas, as a matter of national security. And the occupiers too, seem to have changed sides, increasing the pressure to accomodate new Baptist demands for autonomy. And so it goes, and still no one is quite sure what the ultimate goal of the occupation really is, unless they did it, because they could. I guess we'll never know, maybe something good will ultimately come of it anyway.

Okay, so I dont have a damned thing to do today.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 13, 2006 3:23:17 PM | 56

don't forget aipac, they would have aligned w/somebody :)

Posted by: | Dec 13, 2006 3:31:09 PM | 57

I can see how somebody comes back to power, at least in the real version.

This Iraq thing ought to be the cat's meow for alternative history in the future.

Posted by: | Dec 13, 2006 6:06:10 PM | 58


i do not care if i am right

but it is clear from even the most basic evidence that you are wrong

on nearly every count

i'm completely unconvinced of your analysis of what is happening within the soverign nation of iraq, i am quite convinced that your understnding of the longer history of these people leaves enormous spaces - both public space & political space

& again the old problem - specificity & it is sorely lacking in your commentary - in the few instances above where you do specify you accuse those of us who see from the very real & recent history of the united states that both the al askari bombing & numerous assassinations are the direct responsibility of us armed forces both clandestine & the self evident

the more you generalise & that is what you are finally using theoritical suppositions & suppositions of theory to do - it is such a generality that i do not for the moment see real or even imagined history

theory, as i understand it - is not only a key of enlightenment but it is also a tool nay a weapon to reveal what are the mechanics of our oppression

& i feel you are holding onto a flag of theory - that is very tattered indeed & you are using the baton of that flag to crack around our heads

if the people were to follow the dictum b real mentioned of acting global destroying locally - you would find very quickly how this empire would come into focus - perhaps you do not feel the empire in the outer reaches of colorado but i can assure you wherever i have witnessed real resistance in this continent whether it was greece, italy or france - it has been met not by local hoods but by agents of the empire - concretely, actually & presently(in the deluzian sense)

even using the theoretical pole you do - you do not offer illumination in the tensions of apparition/disparition which to me is elemental in any understanding of what constitutes 'lived' politics - today & tommorrow

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 13, 2006 7:40:57 PM | 59

well, none of this is "self-evident" proof of anything unless you mean evidence you need for your self to salvage your idea iraqis exist as such and desire presevation of something called iraq once united by fear and murder.

but this idea you obstinately defend is quite wrong and i have no duty to prove the obvious.

let me repeat i'm not thrilled the reality that exists is defined by power and each crisis is "solved" by the same power to demonstrate its inevitability. i equally detest the cynical use of u.s. power to define bush as hero and to feed western oil companies. if by failure is meant an end to this nonsense then good riddance. and if american power now means shia/kurd autonomy and an end to medieval feudalism and israel's humiliation, then fucking great, eh? and the facts bear my analysis true at this point. if it was left to you, koran-thumping assholes would nuke new york. fucking not-great, eh?

about this hackneyed arrogance that i'm an effete intellectual sequestered in the bosom of the empire, and so i have no claim to truth, well, my analysis of the war has been ok. a good deal perspicacious than you. i'm vindicated by facts you say i never supply, which is a bullshit accusation on your part. your problem is that your beliefs always require a vast unprovable conspiracy of action commited, ironically, by people you regularly refer to as retarded criminals. i don't need the conspiracies. i can see as plainly the fuckups of bush are producing a new middle east we might be able to not bitch about. it's not enough of a failure of "empire" for you, but i'll take it over your thrilling apocalypse any day.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 13, 2006 10:50:54 PM | 60

i can see as plainly the fuckups of bush are producing a new middle east we might be able to not bitch about.

talk about a leap of faith. lol

Posted by: | Dec 14, 2006 3:31:19 AM | 61

that was me

Posted by: annie | Dec 14, 2006 3:32:37 AM | 62

There are two slothrop arguments here, one is the joint effect and responsability of international capital as it effects various nation states, most pointedly the U.S.A. and its imperialistic intents in Iraq. And the resultant beneficiaries aka the corporate power driving the policy of subjugation in that country. The jist of such argument is that it is international capital that is the prime directive as opposed to the U.S. being the prime mover thats really behind the initiative. The other argument is the infrence assumed by the first argument. That because the real motivator in an action like Iraq, is international capital, and that U.S. policy is acting, in effect, as a proxie for international capital, and not exclusivally to the benefit of the U.S. nation state.

There may be, no doubt truth, to the first argument. In that there are many forces of international capital on the world stage that can, or could, stand to benefit from the several scenarios slothrop points to as "evidence" ie international oil intersts, liberation from dictatorship, globalization of social networks, etc.

The main problem with such a view is that firstly, it has the effect of absolving the U.S. of responsibility for initiating the policy. Which it tried with great fanfair and ultimatly, failure to convince other international actor nation states. But went on ahead anyway unilaterally that trumped (all that international capital) and in effect said, with an air of benevolence, that the U.S. is acting in the best interests of many actors, some known, some less known -- but is acting nonetheless to the net benefit of the "world", and more specifically to the benefit of bringing modernity to the Middle East, anyway. And secondly, it also absolves and diminishes the responsability for the tactics employed in the incursion simply as "collateral damage", "omelets", or "the price of doing business", and "fixing their economy", etc. So sure, there are forces that give background and context, there are beneficiaries both intentional and accidental -- but who has givin the U.S.A. the exclusive and unabaited license and authority to undertake such a mission in the first place? And allowed it to act with such unbriddled and selfish ruthlessness? The mysterious forces of international capital? The "white mans burden" of bringing enlightenment to the hinderland? A calling from "a higher power"? I doubt it, but to be always looking on the sunny sided silver lining, and away from the squalid ruins manifest, runs a significant risk of subscribing to the faith based happy tourist talk that have obviously been used over and over to promote the entire project.

Were you against the war in Iraq, before it started? Assuming there would be beneficiaries that would outweigh the blood and suffering?

Anyway, you might like>this, much of what you seem to be saying, minus the apologies.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 14, 2006 5:29:34 AM | 63

#63 limns a nice unprovable conspiracy theory

Posted by: gmac | Dec 14, 2006 6:24:03 AM | 64

i was against the war and went to the demos and spoke out publicly when possible. the perfect outcome for bush was creation of a ersatz democracy and neoliberal playground along with a couple trained iraq mechanized divisions poised to attack iran & syria. and then israel would stand in the sunshine of america's love forever. my how things changed. rather, my how things played roughly to the critique of the war offered by some persons here at moa.

here's what's happened comrades:

1. u.s. realizes it has no empire. it cannot now or anymore act unilaterally.

2. israel's "greater israel" bullshit is over. give back the golan heights says isg. hahaha.

3. iran, after a dismal 30 yrs. of silly theocracy may, without the constant harassment of u.s. justifying theocracy, be moving towards better days financed by mega oil revenues.

4. shia/kurd autonomy!

5. the kings of the region--their days are numbered.

6. the inevitability of multilateral/international response to crisis is indeed a blow to the global capitalist class. in the happy days of neoliberal triumph, the strategic dissolution of the state excluded certain traditional functions needed for the expansion of global capital. some of these functions: socialize costs of infrastructure and defense, worked so long as u.s. and nato could give the muscle when needed to defend neoliberal fraud (panama, the balkans, look other way when necessary as russia smashes chechnya, and the usual regime change supplied by "contractors" in sierra leone, ivory coast, liberia, and when there are no "interests" as in the n. sahel, central af. or rwanda, just sit back and watch nature take its course). those days are over. the crises in the m.e. and in africa, and central asia have forced global capital to reconcile the neoliberal project with popular demands for equity. or it could just nuke everbody. or it could leave and wait and watch the world fall apart.

to name a few empirically verifiable outcomes.

some possible good outcomes.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 14, 2006 12:24:59 PM | 65

from anna missed's link:

Show me the Republican or Democratic leader who says, [...] "My corporate campaign contributions come from people whose every action is directed at extracting two things from you, my dear voter: Your money and the cheapest possible labor you can be driven to provide. The absolute cheapest possible payment to you for the hours of your life consumed by work, which, depending upon the degree of your delusion, is called either a job or an exciting career."

I don't understand the meaning of gmac's comment, but the quote above seems like harsh reality, not conspiracy.

Posted by: fauxreal | Dec 14, 2006 12:29:52 PM | 66


Many of these empirical results you point to, are the happen chance results of a policy run amok. Are you suggesting we get behind the current U.S. foreign policy because there's no sucess like failure?

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 14, 2006 12:45:08 PM | 67

sorry you're right. what i said suggests they could have pulled off the democracy boy routine. no way. there was in any case no way to avert this crisis unless achieved by our old friend "the staus quo ante." but that was never a solution (no hope for palestine ever, qusay in iraq for another 30 years, etc.). and we need to remember the backdrop of the crisis of development and accumulation. the contradictions of global capitalist accumulation (lack of investments and markets, declining productivity and surplus value, inflation) can no longer be solved in the usual ways (militarism, endless credit expansion, third-world rippof of labor and resources). but they believed they could. and the result is this catastrophe now solved by doing what could have been done without so much horror,, perhaps. and it is much too late "to go home."

Posted by: | Dec 14, 2006 1:06:41 PM | 68

from the link anna missed so thoughtfully provided -

"Is the consumerist totalization of this country and the world really a conscious plot by a handful of powerful corporate and financial masters? If we answer "yes" we find ourselves trundled off toward the babbling ranks of the paranoid."

Posted by: gmac | Dec 14, 2006 1:39:45 PM | 69


empiricism = 95-98% of the direct beneficiaries of us occupation are concerns completely contingent on continued occupation. they are & you know it as well as i do - they are almost wholly american, there are also british & french interests too but who are secondary to the principal beneficiary

you do not want to speak of the crimes of the empire because you will be drawn into the endless bloodbath that the u s empire has soley & uniquely instigated & elaborated

your placing not only hegel but also marx on his head - that the evil that men do - leeads to material benefits - for the people - is a pique of madness. you are either joking, mocking me or you have an impoverished understanding of the appareils of the state & of imperialism its 'highest stage'

i have asked you numerous times to show us here where these so called international capitalists are operating in iraq & you have not uttered a name or a phrase - on the contrary you go on the attack as if people like myself are on the atlantic wall defending the interests of blood & race of europe. you do a disservice to yourself but remarkably coming from were you come from - by doing this you shame theory & in presenting a so called liberation of it you provide only its ossification

because whatever way you want to cut it what you are saying is a defence of empire, is a defence of its crime & in its heart is a deep hatred of the other- - read slothrop - which i have done intensely your comments on these people & they are stultifying in their racism - behind your attack on the arab 'mob' is the picture of the arab cutting the head off berg. a kind of ultraleft der sturmer

you have an ally - & i have only come across it - in the site of australian maoist indeed ultramaoist, albert langer & his site (i am not sure but i think it is called the last superpower but his arguments are very close to your own & while he is very smart indeed he is as mad a meataxe

& you have allies galore here in france - the glucksman's, the bruckners, all the t v revolutionaries & there is a mass of them who see in the u s empire's dying gasp their own freedom being destroyed - their philosemitism so utterly deranged under the circumstance that they make a little god of a very bitter & cruel man - tariq ramadan

the best of those thinkers, regis debray fill his night with vaudeville & thoughts that we have entered the mast slaughterhouse

slothrop - you & empiricism are almost mutually exclusive factors

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 14, 2006 6:26:57 PM | 70

i have asked you numerous times to show us here where these so called international capitalists are operating in iraq & you have not uttered a name or a phrase

depending on the strength of the dollar even french pension funds invest in wall street, buying whatever yields highest returns on acceptable risk. and it would be interesting to know exactly how much french investment in defense-industry occured since 2001. where's jerome when you need him?

you know, money is fungible. it's a global market for exchange. individual governments have very little control over exchange rates and global finance. you better believe it that you are part of the iraq problem, like it or not.

Posted by: | Dec 14, 2006 10:00:54 PM | 71


Posted by: slothrop | Dec 14, 2006 10:02:40 PM | 72

Slotrop @ 71:

You make a fundamental mistake here:

Look at Bechtel, Halliburton, annual reports.

They made chunp change in Iraq.

The security firms made much more relatively, since they were smaller.

By the time the law suits are settled, no major corporation in US,UK, or France will have made jack on this, except the international oils, who had a chance, more than usual, to manipulate the price
of crude and NG.

Mush is fungible too.

Posted by: Proudhon | Dec 14, 2006 10:52:35 PM | 73


as usual, what you do now is what you have done for 180 years. you cannot see the forest, for fucking so many countryside knotholes. you think when you buy your croissants on saturdays, the toil and triumph of every frenchman is savored with every bite, and when you defecate on sunday, your shit is the smell of pour le france. you are a fool for that.

i hate my garrison state, but discovered my bank1 mutual fund portfolio included newmont mining and some uranium refiner. oh my.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 14, 2006 11:04:09 PM | 74

also the poverty of your philosophy: returns on a basket of defense stocks since 2000 are BIG.

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 14, 2006 11:06:30 PM | 75

had a nationalistic approach been taken towards both the army and the infrastucture the civil war would not have occured.

this is very intertesting, annie. who knows?

Posted by: slothrop | Dec 14, 2006 11:26:58 PM | 76


Hope I am not taking you out of context and if you think I am, I apologize. But excuse me Sir, have you ever heard of the "White Mans burden" ?

As r'giap mentioned, "there is something terribly paternalistic in the way you describe the other".

Maybe you might want to try articulating a position every now & then without premising on some un-tenable deficiency of a presumed subordinate other-population.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Dec 15, 2006 12:22:37 AM | 77

not lost in translation via dan of steele

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 16, 2006 5:03:00 PM | 78

yeah, excellent link there dan, i cached it. wish it was more current but this is the kind if link i could follow all day long. (i'm soo boring i know)

Posted by: annie | Dec 16, 2006 6:03:47 PM | 79


I hope to have the War Profiteer's Investment Guide out by the first of the year.

These War Profiteers are making tons of money. We can too.

Will try to post investment recommendations by 31 December.

Posted by: Benjamin Graham | Dec 16, 2006 7:45:09 PM | 80

slothrop wrote: ...and when there are no "interests" as in the n. sahel, central af. or rwanda, just sit back and watch nature take its course).

no idea why you keep believing/rehashing this nonsense. this particular subject has been brought up on numerous occasions right here in this very bar, and, of course, there are very real interests for the u.s. et al in these very regions. here, read this article.
Apocalypse by design: More on THE WORLD’S MOST NEGLECTED EMERGENCY

It is all about access: timber, copper, cobalt, coltan, niobium, diamonds, gold, oil, natural gas, Gum Arabic, primates—six US zoos this spring paid $400,000 for endangered primates from Congo. Access to raw materials; access to a cheap, replenishable, eager (read: desperate) labor pool; access to blood pools; access to biodiversity (piracy); access to game parks (tourism); access to markets for currency speculation; access to white sand beaches; access to desperate females; access to research subjects (animals, tribes, plants, blood, development failures, bones); access to artifacts; access for museum and zoo stocks.

And access to suffering, because humanitarian relief is big business (and there are never any lasting results to show for it). As Paul Farmer points out, and Noam Chomsky before him, the problem is structural violence, and the system that perpetuates it, and that system is not African. Access is gained through elite networks, involving Presidents and Lords and CEOs and actors, whose modus operandi is—by any means necessary. Organized crime, extortion, bribery, theft, corruption, privilege, white supremacy, total information warfare.

It always starts out as some kind of psychological operation, or perception management or, well, propaganda. But in the end it is about our collective amnesia.

or this
Africa: U.S. Covert Action Exposed
Corporate greed, combined with a desire to never allow the "throne of civilization" to unite and become self-sufficient, continues to join at the hip the U.S. Government, the United Nations and corporate cartels in a persistent war on Africa, a recent congressional hearing concluded.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) chaired the hearing, "Covert Action in Africa: A Smoking Gun in Washington, D.C.," and led the voices of castigation that claimed the U.S. Government, the UN, private militias and western economic interests possessed complete knowledge of pending civil unrest in Africa and fed the fray between African nations. Their aim was to use war, disease, hunger and poverty as covers while continuing the centuries-old practice of rape and exploitation of the continent's human and mineral resources, testimonies charged.

Among those named as collaborators during the daylong hearing were U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright and international diamond merchant Maurice Tempelsman.

or this
View from Rwanda: The Dallaire Genocide Fax: A Fabrication by chris black

Chris Black, since 2000, has been a lead counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda. From that perspective he has seen that Rwanda was not a situation in which the United States and its allies failed to act. On the contrary, it was an example of direct interference by the United States and its allies. Why? Three reasons: the US wished to replace the Hutu regime which did not want to cooperate with US aggression towards Mobutu in Zaire. Secondly, the US wants to reduce French influence in central Africa. The final US objective was and is control of the vast resources of the Congo.

there is a lot more information on this topic available on the internets so it doesn't really make much sense to keep perpetuating the 'united states has no interest in african nation x,y, or z' propaganda line.

related to the issue of the role of global vs u.s. superpower imperialism that slothrop keeps bringing up, stan goff has a mini-manifesto for the project Insurgent American

Core Beliefs

* The United States is the politically dominant core in a global system that is on a catastrophic historical trajectory.

* That catastrophe has social and ecological dimensions that are held inside the same destructive dynamic.

* The global system is one system, with features that deny the independence of many classes of people — some based on economic status, some on gender, some on nationality or race… all features impacting on the very biosphere upon which life itself depends. These features are not separate systems. They are the interacting features of the same global system.

* That system must be replaced. That means that all these features must be considered and challenged simultaneously, without elevating one aspect of the system to the status of “the main issue.” What is the main issue is determined by specific circumstances, in specific times and places. There are many main issues, but never one main issue for all times and places.

* Allowing that system to decay and collapse spontaneously — without a significant and sustained challenge from within the United States — would result in a long, painful, and dangerously reactionary epoch in the United States itself. That is why we put “American” in our name. We have unique needs and tasks here.

Doing nothing constitutes an abandonment of our responsiblity to future generations. But doing “just anything” — without seriously considering consequences — can be just as irresponsible. We need “intelligence,” that is, information combined with analysis, on the system in order to understand it more thoroughly, if the actions we take are to have the desired effects.

Posted by: b real | Dec 18, 2006 1:52:27 AM | 81

b real,

Stan Goff just gets more interesting.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 18, 2006 5:02:14 AM | 82

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