Wednesday, November 01, 2006

DISSENTER'S NOTEBOOK: Setting Deadlines

Our administration wants to force deadlines for the Iraqis to establish control of their country and quell the insurgency. The Prime Minister objects to deadlines. We object to his objections. But in the nature of things, sometime soon we will create deadlines and he will adopt them. Then the killing will increase, the violence become more random, the pitiful nation we have wrecked will be further pulverized, and disappear right into the hole we have dug in the desert for it.

But why wouldn't the Prime Minister resist being told by the Americans that he must establish control in the next few months? It is not only a matter of sovereignty, of being publicly humiliated by being told what to do by an occupying foreign power. It is even more a matter of being told that he must do by a certain date what the American Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force cannot do no matter how long they stay in country. We not only ask the impossible, but want it done soon.

Mr. Prime Minister, we are saying, just because we are throwing up our hands and admitting we do not know what to do, and leaving the chaos we have created in your good hands, that's no sign you shouldn't have it done right smart. Snap to it, man; just get right on it -- so we can turn tail and get outta here.

This is a case of the powerful and ignorant compelling the hapless and weak to commit suicide for our benefit. Just what we should expect of a George W. Bush administration, which has already asked its own citizens to surrender their country, their labor, their liberty, and their solemn honor to his rule, whim, caprice, deceit, violence...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Kind of Dog Is This?

“In Anbar Province, the western region that is home to the Sunni-led insurgency, the American commander of forces in the area said he agreed with a classified intelligence assessment filed last month by a colonel that said Anbar was in a precarious state and could continue to deteriorate.


“But the commander, Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, said he believed he had enough troops to do his job, which he said was to train Iraqi security forces to fight the insurgency and not to win against the insurgency with his own troops.”


--Edward Wong from Baghdad and Nazila Fathi from Tehran.

NY Times, Tuesday, September 12.

Isn’t there a conundrum here? What kind of army does not want to win with its own troops? Why would we train Iraqis to fight an insurgency rather than train them to control or even make peace with an insurgency? Or perhaps there is an oxymoron buried in all this like a weapon of mass destruction. We have been told repeatedly by the president and other administration figures that we can bring our troops home as soon as the Iraqi soldiers can stand in for them; that our troops are training them as quickly as possible, and with growing success.

The reason that we need to train the Iraqi troops is because we want to keep more of our troops from being killed and wounded. Better to have Iraqi troops killed and wounded than ours. That makes the perfect kind of gruesome sense this government is famous for.

But the violence keeps escalating, and that violence is clearly beyond any capacity of our U.S. troops to reduce or control. They’ve been giving it their best, god knows, and it is not working. Whether they are not trained for this kind of combat -- one reason I’ve heard for their lack of success; or do not have the proper equipment -- a reason I’ve heard for the too high casualty rate; or that quelling insurgencies is not their mission, which I’ve also heard; or that nation building is not our purpose, as the president declared before the war, it seems that no matter what our excuse is, nothing we have tried is working. Street patrols are deadly and terrifying. Demolishing cities like Fallujah, and then going back to demolish further what we had demolished before, does not work. Reclamation and restoration of infrastructure including hospitals and schools is not working; it is lost in a swamp of American corporate corruption. Illegal white phosphorous bombs --napalm’s sisters -- and illegal cluster bombs do not work. High altitude bombing doesn’t work. Road blocks and check points do not seem to work.

This is not our troops’ fault; these are not failures of execution. They are failures of tactics, knowledge, vision, strategy, -- failures that all come from command levels, from the failures of our top commanders and the administration that orders such futile attempts. By now they must know the tactics will fail, but they keep employing them, over and over, and seem to have neither wit nor imagination to change tactics, nor vision to develop a new strategy.

If this administration had any clue about how to stop the mayhem they surely would, for we would all sing their praises and re-elect them forever. But they do not know what to do. So they want to train Iraqi troops to take over this mess and handle it for us so we can bow out and come home.

And who is training those troops? General Zilmer, who has been told that it is not his task to win? Somewhere here is where the oxymoron lurks. What's wrong with this picture? The very army that does not know how to end the violence is training the Iraqi troops so they can end the violence. How can we do that? Those trainers are led by a hapless commander-in-chief, an ephemeral but powerful vice-president, and an unwitting army secretary, not one of whom knows how to deal with the situation. So if our army and our government are helpless to stop the carnage, how can they train Iraqis to stop the carnage? Seems like we have to train them to be like our army. So will we train them to not know what to do? We sure can't train them to do what we do not know how to do ourselves. Are we going to train them to feel helpless and vulnerable? Are we going to train them to shoot randomly at anything that moves?

So why would any Iraqi volunteer, watching what our army has done so far, believe what his U.S. trainers tell him? Every day he can witness the ineffectiveness of our tactics on the street before his home. Some of them have lost relatives to the violence we do not know how to stop, and have sometimes perpetrated. We haven’t had much luck with our training so far, for they desert in droves. U.S. commanders complain because many of those volunteers do not demonstrate the commitment of our own troops. But those Iraqis volunteer not because they are eager for our version of democracy, but because we have failed to rebuild the infrastructure or the economy, and they are desperate for any kind of paycheck, even if they may die before they can cash it. We think them cowardly for deserting, and do not consider that they may just be smart. Maybe they know we can't train them to do better than we do because we don't know how to do better ourselves. Who'd stay with an outfit like that?

We lay expectations on Iraqis that we ourselves, with all our vaunted military power, discipline, training, weapons, planes and ships and smug self-righteousness, cannot meet. We ask them to accomplish what we cannot, and then denigrate them for failing to do what we have failed to do ourselves. And here we've given them all that training, just like the training our troops received!

What kind of dog chasing its tail is this administration-without-imagination? As the man said, “You cain’t no more teach what you don’t know than you can go back to where you ain’t been.” Would that we had never been to Iraq.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another Contradiction in Terms: Military Ethics

It gets harder and harder to do decent satire these days. The real has become surreal, the truth is so twisted we cannot detect it. Yet hard as it is, satire is the only option. Here is one shot at it.

Military Ethicists on the Loose in Iraq!

DOD Announces New Rules of Engagement.

Military experts in ethics and the honorable warrior tradition are now on tour in Iraq in order to educate our soldiers about such issues as murder and torture. Meanwhile back home the military leaves the Geneva Convention article on detainees out of the new edition of the Army Manual. Must be because the folks who know ethics are out of town, providing remedial ethics to soldiers overseas just when we need them most in the Pentagon. In their absence it is not hard to imagine mr. rumsfeld’s ethics training.

So, Troops, here is your Ethics One-Zero-One Workshop, the new Rules of Engagement. Listen up!

Do not shoot unarmed babies three years of age and under. We understand your anger, but you must realize that it is bad publicity, and we simply cannot have it.

Before shooting unarmed children between the ages of four and seven, always check their birth certificates to be absolutely certain they are over three and you can prove it. If you cannot find the certificates, you may leave them handcuffed to their dead parents. That should be sufficient to show them who has the power here, and teach them how real men use it. When they grow up they will be sure to follow your example and perhaps add a few elaborations of their own.

If you must shoot unarmed civilians, handcuff them loosely so they do not show scrapes or bruises. Remove the handcuffs after they have been killed, and bury them very deep before you blow up their homes to hide the atrocity. It is less likely that anyone will look further under the rubble if they do not see the signs of burial.

Always establish a perimeter around such sites and post signs indicating “No Relatives and No Reporters Allowed.” “Cameras prohibited within 300 miles.” Confiscate all photos and videos taken by your buddies and destroy them immediately.

Always remember that some people may believe even the testimony of Iraqi ragheads – er, a -- civilians. After all, they’ve lied to our people fewer times lately than the DOD. So make sure no possible witnesses can testify.

Never serve in the Army as a private, corporal or sergeant. In fact, always enter the service as a major or a general. Privates, corporals, sergeants, even lieutenants and captains may be prosecuted for atrocities. To avoid such penalties, always be a high-ranking officer. Make that a condition of your enlistment. If possible -- to escape all accountability for anything and everything -- just be President.

That should about cover it for ethics, troops. Follow these new rules of engagement in every circumstance. That’s an order. Do as you’re told, and you will serve your country well. God Bless you all.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

DISSENTER'S NOTEBOOK: Things I Never Thought I'd See in America

Here are three things I never thought I'd see in America:

A putsch without a Krystallnacht.

A sniveling, naïve, sellout to a vicious tyrant without a Chamberlin.

A powerful nation of noble ideals gone obsequious and cowardly.

Where are we living? When? This can’t be America. This can’t be now. But it is, and no one's fault but our own.

The U.S. government gone out like Eliot’s “Wasteland,” without a bang and not even much of a whimper. No more meaningful habeas corpus. No more balance of powers.

Since they have no personal integrity that would give them power within themselves, we have pitiful little Congressmen who want power so desperately that they will take it the only way they can get it– by handing it over to an Executive in hopes that he will somehow share it with them if they only fawn and succumb enough.

All in a few weeks.

Warrantless invasions of privacy? Instead of solid investigations of suspects, we get a massive bureaucracy of illegal snoops who slaver over a glimpse of conversation or lists of borrowed books the way the bald-head row used to slaver over strippers in the old-time burley-que. Whole federal bureaucrocies with their hand under the coats in their laps.

Legislative oversight? Our Congress says, “Break the law, we’ll give you a new law, sire, and make it retroactive so you will never have to be responsible for any of your illegal actions, sire. We promise not to look into them, sire, no sire; whatever you wish, sire…" Con-gressional co-conspirators in betrayal.

“A ‘supreme court, sire’? Well, yes, we too would prefer a ‘supine court,’ sire, yes, sire, thank you, sire. You just tell them what they can adjudicate and what they can’t, and let them have at it. Give us a couple of months and we’ll get it fixed so you can make their decisions for them as well. No need to worry then over appointments. Hate to cause you any trouble, sire. Whatever you wish, sire."

Talk about patriotism! No, let's talk about malfeasance... Let's talk about traitors... All you need do to find them is to look at the U.S. Congress. No need to look for Islamic terrorist scapegoats with secret plans; we’ve got genuine perpetrators right at hand, and you can read their plans in the morning paper. At least a tiny few of their plans, in a very few of your papers.

America, where are ye?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

DISSENTER'S NOTEBOOK: Doctor Benjamin Franklin: "Impeachment Is a Win-Win!"

At least that may be the way he would put it if he were in the Senate today.

“Follow the money,” other folks say, when you want to know what’s going on. With Impeachment (I capitalize it because it seems so right to use it for a noun that names something perfectly "proper" in this case), Ben Franklin might suggest that you “follow the gains.” If we followed the money in regard to Impeachment, it wouldn’t show us much.

The only way the American people can gain financially anymore is to oppose the WTO, CAFTA’s implementation, and FTAA (which will be back, most likely under an assumed name) and further rein in manufacturers with increased environmental regulations that will bring back healthy soil, healthy food, clear streams, clean air. The best way to cut back on the cost of health care is to grow healthy citizens. We have been making them sick for 50 years now, sometimes knowing it, but selling our chemical injections into the earth, our food, and our streams anyway. Some of the effects of that vicious willingness to ignore warning signs from sound science include genetic deformities in humans such as low and declining sperm counts in men,and duplication of genitals in women as well as in frogs and other critters. That not only inflicts pain and confusion on the present generation, it does not bode well for robust future generations.

We could also go into emergency mode for new sustainable energy sources, and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is another example of corporate willingness to ignore science and inflict damage on the planet and its occupants in exchange for profit for a few. Any company that does not thoroughly explore the warnings we’ve had from science, and examine its own practices in light of them, or deliberately tries to hide its practices with bought science, should lose its business license and its corporate status as soon as that is discovered.

There are other things we could do to improve our economy:

Increase the minimum wage. Reset the standards by which we measure our Gross National Economic Health, recalibrate our poverty levels. Re-establish a progressive income tax, so that the current welfare recipients making over a $million a year pay their fair share. These are but examples.

But Impeachment won’t affect our incomes at all. Even an election won’t fix that, since both parties are determined not to accomplish any of those things outlined above. So there is no need to follow the money. But take a look at who gains and who loses, for economic gains are not the only gains to be made.

So who does gain, and who loses from Impeachment? And how?

First big winner is the American people. They might get their freedom back. No Un-"Patriots Act." No unwarranted surveillance. If we Impeach all the Impeachable (“The Impeach-a-ble Dream”), and jail all the corrupt, we would not need to worry about succession in the Executive Branch. Mr. Cheney would be gone. The Speaker of the House would be in jail for hiding his conflicts of interest. A host of his cronies would be out of the way. We’d get so far down the succession list that only Feingold or Kennedy, Conyers or Waxman would be left.

Great wins for the American people.

And mr. bush, the president, also gains. Gains? Yes, absolutely. Ask Ben Franklin. Follow the Founding Fathers.

Franklin would declare Impeachment is a true Win-Win for both the people and for the president and his immediate successors. How so? The answer lies in James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. Forget for a moment that Madison’s Notes make the debate over Clinton’s impeachment seem like the thoughtless prating of ignorant school boys by comparison with the intelligence of the stately debate of 1787. Turn instead to Madison's Notes from Friday, July 20, 1787.

It was a hot summer in Philadelphia, and a hot debate over whether to include an Impeachment clause. Smack in the middle of that summer – about 10 weeks into the Convention which was to begin on Monday, March 14, but really began the 25th, and 10 more hot weeks before its conclusion on September 17 -- the Convention decided on how to elect a President. The citation I'm referring to also comes right smack in the middle of Madison's book as well, page 330 out of 660. As soon as the election process was settled, the discussion turned immediately to debate whether, and how, to get rid of the President if he turned out to be criminally inclined.

First they settled the matter of allotting electors to the Electoral College. They decided, on Mr. Williamson’s move, that “the number of Electors to be appointed by the several States shall be regulated by their respective numbers of Representatives in the 1st Branch pursuing as nearly as may be the present proportions.” This was another way to compensate for the injustices inherent in the population differences in the states.

The next motion, by Mr. Pinkney and Mr. Governor Morris, was to strike the part of the resolution that allowed for “impeachment and conviction for mal practice or neglect of duty.” Madison notes that, “Mr. Pinkney observed that he ought not to be impeachable whilst in office.”

Mr. Davie protested that, “If he be not impeachable whilst in office, he will spare no efforts or means to get himself re-elected.” Madison writes, perhaps wryly, that, “He (Mr. Davie) considered this (Impeachment) as an essential security for the good behaviour of the Executive.”

Mr. Governor Morris then raised the question of who should be charged with the power to Impeach, and continued with another question. “Is the impeachment to suspend his functions? If it is not, the mischief will go on. If it is, the impeachment will be nearly equivalent to a displacement, and will render the Executive dependent on those who are to impeach.”

Colonel Mason countered, “No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above Justice? Above all, shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice?” Madison says that the Colonel “approved of that which had been adopted at first, namely of referring the appointment to the Nat’l Legislature.” One objection to letting the Electors Impeach “was the danger of their being corrupted by the Candidates; & this furnished a peculiar reason in favor of impeachments whilst in office.”

The Notes are not clear on whether the next comment came from the Colonel or from Madison, but it is a fine question, and given the Colonel’s predilection for punishment, probably came from him: “Shall the man who has practiced corruption & and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?”

Having established how to get a President, the delegates were not willing to let him go because of ignorance or incompetence, but they knew the corruption of power and its lure. They were also, it turned out, unwilling to let him "be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt." They understood human nature and the capacity for greed or other failings. They understood because they recognized it in themselves and their friends, and wished to limit, indeed prohibit, themselves and their successors from grasping for power they knew would destroy the very government they were trying to create. Thus the debate over Impeachment.

Enter Doctor Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the most experienced and pragmatic human being among that group of military leaders, plantation owners, attorneys, scholars, and business men seeking to craft a worthy Constitution. Where others sought to protect the country with an Impeachment clause that could protect it from further depredations by a corrupt Executive, Franklin held that such a clause was in the President’s best interest.

Franklin simply asked the Convention, “What was the practice before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious? Why recourse was had to assassination in which he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It would be the best way therefore to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the Executive where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.”

When I first read Madison’s Notes, some 20 years ago, I had this fantasy that what Franklin, being an earthy type, really said was more like, “Gentlemen, if we can’t impeach him, some one who truly loves the country will shoot the S.O.B.” In my fantasy only Madison’s refinement and decorum denied Franklin the direct quote.

The argument went on for a while, but Franklin’s comment drew out Madison’s support and after that there was little question of the outcome. Governor Morris spoke in a fashion that is no longer fashionable: he changed his mind. After originally speaking to strike the impeachment part of the resolution, he said to the Convention, that his “opinion had been changed by the arguments used in the discussion."

Mr. Governor Morris declared that he had not been sensible of the necessity of impeachments, if the Executive were to continue for any time in office. But if he were not, "He may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust; and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate in forign (sic) pay, without being able to guard against it by displacing him. One would think the King of England well secured against bribery. He has as it were a fee simple in the whole kingdom. Yet Charles II was bribed by Louis XIV."

Madison adds that Morris believed, “The Executive ought therefore to be impeachable for treachery; Corrupting his electors, and incapacity were other causes of impeachment.”

Again it is hard to determine whether the following is Morris talking or Madison thinking, but the Notes continue, “This Magistrate is not the King but the prime Minister. The people are the King. When we make him amenable to Justice however we should take care to provide some mode that will not make him dependent on the Legislature.”

Those opposed to Impeachment moved and seconded that the vote on it be postponed. The motion lost with only two states voting for. The resolution, including the Impeachment section, was adopted. The Convention then agreed to pay the President out of the “National Treasury,” and the floor moved away from Impeachment -- except for this: "To protect against the possibility that the President might be held in thrall to the Legislature, and to make sure that the Electors in the Electoral College could not be corrupted," Mr. Gerry and Mr. Governor Morris moved “that the Electors of the Executive shall not be members of the Nat’l Legislature, nor officers of the U. States, nor shall the Electors themselves be eligible to the supreme magistracy.” Three brief housekeeping comments about other matters and the session adjourned for the day.

So, according to the Founders, Impeachment is a good thing for the people and for the Executive. It might save the public from excessive and continued corruption, and save the president his life and his honor. A win-win for everyone. Mr. Bush should welcome impeachment as his patriotic duty.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

DISSENTER'S NOTEBOOK: The Real Problem with Intelligence in george bush's Administration

The problem of intelligence in this administration is not that the CIA got it wrong, or that george w. misinterpreted it. It is that the individuals who administer this government, among the most privileged, best-educated people in the nation, have little intelligence themselves. They are walking proof that there is a disconnect between “education,” as schooling is called in the U.S., and intelligence. You clearly do not need intelligence to graduate from an Ivy League School. Several of mr. bush's colleagues have been hailed in the media as "brilliant." So perhaps they are also evidence that there is distinction to be made between brilliance and intelligence.

It does take some smarts to get through a fine college, but apparently not the kind of smarts that it takes to solve massive and complicated problems. No one in mr. bush's administration or in the Congress has any demonstrated capacity to solve big problems – like how to govern without lies, duplicity, and secrecy so extensive it has be a frightened cover-up for fraud and abuse of power. Or how we can create friends in the world and diminish hatred toward us. Or, equally important, how to diminish our own citizens' insulting condescension and hatred toward citizens of other nations, or other religions. Neither the administration nor the Congress apparently has enough intelligence to stop war or even to figure out how to bring the wounded home with tenderness and care, and recognition for their sacrifice. Or to figure out how to honor our dead without calling for more deaths, while shamefully bringing our war dead home in more shrouds of secrecy. Or how to see that our citizens are fed, and that millions of U.S. children do not need to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Or how to make sure that our elderly have access to medical care and can pay for their prescriptions. Or how we can create a culture that supports its agriculture and its soil, its artists and poets, or ordinary working people. Such problems, among others, continue unchecked in this nation. For the most part this government has demonstrated little interest in such matters. That must be in part because they do not have the intelligence to see that they are problems, or that they are responsible for doing something about them.

The intelligence that is missing is not the kind that can be given to you in a briefing from some federal agency. Briefings can give you information; intelligence helps you find the significance buried in it. Intelligence has to be cultivated over a lifetime. It requires deep introspection, profound consideration of a wide variety of information, a hungry desire to seek not only the facts about our circumstances, but an equally hungry desire to see what they mean, and to discover the concepts around which one could create solutions. But this administration already knows everything, so it has nothing to learn, two hallmarks of the truly ignorant.

This is a government that salivates over words like “freedom,” and does not have the intelligence -- the kind that we need cannot come from the CIA, even less from NSA -- to understand that freedom comes from self-discipline. We want to bring freedom to others the President constantly assures us. Bomb them into freedom if we have to. But only those who are free can give freedom away. This president has no personal freedom of his own, and has done his best to limit the freedom of all our citizens. Therefore he has no gift of freedom to grant to others.

No, I have not changed subjects here, moving from intelligence to freedom. There is an inescapable link between the two. That link was nicely revealed in an essay by John Dewey, published in 1938. Called "Experience & Education" Dewey's essay also links intelligence and freedom directly to the schooling that our political leadership has received. In Chapter 5 of that short piece, Dewey defines freedom as follows:
The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while.

Dewey then addresses a common error: to define freedom as freedom of movement or freedom of action. He promptly articulates the flaw in that notion.
But in all the respects mentioned, freedom of outward action is a means to freedom of judgment and of power to carry deliberately chosen ends into execution…
There can be no greater mistake, however, than to treat such freedom as an end in itself. It then tends to be destructive of the shared cooperative activities which are the normal source of order. But, on the other hand, it turns freedom which should be positive into something negative. For freedom from restriction, the negative side, is to be prized only as a means to a freedom which is power: power to frame purposes, to judge wisely, to evaluate desires by the consequences which will result from acting upon them; power to select and order means to carry chosen ends into operation.

Consider for a moment, as an aside, the "normal source of order," which Dewey identifies as "shared cooperative activities." Shared cooperative activities are precisely the activities that mr. bush eschews in his political practice.

But back to freedom. Freedom from restriction for its own members appears to be the ultimate goal and desire of this administration. It could be a positive freedom, one supposes, if it would lead the government “to frame purposes…that are intrinsically worth while.” Or if it meant that such freedom created a capacity, “to judge wisely, to evaluate desires by the consequences which will result from acting upon them.”

This government clearly desired war with Iraq. 9/11 provided the impulse. The purposes were not intrinsically worth while but innately corrupted by a desire for personal power and political success. mr. bush says he believes that war presidents become great because they have the power inherent in a "Commander in Chief." Voila! We will have war. And thus far his every judgment about the war, from the phony causes to the failure to see the consequences of it, has been inept, ignorant, and wrong.

george bush might have cultivated the kind of freedom that could lead to the “power to select and order means to carry chosen ends into operation.” He did not cultivate that kind of freedom, and the lack of it shows in Iraq: there have not been enough troops, and not enough armor for the troops we have. There has not been the intelligence necessary, not even the smarts, to win the cooperation, if not the hearts, of local citizens. That is evidence enough that there is no power in the administration to select and order means that will carry chosen ends into operation. Instead we have too many unnecessary deaths of our soldiers, the deaths of too many civilians, no strategic plan, no visible means to accomplish our ends – indeed no visible ends that have any value or meaning for Iraq or for America.

There was no desire to take the time for such thinking, and an enormous desire to push the war through Congress without giving Congress any time to think clearly either. The executive branch knew that allowing Congress time to think would not gain them the freedom from restraint they sought. And there was not enough intelligence in the Congress to say, ”Wait, there is no urgency here, your deadlines and timetables are wrong. We need time to reflect, to discern if these are 'purposes that are intrinsically worth while,' and to wisely judge and evaluate the consequences of these actions."

“The old phrase, ‘stop and think’ is sound psychology,” says Dewey, for it “involves inhibition of impulse…until that impulse has been brought into connection with other possible tendencies to action so that a more comprehensive and coherent plan of activity is formed.” Given the chaos of insurgency, continuing outright warfare (especially the increased bombings), and the failures of reconstruction, there apparently was no inhibition of impulse that taking time to think might have imposed. And there was never developed a “more comprehensive and coherent plan of activity.” We just did what mr. bush wanted us to do, and mr. bush just did what he wanted to do. Period. Immediate action was mr. bush’s impulse and we acceded to his desire. Both actions were thoughtless.

Among the “other possible tendencies” that Mr. Dewey notes are the “observation of objective conditions,” and “recall of what has happened in the past.” Thinking is “a postponement of immediate action,” Dewey says, “while it effects internal control of impulse through a union of observation and memory, this union being the heart of reflection.” He continues, this is “the meaning of the well-worn phrase ‘self-control.’” Self-control is one of the purposes of education, according to Dewey. Which is why we see that mr. bush and his neo-con colleagues may have had some fine schooling but received little education, an outcome that may not have been their universities’ fault at all.

Here Dewey is getting close to the heart of the matters with which we began:
Impulses and desires that are not ordered by intelligence are under the control of accidental circumstances (a nice description of our presence in Iraq). It may be a loss rather than a gain to escape from the control of another person (read here, control of the Executive by the public and by Congress) only to find one’s conduct dictated by immediate whim and caprice; that is, at the mercy of impulses into whose formation intelligent judgment has not entered.(The parens are mine)

The result? Dewey puts it this way: "A person whose conduct is controlled in this way has at most only an illusion of freedom. Actually he is directed by forces over which he has no command."

Allow me to present to you a person of illusions, impulses, and desires. The company may remained seated: "Ladies and gentlemen -– mr. bush, the powerless. A man bound by his impulses, caught in an Iraqi conflagration created by his own immediate whim and caprice, controlled now by accidental circumstances, and subject to forces over which he has no command."

Mr. Dewey continues,
It is, then, a sound instinct which identifies freedom with power to frame purposes and to execute or carry into effect purposes so framed. Such freedom is in turn identical with self-control; for the formation of purposes and the organization of means to execute them are the work of intelligence…

Neither impulse nor desire is itself a purpose. A purpose is an end-view. That is, it involves foresight of the consequences which will result from acting upon impulse. Foresight of consequences involves the operation of intelligence.

Clearly there was no capacity to foresee the consequences of our entry into Iraq. Despite this president’s protests when things started to go awry, there was no plan for reconstruction after he declared the U.S. mission accomplished. It is clear that there still is no plan for how to end the conflict. The lack of intelligence metastasizes; now we are all at the mercy of “forces over which we have no command.”

In this administration’s case, even the observation of circumstances Dewey calls for may have been insufficient. For, “Observation alone is not enough,” he notes. “We have to understand the significance of what we see, hear, and touch. This significance consists of the consequences that will result when what is seen is acted upon.”

mr. bush saw and heard much. Given the outcome, he failed to see the consequences of his actions. That was in part because he paid no attention to the other element of reflection that Dewey referred to: the recollection of “what has happened in the past.” There was no way that mr. bush had enough facts in his own mind to know the history of the Middle East. He could have inquired, and with the resources at his command, had history laid on his doorstep in the morning. He did not inquire; one has to assume he did not care what happened in the past, or did not want to know.
But in unfamiliar cases, we cannot tell just what the consequences of observed conditions will be unless we go over past experiences in our mind, unless we reflect upon them and by seeing what is similar in them to those now present, go on to form a judgment of what may be expected in the present situation.

Such reflection was dismissed in favor of immediate action, the fulfillment of personal desire.

Finally there is this from Dewey, which also clarifies how Iraq came about and what we are now up against:
Overemphasis upon activity as an end, instead of intelligent activity, leads to identification of freedom with immediate execution of impulses and desires. This identification is justified by a confusion of impulse with purpose; although, as has just been said, there is no purpose unless overt action is postponed until there is foresight of the consequences of carrying the impulse into execution – a foresight that is impossible without observation, information, and judgment.

So here we are, sacrificing our children in Iraq for no purpose.

Observation and information reflected upon so that one understands their significance may lead to wise judgment. Wise judgment may lead to a purpose that is worth while. Intelligent reflection on our purpose may lead to a plan that marshals the means to deal with the consequences of our action.

Intelligence, freedom, purposes worth while, time to gather observations and information, a sense of history, foresight of consequences: given the circumstances which the United States faces in the world now, one has to say that is a list of characteristics that are utterly lacking in this president and his administration.

The president may believe in intelligent design, but his administration has neither the intelligence nor the power to create one.

In the absence of his own freedom mr. bush has none to bestow on others. Thus we have all become captives of the president’s impulses and desires -- forces over which he has no command, and neither do we. That makes it very difficult indeed to act on our own impulse to change the leadership of this nation. Lack of intelligence is not an impeachable offense. But an intelligent citizenry knows that the steps mr. bush has taken to eliminate restraints on his behavior and create freedom of action for himself while denying American citizens their own freedoms, are impeachable. That fact gives us time to think, observe, consider the history of leadership change, and reign in our impulse until we can see the consequences of such action. Then we can formulate a plan that will account for those consequences. Impeachment, then, though not immediate, will be certain.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

DISSENTER'S NOTEBOOK: So What Is Really New?

These few yeaars are perhaps the worst in our history, more dangerous than the Civil War. But today, looking through some old files I came on these two items from the 1970's. Makes you wonder what's really new, how long we've been in this difficulty, how long we've been asleep while the smart guys, lacking both intelligence and scruples, steal our country and endanger people everywhere.

THREE DREAMS

I dreamed the CIA
is not spying on us,
that we have a government
unequipped with lies;
that oppression does not stare
from the iron gate;
that grazing’s good,
children never empty,
mothers fleshed and milky
and hunger anywhere
easily assuaged
with a burger and some fries.

ςςςςςςςςς

Kev and Steph
I see you in the spring meadow
green and playful on your knees
rocking in the Beartooth wind,
the sweeping rye.

You stretch, touch hands, laugh,
roll over and over under your
nuclear future, already falling
from the a sun light years
from this fearless grass.

I climb the hill,
your photographic faces
small white moons upturned
in a darkness black
as a shadow burned into a wall.

ςςςςςςςςςς

I dreamed my life
does not create the day
a child ignites
in that white light
breaking
from the sun,
falls hidden, absorbed
by that non-mushroom cloud.
-- 1978

And this:

D-BASED AMERICA

I
Except for music
all counting is deadly.

Be assured:
what appears uncountable
immeasurable
will soon be counted
and measured; our auditors
are looking into it now.

Though we know
what is counted is doomed
(trees as board feet)
we have reason to believe
what is countable
will be counted
(water by acre-foot).
Victory is everything
to us.

We will tell you
when we have won –
as soon as we have
counted the bodies.

We have numbered you all.
In you we will find
our final solution.

II

We are happy to announce:

If you measure up
Everything
Will be yours!

We are counting on you
but your allegiance to us
is always in doubt.

We have ways to measure
Your devotion: the value
of your house. Your wage.
Whatever you fail to acquire
may be used against you.
Our “Survey of Acquisitions”
will measure your allegiance.

We are the numerators
the people of power.

We are here to tell you
our wealth is your obligation.
If you too become rich
the taxes you avoid
will be a sign unto you,
your contribution to what counts
in our culture.

We will keep track for you.
Your spreadsheet is in the mail.
You will be billed for it.

Though we cannot be held
accountable for any action
it is for you we count.
We want you to believe it is
in order to be fair: You are
one people, like-minded
accountable to us.

Forgive us our counting
as we forgive those who
count against us.
-- 1976