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tweeted by, Ezra Klein @ezraklein 1h
The "Kerry option" gives Obama a new argument he can use to persuade Congress to vote "yes." That's a big deal: http://wapo.st/13FSJbq
- The “Kerry option” gives wavering members of Congress another excuse to vote “no”. Any senators who want to vote against the force authorization without completely abandoning the administration have a new excuse: They don’t want to authorize force until this promising diplomatic solution is fully explored.
- It also gives the Obama administration a new argument to persuade Congress to vote “yes.” Prior to today, there was no option that either Russia or Syria were particularly worried about the U.S.’s “unbelievably small” war. That’s over. “Even if Russia’s proposal is just a bluff, it shows that President Obama’s threat has backed Moscow into a bit of a corner, and has forced Russian officials to at least pretend to negotiate seriously for the first time in a long time,” writes Max Fisher.
The Obama administration can now go to wavering members of Congress and argue that they need the authorization of force in order to have maximum leverage while pursuing this diplomatic option. And members of Congress can argue that they’re simply voting to give the Obama administration that leverage. Is all this a bit reminiscent of the bankshot arguments that ultimately passed the authorization for the war in Iraq? Yep. But remember, those arguments worked.
The Kerry Option at least gives Obama the opportunity to make a new argument in tonight’s primetime speech.You could see him previewing it to NBC News. “What we’re seeing is that a credible threat of a military strike from the United States, supported potentially by a number of other countries around the world has given them pause and makes them consider whether or not they would make this move,” he said. Now he can go before the American people and claim his policy is working and simply needs to be continued.
What good is a diplomatic initiative which still seeks authorization for military strikes? This is more like an ultimatum than it is a diplomatic proposal. If Assad abandons support for Russia's proposal, and a resolution is in place which authorizes military strikes, that will be a clever one-two step dance into war by the administration.
That will guarantee little more than just warring. Formally coupled with an authorized threat of force, this diplomatic initiative will be nothing more than a trigger to war against Syria.
As Abe Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"
BBC Breaking News @BBCBreaking 24m
Secretary of State John Kerry says US cannot wait long for Russian proposal on #Syria chemical weapons to work http://bbc.in/1b1cSxa
Posted by bigtree | Tue Sep 10, 2013, 10:57 AM (10 replies)
It isn't 'Bush Fatigue' which is responsible for opposition to Syria strikes; it's 'Lessons Learned'
One of the things Americans came to understand about George Bush's push past the UN Security Council to invade Iraq, despite the international organization's objections, was that he regarded that body as nothing more than a rubber stamp when they agreed with him and a mere nuisance when they did not.
Bush pushed past UN objections and forced UN inspectors to leave Iraq by pushing forward with his military invasion before they had time to conclude that Saddam did not have WMDs. The authority to commit forces is not actually inherent in the Iraq War resolution that he obtained. That authority is contained in the War Powers Act (referenced in the resolution) which decades of presidents have used to commit forces for months without congressional approval.
Some Democrats, at the time, saw the resolution as a way to restrain Bush and send him back to the U.N. Many were desperate to stifle Bush's argument for immediate invasion and sought to mandate a return to the international table by limiting Bush's authority in the resolution.
Yet, whether or not the resolution had passed, Bush was intent on invading and occupying Iraq. He had gone around for weeks proclaiming that 1441 gave him the authority to do whatever he wanted because of his definition of a 'threat' to our nation and defense of our national security. If the resolution had failed, I believe Bush would have committed forces anyway, as decades of presidents had also put troops in the field for months without congressional approval.
In that event the Congress would likely be loath to retreat and remove forces. Then, by law a resolution would have been drawn up, likely resembling the one we ended up with; urging Bush back to the U.N. and calling for internationalization of the conflict. Of course, by that time, Bush had already drawn the nation and our allies into a institutionally intractable military conflict.
That is how determined presidents get us into war. Check and checkmate. It's democracy-lite. It stinks, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to restrain a president from committing forces because of the loophole inherent in the War Powers Act, which is referenced in the IWR. Bush's position before, during and after invasion was that 1441 gave him authority to do any thing he wanted to in that region. He wanted cover, but the IWR didn't actually give him cover for his unilateral, preemptive invasion. Nowhere in the bill does it mandate what he ultimately did.
It isn't as if there's an infallible and decisive line of accountability from Congress to the president. Whatever control they have is a complicated gambit of allowing or withholding defense funds. That's where the actual check on that presidential authority lies.
One of the things that I, personally, want in a post-Bush presidency is a White House which understands that they take a nation to war, not just their administration. Having Congress assume initial responsibility for waging war is an integral and vital facet of our democracy. It's not a perfect check on that presidential prerogative, as we saw in the Bush-era, but it is a substantially important one.
That initial recognition by the president of that responsibility of Congress to initiate warring should be more than some political formality. However, as we've seen in many unilateral uses of force by the Executive over the course of history, Congress is loath to deny funding for an operation that's underway; for a mission where troops have already been committed to the field.
All our contemporary CiCs have had to do is make a unilateral declaration that their actions are in defense of 'national security' or in response to some 'threat' or the other against the U.S. or our interests. That's the reasoning the White House has decided to promote for their military ambitions in Syria. By declaring that attacks within Syria are in our 'national interests', and pose a 'threat' to our nation, the President and his deputies are declaring themselves above and beyond the initial judgment of Congress of whether their mission has merit and is supportable. For many folks out here, that's just a slippery slope to war.
That may well suit those who are firm in their belief that military force is imperative, yet, it is a stance which flies in the face of the overwhelming rejection of military strikes from a majority of Americans polled and a majority who have bothered to tell their Representatives and Senators where they stand.
As far as I've understood the President and his SoS, they believe they have that authority already, so I'm a bit puzzled why there's some question out there about whether he'll buck the judgment and vote of Congress and invade anyway. Maybe he won't, in the end. I just know that the President needs a constant and vocal reminder that there are a majority of us out here who don't agree with his stance and would appreciate if he would tell us up front that he'll respect the judgment of our elected officials and not rely solely on his own determination - his own decision - that we should go to war with Syria.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Sep 7, 2013, 02:45 PM (2 replies)
It would be illegal for the president to unilaterally wage war just to punish Syria . . . it is required by law that there be some demonstrable threat to the U.S. or our allies; or some imminent attack, in order for the CiC to unilaterally order the use of force.
The authority the WH is seeking is just an opportunistic attempt to be granted as much authority to meddle in Syria's civil war as they can manage out of Congress.
If that wasn't arrogant enough, they insist that NONE of that congressional (or UN) authority is actually needed for the President to unilaterally to ramp up and deliver a military 'message' to Assad.
"He gassed his own people."
That's the refrain Bush used to keep Americans chastened enough to allow him to use the force and threat of our military to meddle in Iraq's political affairs. It's, perhaps, coincidentally, the same hook the Obama administration is using to assuage Americans' and our legislators' ambivalence about unleashing our own destructive violence in response to another nation's leader's alleged violence inside of his own country.
'Syria isn't Iraq or Afghanistan,' goes the defense against such comparisons. 'Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq,' or something to that effect, 'and, Obama told the truth about chemical weapons in Syria.
Yet, it makes no difference at all that one justification for the use of military force abroad is a lie and the other isn't. BOTH distort and misrepresent the actual threat to our national security for the exact same reason.
BOTH Bush and Obama made their representations of the threat to the U.S. in order to declare and secure their unilateral authority to use our military forces (at least initially) any way they see fit, without congressional pre-approval - justified almost entirely in their view by their opportunistic declarations that our security is threatened.
That was the slippery slope that Bush used to war. That's the slope that Pres. Obama used to escalate Bush's Afghanistan occupation far beyond the former republican presidency's limits - with the catastrophic result of scores more casualties than Bush to our forces during this Democratic administration's first term and scores more innocent Afghans dead, maimed, or uprooted.
In pressing forward with a U.S. military response to the atrocities committed within Syria, this Democratic president is losing almost all of the ground we thought we'd covered in repudiating the opportunistic Bush wars. Bush's were waged, certainly, for oil and other greed; but just as certainly to effect U.S. expansionist ideals involving regime changes and 'dominoes.'
This Democratic administration is looking for a military wedge inside Syria to effect much the same idealistic set of political aims in that country and the region that the Bush leadership was obsessed with. It's carried forward by this self-important notion that the U.S. is in a position to dictate to other nations it's own versions of opportunistically constructed democracies which serve to elevate one U.S.-interested ideal over other equally pernicious and malicious ones.
The results, worldwide, of contemporary U.S. interventionism, speak for themselves. The Obama administration, almost blithely, is hoping that their Syrian 'misadventure' says something uniquely democratic and inspiring to countries which pose no actual threat to our nation. I'm afraid that all any one outside of this country will hear is 'empire.'
Posted by bigtree | Wed Sep 4, 2013, 10:59 AM (21 replies)
I've never been comfortable with Barack Obama's views and attitude toward national security and defense. I've felt that way from his first time as candidate for president where his most visible opposition to pre-emptive war was a speech on Iraq with no video and a transcript written hastily after the address.
Mr. Obama, at that time, spoke about our history of military engagement overseas with a rhetorical detachment from our own nation's role in fueling and exacerbating many of the conflicts which serve to define the limits of our military in effecting many of the stated goals and ambitions which sparked U.S. involvement in the first place.
Most definitive of the President's views and attitude toward the use of military force was his contradictory speech in Oslo, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, taking the moment to define his own philosophy outside of the pacifist ideologies which Dr. King and others highlighted in their own acceptance speeches and in practice in their own live experiences.
President Obama says that he and other Americans are weary, fatigued of war. That may well suit his own thinking, but I think American's weariness is more than just fatigue at the presence of conflict; it's an exhaustion with the justifying of it all.
Author Herman Wouk put it best, in the words of Julien Benda, a character in his book, 'The Winds of War'. He wrote:
"Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind.
I'm re-posting my assessment of Barack Obama's acceptance speech because I believe it's a good measure of where I feel the President stands today as he contemplates and seeks to justify a military response to chemical attacks in Syria.
Justifying War in Oslo
Posted by bigtree in General Discussion
Thu Dec 10th 2009, 02:27 PM
BARACK OBAMA wrapped his militarism in a blanket of history in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway. He spoke with the detachment of a professor lecturing students about a "living testimony" to the "moral force" of the teachings of King and Gandhi who just happened to be commander-in-chief over dual, bloody occupations. War and peace, in Mr. Obama's presentation, were inseparably intertwined throughout history with America rising above it all - virtuous and correct in the flexing of our military muscle abroad in this age, because of our righteousness in the defining wars we waged with our allies against the Third Reich and Japan. That American virtue, in Mr. Obama's estimation, is evident by our leadership in setting the terms of international patronage, diplomacy, and "just' war.
Mr. Obama began his speech by attempting to rationalize the obvious contradiction of a wartime president accepting a 'peace' prize. He downplayed the occupation in Iraq he has prolonged, distanced himself from the one he just redefined and escalated in Afghanistan, and declared himself responsible for, and "filled with questions" surrounding his sending of 'young Americans' to fight and die abroad.
In answering his own questions, the president recited his own view of our nation's war history in which our military victories over the aggression of Japan and Germany established the U.S. as the moral arbiter of future conflicts.
For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations — total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of 30 years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.
Nonetheless, the president next acknowledged the civil, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts around the world, which he observed are on the rise, without mention of our own nation's part in fueling, funding, and deliberately or clumsily exacerbating many of those into perpetuity.
In Iraq, the war that the president insists is 'winding down', our nation's invasion and overthrow of the sovereign government was the catalyst to the chaos and civil and sectarian unrest and violence which was punctuated last week with the killing of over 120 civilians by a lone bomber. Our military forces' inability to stifle or eliminate the killings there, despite our "surged-up", lingering occupation is a less than ringing endorsement of some inherent wisdom behind the opportunistic exercise of our dominating, devastating military forces abroad.
The president admitted his own lack of a 'definitive solution' to it all. Absent that solution, the president says we must be prepared to act when we feel that war is 'justified'.
A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.
It's obvious what the president is alluding to here. There aren't many who would question America's pursuit of justice in the wake of the 9-11 plane crashes. Chasing bin-Laden and his cohorts into Afghanistan, and the rout of his Taliban accomplices to Pakistan was a reasonable response to most looking on.
Yet, there's a question of how much of the president's militarism today in Afghanistan can be justified as part and parcel of that original pursuit; or even integral to some defense of our national security as defined in the original authorization to use military force. That didn't stop Mr. Obama from casting his self-escalated role in Afghanistan as a menage between King, Gandhi, and his inner warrior.
As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
That 'ambivalence' to military action the president represents as universal to any conflict, is fiction, at least in America. Our nation's citizens didn't start out ambivalent to chasing bin-Laden into Afghanistan. They became ambivalent when that effort was distorted into opportunistic nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan; all the while with the fugitive terror suspects that were at the heart and soul of the military mission left free to instigate and motivate violent resistance against our nation's strident military presence and activity across sovereign borders, mostly by the virtue of their freedom from justice.
The nation became ambivalent when those occupations, in turn, were escalated to facilitate the politics behind the propped-up regimes our nation's defenders sacrificed and languished in these foreign countries to defend and preserve in assumed power and authority over the hapless populations.
The suspicion of America's military force abroad was born in the 'extraordinary renditions' by our military and intelligence agencies; and in the indefinite imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans without charges or counsel - many held and tortured as in Gitmo - many tortured and disappeared in 'black sites' in compliant nations.
Many are suspicious of this president's escalation of force in Afghanistan against the Taliban there. We've been told by the administration and the military that there are relatively few individuals thought to be in Afghanistan who are al-Qaeda. Yet the U.S. military aggression there in defense of the regime we helped ascend to power in a corrupt election is directed against an entirely different 'enemy' who is operating against the U.S. 'interest' in our maintaining of the ethically-challenged regime in dominance over whoever there recognizes and is affected by America's beneficent-but-poison paternalism.
. . . the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people's children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
So we mustn't 'trumpet' war, we should trumpet our benevolence and patronage instead - which Mr. Obama believes is the true expression of our 'will' as Americans. War is just an inconvenient inevitability to the president and the best we can do is to be beneficent and muddle through . . . like we've done throughout the history he describes.
If the president has his way with the dual occupations, he will end one and win the other. It's no matter to him that he contradicts the very reasons he once spoke out in protest against the Iraq invasion and occupation with the justifications he uses for continuing to pursue both to some 'successful' end. He'll presumably pull our troops out of Iraq without any regard at all for the increased violence there or without concern about staging a continued defense of the politics and voting there which was supposed to be central to the reasons for his foot-dragging exit.
Reports today were that the military is satisfied, as is the administration, that none of the recent developments and political setbacks will delay their planned drawdown of about half of the 100,000-strong force there. That's as it should be. The U.S. forces are useless to the cause of 'keeping the peace' between the feuding Iraqis, Kurds, and others. Whatever 'moral' influence anyone hoped to assert there behind the force of our military has been terminally corrupted from the start and aggravated by the collateral consequences and effects of the shock and awe of our opportunistic occupation.
All of this folly still festering in Iraq - the president anxious to cut the losses and end the occupation- and the best he can imagine for those retreating forces is to join his new, escalated folly in Afghanistan. What was notable about the President Obama's speech in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize was how much of it was centered on justifying war; just wars, in his estimation. It's safe to say that his actions and decisions regarding Afghanistan were at the forefront of his excuses. American exceptionalism reigns supreme in his elevated view and his own militarism is to be seen by others as no exception to the history of America's 'just' wars.
At the end of his address, the president quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks at his own Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance . . .
As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him . . . We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace . . .
It's understandable that President Obama would want to justify his own duplicity between his stated ideals against 'dumb wars' with a declaration of a pursuit of peace behind his escalation of military force in Afghanistan. But King wasn't trying to reconcile the contradiction between a wartime president who's escalated an occupation and a peace-seeker. King's answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," King said in 1967. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
And, so it goes . . .
Posted by bigtree | Sat Aug 31, 2013, 09:30 AM (9 replies)
. . . if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about – but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians. -President Obama interview with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff of PBS
Military intervention in Syria isn't going to be 'limited' to a few days, restricted to 'targeted sites', or, just a 'shot across the bow.
The President says it will not be "a repetition of, you know, Iraq," but, its that very naivete (or bullshittery) that makes the prospect of a military strike in that country as full of as many unanswered questions and pitfalls as Bush's own assertions about his intent to deploy our military resources to defend our national security against a very similar set of unproven allegations about WMDs.
I realize that President Obama has promised to present the evidence this week but it already sounds like they're relying on the process of elimination, rather than hard evidence. Claiming that the Assad regime is the only actor there capable of delivering a chemical attack in the way this one is alleged to have occurred is not the same as providing definitive proof.
Answering a question from Labour MP Glenda Jackson today, British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted "there is no 100% certainty about who is responsible" for the chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Claiming, as the White House did yesterday, that there's 'no evidence of any alternative' to Syrian govt. responsibility for chemical attack isn't the kind of definitive proof that should be required to attack a nation across its sovereign borders. Dismissing the possibility that an inspection team would be capable of uncovering the truth in Syria - even before one had been deployed - was a signal to Syrians and others that this administration has a pre-determined mindset against that nation which is never going to recognize the truth behind whatever evidence is uncovered.
There are reports today that the administration is rejecting a Syrian request that U.N. inspectors stay longer and is pushing ahead with plans for a military strike.
There's open speculation today that the decision of the UN inspection team to end their investigation in Syria a day early is in anticipation of an imminent military strike by the U.S.. What could be more analogous to Bush's own decision to allow his zeal for a military solution in Iraq to stifle and stymie a diplomatic (UN) effort?
Moreover, the President's talk of a 'limited' military strike that sends a 'message' to the Syrian regime ignores the almost certain blowback the regional allies like Israel will experience almost immediately after a U.S. assault. Does President Obama really believe that Syria and their allies will be so impressed with our display of military might that they'll just fold and surrender? Not many folks think that's likely to happen.
More chance that a U.S. attack will embolden and validate those views in Syria and the region that it's really just American influence behind the opposition, rather than interests more dedicated to what Syrians actually want for their own country.
We can certainly argue and debate about the differences between Syria and Iraq - for instance, the size and potential of Syria's much more equipped and capable forces. Yet, it is this administration's determination to sell military intervention in Syria as a cakewalk that most reminds of Bush's own assertions about invading Iraq. Some supporters are even trying to make like we'd be greeted as liberators there for dislodging Assad from power.
No, Mr. President, you're wrong. U.S. military intervention across the sovereign borders of Syria is very much so "a repetition of, you know, Iraq." Same thin thread of proof; same rosy set of assumptions about a 'limited' military action; same ignoring or dismissal of the Syrian response; same clueless denial about who our military action would actually be serving in Syria.
President Obama is correct that Syria isn't Iraq; it's much more adept at exploiting our nation's interests in Israel and elsewhere in the region. Unless this administration steps back and approaches this issue with a deeper mindset than Bushian-variety arrogance and bluster, we're going to find ourselves on a slippery slope to a widened war.
So far, President Obama looks eager enough in his own belief in the efficacy and effect of deploying our military defenses to cause Syria to change their behavior. I believe strikes will just inflame and exacerbate whatever divisions exist there today. No 'shot across the bow' will automatically end them.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 07:50 AM (29 replies)
How can it be that the emerging generations of young folks - with unparalleled access to information - are so ignorant or indifferent about history?
Just an observation, from my perspective, fwiw.
Here's to the legions here who take the time to inform and explain.
Posted by bigtree | Mon Aug 19, 2013, 02:15 PM (4 replies)
Albert Murray, an influential essayist, critic and novelist who found literary inspiration in his Alabama roots and saw black culture and American culture as inextricably entwined, died on Sunday at his home in Harlem. He was 97.
With a freewheeling prose style influenced by jazz and the blues, Mr. Murray challenged conventional assumptions about art, race and American identity in books like the essay collection “Stomping the Blues” and the memoir “South to a Very Old Place.” He also gave expression to those views in a series of autobiographical novels, starting with “Train Whistle Guitar” in 1974.
Mr. Murray established himself as a formidable social and literary figure in 1970 with his first book, a collection of essays titled “The Omni-Americans: New Perspectives on Black Experience and American Culture.” The book constituted an attack on black separatism, a movement supported by the Black Panthers and others that was gathering force in the late 1960s, particularly among alienated young blacks.
“The United States is not a nation of black and white people,” Mr. Murray, a fervent integrationist, wrote. “Any fool can see that white people are not really white, and that black people are not black.” America, he maintained, “even in its most rigidly segregated precincts,” was a “nation of multicolored people,” or Omni-Americans: “part Yankee, part backwoodsman and Indian — and part Negro.”
read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/books/albert-murray-essayist-who-challenged-the-conventional-dies-at-97.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0
Albert Murray and Ralph Ellison
Hyphens, Heroes, & Dragons: Conversation with Albert Murray - Auburn University - Apr 16, 2008
Posted by bigtree | Mon Aug 19, 2013, 01:47 PM (1 replies)
To Noel Willmett from Geo. Orwell: "Whether totalitarianism, leader-worship, are on the up-grade..."
George Orwell’s Letter on Why He Wrote ‘1984’
In 1944, three years before writing and five years before publishing 1984, George Orwell penned a letter detailing the thesis of his great novel. The letter, warning of the rise of totalitarian police states that will ‘say that two and two are five,’ is reprinted from George Orwell: A Life in Letters, edited by Peter Davidson and published today by Liveright.
To Noel Willmett
18 May 1944
10a Mortimer Crescent NW 6
Dear Mr Willmett,
Many thanks for your letter. You ask whether totalitarianism, leader-worship etc. are really on the up-grade and instance the fact that they are not apparently growing in this country and the USA.
I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things are on the increase. Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers° of the type of de Gaulle. All the national movements everywhere, even those that originate in resistance to German domination, seem to take non-democratic forms, to group themselves round some superhuman fuhrer (Hitler, Stalin, Salazar, Franco, Gandhi, De Valera are all varying examples) and to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means. Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer. Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history. He can’t say that two and two are five, because for the purposes of, say, ballistics they have to make four. But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it. That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible.
As to the comparative immunity of Britain and the USA. Whatever the pacifists etc. may say, we have not gone totalitarian yet and this is a very hopeful symptom. I believe very deeply, as I explained in my book The Lion and the Unicorn, in the English people and in their capacity to centralise their economy without destroying freedom in doing so. But one must remember that Britain and the USA haven’t been really tried, they haven’t known defeat or severe suffering, and there are some bad symptoms to balance the good ones. To begin with there is the general indifference to the decay of democracy. Do you realise, for instance, that no one in England under 26 now has a vote and that so far as one can see the great mass of people of that age don’t give a damn for this? Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side. Indeed the statement that we haven’t a Fascist movement in England largely means that the young, at this moment, look for their fuhrer elsewhere. One can’t be sure that that won’t change, nor can one be sure that the common people won’t think ten years hence as the intellectuals do now. I hope they won’t, I even trust they won’t, but if so it will be at the cost of a struggle. If one simply proclaims that all is for the best and doesn’t point to the sinister symptoms, one is merely helping to bring totalitarianism nearer.
Two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it.
You also ask, if I think the world tendency is towards Fascism, why do I support the war. It is a choice of evils—I fancy nearly every war is that. I know enough of British imperialism not to like it, but I would support it against Nazism or Japanese imperialism, as the lesser evil. Similarly I would support the USSR against Germany because I think the USSR cannot altogether escape its past and retains enough of the original ideas of the Revolution to make it a more hopeful phenomenon than Nazi Germany. I think, and have thought ever since the war began, in 1936 or thereabouts, that our cause is the better, but we have to keep on making it the better, which involves constant criticism.
Posted by bigtree | Mon Aug 12, 2013, 11:18 AM (19 replies)
We all witnessed that large influx of new voters which helped bring the Democratic party back into power in the WH in 2008. . . a large majority of those new voters, African Americans and other minority citizens.
In the next presidential election, whoever we choose to be our nominee, our party will be challenged to get these same voters (and a host of other new voters) to the polls. That challenge means that the level of our commitment to voting rights, access, and fairness will likely determine the question of whether our party's nominees will continue to be upheld and advanced ahead of the republican opposition.
Today is the anniversary of the signing of the original Voting Rights Act.
Consider how the VRA transformed American democracy (from The Nation):
LBJ made clear, in his remarks at the signing of the Act, that the defense and protection of voting rights for black Americans was, ultimately a powerful advance for ALL Americans:
"It is difficult to fight for freedom. But I also know how difficult it can be to bend long years of habit and custom to grant it. There is no room for injustice anywhere in the American mansion. But there is always room for understanding toward those who see the old ways crumbling. And to them today I say simply this: It must come. It is right that it should come. And when it has, you will find that a burden has been lifted from your shoulders, too.
As we work to defend against the latest republican assaults on the continuation of these important voting protections - and work for the enactment of expanded rights and protections for every American - we need to keep the Voting Rights Act at the forefront of our political activity to ensure that the promises made in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were more than just lip service.
We must continue to make certain that those important rights and privileges are backed up by the unfaltering and immediate actions of the federal government to defend and enhance these vital protections of our participation in our democratic process of government and law.
MLK's White House Invitation to Signing of Voting Rights Act
Posted by bigtree | Tue Aug 6, 2013, 11:39 AM (19 replies)
tweeted by, Questlove Jenkins @questlove 2h
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Questlove Jenkins @questlove 1h
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kentuckyprophet @kentuckyprophet 1h
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Questlove Jenkins @questlove 1h
#GeorgeDuke (keys) Alphonso Johnson (Bass), John Scofield (guitar), Billy Cobham (drums) Montreux 1976
Posted by bigtree | Tue Aug 6, 2013, 08:51 AM (4 replies)