One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, “style” and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed “crazy”, as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually “crazy” are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge). This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society’s most powerful factions and their institutions.
A TV plays nonstop in the lunchroom at my workplace. Today, as I grabbed a snack, CNN was interviewing a “Vatican spokesman” (I didn’t catch his name, but he was the man on the right in this photo). While this interview was airing, the Cardinals were still deliberating. It occurred to me first of all that despite being guided by the “Holy Spirit” these men were struggling to make a decision. The Vatican Spokesman said to the CNN reporter, “We’re looking for Something New.” Amen to that.
Why did the alleged God banish the alleged Satan from the alleged heaven? Many Christian accounts of Satan bluntly conclude that Satan was full of pride, causing God to give him the boot. Which leads to the follow:
I don’t know who creates these images, which are often posted on Facebook. They sharply challenge assertions commonly made by believers. Sometimes they challenge deeply held theological arguments. And as Ronaldo de Souza once suggested, theology is “intellectual tennis without a net.”
Only because Rand Paul, Ted Cruz – and now others – have been willing to stand up to the administration and demand transparency on drone strike policy are Americans learning the chilling truth about the executive’s elastic definition of “imminence” in “imminent threat.”
If you’re concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability of the policy of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, you have to concede that Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have done us a great service: Cruz, R-Texas, with his questioning of Attorney General Eric Holder in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Paul, R-Kentucky, with his widely reported filibuster on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, some Democrats don’t want to acknowledge this contribution. That’s a shame.
Believers constantly overlook the sins of “God.” He literally gets away with murder when he slaughters little children. All of this should be a problem for Bible literalists–the inerrant folks–but they claim that it isn’t. That works thanks to the big blind spot to occurs in all types of believers: Morality binds and blinds, and it does this especially well in the context of religions.
I spotted this image on Facebook–it details the seven “Godly” sins. There is no indication of who the author was–if anyone knows, I’d like to give credit. I can’t argue with the logic of the chart.
Francis Kissling is a Catholic. In his article at The Nation, he sees no hope that choosing a new pope will improve the Catholic Church:
[The central teachings of the church are] cynicism—teaching things that are not true—at its most damaging, and it is the foundation of the modern church. The virgin birth is only the start of it. Heaven and hell, the turning of bread and wine into the body of Christ (a core teaching that polls tell us most Catholics reject), the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven (how could her body have gone to heaven when we are now clear it is not a real physical place?), the infallibility of the pope telling these untruths and insisting that Catholics must believe them to be Catholic—this all leads directly to corrupt popes and priests who lack compassion. Lying or just fudging it demoralizes those who teach in the name of the church. From such demoralization stems the need to protect the institution and oneself, to protect pedophiles, to let women die in childbirth by denying contraception, to allow the transmission of HIV and to keep alive a dysfunctional institution. It is no accident that priests have historically had a high rate of alcoholism; not only were they isolated by the solitude of the priesthood but by the dissonance in what they were bound to teach and preach and their own understanding of life and goodness. A new pope will change nothing.
Recently, I finished reading Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollwood, & the Prison of Belief, about Scientology. It’s a lucid history and examination of the movement. [More . . . ]
Journalist Nick Turse investigated Vietnam war crimes files, thousands of them. As he explained to Bill Moyers, there is much America did in Vietnam that it should be ashamed of. Why dredge up the past? First, Vietnam is within the lifetimes of many people currently alive. Second, a powerful lesson illustrated by Turse is that in the absence of accurately reported information our government excels at hiding the truth and painting rosy pictures. This is a very important lesson pertaining to Iraq and Afghanistan. We always have spotty and hyper-censored media coverage concerning the conduct of our troops. What have our troops been doing? The assumption should be that in the absence of vigorous and accurate reporting, things have been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan that could not possibly withstand the light of day. That is certainly what happened in Vietnam, which was a concocted war, just like Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans need to quit pretending that they are getting accurate information from their government in the absence of any trustworthy verifying source of information. In the absence of trustworthy information, we need to assume that war is a theater for war crimes and make believe.
How many decades will we need to wait before the truth comes out about the wars of “freedom” we are fighting in the Middle East? How many decades will pass before historians declare that these needless wars were conducted in shameful ways. How long before Americans realize that our biggest wars are wars to clamp down on information waged by our government against the people of the U.S.? Here are a few excerpts from the Turse interview by Bill Moyers:
All the atrocities that [John] Kerry mentions by name [before Congress] I found evidence of all of those types of crimes represented in the records of this Vietnam War Crimes Working Group in the government’s own files. So at the same time that– you know, that Kerry and the veterans that he was referring to there were being smeared as fake veterans or as liars, the military had all these records that proved that these were just the very crimes that were going on in Vietnam.
[An army medic named Jamie Henry] saw these things. And when he first spoke up about brutality his life was threatened by fellow unit members. And even his friends came to him and said, “Look, you have to keep your mouth shut or you’re going to get shot in the back during a firefight and no one’s going to be the wiser.” So Jamie did keep his mouth shut, but he kept his eyes open. And he kept cataloguing everything he saw.
And this culminated in– it was February 8th, 1968. And his unit moved into a small hamlet. And his commanding officer, a West Point trained captain– ordered all the civilians there rounded up. It was about 19 civilians, women and children. And Jamie was taking a break, smoking a cigarette. And over the radio he heard this captain give an order. And it was to kill anything that moves.
And Jamie heard this. And he jumped up. And he went to go try and intervene. But he was just seconds late. He showed up just as five men arrayed around these civilians, opened up on full automatic with their M-16 rifles, and shot them all dead. And Jamie told me that 30 seconds after this took place, he vowed that he would make this public.
And he made it, you know, his duty to do so. As soon as he got home from Vietnam, he sought out an Army lawyer. And he told them everything that he saw. And this Army lawyer told him that he needed to keep quiet, because there were a million ways that the Army could make him disappear. He went to spoke to an Army criminal investigator. But that man threatened him. He went and sought out a civilian lawyer who told him to get some political backing.
He wrote to two congressman. Neither of them returned his letters. Then he started speaking out. He went on the radio. He went to public forums. And even the winter soldier investigation He spoke out there. But he could never get any traction. And finally, you know, it was years later that Jamie just gave up. And you know, he decided that he just had to move on with his life.
[t]hink tank “scholars” don’t get invited to important meetings by “national security professionals” in DC if they point out that the US is committing war crimes and that the US president is a war criminal. They don’t get invited to those meetings if they argue that the US should be bound by the same rules and laws it imposes on others when it comes to the use of force. They don’t get invited if they ask US political officials to imagine how they would react if some other country were routinely bombing US soil with drones and cruise missiles and assassinating whatever Americans they wanted to in secret and without trial. As the reaction to Cornel West shows, making those arguments triggers nothing but ridicule and exclusion.
One gets invited to those meetings only if one blindly affirms the right of the US to do whatever it wants, and then devotes oneself to the pragmatic question of how that unfettered license can best be exploited to promote national interests. The culture of DC think tanks, “international relations” professionals, and foreign policy commenters breeds allegiance to these American prerogatives and US power centers – incentivizes reflexive defenses of US government actions – because, as Gelb says, that is the only way to advance one’s careerist goals as a “national security professional”. If you see a 20-something aspiring “foreign policy expert” or “international relations professional” in DC, what you’ll view, with some rare exceptions, is a mindlessly loyal defender of US force and prerogatives. It’s what that culture, by design, breeds and demands.