I wanted to write about Barack Obama’s recent speech announcing the alleged partial withdrawal of some of the tens of thousands of troops he has added to the decade-long American occupation of Afghanistan during his three Bush-like “surges” of that conflict. Events – and a deep reluctance to “waste my beautiful mind” on such a self-evident assemblage of murderous mendacity – stayed my hand. But this was, as it turned out, all good, as the saying goes, for now I find that Arthur Silber has, to paraphrase the Bard, named my very deed of rage. You should read the whole piece – and the links which provide historical context to the president’s long-tortured relationship with truth – but here’s a snippet to wet your whistle:
I must note that in the speech this evening, Obama offered a brief passage containing nothing but fall-on-the-floor whoppers. Here you go:
We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.
I love "while adhering to the rule of law." And, "We stand not for empire..." Those three sentences in their entirety are gold-plated comedy material.
Couldn't you just die? You might.
Before Obama’s speech, I wanted to write about the extraordinary outburst of imperial spleen from Obama’s imperial satrap in Bactria, Karl Eikenberry. The satrap, you may recall, pitched a hissy fit when the Empire’s local hireling, Hamid Karzai, got above his raising, as he is wont to do, and voiced a few criticisms of the occupying force’s self-serving agenda of greed and domination, and its unfortunate propensity for killing Afghan civilians in large numbers.
But here too I find that in another post, Silber has got thar the fastest with the moistest (to quote, or possibly misquote, one of the many insurgent extremists hugely celebrated in our highly moral land). His apt title, “The Fragile Vanity of the War Criminal,” sums up the matter well. Again, Silber marshals a range of facts and past insights to frame Eikenberry’s remarkable outburst. (Remarkable not for its monstrous sentiments, of course, which are de rigueur for our ruling class, but for their frankness, the lack of PR polish in which these ugly attitudes are usually cast.)
Eikenberry said Americans feel wounded by any aspersions cast on their pure hearts and noble motives by the grubby, ignorant natives. Such black ingratitude makes it impossible for him to “give a comforting reply” to the families of American soldiers when they ask him why in the name of God Almighty their loved ones are being killed and maimed in this endless, pointless imperial adventure, says poor, pouting Karl. Silber limns the pathology behind this imperial poltroonery.
I referred above to "the symptoms of severe neurosis" which result from a dedicated reliance on the delusions supporting American exceptionalism. Eikenberry's comments show how that severe neurosis begins to veer ever closer to psychosis, if we use "psychosis" to indicate a condition representing an irreparable break with reality. I emphasize again that it is not simply that U.S. leaders ignore the murderous, bloody consequences of the U.S. government's actions. That would be more than sufficiently evil by itself, but U.S. leaders and functionaries like Eikenberry go much further. They transform evil into a positive good. And they go further still: they demand that others acknowledge their nobility and goodness -- and thank them for it.
Yes, this is indeed where the ankle-chain rubs rawest, isn't it? It's not enough to give way to brute force, bow your head, bare your back and take the lash: you have to sing hallelujah while Massa strikes, then kiss his foot when he's finished. As Silber notes astutely earlier in the post:
Our national delusions, and our national neurosis, compel us to invert every moral value and principle. This is a world in which evil becomes good, and death becomes life.
And sinister poltroons become presidents and satraps, with the arbitrary power of life and death over millions of innocent people. Hallelujah!
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