Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The ethical bankruptcy of the faux left

We get e-mails.  'Can you please highlight this?'  'I'm going to be here.'  'I'm trying to raise money for . . .'  'I have a new book coming out.'  On and on, the requests never end.  And when I can, I squeeze in what I can.  Knowing that a very good friend directed a great movie and I really should have promoted it here but I got my dates mixed up and it was out before I could.  I feel so guilty about that (and have apologized face-to-face repeatedly).  And that's a friend.

So I do get bothered sometimes when someone's writing or project didn't get immediately noted and I hear from someone (usually Martha or Shirley), 'They've written again.  They're asking if you're going to promote their thing.'

A lot of people this week seem to think I owe them promotion because they've written 'about Iraq' in what they wanted highlighted.

'About Iraq'?

No, they've written about former CIA Director David Petraues who was once the top US commander in Iraq.  And they've written about that badly.

In the last three weeks everyone has written about Petraeus.  Most of it was style-free and/or content-lite.

On the left, on the real left, if we're writing about Petraeus, the so-called 'surge' is the least of the problems.  Though clearly a lot of left writers have no idea what they're writing about.  The 'surge' was a failure.  Petraues surveyed one aspect of it, the military part.  That actually was successful.  Was it successful only because the ethnic cleansing had reached a tapering off point with so many dead and so many fled from the country?  Maybe and you can make that argument.  But the number of US military on the ground was increased.  And the plan was that it would provide a little more stability.  It did.

And if that was the 'surge' then it would be a success.  But that was only one aspect of it.  The White House wasn't concerned about the Iraqis being killed.  It was concerned that legislation wasn't being passed (specifically a hydrocarbons law).  The 'surge' was supposed to provide a level of stability to create the space for Iraqi lawmakers to focus on passing legislation (oil and gas and others on the White House benchmarks).

That did not happen.

But David Petraeus was not over that aspect.

Unlike a lot of the people calling out Petraeus this month,  we called him out in real time.  Long before MoveOn, this community (I believe Wally and Cedric were the ones) was using "Betray us."  When it was 'borrowed' and blew up in MoveOn's face, we all just laughed.

I didn't like Petraeus because I had a friend who worked with him and heard what a nightmare he was.  (And his first affair did not take place in 2011.) The sudden discovery that he was driven by vanity?  We noted that long ago.

We also noted the real problems with Petraues: Counter-insurgency.

Tom Hayden wrote articles calling out counter-insurgency (here, here, here and here for starters).  David  Price wrote many (here's one example), helped form the Network of Concerned Anthropologists and organized and contributed to the The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual.  (Before someone e-mails saying "Price was robbed!"  Tom's work is noted and then some because I will call him out with no problem.  I also will give him credit when he does something good.  Tom Hayden got counter-insurgency discussed in places it wouldn't have otherwise.  In terms of counter-insurgency awareness, Tom Hayden is a hero.  David Price's work is heroic as well but I've never felt the need to call out Price and instead have praised him repeatedly.  You can find a great deal of his work on counter-insurgency at CounterPunch.)

In December 2006, a friend called and asked, "Remember that weird girl who everyone thought should be playing with kids her own age?  Remember how she was always sexualizing dolls and you were adamant that she not be around your kids?"  Uh-huh.  "There's an article on her in The New Yorker."  Monty McFate was a nightmare child.  She grew up to be a hellish adult.  And that was really clear when I read that awful piece in The New Yorker (see "When Dumb Ass Met Dumb Ass").  There was no body of work calling out Monty McFate and her ethically betraying scholars (see Ava and my "Charlie Rose by any other name would still be as bad" for more on Monty's roll dogs).

The New Yorker article was when I learned that counter-insurgency was having yet another make over.  The pundit class of the Iraq War on the left has been shameful.  During Vietnam, we called out counter-insurgency.  We didn't buy this 'kinder and gentler' claims.  And if you went very deep into what was taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan with counter-insurgency, you found not only compromised social scientists who were betraying their discipline and should have been stripped of professional credentials, you also found violence.  Because you have to scare to 'endear' when you're the foreign invader.

So for nearly three weeks now, every day brings at least six people wanting their articles on Petraeus highlighted.  And some of you think you've been real 'naughty' by going smutty.  Some think you're really funny.  But I look at it, I look at all of it, and I just shake my head and wonder why any of you bother getting out of bed in the morning.

Counter-insurgency is and always will be war on a native people.  You probably never saw The Battle of Algiers but did you also miss Avatar?

David Petraeus' failure is the failure of counter-insurgency.  For some stupid reason, people on the left can't say that.  They can babble on about the 'surge.'  They can babble on about the 'naughty parts' of the scandal.  But they can't call out counter-insurgency.

Why are you even writing?

Do some research, there's a huge body of literature on this topic from the days of Vietnam. Criticism of it exists before that as well but, for the US left, it was during Vietnam that counter-insurgency received the most critical attention.

And before someone says I'm picking on young people, no, I'm not.

I said the pundits of today.

That includes Noam Chomsky.  I can remember Noam 'rapping' about counter-insurgency back in the day.  He's had very little interest in raising the issue in the last ten years.  When he has raised it, it's been in the middle of a book chapter.  He's not given any speech devoted to the topic, he's not penned any column calling it out. Noam Chomsky is not Gen-Y -- no matter how many times he watches Twilight.  And search in vain for Amy Goodman's exploration of counter-insurgency on Democracy Now!  Pacifica Radio was not at all afraid to tackle the subject during Vietnam. 

And before anyone notes that Goody's got a segment on "Counterinsurgency" with CIA contractor Juan Cole, wake the hell up.

I was opposed to General Petraeus becoming head of the CIA in the first place, because one of the CIA’s charges is to evaluate policy, and one of the big policies that needs to be evaluated is the troop escalation, what is called the "surge," in Afghanistan, the big counterinsurgency program that Petraeus put into place and then shepherded through as commander on the ground. And the CIA can’t properly evaluate that program if its head is the author of the program. And I’m sure the analysts tried, and maybe, you know, Petraeus tried to be objective and so forth, but it’s just not right. So I think that’s the real issue here, is why—why did the Obama administration put an actor in a military role, then as the head of the agency that will evaluate the actions?

If the pathetic, CIA-paid Juan Cole (or Amy Goodman for that matter) thinks one sentence on counter-insurgency is addressing it, they're really stupid.  They're not stupid.  They've chosen not to call it out.  It is unethical, it is a betrayal of the native people, an attempt to trick them and pit them against one another to allow colonization to take place.  The 'surge' is not counter-insurgency.  Juan Cole is an idiot but I have a hard time buying that even he's dumb enough to believe that.  (But maybe he is?  Most academics would know to run like hell from the CIA.  Instead, Juan got on their payroll.)

The cowardice of the left, the ethical bankruptcy is truly something to witness.

Where you stood with regards to counter-insurgency during Vietnam defined whether you were left, right or center.  The idea of tricking a native people, pitting them against each other, trying to turn them into snitches on one other to foreign invaders?  That was not something we encouraged or tolerated or an issue we weren't quite sure what we felt about it.

But these wars of today have produced very little discussion of the ethics involved.  Social scientists are supposed to be bound by ethics.

Good for David Price, Tom Hayden and the very few others that called this nonsense out.  But it is a very small list and it is nothing like the way we called this out during Vietnam.

Again, the pundits have a ton to say.  A lot of time to waste too, apparently, since nothing they're saying is of any value.  A left that cannot call out counter-insurgency is not a left.  Not a real one.  It's a faux left and one far more damaging than anything Chris Hedges can imagine in this column.  (That is not a slam at Chris Hedges.  I'm saying the decayed left he's writing about is actually even more craven and more disgusting than what he's documenting.)

The following community sites -- plus The Diane Rehm Show, Adam Kokesh, Susan's On the Edge, Pacifica Evening News and  --  updated last night and this morning:

 And I'm noting this again today on music.  Music's about all you can trust in these changing times ("Oh these times, these times/ Oh these changing times/ Change in the heart of all mankind/ Oh these troubled times" -- Joni Mitchell, "Three Great Stimulants," first appears on her Dog Eat Dog):

One of the many women who paved the way for so many others and went on to become one of the great American songwriters is singer-songwriter Carly Simon.  She's won the Grammy (twice), she's won the Golden Globe, she's been honored with The ASCAP Founders Award, she's even won an Academy Award.  This Wednesday night, she's doing a web concert with her children Sally Taylor and Ben Taylor.  It kicks off at 8:00 PM EST, 7:00 PM Central and 5:00 PM Pacific. It is a forty minute concert.  Tickets are $20 with a portion going to the Red Cross for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Carly is notoriously stage shy.  She could make a ton of money today if she did a national tour.  She's one of the few acts that could make a ton of money.  And one reason she could haul in that money (I'm not talking a ten date tour, I'm talking across the country) is because she has toured so rarely and so many of her fans across the country haven't had the pleasure of seeing her live (though they've wanted to).  The tours have been very rare and tended to be short ones.  This is a chance -- first-come-first-serve, there are about 90 tickets left -- for you to see her regardless of your location.  The concert is Wednesday.  And Sally and Ben are their own artists.  You can hear strains of their parents in them but they are their own artists with their own unique talents so the concert should really be something.  And Ben is also the guest on NPR's Mountain Stage -- the program may have already aired today in your area but you can check it out here -- 41 minutes of audio and also a video of him performing "It Really Doesn't Matter To You."  I haven't had time to stream the concert but I do know "It Really Doesn't Matter To Me" and I think it's among his best, right up there with "Wicked Ways."
And while I'm plugging music, Janis Ian is an amazing artist, real, genuine, able to touch the heart.  A very gifted artist and a sweet woman.  A music producer friend asked me awhile back to note that Janis -- who is always on the road -- was performing in Dallas, Texas at a very intimate venue.  This was going to be the first time Janis was in Dallas in some time and, again, it was a club where every seat was supposed to be a great seat.  So we were more than happy to include it.  The same friend called to ask that we note that Janis hits Texas next month and will perform at One World Theatre in Austin on Monday, December 10th; Dosey Doe in The Woodlands on December 9th; and Saturday, December 8th, Janis will be back in Dallas at Hamon Hall.  As Ann and Nancy Wilson can tell you, if you can get Texas behind you, you can always tour.  As a state, its history hasn't been to be trendy and, if you give a good show, concert goers will show up for the career highs as well as the more mellow periods.  Janis is one of the premiere concert artists.  She is not going through the motions, she is creating a show.  She's a legend on the road and, if you're able to check her out, please do so.  Click here for her full touring schedule.  But, I'm not joking, it's known in the music industry that if you can get into the Texas circuit and give a strong show, concert goers will show up for years to come.  They really value music -- and not trends -- in Texas.  (That's also the reputation Louisiana has and why smart stage performers like Stevie Nicks always include those regions when planning a tour.)
And the friend I'm dictating this to asked if I was going to mention Ann?  I didn't know Ann Wilson had something this week. Ann and her sister Nancy are the trail blazing rockers behind Heart which has a new album Fanatic (Kat raved over it here) -- on sale for only $6.99 as an Amazon download right now, a tour and also a wonderful book Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll (Ava and I loved it).  But Thursday, November 22nd, (that's Thanksgiving Day), Ann will be performing the National Anthem, broadcast on Fox TV, at the Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins football game. The game's scheduled to start at 2:15 PM EST, 3:15 Central, 1:15 Pacifica.  Along with being on Fox TV (that's the entertainment channel that airs The Simpsons, Fringe, etc. -- I know Fox has a ton of channels), it will also be broadcast on Sirius Radio (channel 93).  So Ann sings the National Anthem.  And she's someone who can.  Many don't have the range for that song, it's a hard one to sing.  Ann's got the range and, goodness knows, the power so it should be something to see and hear.

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