This and that—

250px-Fox_News_Sunday There are some strange things in the air:

Cheney – I think you have to go back to the problems that Andrew Jackson had with Calhoun to find an example of a former vice-president who chooses to wage war against a new administration.  Am I right about that?  His behavior is in such bad taste that I am driven to wonder why he is acting this way.   In accordance with "Lang's Rules of Analysis" (25 May, 2007 in SST) I suppose that the most likely answer is that he is simply afraid of his own fate.  He was so central to everything that occurred in the first GW Bush administration that he stands to lose heavily as details are revealed of the "policies" that he and his henchmen and allies espoused.  At the risk of sinking to the level of "reductio ad hitlerum," I must say that a lot of his stated rationale for torture as an instrument of statecraft is reminiscent of a famous speech that Himmler made to senior SS leaders at the Wewelsburg Castle.  "We must sacrifice our higher sensitivities in the service of the state, etc." (paraphrasing) Ugh.  Cheney also sounds as though someone is feeding him talking points.  I doubt that he is smart enough to originate a lot of these memes and themes.

Iraq- The Bushies in exile are selling the line that we have made a new Iraq (a brave new Iraq), an Iraq that Obama may "lose" through hasty withdrawal.  This is "preparation of the information battlefield" for an eventual "we wuz robbed" (nous sommes trahis) propaganda campaign.

Where is this new Iraq?  Is it the Iraq in which we have reversed the social order by putting the Shia Arabs in charge so that they can demonstrate that there was nothing unique about the way the Sunnis used to treat them.  Is it the Iraq that is now inevitably going to be in the "orbit" of Iran?  Is it the Iraq in which the central government in Baghdad has even less authority in Kurdistan than before. Is it the Iraq that bristles with hostility to the US?  Where is it?  It is nowhere.  We broke Iraq and now we are inevitably leaving it patched together with duct tape.  Will it fall apart when we leave?  Maybe.

Afghanistan – "She who must be obeyed" is a bigtime civic activist (Tribune of the People) here in our fair city.  She is often invited to conferences, meetings, workshops, etc. at which the developer/citygovernment/chamberofcommerce complex stages farces that they call strategic reviews or citizen/government interactions on questions of land use.  At these theatrical productions the "players" earnestly present the "issues" and "possible decisions" to the assembled "Tribunes of the people."  There are Power Point shows.  Lunch is served.  The "players" (with Tribunes) break down into small groups where "hard questions" are asked and sincere "players" give the Tribunes heartfelt responses.  In the end the herd instinct of humans prevails and the Tribunes "buy into" the players' plans.

The US military has become expert in the business of manipulating public opinion.  They hire contractors to help them.  The Army has created a basic officer personnel branch for career propaganda officers.  Vietnam caused the Army to believe that management of public opinion was a basic task of warfare along with fire, maneuver and logistics.  Now, we are all targets of "information operations," some mounted overseas by foreign government, some by our own government to include the US military.  They mean well.

The vogue for "strategic reviews" is a manifestaton of this process.  I have been invited to a few of these.  In these farcical proceedings, "guru" types are invited, lunch is served, small group discussion takes place, and the talking heads and "gurus" become advocates for the desires of those who have successfully flattered and nodded them into agreement.  The press is full of the oped pieces of McChrystal's "advisers,"  oped pieces that concentrate on settng the stage for eventul demands for more and more resources for Afghanistan.   What is not asked, EVER, is the simple question of what the ultimate goal of the United States should be in Afghanistan.  Why is that?

I feel sorry for the president.  He is under constant attack by both internal and external propagandists and information warriors.  pl

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26 Responses to This and that—

  1. Charles I says:

    I feel sorry for your country. It is under constant internal attack by a large percentage of its own astoundingly – I am at a loss for an adjective here – ignorant, craven, malicious, evil, pernicious, deluded,. . . . .people. I daren’t call them citizens out of respect for the concept.
    Angler comes across as plenty clever in Gelman’s book. I don’t think he’s afraid. I think he’s just a venomous skinny Limbaugh, who by psychological processes believes, and believes in, what he is expressing. Narcissism renders the expression imperative, for our own good. I also believe if we could Occam open his head, we’d see his brain bone is connected to his cardiac bone, with deleterious impact to the former a function of the latter.

  2. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    The consensus generating process that you describe used to be called “Democratic Centralism” – among the brotherly socialist countries.

  3. Nightsticker says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Cheney will not be the first powerful Washington DC person to discover that the rules change when an issue moves from the political talk show arena to the judicial arena.The best strategy in one arena is not such a good one in the other.Prosecutors love it when potential subjects of investigations talk and answer question in public on the very topic of the investigation. These are “early days” in the torture investigation. The investigative limits set by the AG in his initial assignment of a special prosecutor [no prosecution for low level torturers if they were acting on the orders of superiors]do not supercede the law of the land on torture. They certainly have no impact on any number of civil suits that could be brought on the basic of what is surfaced in the investigation. They have no impact on the various penalties that professional associations can exact against torturers. It is not clear to me what the impact of being a “not prosecuted torturer” would be in a periodic security clearance review.But only in a deliberately “in your face” move by the CIA against common sense would it be beneficial.There are some rice bowl concerns for all involved. I predict that the torture rats are going to start jumping ship as the judicial process heats up. Durham was an organized crime prosecutor. The well established technique in OC investigations is to get the “capo” by the evidence/testimony of his underlings. They desert the capo for a better deal for themselves. Cheney could find a lot of “under oath” fingers pointing to him.
    USMC 1965-1972
    FBI 1972-1996

  4. Byron Raum says:

    I might suggest a somewhat oblique possibility as to what we are doing in Afghanistan. I must say that this is speculation, but I’ve often wondered about it when reading the excellent analysis here indicating that we really don’t have the slightest clue. Perhaps Obama is smart enough to realize the immense mental handicap that the country suffers because of the attitudes of the neocons. In such a context, if I were in his position, I would first curtail the immense loss of life and treasure in Iraq, in the most stable form I could manage. Then, I would open a front in a smaller, less draining area, and let the neocons run themselves ragged going around in circles and debating each other.
    Afghanistan will still serve as a prime example of the results of these philosophies to an unfortunately unskeptical public, so in the long run, they will also be unable to sing another siren song and lure the country into another Iraq. It would not be an ideal solution, we still will pay through the nose here, but it might be the least unattractive of a number of a unpalatable solutions.

  5. VietnamVet says:

    The Pentagon can mold public opinion all it wants and Politicians can use focus groups to tell the voters what they want to hear; but there is reality and truth. Sooner or later the public hears the truth, if they listen. Cassette tapes took down the Soviet Union.
    No matter what the Kagan Family says or writes; Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia are ultimately just as futile as Vietnam because America’s only goal is killing Muslims, one at a time. These are wars of attrition, Body Counts, all over again. There are not enough American troops to station them in each village and on every city block from the Horn of Africa to Pakistan for generations.
    The new Afghanistan review is futile because there are not enough troops or money to do anything other than what they are doing now; blowing up houses and making more enemies.
    Nightly News, Speeches or Workshops don’t change reality. Survivors of exploding homes and villages from bombs dropped from unseen unheard drones are not be pacified by cash or Christian good deeds. Killing of Very Important People does not stop insurrections against foreign occupiers.
    No doubt when the Wars are all over, and the troops are home, this truth will not matter to those who will propagate the “stabbed in the back” meme.

  6. confusedponderer says:

    iirc the speech you refer to were held in Posen, and are known as the ‘Posen Speeches’. As for the content – you’re paraphrasing their drift correctly.

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    I knew about the Posen speeches, but I think he made some similar remarks at the Wewelsburg. He would sometimes get it into his little head that he was channeling something like an ancient grand master of a heathen version of the Teutonic Knights. (Order of St, Mary of the Teutons) pl

  8. jonst says:

    After reading this post I went back to reread something I recalled from a ways back, written by a person I am not prone to invoking, Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Then, the words were employed against liberals during the Carter years, and protests against US support for authoritarian regimes in Central America. She wrote:
    Rationalism encourages us to believe that anything that can be conceived can be brought into being. The rationalist perversion in modern politics consists in the determined effort to understand and shape people and societies on the basis of inadequate, oversimplified, theories of human behavior…Rationalism not only encourages utopianism, utopianism is a form of rationalism….that spirit that assumes that human nature in the future maybe qualitative different than in the past, that views non-rational factors such as sentiment, habit, and custom as obstacles that can and should be overcome, the spirit that views each situation as a tabla rasa on which a plan can be imposed and therefore sees experience in other times and places as having no relevance….The rationalist spirit takes no note of the fact that institutions are patterned human behavior that exist and function through the people of a society, and that radically changing institutions means radically changing the lives of the people whom many not want their lives radically changed. Because it assumes that man and society can brought to a preferred plan, the rationalist orientation tends powerfully to see everything as possible and prospects for progress as unlimited”
    John Gray, quoting Kirkpatrick, in his work The Black Mass.

  9. confusedponderer says:

    now that you’re speaking of it, it is conceivable that he said something like that at the Wewelsburg as well. The place and it’s use at the time would mean the location lend itself to such a speech. Anyway, the Posen speeches are what I knew about with certainty. Btw, they even have audio on Wiki.

  10. J says:

    I don’t know if I really feel sorry for President Obama or not. Some of the ‘stuff’ against Obama going on is Agitprop, but also some of Obama’s problems are ‘self-created’.
    Sadly our nation is now turned off on President Obama, and are alienated against the Congress. Both appear not to want to hear what the people want, or listen to their citizen concerns, they instead listen to only their corporate donors, but not to the people and hence the rub.

  11. optimax says:

    Sometimes the Nazi comparison applies and the Himmler quote reminds me of Cheney’s reference to the “dark side,” contemporized to the post-Star Wars generation, and just as chilling. The only good thing about this is watching Cheney feed himself the rope. At the least, I’d like to see him impeached (still can be, I believe) and lose his Secret Service protection. He can hire Xe. Take back his government funded pacemaker.

  12. matt says:

    This post on the established info operations part of American military planning and leadership reminds me of a post from these parts that I have saved (and shared with my students):
    “Collective memory is the toolshed” by Dr. Christine Helms. Very powerful stuff there:
    Our military planners and information operations specialists can manipulate our memory pretty easily, other peoples …..not so much, I’m afraid.

  13. Grae Castle says:

    you certainly ate your wheaties on this one. it’s uplifting to sense the passion. it’s sad to realize the source.
    to continue with the theme, it’s too bad we won’t/can’t find the fortitude to reassemble a nuremberg form of retirement for the former heads. they became so accomplished (in practice not necessarily in performance) at their own version (gtmo for example) that it would be interesting to see that worm turn.
    rage on sir, rage on.

  14. isl says:

    Dear Colonel:
    I echo your sentiments.
    One might assume that Obama, a smart guy, would have presented a convincing rationale for Afghanistan, if he could. Maybe. I have no idea why he would want to “own” the Afghan war, he had the opportunity to call it Bush’s mess, and move beyond the war (leaving special forces, or whatever low level). Maybe the DC echochamber whispered VICTORY was in sight sure to be followed by the adulations of cheering citizens (reality check: in which parallel universe?).
    He had the opportunity to disown the Bush admin free pass to the financiers but hired continuity, and supported a multi-trillion dollar bailout (!!!), and IMHO lost the public.
    Afghanistan – why? The domino theory is too ludicrous to mention, and see how well cheap oil from our friends in Iraq worked out. We are in Afghan to stabilize Pakistan? Seems more like our actions tend to destabilize the region. What else? to tempt the Stan’s from Russian or Chinese orbits? With cash borrowed from China in Russia’s military backyard?

  15. Cheney is certainly a worthy topic to blog but my belief is that he thinks very very long term. When he left office as SECDEF in 1992 no one could anticipate his even living given that his first heart attack in early 30’s prompted him as SECDEF to travel with a heart specialist. No I think Cheney knows exactly what he is doing and he is having an impact on both the Obama Administration and the public. It is possible that his constant refrain the Obama is risking the national security of the US by modifying the Bush torture rules and other changes is designed as a “just in case there is another attack” gambit. But I think it is different with Cheney. He sees the weakness in not just OBAMA but also Biden and the other Obama advisors and he believes he can impact and modify their policy choices. Given that the citizens of the US have actually been given so little real information through the MSM since the Clinton Administration and most of that filtered by the “angry” talk show types that really do not analyze and IMO cannot analyze anything important that requires critical thinking he (Cheney) may well achieve his goal. And what is the goal the protection of his legacy by a Republican restoration first in Congress in 2010 and then making Obama a one term President. Personally, despite my liberal political beliefs and hopes for and vote for Obama I think he has a shot. Why? First, although in his campaign Obama indicated focus on Afghanistan he may have done that hoping that there was light at the end of the tunnel which did not appear to be the case in Iraq. After all he is not trained either in foreign or military affairs and can only trust others. Who does he trust on Afghanistan? Holbrooke is competent but tarnished by being forged by the Viet Nam era. Certainly Holbrooke has never had a public persona of trust with the American public. As to the military we still don’t the full story of the sudden command change in Afghanistan. So who knows and did Obama even weigh in on the changes and how was he briefed. Overall Cheney’s strategy may well succeed because in 8 years of the Bush Administration so much was secret or held close to the vest by the Administration that even interested citizens are puzzled by events and personalities. Witness some of the comments on this blog including mine. No it is now just the case that events are in the saddle and the US is stuck with its hand and cannot draw any new cards. The option to do so was lost in the first 8 months of the administration and with even an Atlanta fed member announcing unemployment is actually 16% Americans are focused elsewhere including the continued gorging of the FIRE sector which continues to confuse their personal wealth with the good of the American people generally. The forthcoming VA and NJ elections could be interesting. If black voters don’t turn out in the same historic large turnout they did for OBAMA candidate Creigh DEEDs will be a goner and then the Cheney process can really start highballing down the road to 2010 and 2012. Who knows from all evidence despite his health Cheney continues to show evidence that he want to be a player or at least the wizard behind the current. Maybe that is how history will record him! Maybe not!

  16. Cynthia says:

    Colonel Lang writes,
    “The US military has become expert in the business of manipulating public opinion. They hire contractors to help them. The Army has created a basic officer personnel branch for career propaganda officers.”
    Let me add to this by saying that we no longer value high-ranking military officers who are brilliant at devising military strategies to enable us to win wars, we now only value the ones who are brilliant at spewing out our war propaganda to keep us in a perpetual state of war!

  17. Mark Stuart says:

    Thank you Sir for that post. Posts like this one make me glad you’re back on SST.

  18. David Habakkuk says:

    ‘Vietnam caused the Army to believe that management of public opinion was a basic task of warfare along with fire, maneuver and logistics. Now, we are all targets of “information operations,” some mounted overseas by foreign government, some by our own government to include the US military. They mean well.’

    The saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions comes to mind.

    The kind of clear-eyed cynicism required to produce effective propaganda, while retaining one’s own ability for objective analysis, is actually rather rare. Commonly propagandists end up becoming enmeshed in the fictions they create — which is one reason why people who are adept at manipulating the opinions of others are liable to be only intermittently successful as strategists.

    So at the end there may be another failed war, and a military leadership, looking to escape blame (in its own eyes, as well as those of others), with expertise in opinion manipulation. At the risk of falling into the ‘reductio at Hitlerum’, one does recall that precisely this combination has been known to lead to ‘stab in the back’ legends.

  19. Matt’s post on Dr. Christine Helm’s wonderful 1990 paper reminds me of that piece of excellent work. Is there a way to recover a copy Matt? It seems to me now that you have refreshed my memory of it that I would really like to have full recall of it!
    And whatever thanks for posting the extract and reminding me of it.

  20. Per Cheney, Neocons, and Nazis:
    I posted a year or two back that the philosophical guru of the Neocons and thus the “gentlemen” Cheney/Rumsfeld
    is the late Leo Strauss.
    Leo Strauss was a star pupil of the Nazi legal scholar and philosopher, Carl Schmitt.
    For Schmitt see Wiki:
    With Bush-Cheney we got Fascism from the right. Now with Obama-Axelrod-Emmanuel we get Fascism from the left.
    Same foreign policy of imperialism but domestic politics shift to social revolution from left rather than right.
    Should the Republicans come back in 2012, then one might imagine a return to the Bush-Cheney formula.
    Thus the American people seem to be whipsawed between these two sides of the same coin in our “political process”.
    The middle class will get crushed further owing to the disintegrating economy spurred by imperial overstrech.
    The oligarchic and plutocratic types will do fine and manipulate the masses as did Julius C. The corporate newsmedia is one instrument as the Hearst and Luce empires have demonstrated.
    And the growing legions of Alcibiades wannabees in the arguably corrupted (morally, ethically, and financially) “military” will profiteer whichever way things go as long as the imperial policy can be fomented using “information war” and whatever else against the citizens of this republic.

  21. Bill Wade, NH says:

    “Longtime pollster and GOP operative John McLaughlin also said he sees an opening for a Cheney candidacy premised on a hypothetical national security failure from the current White House.”
    more here:

  22. Harper says:

    I share Bill Cummings’ view that Cheney is acting with premeditation, in his defense of the torture policies he pushed through while in office. He sees weakness and flip-flop behavior from the President, sees the splits between the White House and the Attorney General re. how to proceed on the torture investigation, and is putting himself out there as a rallying point for like-minded rightwingers, who see the prospect of a mid-term comeback and a one-term Presidency for Obama. Cheney is a Himmler cynic, who thinks that the final scene in A Few Good Men is left to the Hollywood script writers, but rarely happens in real life. When Pelosi and Reid took impeachment of Cheney off the table after the 2006 midterm elections, when the issue was fresh and alive and they had a real popular mandate to act, it only reinforced Cheney’s cynical view of the people and the institutions. Remember, he felt that the Federal government went to Hell after the ouster of Nixon.
    But Cheney is a side issue, compared to the real problems facing the President in the immediate weeks ahead, including the economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and especially, the economy. Not to mention the economy.
    I think Col. Lang raises a vital issue re. the military use of information warfare against the American people and the American government, to secure their continued advantage. If this is the lesson that came out of Vietnam, God help us.

  23. David says:

    Col. Lang:
    Isn’t it possible that Cheney’s outrage is a bit of a red herring – the outrage will put a “stamp of legitimacy” on a an inquest that will be half-hearted, ineffective and bear no real fruit?
    If recent government “commissions” are to be our guide, Cheney’s outrage is just part of the theater.

  24. Robert Murray says:

    Here is the Christine Helms piece, posted by Pat in ’07 at the Athenaeum.

  25. Charles I says:

    Cheyney explained at Counterpunch today:
    Sigh for the Lost Soul
    Is Dick Cheney Running Scared?
    By acting wacko now, when he is taken to trial for crimes against humanity, Dick Cheney will be able to plead insanity.
    It’s all a carefully planned strategy.
    Observe him carefully, as his statements become increasingly unglued. More incoherent, more paranoid—traits now cropping up in his daughter’s inarticulate defense of her father.
    Solution: incarcerate him now or soon we’ll see him wandering the streets, babbling at dogs and cats.
    Pity this man who fifty-percent of the country once regarded as their savior.
    Sigh for the lost soul who believes that he alone can save America from evil.
    Charles R. Larson is Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C.

  26. Gautam Das says:

    Col. Lang,
    In spite of the fact that there is no equivalent of the NVA artillery and tanks in Afghanistan, if the USA-ISAF leave or begin to leave (by November 2011?), then the Taliban could well ‘produce’ these items out of the hat. They suddenly were found to have these when they began their whirlwind ‘war of maoeuvre’ conquest of Afghanistan in 1994. Can happen again.
    Gautam Das

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