Archive for the ‘Propaganda’ Category
Ah, the USS Liberty incident. June 8 1967, the USS Liberty, a “technical research ship,” IE a spy ship, is in international waters off the coast of Egypt. This was during the Six Day War, when Israel was fighting Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Israeli air and naval forces repeatedly attacked the USS Liberty, despite the fact that it was clearly marked as a US vessel. 34 crewmen were killed, 171 (or 174) were injured, and the vessel was badly damaged. Afterwards, both the US and Israel concluded it had been an accident, and Israel paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the families of the dead and wounded. Many people did not accept this explanation, and controversy and conspiracy theory roils to this day. Two survivors run a website dedicated to exposing the alleged cover-up.
The whole Liberty incident from beginning to end is rather complicated. I’m not going into the nuts and bolts of it, because it’s not really relevant to this post. And I don’t imagine I can add anything when countless others have examined the ins and outs of it, I certainly don’t know if the attack was deliberate or not. It might have been, and one or both governments might have conspired to cover up the truth. These sorts of things have happened, and while they sometimes get cleared up in the decades or centuries after the fact, sometimes they don’t. It’s safe to say that unless there are some revelations, we peasants will never know for sure how it was that Israel repeatedly attacked a US ship.
However, there is one aspect of this incident where my opinion has changed. Or at least grown more nuanced. Much has been made of the fact that the ship was clearly marked as an American ship. Which to many people’s way of thinking makes it impossible that attackers didn’t recognize this, and thus must have deliberately attacked an American ship. Alas, what science now knows about human perception, especially under stress, is that our perception is really inaccurate. If the pilots and sailors involved were told they would be attacking an Egyptian ship, it would be quite understandable if that is exactly what they saw. The image we see is created by our brains, and our expectations and focus can affect what we perceive. The attackers didn’t see the American flag and markings because they were focused on other things, and not expecting to see an American flag and markings. The same way these people didn’t see the gorilla.
Does this mean we can’t trust our own eyes? Nope. Nor our brains either. Add to that the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s a wonder that we make any progress at all. Still, here we are. Trying to make sense of it all. At least some of us. Are there any other lessons in the Liberty Incident? None that I can think of, it certainly wasn’t of strategic or even tactical importance. If the ship had been sunk, it might have made more of a public impact, but that would have faded. If the Liberty hadn’t been attacked, I can’t imagine how that would have changed history. One of the dead would have gone on and been the next Hitler? Seems pretty unlikely. In my final analysis, these deaths, like most war deaths, didn’t really mean much at all. Soldiers are cannon fodder, dying in wars is part of the job. And what a sucky job that is. How many other jobs involve people trying to kill you? Hockey. Politics. That’s about it.
Aside from the Liberty Incident, did the Six Day War have any other influence on history? Yes, even if the gentle reader has never heard of it. (Sometime I forget that I am above the median human age, and many people don’t remember the sixties because they weren’t alive yet.) It was a very important war, as war importance goes. Almost anything I say about it will be controversial. Or cause offence to some people. They aren’t the same, despite what generations of Evolution deniers maintain. For one it established that Israel had absolute military superiority over their neighbours. It also put Israel in control of all of Palestine, and the Golan heights, which were not traditionally part of Palestine. Ultimately, it got the nations bordering Israel out of the mix, Egypt and Jordan at least. Both sensibly decided that Israel could have the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and that was the end of noise about “driving Israel into the sea.“
And of course with Israel ultimately at peace with its neighbours, the now safe Jewish homeland of Israel made a just settlement with the Palestinians who also now lived in Israel, and everyone lived happily ever after. Alas, no. Israel had the land, but didn’t want the people living there because they weren’t Jewish. And since then has worked to steadily disenfranchise, legitimize, impoverish, and demonize their Palestinian neighbours, while bit by bit stealing their land. Fortunately all is not hopeless, many Palestinians and Israelis are working peacefully for a just solution to the Palestine problem. I in fact I am joining JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace, and will be posting more on the topic in the near future. (Honestly, some readers were surprised by that? I hope.)
(The above image is from Wikipedia, so I am assuming it is public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit, yada yada yada. And can someone explain to me why yada yada yada is not in my spelling dictionary? It’s been in the OED for a decade or more. We have computers now people, we’re supposed to keep up with stuff like this. Sheesh.)
Tuesday Morning. Don’t really have time for a full review. Christians are fleeing to what is now effectively Kurdistan. The Kurds have announced they have no interest in helping the Maliki regime recapture Mosul. No kidding, they have their homeland and they are digging in, at some point soon I would expect them to declare independence. And fighting has gotten closer to Baghdad, the ISIS appear to have resumed their push south. The city of Baquba is being fought over, less than 40 miles from Baghdad. It’s an important city of 500,000, many whom are fleeing south. I think the image is Iraqi volunteers heading north out of Baghdad.
Tuesday Evening. The ISIS appears to be advancing on Baghdad. A few larger perspective points. Right now, the events of the past week appear to have been game changers. I don’t see how the clock can be turned back and the “status quo,” whatever that was, will be restored. I think that the Sykes–Picot Agreement, the unnatural borders imposed on the former Ottoman Empire by France and England after World War One, may finally be unravelling. A major war may be in the offing, no one knows how those ever turn out. The ISIS advance so far has been stunning and almost unprecedented. Certainly in recent history. Other points:
“It’s Obama’s Fault.” Sigh. Well, at least the GOP is consistent. Anything bad is Obama’s fault. On the first pass, Obama’s foreign policy was the same as Bush’s foreign policy in any significant regard, so, wtf? Secondly, Bush was the one that invaded Iraq on lies followed by an occupation based on wishful thinking. Bush couldn’t fix the mess he created in his six years, so it’s Obama’s fault he couldn’t fix it? I don’t think anyone expected the ISIS to explode, although I was raising alarms a few months back, but the GOP certainly wasn’t. In any event looking for blame in a situation like this is like blaming Pearl Harbor on Roosevelt. Which the GOP didn’t do. The rise of the ISIS is the worst crisis the US has faced since 9/11, partisan politics has no place here. At the very least they should tone it down and try to help.
As a codicil to this, the people who thought the invasion of Iraq was such a great idea in the first place are now doubling down. Excuse me, but could we just give Senator McCain and his ilk rifles and send them to Iraq? Misguided US military action is what created this mess, it’s clearly not the solution. As Obama recently said, paraphrasing here, “Just because you have the best hammer, doesn’t mean every problem is a nail.” Sure, the US military could likely recapture Mosul and the rest more or less with ease. Then what? The ISIS would just melt into the population and wait for us to leave. They aren’t from Mars for God’s sake, they live there.
Which is the last point, the Manichean heresy. In essence, the idea that there are good guys and bad guys. And by extension the idea that if the good guys just kill all the bad guys, everything will be just fine. (That’s been tried repeatedly, it never works.) Or as the Manichean heresy might be called today: the 12 year old boy’s comic book view of the world. The ugly truth is that people are people, they are all pretty much the same, and differences between them are due to circumstances and history, not inherent good/evilness. I’m not saying there aren’t just wars, and indeed people like Hitler do show up. My point is that when leaders say “They are the bad guys, we must wage war,” it’s not a logical argument. The first is simplistic at best, the later is a does not follow argument.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings. There are other points I should toss out for discussion. Like the fact that this could result in a huge loss of American influence in the world. Two Saudi Arabias, neither of which require the US as an Ally. Sleep tight.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit. It is arguably an historic image. I will gladly properly attribute it if I find out who to attribute it too. God save us all.)
A friend of a friend has been documenting the plight of Syrian refugees in Turkey, his blog about his experiences is a good read. In this day of embedded
journalists propaganda regurgitaters, and the corporate lamestream media, we need all the independent journalism we can get. Mr Ludowitz is trying to raise the money to get into Syria itself, and I urge my readers to visit this page and donate, or at least share the link. I may regret this, but I will write a blog post on the topic of their choice for anyone that donates $20 or more. There’s only a few days left, don’t delay. Thank you.
I will resume blogging this week. I’m going to be blogging on scientific mysteries, Japanese pop groups, and mountain climbing cats for awhile. Current events are just too upsetting right now. Have a great Memorial Day everyone. I urge everyone to honour the fallen by opposing efforts to send brave Americans abroad in yet more senseless wars that have nothing to do with defending our freedoms. God bless.
Doug Stych — May 26 2014
(The above image is being used with the permission of the person running the donations site. Credit and Copyright © Kyle Merrit Ludowitz 2014.)
The US Goverment Offers Crimea to Putin on a Silver Platter, Then Freaks Out When He Accepts Their Gift
Ukraine. Crimea. Putin. Russia. What a mess. If the gentle reader can’t find Crimea on a map, fair warning, this post might make them angry. That’s what the comment section is for. Here goes: By any definition, the Russian actions in Ukraine far more fit the definition of “humanitarian intervention” than say, the US invasion of Iraq. I think the death toll was, what, zero? And the majority of people in Crimea actually wanted to be part of Russia, not living in Ukraine … especially a Ukraine with a nationalistic government that clearly wanted to treat ethnic Russians as second class citizens. While Putin’s actions were clearly self-serving, Crimea is of paramount strategic importance to Russia, the idea that this is some sort of Hitleresque invasion is nonsense. US foreign policy has become so knee jerk and predictable that it’s easy for clever mofos like Putin to take advantage of them. And that’s exactly what happened, the US in it’s mindless zeal to expand NATO and the EU right up to the Kremlin’s doorstep essentially handed Crimea to Putin.
How’s that? How much the US influenced the ouster of the democratically elected government in Ukraine is debatable, but they certainly played a role, possibly a large role. And they got their wish, the government of Ukraine was overthrown and a government much more to their liking (profoundly anti-Russian) was installed. (This was not some sort of popular revolution against a dictatorship, it was mob rule at its ugliest.) A “government” who decided that their first order of business was to pass laws diminishing the status of Russian speakers in Ukraine. A government that the US immediately recognized as legitimate. And this is where the shortsightedness of America’s current policy becomes clear. What, exactly, did they think Putin was going to do? Did it even cross their minds that Putin might do exactly as he did some years earlier in Georgia, send in the troops to protect Russia’s interests? Apparently not, since their reaction to Putin’s move has been mindless hysterics. As is the case with so much of America’s modern foreign policy, there was no plan B.
Even the sanctions are looking to be a joke. The Europeans are in no mood for an actual economic war with Russia or something as mindless as a resumption of the “Cold War.” So the US is reduced to histrionics. I suspect that after all is said and done, Crimea will remain part of Russia, and the US will blame the “loss” of Crimea on its allies … and carry right on with further ill conceived foreign meddling. There will not be a resumption of the Cold War, there will not be World War Three, nor does this have any similarities to the rise of Hitler. The fact that the US media and most Americans can only think about foreign policy in terms of cartoonish similarities to past events is a wonderful example of how uneducated the public discourse has become in modern America. And sadly many of our leaders are just as uneducated and shallow in their world view. This is what happens when religion and ideology become the basis for getting into office, you get parrots spouting nonsense to their base instead of educated people trying to run the country effectively.
On the plus side, boy, Putin came out of this smelling like a rose, demonizations in the western press notwithstanding. In one fell swoop he humiliated the USA, reasserted Russia’s historic control of Crimea, brought large numbers of ethnic Russians back into Russia … and made himself one of the most popular leaders in recent Russian history. His approval ratings are the envy of Obama and Congress. The lesson here of course is that foreign policy needs to be based on a realistic assessment of the world. “Might makes right” does work sometimes, but it’s not a substitute for things like diplomacy and common sense. And instigating trouble in Ukraine made about as much sense as Russia trying to stir up trouble in Canada or Mexico. Even if they succeeded, and a pro-Russian government came to power in either, the chances the USA would sit back and do nothing would be zero. Yet that’s exactly what the US did in Ukraine, and then acted shocked and surprised when Putin did exactly what any sober assessment of the situation would have strongly suspected was a possible consequence.
Watching US foreign policy is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. It’s also a wonderful illustration of one of the definitions of insanity. Insanity is repeating the same actions, but expecting different results. The US will continue to meddle in “unfriendly” governments, and continue to achieve results that weren’t what it expected, or even the opposite of what was expected. It’s easy to destabilize a government and make a mess of things, it’s much harder to put together the pieces afterwards. Maybe someday Washington will learn that.
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s German soldiers retreating from Crimea during World War Two. Foreign armies have been fighting in Crimea for centuries, one can only hope we don’t backslide that far this time.)
I’m getting really tired of certain Christians claiming that their religious liberty is under attack in the USA. Or worse, that they are being prosecuted for their beliefs. Right. The above illustration is Christians being persecuted for their beliefs. When was the last time Christians were rounded up and killed in the USA? Their churches systematically destroyed? Their faith being illegal to practice? Never. And no one has proposed anything even remotely like that, at least outside the lunatic fringe. The chances that a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian would start persecuting Christians is essentially zero.
Yet that didn’t stop certain quarters from claiming that, for example, the veto of Arizona’s anti-gay law was the “new Jim Crow” and telling Christians to “move to the back of the bus.” Let me see if I get this straight, a law that would have allowed Christians to discriminate against anyone they perceived as gay was about religious liberty? If one’s religion says don’t be gay, then don’t be gay. It doesn’t give one the “right” to define how other people live their lives, nor does it give one the “right” to discriminate against them. One’s religion may give one the “right” to be a bigot, it doesn’t give one the “right” to practise that bigotry in public commerce or enshrine their bigotry in public law.
And we are talking about bigotry here. Gay people are just that, people. The scientific evidence is in, and its overwhelming. As anyone who ever actually got to know gay people would know. Whether it is a lifestyle choice or biology is irrelevant, there’s nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about being gay. There have always been gay people, there always will. The only difference now is that our society is maturing (we don’t burn witches, keep slaves, or sell daughters into marriage anymore) and gay people and their allies think it’s past time that they came out of the closet and enjoyed the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Gay people are our friends, our family, our neighbours, our siblings, our co-workers. Over a third of them have children. That’s right, 37% of gay people have children. And they want those children to have married parents like everyone else.
Frankly Jesus said that the Old Testament no longer applies, and he said nothing about gay people. So people who are selectively hating on gays because “the Bible says” are simply using the Bible as cover for their bigotry. The Old Testament also says that adultery, lying about virginity, eating shellfish, and working on the Sabbath all merit the death penalty. Yet the Biblical gay bashers don’t get all hot and bothered about these or any of the other few dozen things prohibited by death in the Old Testament. And no, gay people are not out to “convert” anyone. In fact the only way a straight person could even think that was possible if they were gay themselves and in deep denial about it. Nothing could make me find men sexually attractive, I’m just not wired that way.
The so called Christians who are all about persecuting gay people and driving them back into the closet are on the wrong side of history. Gays want the same rights as everyone else, because they are everyone else. They are no more going to go back in the closet than blacks are going to agree to be slaves again. And this is a good thing. Sadly the Old Testament Christians don’t see it that way. They want to go back to an America where they got to define social institutions for everyone. In other words an America where Christians could freely persecute people they disproved of. That’s not Christian, that’s Satan doing his finest work in the name of Christianity. (It’s also an incredibly weak faith if the mere sight of people who don’t adhere to its Bronze Age proscriptions is a problem.)
And of course, what about God? Let’s see, Canada has effectively had gay marriage since 1999, and gay marriage in every respect since 2004. God has had over a decade to punish Canada for this terrible transgression against his purported wishes. Have plague, pestilence, and God’s wrath descended on Canada? Not that I’ve heard of. Have gays taken over, forced millions of Canadians to be gay, promoted paedophilia, or outlawed heterosexual marriage in Canada? Again, it doesn’t appear to be making the news. In fact the only thing that has happened is that they don’t call it gay marriage in Canada any more. They just call it marriage.
Frankly these Old Testament selective moralists give me the creeps. I don’t mind them having their Bronze Age prejudices, but I’m damn sick of them thinking they still get to define morality for everyone by their own outdated standards. Hopefully most of them will get over their umbrage as the calamities God is going to heap upon us for marriage equality don’t manifest. At the very least they hopefully will be consoled by the fact that they won’t be forced to be gay married, won’t be forced to attend gay weddings, and just in general if they want to close their eyes, they won’t see gay people at all. Hell, the Duggar daughters already signal their dad and brothers so they can avert their gaze in case a pretty woman is on the street, now they just have to come up with a “gay signal” so that their dad and brothers don’t see some gay person on the street. Problem solved.
Tomorrow, the insanity of redefining marriage.
(The above image dates from the nineteenth century and is public domain under US copyright law. It’s called “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer” by Jean-Léon Gérôme 1824–1904. It’s a tradition that Christians were fed to the lions in the Colosseum, not historical fact. Some Christians have always been obsessed with martyrdom and persecution, I guess that natural for a faith that worships a dead guy nailed to a stick. Jesus wept.)
This is not a complicated situation. We have the ACA, aka Obamacare. It was passed by Congress, signed by the president, and survived a Supreme Court challenge. It’s the law of the land according to the US Constitution, and is being implemented as I type. The Tea Party refuses to pass a budget for government operations, insisting that the ACA be delayed a year before they will agree to do so. And now large parts of the government have shut down because Obama and the Democrats refuse to even consider such. Dafuq? This is indeed screwed up, and is easily the worst government crisis since the decades preceding the Civil War.
The merits and faults of the ACA aren’t relevant here. That many in the media are portraying this situation as a “standoff” or a “disagreement” doesn’t actually make it a disagreement. It is a faction of a minority party claiming it has veto power over any existing law. The Tea Party is basically refusing to accept that the ACA is law, and insisting that it’s “my way or the highway.” This is the antithesis of democracy or constitutional government. And the Democrats and Obama are correct in holding the line, allowing a party who controls one house of congress to effectively veto any existing law would be a disastrous precedent to set. This is extortion, not government.
For its part the media is all over the map reporting on the government shutdown, mostly regurgitating the talking points of their targeted markets. The Tea Party is counting on this, I know hard-core Republicans who are still claiming the shutdown is because Obama refuses to negotiate. And they have plenty of voices in the right wing media to back them up. Many of them actually seem to believe that the ACA is some horrific draconian law that is going to turn the USA into a dictatorship. Five years of the extreme right wing press claiming Obama is the anti-Christ, a secret Muslim, and unAmerican seems to have really affected some people, they are living in a fantasy bubble world. Maybe it’s not charitable, but I guess if one believes in talking snakes and zombie prophets, well, the sky’s the limit. In any event, my point here is that our mainstream media is almost as dysfunctional as our government, it’s not helping.
This whole mess highlights the dangers of dogmatic ideology. A party that can’t or won’t compromise is a terrible threat to anything resembling democratic government. And giving them any sort of concession will just make them make more demands. In normal situations a party like this would be dooming itself, but these aren’t normal times. Sometimes in history parties like the Tea Party have gotten into power. That was Hitler’s secret, no compromise. One powerful politician after another aligned themselves with Hitler’s nascent party to improve their political position, only to find out too late that Hitler wasn’t going to compromise on anything and that Hitler was using them, not vice versa. And when Hitler’s party got strong enough, he simply disposed of his former rivals. I’m not comparing the Tea party to the Nazis, yet, but the fact that they are willing to do anything to get their way should scare anyone.
In some very real ways the Tea Party is carrying on the legacy of the Confederacy and the KKK, these are people who have still not accepted that the South lost the Civil War. In recent decades people like this have been a fringe group, but not any more. I don’t know what the end result of the shutdown is going to be, but the last time a political minority refused to compromise no matter what, the results weren’t pretty.
Yes, I am using extreme examples, and I certainly don’t think, yet, that we will see anything like the Civil War or the rise of Hitler. I use extreme examples because what the Tea party is doing is extreme. It’s a minority party willing to hurt millions of Americans and gut constitutional government to get their way. I urge the Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Obama to hold the line. The ACA is not on the table. If the Tea Party gets their way, the Republic will pay a terrible price.
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted around 1865. Credit: Watercolour. The Burning of Richmond, Alexandre Thomas Francia, Circa 1865. It’s the burning of Richmond at the end of the US Civil War. Another extreme example, but the Tea Party is an extremist party. One can only wonder what other countries think of this mess.)
Well, Washington and Obama are making noise about attacking Syria. Quelle surprise. Kerry was saying today that the evidence of a Syrian chemical attack was “undeniable.” Please, spare me. Washington has been lying about this sort of stuff since the Mexican War in 1848, and it’s hard to find a 20th century war they didn’t lie through their teeth about. Our economy and political system is based on war forever, Syria is just more of the same. The main reason we know this is a lie is simple. Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons would trigger US intervention. Why in the name of God would Syria do the exact thing that would trigger US attacks? They wouldn’t of course, no one is that stupid, especially considering that chemical weapons are essentially useless on the battlefield unless your enemies are using World War One style human wave attacks. So Syria has no conceivable reason to use chemical weapons, and excellent reason not to use them. Kerry’s claim should be taken for what it most likely is, a lie.
So if the Syrian government didn’t launch an attack, who might have? Well, let’s see, who has to gain from US intervention? Bingo in the Elf Lounge. The rebels. Yes, a chemical weapons attack was launched by the Syrian government conveniently near a UN inspection team even! How lucky was that? And snipers even tried to slow the team down as it approached the stage of the purported chemical weapons attack. Stage as in staged. It’s more than likely the rebels faked an attack of some sort, it wouldn’t take much. For all practical purposes Obama asked them to stage an attack, who can blame them? Even the public evidence is suspect. There are photographed bodies of claimed sarin gas victims. Assuming these are real pics (yes, the rebels have tried crude fakes before) it’s been pointed out that if these people really did die from sarin gas, the people wandering around the bodies without protective gear would also quickly be succumbing to the intensely lethal substance on the bodies. They aren’t.
Sadly the truth doesn’t really matter. The USA attacks whomever it pleases whenever it pleases, and manufactures whatever justification is needed. Most Americans don’t want another war, but their opinion hardly counts anymore. Even Congress isn’t even trying these days, this time they might not even bother to pass a resolution supporting the attack. What will be the results of the attack, aside from more profits for the military industrial complex? Who knows, it often takes years for the blow-back from this sort of nonsense to fully realize itself. It stands a good chance of bringing down the Assad regime, one of the only remaining secular regimes in the region, and replacing it with a Islamic fundamentalist government aligned with Al-Qaeda. How would that help the USA or Syria? Damned if I know.
What I do know is that there is nothing “humanitarian” about an American attack on Syria. Yes, that’s part and parcel of the endless propaganda flowing from Washington and the mainstream media, we’re all concerned about the plight of woman and minorities and democracy. Yes, unlike every other empire in history, the USA’s motives are pure! Spare me. Anyone who believes that may have pure motives themselves, God bless em, but the facts on the ground consistently belie the idea that we are trying to make the world a better place. US intervention almost invariably makes things worse for the people in a region, especially the ones we kill and maim with our “well intentioned” bombs and missiles. It does however prevent the rise of modern secular nation states, which would be far less pliable to American influence and meddling. They might even have radically dangerous ideas like those pursued by Saddam for example … he thought that the profits from the sale of Middle Eastern oil should be invested in the Middle East! One can see why he had to go.
So many lies, when it’s all just about western militarism and colonialism. European armies have been marching through the Middle East since Alexander the Great. The excuses change but the end result is the same. Death and destruction for the locals. That’s what wars do on the receiving end. Our current Alexander in Chief hasn’t shown any qualms about that before. And of course wealth and profits for the west. Follow the money as they say.
Lastly, a point about chemical weapons. They are not WMDs. They in fact aren’t anything special, just another one of the myriad evil ways humans have devised to kill each other. Like nuclear weapons, they have few real military applications and are more a political and propaganda weapon than anything else. And to make the hypocrisy complete, not only does the US cheer on such weapons when they approve of the regime using them, the USA has utterly no qualms about using them itself. So the idea that Syria has crossed some sort of moral boundary by using (purportedly) chemical weapons doesn’t pass the laugh test.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Its a photograph entitled “Viktor Bulla’s Pioneers in Defense Drill, Leningrad (1937)” It appears on page 79 of a book of photographs called “Propaganda and Dreams” by Leah Bendavid-Val. While a lovely ghoulish photo by modern standards, it was very much meant as a propaganda picture showing how prepared the Soviet Union was for self defence.)