[percy-l] U.S. : Terrorist SuperPower?
Robert_Pauley at oxy.com
Robert_Pauley at oxy.com
Wed Aug 24 20:23:13 EDT 2005
Karey: I'm not sure what your preamble on Hitler Youth Corp means, except perhaps as an attempt to bring Walker Percy into the discussion. I suspect it is a technique of invidious association, though in what sense our country has found a like expression among our youth or in some other sector, escapes me. I would enjoy some clarification on what our current version of the "Hitler Youth Corps" may be.
As for The unjust war doctrines are unscientific formulations from the good-faith debates of ethicists. We can all find one to our liking. I've found a few who endorse the war in Iraq, as I do. It may just as persuasively be argued that military action to remove an international crime lord with the equivalent of 17 warrants for his arrest, who had invaded an ally, refused to honor the terms of his surrender from that unprovoked invasion, directed fire against allied planes in a buffer zone designed to protect the northern Kurdish regions of his own land from continuing genocide with toxic weapons, killed more than 250,000 of his own people, some likewise with toxic weapons (a conservative estimate), provided sanctuary to the first bomber of the twin towers, as well as the current second most notorious terrorist in the world, and, if you are to believe the testimony of his chief physicist, had every intent to develop an atomic weapon, and indeed was in negotiations with North Korea as late as the winter of 2003 to purchase one "off the shelf." That is plenty of reason to me. In fact, we were 10 years too late in acting.
As for the Pope condemning the Iraq War, I'm afraid that doesn't have much moral heft to me. If I'm correct, the Catholic Church went out of its way to comfort the Nazis. If the Catholic Church lacks the moral clarity to recognize that the serial and grotesque rapacities of a dictator demand forceful interdiction, I'm sorry, but I have no intention to wait around for them to catch up to me. Anyway, I believe such catch-up is inevitable; I'm sure Catholicism is not too far down the "to-do" list of Islamicist fury.
As for Abu Ghraib, I believe you are incorrect. It was isolated and was not connected to a higher chain of command. If I am wrong, I would be interested in proof. It was brutish and obscene of course but hardly characteristic of our treatment of prisoners, there or elsewhere. Obviously it cannot be compared to how "prisoners of war" are treated by Islamicists, as those poor souls get their heads sawed off -- something perhaps closer to "a gross and unapologetic abandonment of the Geneva Convention"? Moreover, our incidents of abuse are followed by swift remediation. We are now constructing a new holding facility in Guatanemo Bay, Cuba. It is one of the most salutary aspects of our nation that we learn from our mistakes. Anyway, in the historic scheme of wars, Abu Ghraib barely amounts to a scandal.
And then of course, there is the same old claim that we are all being "spun" as a part of a "fascist" fear-mongering. We are manipulated by Karl Rove and "swept along" by vulgar mob sentiments. I can only speak for myself, but I am not. I wonder why it so bewildering to so many to think that people can reasonably and on their own arrive at the decision that a war against terrorists, who have declared their intent to wipe us from the face of the earth, makes basic sense? Somehow we must be "influenced" to believe this? Anyway, I'm curious who is being swept anywhere. More than half of the population currently opposes the war in Iraq. The overwhelming majority of the media opposes it. Most of the free world opposes it. The president has collapsed in the polls. That's a pretty poor job of fascist brainwashing, if you ask me. Karl Rove should be fired.
As for Ernest Becker's meditations on the neurotic roots of war, nothing better underscores, with all due respect, the abstractions of academia. If I have a neurosis it is to guarantee that I and/or my fellow citizens don't get our heads chopped off. And my fear or concern doesn't spring from any dark, Freudian recess of anxiety responsible for phantasmal projections of psychosis. It springs from people chopping our heads off. If killing my enemy gives me meaning and purpose, it is a good meaning and purpose, and reflects total sanity, and I am glad of it. Becker belongs high on the bookshelf in this conflict.
And to Julio: I would read Orwell a little more closely, especially his essay on wartime England, "The Lion and the Unicorn." You might find his scorn for pacifism rather interesting.
Nowhere in your disquisition on our "fascist" state do you address this fundamental question: what do we do in the face of a nihilistic, barbarous, and genuinely fascist movement that wishes both literally and figuratively to decapitate us. A movement which has no interest in sharing this planet with us, and will accept massive self-immolation as a price for our destruction. Until the anti-war movement can address, even admit this, I cannot take any of these arguments seriously - any protests against Don Rumsfeld or Karl Rove or Dick Cheney man nothing to me. They are merely ideological fulminations -- elegant and theoretical and nugatory. They do not help me understand the real threats to my culture or how to answer them.
I guess the major "cognitive" divide is simple. Either one takes the position that we are at "war" or we are not at war. I believe we are at war. I believe we will be for many years to come. I also believe that within the next five years most of the world - with the possible exception of academia -- will understand this, to the point at which there will simply won't be too many articles about Abu Ghraibs, or WMDs, or fascist propagandists, or anything of the like. Not to say that there should not be. But it will be widely understood that we are in a war for the survival of all that we value and cherish in western civilization. This is the first stages of that war. That is simply my opinion.
Now, as for what Walker Percy would say to our current problems? I do not know. I only know that he prized and defended western liberal values, science, art, education, freedom of speech, "truth and beauty and suchlike." I can't help but think he would have had some form of intelligent and forceful response to a barbaric movement dedicated to snuffing them all out. It may very well be that he would have opposed the war in Iraq as either impracticable or stupid. But he would have offered some kind of alternative.
From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Karey
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 4:21 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] U.S. : Terrorist SuperPower?
Yes, I saw the apology! A wise political move of Robertson's part! It is telling that Robertson's comment was not condemned by the administration, since it is a political comment, but then, they might lose their fundamentalist voting base (Rove is practical). Perhaps the apology had political encouragement and prompting. I didn't (forgot to) overtly refer to Pat Robertson below, but clearly his actions were meant to be interpreted through Becker - any fundamentalist (Christian or Muslim (or other) - they actually have more in common with each other than they do with moderates of their own faiths) is devoting himself to a non-transcendent "causa-sui," though clearly mistaking it for a transcendent one.
Eric Rudolph was just convicted yesterday in Atlanta (the Olympic bomber, also abortion clinics and gay nightclub bombings) of life X several lives in prison - he showed no remorse, despite the loss of innocent lives due to his actions. He felt he had a "cause" - and that history, if not the truth, will eventually exonerate him. Percy's Lancelot operated under the same assumption - of all Percy's heroes, Lancelot was the one who was the most "off."
There is a T-shirt for American travelers:
----- Original Message -----
From: J Rivas-Pita <mailto:juliorivas at gmail.com>
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion <mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:39 PM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] U.S. : Terrorist SuperPower?
Thank you very much for your most detailed and lucid analysis.
Needless to say, I fully agree with you.
(By the way, my grandfather on my mother's side lived most of his life
in the U.S., was an American citizen and is buried in Irvington, N.J.,
and I grew up in Spain believing, perhaps somewhat naïvely, that the
U.S.A. was what he said it was, 'the greatest country in the world').
Also by the way this is "Reverend" Pat Robertson's last -but probably
not final- word on Mr. Chávez's assassination proposal and AP's
With all best wishes,
On 8/24/05, Karey <karey at kareyperkins.com> wrote:
> As you all know, Percy, in his younger days, visited Germany - in the early
> 1930's I believe? Correct me on this if I'm wrong - (a simple check in
> Tolson or Samway would tell me, but I'm much too comfortably ensconced at my
> desk to get up right now!) At any rate, as you also all know, while he was
> there, Percy met and was much enamored of the "Hitler Youth" for their
> loyalty, devotion, sense of purpose, sense of meaning and direction in life.
> And Percy was an intelligent, clear-thinking man - he must have had a real
> reason to feel that way - real concrete evidence that these youth had
> something that stood out. Then WWII happened, and one can only imagine what
> he felt inside about his earlier misguided admiration for the Hitler Youth.
> The Iraq war has been declared by the Pope to be an unjust war according to
> Catholic Just War doctrine. (A guideline used not just by the church, but
> by the government and the military as well, by the way). Jimmy Carter
> declared it an unjust war - right up into the night before we attacked, when
> he reneged in a front page article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution,
> I can only imagine due to political pressure. What makes it unjust? On
> almost every point of the doctrine, including what Julio Rivas-Pita states
> below: The United States was an aggressor - and, worse, it was an
> aggression built on lies. Today, it is not only extreme leftists such as
> Michael Moore who will question whether WMD were in Iraq. Evidence
> continues to be uncovered- that the Karl Rove political genius-machine was
> extremely effectively at manipulating public perception and spinning the
> message to hide the real situation... that in itself is a dissertation too
> lengthy to document here, but articles such as "Follow the Uranium" in the
> July 17, 2005, New York Times only begin to scratch the surface of it. In
> fact, most people acknowledge that a false link was made between 9/11 and
> Iraq - the only question up for debate was how knowingly false (on the
> administration's side) was it? In fact, the Iraq war has sidetracked us
> from the real 9/11 cause (the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan) and
> increased terrorist activity, as well as further incited hard feelings
> towards American - even our allies are starting to hate us! Since when did
> France become a country to despise? Hence, I find Julio Rivas-Pita's e-mail
> not at all unusual, rather, it is very much the norm overseas, and rather
> than asking him to take a drink of Early Times, I think a far better course
> of action is for Americans to put down their own bottles of Early Times and
> take a close look at themselves and the actions of their government and
> think very carefully before they cast their vote in the next election.
> Then we have the Abu Ghraib prison scandal - a gross and unapologetic
> abandonment of the Geneva Convention - and while scapegoats are being used
> (the MP reservists involved) to take the blame, in fact, it was not an
> isolated incident, it was sanctioned from above (how far above?), and these
> enlisted reservists were merely part-timers whose real career was something
> far different - they learned such torture techniques because they were
> trained (by the CIA and the military) in such techniques, and the higher ups
> have said what to this and to similar practices in Guatanamo Bay (and who
> knows where else)? That the Geneva Convention is "antiquated." This by the
> way is just what we know - we were never shown the "worst" abuses; those
> pictures were withheld from us, and do you think that just because playful
> digital cameras have not caught other events, they do not exist?
> By contrast, I am incredibly impressed with Anthony Principi, Chairman of
> the Military Base Realignment and Closing Commission (www.brac.gov). He was
> on C-SPAN last night. The integrity shone - with Principi vowing (and
> delivering) "honesty and transparency" in all the commission's deliberations
> and decisions. By the way, Rumsfeld's recommended base closings more than
> doubled the recommended closings in 4 previous rounds of base closings -
> combined. Why? Financial reasons. The Iraq War has not strengthened the
> United States from future attacks, it has weakened us - and our economic and
> military strength - considerably.
> The American people accept this because of they are being "spun" - the
> logical fallacy "appeal to fear" - which by the way, is a characteristics of
> fascist states - the building up of nationalism and military fervor through
> inciting fear in the people. In fact, terrorism has gotten worse since and
> because of the Iraqui war. You get what you give. But, as part of the
> package and by necessity to accomplish the objective, a sense of loyalty and
> group camaraderie (patriotism) is incited - but not one that is examined
> carefully, logically or critically. We are swept along with the emotions of
> the moment, like a winning crowd at a college football game or the Hitler
> Youth. (Ahh, Percy's "totemism" no less.) We don't even WANT to think
> critically about it, for it satisfies a deep need inside of us - but
> insidiously so.
> The answer to Percy's Hitler Youth question can be found in Ernest Becker's
> Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death. What compels us most,
> what determines our actions and motivations and neuroses and desires most,
> is our sublimated terror of death - our individual deaths - which we all
> know is coming, yet rarely think about consciously (or most of us rarely
> think about). So one answer is to find a "causa-sui" - a cause larger than
> ourselves for which to live. To quote Becker: "it is a world-view, some
> kind of affirmative collective ideology in which the person can perform the
> living drama of his acceptance as a creature. Only in this way can the
> neurotic come out of his isolation to become part of such a larger and
> higher wholeness as religion has always represented" (Becker, 198-1999).
> Out of this, comes meaning, purpose, comfort, identity, self-actualization.
> The problem is this - if the purpose for which we live is not transcendent
> (and not even religion is transcendent; religion, as in religious
> denominations - Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, etc.,- is not, only God is),
> then we must logically be on the other side of something else - we have
> enemies. (The defeat of our enemies gives us meaning and purpose.)
> But, more importantly, if we devote ourselves, find our meaning in life, to
> a non-transcendent cause, our cause is false. Just like the Hitler Youth.
> Has anyone noticed the great purpose and conviction with which Bush and his
> cronies proceed forward? Little reflection, lots of purpose. That has been
> spun as positive - in fact, it's quite insidious. Kerry's globalism (a
> foreign wife no less) and thoughtful reflections were spun as a detriment,
> when it was just what America needed.
> Today, even our friends (allies) are becoming enemies - (even our own
> citizens are "enemies" to the administration - we are closely monitored and
> have lost many of our rights to privacy). Nationalism, most obviously, is
> never transcendent. The patriotism in America today - at the expense of
> others' (yes, even prisoners') rights and humanity - smacks of that. Julio
> Rivas-Pita is on the money, in my opinion. We Americans can't see it.
> But whether anything I've said here is true or not, we would do well to act
> with humility, to not pompously scoff - to pay careful attention to what
> others - Europeans, Middle-Easterners, South Americans, Asians - feel and
> think about our country. In a global economy, to act as though we are
> cowboys from Texas - claiming what we want through might and force - is to
> act as though we are brutes and boors. It is also to eventually fail
> because the might and force we think we have is, quite simply, not there.
> Our days of global supremacy are coming to an end - the Euro is now higher
> than the dollar, Japan is more economically successful than the U.S.,
> China's economic growth and promise has been compared to America's in the
> 19th century. The Bush administration has done nothing to consider any of
> that - it is not a forward thinking administration, it is a backward one.
> Gas prices are $3 a gallon in Atlanta - I've heard they're $5 in California
> (any Californians care to comment?) Has no one made the connection?
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: J Rivas-Pita
> To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
> Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:36 AM
> Subject: [percy-l] U.S. : Terrorist SuperPower?
> Dear friends,
> In a quite Percy-vein, let me ask those of you (the majority, I
> suppose) who live in the U.S.: Do you realize that you may be living
> in a terrorist superpower, by now?
> Not only in the sense that Mr. Bush, à la Hitler, invades countries
> using fake arguments, but also in that people like this
> "televangelist" Pat Robertson -who clearly belongs into some nuts
> asylum- can get away with TV appeals to assassinate Venezuela's
> President without even blushing, saying that Venezuelans supossedly
> are within U.S.'s "sphere of influence"?
> And all Mr. Rumsfeld and the State Department can say is that
> Robertson is "a private citizen" entitled to his views... Owning a
> large fundamentalist "Christian" TV network that reaches a vast
> audience, by the way (which both Rumsfeld and the State Department
> conveniently forgot).
> What would you say, for instance, if someone here in Caracas ventured
> a similar proposal to "take out" Mr. Bush -assuredly a far greater
> risk for all of us than President Chávez, if only because he has
> control over thousands of nuclear warheads?
> With all best wishes,
> PS. Not a Chávez fan, by the way...
> Be Happy! (Fr. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
> Sé feliz! (P. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
Be Happy! (Fr. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
Sé feliz! (P. Benito Ballesteros, OSB, 1924-1996)
An archive of all list discussion is available at http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/
Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
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