Progressive Calendar 09.25.07
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 03:18:37 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    09.25.07

1. Nonprof/leader 9.25

2. Immersion ed   9.26 8am
3. Sex workshop   9.26 9am
4. Fem pol ev     9.26 12noon StCloud MN
5. RNC StP rights 9.26 2:30pm
6. Palestine      9.26 4pm
7. Full moon walk 9.26 7pm
8. US not liked   9.26 7pm

9. Joel Kilgour - The real scoop on yesterday's antiwar arrests in Duluth
10. David Keen  - Learning about the Iraq War from Hannah Arendt
11. Mark Bradley - Fun facts about invertebrates  (humor)

--------1 of 11--------

From: Tim Erickson <tim [at]>
Subject: Nonprof/leader 9.25

I just heard about a series of free workshops in nonprofit leadership
offered by Hamline University and the Greater Minneapolis Council of
Churches. Registration is required but there's no fee. Word following the
first on Tuesday is that it was excellent.

More info:
Here are some of the sessions coming up:

   Sep 25 - Board development & governance
   Oct 2  - Public relations planning
   Oct 9  - Finance - what the law requires
   Oct 16 - Nonprofit ethics
   Oct 23 - Human resources performance appraisals
   Oct 30 - Marketing & communications
   Nov 6  - Nonprofit accountability & transparency
   Nov 13 - Strategic planning for board & management
   Nov 20 - Conflict resolution
   Nov 27 - Nonprofit fundraising: research methods
   Dec 4  - Grant writing

--------2 of 11--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Immersion ed 9.26 8am

Wednesday, 9/26, 8 am, People of Faith host United Seminary prof Chris Smith
and pastor Don Christenson speaking on "Immersion Cross Cultural Education:
Indulging the Privileged or Political Radicalization?' St Martin's Table,
2001 Riverside Ave, Mpls.  cmasters [at]

--------3 of 11--------

From: David Strand <mncivil [at]>
Subject: Sex workshop 9.26 9am

Sex Ed For Life Event - Clarifying the Message: Advocating for Change
Featured speaker Glynis Shea, Communications Coordinator at the Knopka
Institute for Best Practices in Adolescent Health at the University of

September 26, 2007
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave South, MPLS
Free workshop.

With science and public opinion on our side, why is there still debate
over policies, like comprehensive sex education, that educate and improve
the lives of young people? How can we combine storytelling with facts to
create a compelling message? It's time to learn more about how to frame
the needs of adolescents in our communities in a way that connects with
the general public and promotes science based public policies. To RSVP for
this event, please fax or email the completed registration form to Amy
Kodet, MOAPPP Policy Intern at publicpolicyintern [at] or fax
651-644-1417. For additional questions please call 651-644-1447 x17. Click
here for the registration form.

--------4 of 11--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Fem pol ev 9.26 12noon StCloud MN

September 26: St. Cloud University Women's Center Women on Wednesday.
"Making Waves: An overview of women's political evolution." Vivian
Jenkins-Nelsen, co-chair of the League of Women Voters MN will talk about
the politics, issues and implications of the various women's movements
active over the last 30 years, including the complexities of the
intersections of race and gender, and what it will take to progress. Noon
- 1PM at Atwood Theatre, St Cloud.  Free & open to the public.

--------5 of 11--------

From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at]>
Subject: RNC StP rights 9.26 2:30pm

We Demand the Right to Protest the War at the RNC!
WED 9/26th @ 2:30 pm @ St. Paul City Hall, 15 Kellogg Blvd W

In April, the Coalition to March on the RNC & Stop the War resubmitted
their permit applications for demonstrating in St. Paul on September 1st,
2008.  The city of St. Paul has not responded to their requests to receive
a permit & instead have formed a "free speech" working group.  This
working group is discussing what rights we will have to protest, but is
not considering or listening to what our community needs to demonstrate
against the Republican agenda.  Come demonstrate at the St. Paul city
council meeting to show your support for having a large anti-war
demonstration on the first day of the RNC & for granting us our permit!

We will have a picket & press conference outside City Hall and will then
go to the city council meeting by 3 pm.  If you cannot come, but support
our efforts, please call or email Mayor Coleman at:  651-266-8510 or
mayor [at] &/or your city council member at
councilinfo [at] or call 651.266.8560. For more information
email info [at] or call 612.379.3899.  Organized by the
Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War.  Endorsed by the Anti-War
Cmte, Protest RNC 2008 Coalition, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, & Welfare
Rights Cmte.

--------6 of 11--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Palestine 9.26 4pm

Wednesday, 9/26, 4 pm, Cambridge architecture prof Wendy Pullan speaks on
"Spatial manifestations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in
Jerusalem,"Nolte Center for continuing Eduation, room 125, 315 Pillsbury Dr
SE, East Bank U of M, Minneapolis. or 612-624-2921.

--------7 of 11--------

From: Sue Ann <mart1408 [at]>
Subject: Full moon walk 9.26 7pm

Shine On Harvest Full Moon Walk
Around the Coldwater Area
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Gather at 7 PM, south end of Minnehaha Park

This is the walk-&-sing harvest moon walk. We'll provide the song sheets:
   Shine On Harvest Moon,Blue Moon, Moon River,
   Moonlight Bay, and By the Light of the Silvery Moon.

Not just harvest time, September's full moon is 3 days after the Autumnal
Equinox, a time of balance between summer and winter. Traditional group

Directions: From Hwy 55/Hiawatha in south Minneapolis, turn East (toward
the Mississippi) at 54th Street and circle around to your left into the
pay parking lot, or park along the Hwy 55 service road south 54th St., or
park free on the east side of Hwy 55.

--------8 of 11--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: They don't like US 9.26 7pm

Wednesday, 9/26, 7 to 8:30 pm, Andrew Kohut, director of the most extensive
global surveys of public attitudes toward the U.S, reports on the
implications of worldwide loss of respect for the US in "They Don't Like Us:
Global Attitudes Toward the U.S." Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Center, 301 -
19th Ave S, Mpls.

--------9 of 11--------

From: Joel Kilgour
Sent: Saturday, September 22, 2007 1:31 PM
Subject: [NAWC] the real scoop on yesterday's arrests

What the News-Tribune didn't say about yesterday's antiwar arrests:
dozens of people denied access to their own federal building
Joel Kilgour
for the Direct Action Working Group

Following yesterday's Strike for Peace rally, some forty people made their
way to the Duluth Federal Building for what was supposed to be a "War
Resistance Tour." The Direct Action Working Group (DAWG), working
independently from NAWC, had planned the tour as a fun, legal way to get
people thinking about tools - other than protest - to resist the war. Some
folks would visit Congressman Oberstar's office to learn more about his
position and make our case against war funding. We'd stop at the Post
Office (to talk about selective service and the draft), Homeland Security
and the IRS. No doors would be blocked, no property damaged.

When we arrived, we were greeted by two uniformed ICE (Immigration and
Customs Enforcement) agents, with more federal agents and security guards
standing immediately inside the main doors. For "security" reasons we
wouldn't be allowed into the building as a group, the agents told us. Dave
Boe from Oberstar's office was also there and agreed to escort five people
to his office for the pre-arranged meeting. We accepted these terms with
the understanding that we'd be able to send five people at a time into the
building - thus allaying the feds' fears and allowing us to continue the

But when the first five returned from their meeting, we were told that no
one else from our group would be allowed inside.

The situation was unacceptable - we were being denied access to our own
federal building because of our affiliations (people not identified with
the peace rally were freely entering the building). We negotiated with
federal and local law enforcement for an hour. Only after it became clear
that those negotiations weren't going to result in a reasonable settlement
did ten people from the group sit in the doorway.

It was entirely peaceful (not "MOSTLY," as the DNT print edition headline
screamed this morning - as if peace meant acquiesence). We were arrested
by Duluth police and transported to St Louis County Jail where we were
charged with misdemeanor trespass. All but one person was released by 1:00
am with 10/30 and 10/31 court dates. One woman - Bonnie Urfer - is still
being held in jail on a warrant for a prior peace action.

Here's the link the the DNT article:

Thank you to everyone who stuck around to support the arrestees with
songs, jokes, banners and video cameras. We'll let folks know if and when
these cases go to trial. In the meantime, the DAWG is planning to up our
resistance to the war in Iraq with more robust nonviolent civil
disobedience this fall. If you're interested in taking part in or
supporting such actions, give a call to Emily at 724-1829.

--------10 of 11--------

Learning About the Iraq War from Hannah Arendt
September 24, 2007

Action-as-propaganda can reinforce an oddly reassuring feeling of
certainty, helping to bend reality into line with a distorted and
propagandistic image of the world. It also distorts our perceptions of
this reality so that the gap between public perception and official
propaganda is further diminished. Hannah Arendt's concept helps us to
understand how the wagers of the 'war on terror' have in effect taken
something irrational (a magical solution to the problem of terror) and
through their actions made it appear to many people (and, crucially, large
sections of the American electorate) to be both rational and plausible.

In their daily lives people are buffeted around by chance, and the massive
economic and social disruption in the US has fuelled a sense of insecurity
and uncertainty which 9/11 compounded. Arendt understood how our desire
for certainty and predictability could feed into abusive ideologies. "What
the masses refuse to recognize", she wrote, "is the fortuitousness that
pervades reality". Consistency, however constructed, was deeply alluring:

Before the alternative of facing the anarchic growth and total
arbitrariness of decay or bowing down before the most rigid, fantastically
fictitious consistency of an ideology, the masses probably will always
choose the latter and be ready to pay for it with individual sacrifices -
and this not because they are strong or wicked, but because in the general
disaster this escape gains them a minimum of self-respect.

Arendt saw how this respect could come from denigrating - or even
attacking - others, and how this aggression could, in addition, generate
(spurious) legitimacy for itself. Part of the source of this 'legitimacy'
was what has been called 'just world thinking', where people in effect
assume that punishment implies a crime, and where this assumption serves
to protect them from the fear of a totally arbitrary world. Significantly,
'just world thinking' may be more tempting as the world - and accusations
- become more arbitrary: thus, the more irrational the actions of the Bush
administration, for example, the greater may be the felt need to reassure
oneself that 'there must be a reason' for the selection of victims (and
therefore that 'we' are safe).

Arendt suggested that another means by which violence could generate its
own legitimacy was by allowing leaders to make their own predictions come
true - first, when people came to resemble a distorted and propagandistic
image of them (as sub-human or disease-ridden, for example); second, when
alleged historical laws about the triumph of a particular group or idea
were 'revealed' as accurate; and third, when humanitarian ideals were
similarly 'revealed' as an unrealistic irrelevance. Again, these ideas
will prove relevant in relation to the 'war on terror'.


Part of the 'proof' that legitimises a witch-hunt is typically generated
by the witch-hunt itself. Confession-under-duress helps to make the
persecution more plausible, as we have seen. But punishment can itself be
used to imply guilt. As Arendt observed in the context of the Nazi
holocaust: "Common sense reacted to the horrors of Buchenwald and
Auschwitz with the plausible argument: 'What crime must these people have
committed that such things were done to them!'" Taking one's moral cues
from a regime of punishment may seem a very subservient attitude, but it
is also part of how any human being grows up and learns about 'right' and
'wrong' - by noticing what is being punished and what is not.

How, in the spring of 2003, did Americans and the British know that Iraq
was the enemy? Why, because they were now at war with it! In a sense, the
guilt of Iraq was 'proven' by the fact that it was earmarked for
punishment. More generally, the very extremity of a 'counter-terror'
response (ignoring the UN, invading Iraq, abusing human rights at
Guantanamo and other US military bases, and so on) may be taken, at some
level, as evidence of the extremity of the targets' guilt. Sociologist
Stanley Cohen noted in 2001 that according to 'just world thinking',
victims "deserve to suffer because of what they did, must have done,
support doing, (or will do one day if we don't act now)"  - a formulation
that uncannily anticipates the justifications made for attacking Iraq in
2003. The common inclination to infer guilt from punishment seems to have
helped the Bush administration to set aside not only international law but
a central tenet of law in general - that guilt should be established
before punishment is meted out.

High levels of deference to government judgments have been important here,
particularly in the US - a sense that 'our administration must know what
it is doing'. Americans were repeatedly told about links between Iraq and
9/11. None of the evidence was good, but the sales-pitch worked anyway. In
an October 2002 opinion poll, 66 percent of Americans said that they
believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks on the United
States, and 79 percent believed that Iraq already possessed, or was close
to possessing, nuclear weapons. A poll in February 2003 suggested that 72
per cent of Americans believed it was likely that Saddam Hussein was
personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

The dubious virtues of action-as-propaganda seem to have been well
understood by the Bush administration, with key officials holding that a
demonstration of power could be potent propaganda in itself and that
'might' would soon, in effect, be seen to be 'right'. Thus, Bush's close
adviser Karl Rove said of the war on terrorism: "Everything will be
measured by results. The victor is always right. History ascribes to the
victor qualities that may not actually have been there. And similarly to
the defeated." (Hitler expressed a similar sentiment: "I shall give a
propagandist reason for starting the war, no matter whether it is
plausible or not. The victor will not be asked afterwards whether he told
the truth or not. When starting and waging a war it is not right that
matters, but victory." ) In relation to the attack on Iraq in 2003, one
senior White House adviser commented, "The way to win international
acceptance is to win. That's diplomacy: winning." Bush himself said:

I believe in results I know the world is watching carefully, would be
impressed and will be impressed with results achieved we're never going to
get people all in agreement about force and the use of force but action -
confident action that will yield positive results provides kind of a
slipstream into which reluctant nations and leaders can get behind.

Remember also the Bush adviser's chilling suggestion to journalist Ron
Suskind that, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own
reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will
- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too."
This is a path to madness - but a perversely persuasive one.

In the run-up to war, Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi was worried about
Italian public opinion. But Bush told him in January 2003: "You watch,
public opinion will change. We lead our publics." Among international
actors, the willingness to follow Bush's lead was not confined to Blair,
Berlusconi and Aznar. For example, British journalist Paul Johnson wrote
in the Spectator that the world "needs hero states, to look up to, to
appeal to, to encourage and to follow."

Hesitant officials and publics were confronted by the message that war
with Iraq was 'inevitable'. MSNBC cancelled a liberal program featuring
Phil Donahue just before the war with Iraq, replacing it with a show
called 'Countdown: Iraq'. Phillip Knightley, an expert on war and the
distortion of information, observed that "Politicians, while calling for
diplomacy, warn of military retaliation. The [Western] media reports this
as 'We're on the brink of war', or 'War is inevitable'." Powell's
reservations seem to have been eroded by the momentum of events. In
February 2001, Powell had declared of sanctions against Iraq: "frankly
they have worked. He [Saddam] has not developed any significant capability
with respect to weapons of mass destruction"; but by mid-2002, Rice was
telling him that opposing a decision to attack Iraq would be a waste of
breath, and the rush to war eventually saw Powell marshalling dubious
evidence before the UN about the supposed threat posed by these weapons.

The logic behind the general sense of 'inevitability' appears to have been
this: the war is happening; are you going to be part of it, or are you
going to stand on the sidelines of history? This is by no means the first
time that this technique has been brought to bear. For example, in the
(very different) context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, official Rwandan
propaganda proclaimed, "The graves are already half full. Who will help us
to fill them?" , and the invitation to complete what had been started was
embellished with the strong hint that those who declined might not simply
be bystanders but also, potentially, victims. Bush made his own variation
of this threat with his famous insistence that, "You are either with us or
against us in the fight against terror."

Whilst the then UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson had avoided committing
British troops to Vietnam, Tony Blair seemed ready to fall without
resistance into the 'slipstream' that Bush referred to. In line with Colin
Powell's analysis at the time, Blair told the House of Commons in November
2000: "We believe that the sanctions regime has effectively contained
Saddam Hussein." But Blair, too, seems to have been persuaded, in part, by
the 'inevitability' of the war. A key moment came in Blair's meeting with
Bush in Texas in April 2002, which helped convince the British Prime
Minister that Bush was set on war with Iraq. Blair came back committed to
supporting military action for regime change in Iraq (reportedly on the
understanding that efforts would be made, first, to eliminate WMD through
weapons inspections and, second, to form a coalition to shape public
opinion). Blair's preparations on returning to the UK included telling
Chancellor Gordon Brown to redesign budget calculations to pay for a war.

However, 'inevitability' had a Janus-face for Blair: John Kampfner
comments in his book Blair's Wars, "Blair set about his immediate task of
preparing the public for military action, while maintaining the front that
it was 'not inevitable'." At an early stage in the preparations for war, a
public proclamation that war was unavoidable would no doubt have smacked
too much of subservience to Washington. But significantly, once US troops
were headed for Iraq, Blair was ready to change tack and to use the idea
of inevitability and the momentum of events as a tool to persuade his own
public and party. Blair's March 2003 speech to the House of Commons
included the passage: "This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one:
to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold firm to the course
we have set." Tony Blair worried about the damage that would be done in
the world by a unilateral American victory; on this logic, Britain would
have to go to war to avoid America going to war alone. Meanwhile, Blair
subscribed to some of the confidence of Bush and Karl Rove that victory
would generate its own support: Robin Cook recalled of Blair, "In the many
conversations we had in the run-up to the war, he always assumed that the
[Iraq] war would end in victory, and that military triumph would silence
the critics."

In the domestic sphere, 'winning' had already proved a useful tool of
persuasion and intimidation. Dissent within the Labour Party had been
stifled - first in the interests of winning power from the Tories and then
in the context of the legitimacy that winning bestowed. John Kampfner
observed that Blair "had dominated his party for a decade, his authority
allowing him to push through foreign and domestic policies even when they
were at odds with his MPs and activists - even members of his own
Cabinet." As British writer Beatrix Campbell put it, "The party gave
itself up to alchemists who proclaimed that they, alone, possessed winning
powers." Of course, the free market ideology that Bush - and to a large
extent Blair - have espoused itself constitutes a kind of veneration of
'winners': only the fittest are meant to survive, and success implicitly
proves your vigour and virtue. For George Soros, the 'social Darwinism' of
market fundamentalism was a natural ally for religious fundamentalism and
both had been dangerously boosted in confidence by the collapse of the
Soviet system and the advance of globalisation.

International law itself was increasingly sometimes expected to fall into
line with the 'confident action' that Bush felt would bring compliance.
David Frum and Richard Perle observed, " if the UN cannot or will not
revise its rules in ways that establish beyond question the legality of
the measures the United States must take to protect the American people,
then we should unashamedly and explicitly reject the jurisdiction of these
rules." This is a very odd conception of international law, to put it
mildly. Just after the start of the attack on Iraq, Perle eagerly
anticipated: "As we sift the debris of the war to liberate Iraq, it will
be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual
wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law
administered by international institutions." While Bush administration
officials labelled the UN as weak and potentially 'irrelevant', US policy
had itself been critical in weakening the UN - not just over Iraq but also
earlier. During the Cold War, the US had persistently used its veto to
stymie the UN Security Council. The US government had also repeatedly
reneged on funding commitments, and infamously denied and ignored the 1994
Rwandan genocide. Undermining the UN through confident action may have
borne some fruit: public confidence in the UN fell sharply in the wake of
the attack on Iraq - not only in the US but also in the UK, France and
Germany; we do not know how lasting this effect will be, but in may ways
the effect of near-unilateral action (and possibly part of the intention)
is that belief in 'human rights' and 'international law' comes to look
like the height of naivety. Again, it was Arendt who had earlier seen this
most clearly, arguing that factual propaganda worked partly because:

the incredible plight of an ever-growing group of innocent people was like
a practical demonstration of the totalitarian movements' cynical claims
that no such thing as inalienable human rights existed and that the
affirmations of democracies to the contrary were mere prejudice,
hypocrisy, and cowardice in the face of the cruel majesty of a new world.
The very phrase 'human rights' became for all concerned - victims,
persecutors, and onlookers alike - the evidence of hopeless idealism or
fumbling feeble-minded hypocrisy.

Once the occupation of Iraq was underway, the hope that 'might would be
seen to be right' was also expressed in relation to the insurgency. One US
officer involved in attacks on Fallujah stressed the role of aggression
followed by 'psy-ops', "always coming back to the theme of the
inevitability of the superior tribe". Journalist Robert Kaplan commented
from Iraq, "People in all cultures gravitate toward power The chieftain
mentality is particularly prevalent in Iraq."


Arendt saw the desire for predictability and consistency as creating
opportunities for totalitarian regimes to underline and bolster their own
power by making their own predictions come true. This would seem to be an
alluring option for some democratic countries too; and with civil
liberties increasingly infringed and a mass media largely compliant, the
distinction between totalitarian and democratic is not always as clear as
one might hope: Norman Mailer has said of the US, "I think we have a
pre-totalitarian situation here now."


Arendt observed that the broad mass of people "are predisposed to all
ideologies because they explain facts as mere examples of laws and
eliminate coincidences by inventing an all-embracing omnipotence which is
supposed to be at the root of every accident" Further, in conditions of
uncertainty people are likely to be attracted to an ideology that claims
to be actively shaping history in line with some long-term historical
laws, thereby re-establishing some sense of control. In the case of the
Nazis, the long-term historical law was a kind of racial Darwinism; for
Soviet governments, it was the inevitable and scientifically-predicted
triumph of the proletarian class. Arendt pointed out that the Nazis spoke
of soon-to-be-extinct races and the Soviet regime of dying classes, and
that the murderous actions of these totalitarian regimes helped underline
their power and omniscience by making these predictions come true. Bush
has not matched these earlier abominations; however, he is certainly keen
to emphasise that he and the United States form part of a grand design
that conforms with God's wishes and laws. In his January 2005 inauguration
speech, Bush referred to freedom as a "force of history", adding "We can
go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom.
History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible
direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty." Or again, liberty is
"the plan of heaven for humanity and the best hope for progress here on
Earth." This is rather more than saying 'God is on our side'; it is an
insistence that the direction of history is on our side and that we,
through the 'confident action' Bush had earlier advocated, can prove this
to be the case. Though purporting to be veneration of God, this stance is
ultimately a veneration of the self - a self whose confidence and violence
will ultimately gain the victory that secures approval from other nations
and simultaneously reaffirms God's approval for the longer-term
transformative project. This capacity of 'revealing God's approval'
suggests that 'successful' violence can serve a function rather like
wealth for Max Weber's Protestants.

A comparable sense of confidence has sometimes been expressed by Islamic
fundamentalists, for whom the triumph of Islam is held to be 'inevitable',
as was the triumph of socialism. To the extent that various fundamentalist
belief systems see God as actively intervening in the world, there will
always be a temptation to see whatever action is taken as having received
his blessing or as being his work. It is not simply a question of who had
God on his side but of who can demonstrate this through victory. Thus,
violent counter-terror has been seen by its authors not only as blessed by
God but also as countering the terrorists' belief that they have God and
history with them. In September 2003, Bush noted that prior to 9/11 the
terrorists had become "convinced that the free nations were decadent and
weak. And they grew bolder, believing history was on their side." He added
that the war on terror had reversed this pattern.

Mixed in with the idea of a grand design is the idea - most commonly
expressed by America's evangelical right - that war might bring closer a
predicted apocalypse and the second coming of the Messiah. Even Blair has
flirted with this imagery: "September 11 was for me a revelation. What had
seemed inchoate came together Here were terrorists prepared to bring about
Armageddon." A more secular version of the 'coming apocalypse' thesis was
expressed in [evil old SOB -ed] Samuel Huntington's prediction of an
inevitable 'clash of civilisations' (on this thesis, see chapter 10). Bush
and Blair have been careful to state that the 'war on terror' is
specifically not a clash of cultures or a clash of religions. Yet through
their aggressive actions they have helped give plausibility to
Huntington's prediction.

Once war had been declared, criticism of the Bush and Blair
administrations became much more difficult. The imperative of 'supporting
our troops' became dominant. Criticism of the military was particularly
taboo, and the deaths of US soldiers in some ways reinforced the
difficulty of opposing the war. As Michael Mann put it, "Any criticism of
the [Iraq] war was widely regarded, not just as unpatriotic, but also as
disrespect for our dead." After the killing of 21-year-old Jonathan
Kephart in Iraq, local Baptist pastor David Food said: "If I hear anything
negative [about the Iraq war], I take it personally. I feel that they are
saying it about John. It invalidates the sacrifice he made." In June 2005,
with violence escalating in Iraq and the total of US troops killed rising
relentlessly, Michael Ignatieff observed in the New York Times magazine,
"Thomas Jefferson's dream [of freedom for all nations] must work. Its
ultimate task in American life is to redeem loss, to rescue sacrifice from
oblivion and futility and to give it shining purpose." In other words, the
sacrifice of US troops - which Ignatieff had supported - must be made to
be meaningful. There are uncomfortable echoes here of the way an earlier
violence helped to feed propaganda for more violence. Noting the common
argument that US soldiers in Vietnam were betrayed by a liberal elite,
Thomas Frank observed in 2004:

This may be conservatism's most striking cultural victory of all: the
fifties-style patriotism that was once thought to have victimized the
Vietnam generation is today thought to be a cause that is sanctified by
their death and suffering. What their blood calls out for is not
skepticism but even blinder patriotism.

By such mechanisms does endless war renew itself. Significantly, John
Kerry chose not to make the Abu Ghraib scandal a part of his campaign for
the Presidency in 2004. Criticisms of the Iraq war could be presented as
'demoralising' the troops. Even Kerry's tentative criticisms of the Iraq
war prompted Bush to comment (in the first pre-election debate): "What
kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way: wrong war, wrong
place, wrong time? That's not a message a commander-in-chief gives."

Colin Powell went to far as to import some of this logic into the pre-war
period. On learning in mid-January 2003 from Bush that the President was
committed to war, Powell said walking away would have been disloyal to the
President, the military and mostly to the several thousand who would be
going to war. Again, we see the bizarre logic engendered by
'inevitability': out of loyalty to our troops, we must back the policy
that (for no good reason) puts them in harm's way for no good reason. This
kind of upside-down reasoning must have helped to confirm Bush's belief
that opposition would wilt in the face of 'confident action'.

If war could stifle dissent, holy war might do so in spades. Political
commentator George Monbiot pointed out that the US government's
religiously-tinged sense of 'mission' meant that disagreement was not
simply dissent; it was heresy. Of course, war may also reinforce religious
feelings. When battle is underway, it is clearly reassuring (and gives
courage) to believe that God is on your side. This in turn can bolster the
legitimacy of war.


Here is another example of action-as-propaganda from Hannah Arendt:

The official SS newspaper, the Schwarze Korps, stated explicitly in 1938
that if the world was not yet convinced that the Jews were the scum of the
earth, it soon would be when unidentifiable beggars, without nationality,
without money, and without passports crossed their frontiers... A circular
letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all German authorities
abroad shortly after the November pogroms of 1938, stated: 'The emigration
movement of only about 100,000 Jews has already sufficed to awaken the
interest of many countries in the Jewish danger. Germany is very
interested in maintaining the dispersal of Jewry - the influx of Jews in
all parts of the world invokes the opposition of the native population and
thereby forms the best propaganda for the German Jewish policy'

How this worked out in practice is another issue, but the SS intention
here was clear. More than this, the persecution of the Jews - confining
them to disease-ridden ghettoes, numbering them, herding them behind walls
and fences in concentration camps, starving them, and slaughtering them en
masse - was a process that tended to take away most of the manifestations
of a normal human life and in the process helped to create a dehumanised
image that matched the Nazis' dehumanising language.

It is, of course, easy to see differences between the events Arendt is
discussing and the current debacle. Even so, the 'war on terror' is a
classic example of turning 'the other' into a preconceived and negative
image that has been entertained (and propagated) by the perpetrators of
violence. This applies to both sides of the conflict, since both sides
seem to share an interest in 'proving' their enemy to be just as brutal as
they had always insisted. In civil wars and global wars, violence tends to
create the enemies it claims to weaken or eliminate (chapter 2), and so
generates its own (spurious) legitimacy. Frantz Fanon (and after him, bin
Laden) understood how terrorists themselves could take advantage of the
phenomenon of 'action-as-propaganda' - notably by using violence to bring
out the underlying and previously part-hidden brutality of their
opponent/oppressor. The Arabic word for 'martyr' translates also as
'witness' - in other words, someone who by their actions or speech makes a
hidden truth clear to an audience. Mark Juergensmeyer has said of
international terrorism:

What the perpetrators of such acts of terror expect - and indeed welcome -
is a response as vicious as the acts themselves. By goading secular
authorities into responding to terror with terror, they hope to accomplish
two things. First, they want tangible evidence for their claim that the
secular enemy is a monster. Second, they hope to bring to the surface the
great war - a war that they have told their potential supporters was
hidden, but real.

One logic of terrorism is this: if America is not quite the evil
imperialist of our propaganda and our imagination, let us help to make it
so. It works on the other side too: in circumstances where the terrorist
has been portrayed as all around us and bent on our destruction,
counterproductive actions that lead to a proliferation of angry enemies,
whilst leading us all towards lives of fear, at least bring the perverse
cognitive satisfaction (particularly for the leaders who chose this path)
of knowing: 'Yes we are right, the enemy is indeed as powerful, pervasive
and dangerous as we portrayed it; we must redouble our efforts.' It is
hard to imagine that Bush and Blair consciously wish to making thing
worse; even so, they inhabit a world in which mad solutions generate
(spurious) legitimacy for themselves. Indeed, it seems 'both sides' in the
'war on terror' are busy nurturing their favourite nightmares. At the
level of civil wars, we have seen how accusations that rebels were 'Muslim
fundamentalists' can, over time, acquire an increasing degree of truth, as
in Chechnya and the Philippines. Anti-American feeling in much of the
world is often taken as a 'given'; but this sentiment, as noted, is not a
natural or even a long-standing one.

Billed erroneously as a key source of terrorism prior to the war, Iraq has
become so - a development that lends spurious credibility to the initial
accusation. The propaganda was made to become true - at the cost of much
distortion and many lives. As John Kerry said when debating with Bush:
"The President just talked about Iraq as a centre of the war on terror.
Iraq was not even close to the centre of the war on terror before the
President invaded it." Even attacks on occupying forces have been quickly
labeled as 'terrorist', and a common charge by the US command in Iraq has
been that Iraqi fighters have been using terrorist tactics. However,
attacks on occupying soldiers are not terrorism: even the US State
Department's definition of terrorism centres on the use of violence
against civilians. How do you justify the devastation of an entire city -
like Fallujah in November 2004? First, you announce that it harbours
'terrorists'; then when most people flee in fear, you declare the city a
free-fire zone on the grounds that the only people left behind must be the

As well as creating enemies by deepening anger, violence can cause
displacement - thereby 'contaminating' new 'targets' with enemy groups. A
paranoid state of mind interprets even the displacement resulting from its
own violence as a conspiracy by evil governments intent on 'harbouring'
terrorists. For example, one of the main alleged links between Saddam and
bin Laden, the Jordanian Abu Masab al-Zargawi (whom Bush called the "best
evidence" for a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida) appears to have
sheltered in Baghdad after fleeing the US-led attack on Afghanistan. Thus,
one attack helped justify the next. After Badghdad fell, al-Zargawi was
then said to be sheltering in Fallujah, something that was used to justify
the devastation of that city in November 2004. Earlier, in May 2003, US
officials had turned up the heat on Iran, saying it was harbouring
al-Qaida leaders and Saddam loyalists. Syria too was accused of harbouring
Iraqi Ba'athists.

But it was quite natural that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would
displace into surrounding countries many of those who were being
explicitly targeted. Sir Andrew Green, UK ambassador to Syria in 1991-94,
commented: "The Syrian authorities cannot prevent Iraqis getting across a
400-mile desert border." Syria has indeed become a source of jihadis for
the Iraqi insurgency, but again this 'rogue' status is a predictable
consequence of the attack on Iraq, rather than confirmation that Syria is
inherently anti-American or is part of an expanded 'axis of evil'. In
2005, US military officials were predicting that the "vast ungoverned
spaces" of the Horn of Africa would play host to al-Qaida fighters
retreating from Iraq - a trend (or perception) that could bring more
trouble for that region. Quite apart from the effects of displacement,
insurgency in one occupied country creates opportunities for accusing
neighbours of complicity, and the desire to dissociate insurgency from
'ordinary Iraqis' itself creates an incentive to highlight foreign
interference. Accusations that Syria has been facilitating the flow of
fighters into Iraq have certainly been persistent.

Another way in which violence can make people resemble your propaganda is
by creating a climate in which dehumanising images of the enemy are seen
as legitimate or even necessary. On the cusp of the 2003 attack on Iraq,
MSNBC (Microsoft-NBC) added Michael Savage to its line-up. In their
informative overview of media distortions, Rampton and Stauber comment
that Savage:

routinely refers to non-white countries as 'turd world nations' and
charges that the US 'is being taken over by the freaks, the cripples, the
perverts and the mental defectives.' In one broadcast, Savage justified
ethnic slurs as a national security tool: 'We need racist stereotypes
right now of our enemy in order to encourage our warriors to kill the

In other words, it is war itself that helps to create the sense of an
implacable and inhuman enemy. Meanwhile, abuses by coalition forces within
Iraq have dehumanised the enemy not only by fuelling anger and violence
but also by stripping people of their dignity. A report by the US's Major
General George Fay noted that general practices such as the extensive use
of nudity "likely contributed to an escalating 'de-humanization' of the
detainees and set the stage for additional and more severe abuses to
occur." Violence is often a process, in which initial abuses create
spurious legitimacy for worse atrocities. Part of the function of extreme
violence, moreover, is to convince the victims themselves that they are
not worthy of rights: for if they did have rights, why then are they being
so systematically attacked or dehumanised? General Janis Karpinski,
suspended as head of a unit running prisons because of the Abu Ghraib
scandal, said she was told by Major General Geoffrey Miller, former
commander of Guantanamo Bay camp, "This place [Abu Ghraib] must be
Gitmo-ised - they are like dogs. If you allow them to believe they are
more than dogs, then you will have lost control."

Relying on 'victory' to generate legitimacy is of course a double-edged
sword. There may be limits to the plausibility of something that is
manifestly not working, and criticism of US government choices tended to
surface and then intensify as the Iraq occupation ran into increasing
difficulties. Arendt herself noted that Nazism as an ideology collapsed
very suddenly when defeat meant it could no longer back its propaganda
with imposing and successful actions. Moreover, those who claim that God
is on their side may be particularly vulnerable to a loss of popularity
and prestige when defeat or stalemate implies that God is more ambivalent.
As war in Iraq drags on, popular American enthusiasm is turning to
disillusion. Taking the extremity and direction of response as evidence of
both the severity and source of the problem is a mechanism that may not
work for ever.

All this can be compensated for in two ways, however. First, the
appearance of victory may be sustainable for a significant period even
when the reality is pretty desperate. Presentation counts (something
discussed in more detail in Chapter 10). Short-term and conspicuous
victories may be more important to the interveners than actually making a
positive impact on the problem. The benefits of action-as-propaganda
derive not so much from winning as from appearing to win. For example,
elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, for a time at least, perhaps pulled
some credible veneer of success from the general debacle - helping
temporarily to disguise the deeper counter-productive effects of the
attacks and the long-term security and governance problems in these

Second, even a lack of success may lend legitimacy to the insistence that
America and its allies must devote ever-greater energy to defeating
terrorism. Indeed, those waging war on terror seem to have an interest in
insisting that they are simultaneously both winning and losing. This is a
confusing message, to be sure; but a mixed message has the significant
advantage that it can never be disproved. Any form of evidence, any
positive or negative turn of events, can be harnessed to the (ambiguous)
official line. Each victory brings some new atrocity and some new struggle
in its wake: the toppling of the Taliban is followed by the bombing of
Bali; the ousting of Saddam is followed by the bombing of Madrid;
elections in Iraq, but bombings in London. It would seem the task is never
done: as Mark Duffield pithily puts it, "It is always a case of one more
massacre, of winning this endless war, and we will be free." Just as we
breathe a sigh of relief, we find some new anxiety catching in out
throats. The war on terror is drawing to an end; long live the war on

This essay is excerpted from David Keen's new book, Endless War? Hidden
Functions of the 'War on Terror'

David Keen teaches at the London School of Economics. He is the author of
Endless War? Hidden Functions of the 'War on Terror' (Pluto, 2006).

--------11 of 11--------

Fun Facts About Invertebrates
by Mark W. Bradley / September 24th, 2007
Dissident Voice

My ten-year-old granddaughter looked up from her science homework the
other day and posed me a question she thought would be a real stumper.

"Grampa, what's the world's largest invertebrate life form?"

"That would be the Democratic Party," I replied. "Why do you ask?"

"Because my science book says it's the "giant squid". They can weigh up to
600 pounds."

Upon hearing this stupefying factoid, I was forced to concede.

"Then I guess your science book is probably correct, sweetheart. Even
loaded down with frozen blocks of corporate campaign cash, most Democrats
don't weigh that much!"

"I'll bet the Democratic Party is smarter than a giant squid, though," she
offered, graciously allowing me to salvage some semblance of academic

"I suppose it would depend on the squid," I posited. "That, and the number
of Democrats present at the time of the comparison".

"Well, Grampa, what if there were a lot of Democrats, and they were all
meeting in Congress, making a really good plan to get us out of Iraq? Who
would be smarter then?"

"Definitely the giant squid," I quipped with confidence. "You see, honey,
believe it or not, the more Democratic Congressmen there are in a room,
the greater the likelihood the entire quorum will be outwitted by a single
marine mollusk, not to mention a reasonably alert jellyfishw. Take the
Senate Majority for instance".

But before I could get into my stride, my granddaughter again shifted

"But Grampa, at least Democrats are brave, right? I mean, they have more
guts than a squid, don't they?"

"Well technically, sweetheart, we know a squid has guts, because we can
see inside it. Squid are transparent, you see, and that's one thing you
could never say about Congressional Democrats. Oh sure, they all claim to
have "intestinal" fortitude and the "stomach" for a fight when they're on
the campaign trail, but once they get voted into office they line up to be
gutted like nihilistic sardines fighting to get into the can. And once
Democratic politicians are eviscerated, they leave behind whatever vestige
of moral courage they once possessed as thoughtlessly as a lobster sheds
his carapace. They quake in terror at the mere mention of imaginary sea
monsters lurking in the Strait of Hormuz, and spend most of their time
groveling on bended-fin before a barnacle encrusted, not-very-lifelike
cement statue of "King Neptune the Invincible", something 71% of the other
fish find laughable, if not utterly baffling. It's the damndest thing".

Still my intrepid granddaughter was undeterred in her valiant attempt to
find a place for Congressional Democrats at the apex of the invertebrate
food chain.

"There's just one thing I don't understand, Grampa. If big old slimy
bottom-feeding squid monsters are so much braver, smarter and more
powerful than Democrats, then how come one of them doesn't run for the

"One already has, sweetheart," I replied. "Isn"t there a picture of Joe
Liebermann in your science book?"

Mark W. Bradley is a history teacher and political satirist in Sacramento,
California. He can be contacted at: markwbradley [at]

This article was posted on Monday, September 24th, 2007 at 5:00 am and is
filed under Democrats and Humor. Send to a friend.

[ed wishes to apologize to all squid, giant or otherwise, for any distress
caused them by the close association above between squid and the d-word


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