Backtalk, February 8

The Dangers of Abstract Nationalism

My characterization of the neocon-led Bush administration is that it is Jacobin. I characterized many of Bush’s enthusiastic supporters as brownshirts because of their evident attributes: their minds are closed to facts and debate; they perceive critics of Bush’s policies as enemies whom they hate and wish to stomp into the ground. They believe with a passion that “you are with us or against us.”

It is unclear how Americans will respond to frustration in Iraq. If Americans perceive defeat, they may attribute it to too much restraint on America’s part. The insurgency cannot inflict on the U.S. the enormous casualties of the Somme and Verdun. Defeat in Vietnam is one of the fuels of the new militant American nationalism. Perceiving defeat in Iraq might simply lead to a larger army. The neocons are already agitating for a larger U.S. military. Moreover, unintended consequences of the U.S. invasion of Iraq could involve the U.S. in more war in the Middle East before we can extract ourselves from Iraq.

The important question is what becomes of the American police state that the war on terror has put in place. How do we get rid of it in the event the new nationalism deflates as Bill Lind suggests? I remember many years ago Martin Anderson relating the Nixon administration’s strategy for cutting back on the size of government. To prove that cuts could be made in government, the administration picked a “slam dunk” and decided to eliminate a small office of tea tasters. The Nixon administration was unable to achieve this small task, and the idea of cutting back on the federal government quickly died.

All of the new powers given to a myriad of police agencies are already being used for purposes that have nothing to do with terrorism. How are these powers to be taken away?

~ Paul Craig Roberts

In his piece on whether the U.S. is turning “fascist” William Lind writes, “The core idea of fascism is will as the highest virtue,” but nowhere does he define “fascism,” and one can guess why. The “horse’s mouth” definition of fascism comes from Mussolini, who declared it to be “the merger of state and corporate power,” a phrase that encapsulates the “core idea” of modern U.S. governance very well, and has done so for years.

~ Ian Bell, UK

Liberal Wimps for War

I just read Justin’s article, “Liberal Wimps for War,” in which he states that Ayatollah al-Sistani issued a fatwa preventing judge Nidal from being sworn in, when, according to Women for Women’s International, Ayatollah al Sistani approved her position while the Coalition opposed it (text and link are below). I have great faith in the ability of independent news sources to provide real, biased (yes biased), in-depth information on so many subjects that are repressed and dictated by governments and corporations. It is a great distress to note factual inaccuracies, which make your arguments weak and your reporting dismissable. See “Backlash in Baghdad: An Interview with Manal Omar,”

“There also was a female judge, Judge Nidal, who was appointed in Najaf. There were protests and she wasn’t sworn in. The Coalition said, ‘We’re trying to respect Islamic values. This is Najaf; we don’t want to force a woman on them.’ Judge Nidal went to imam [Grand Ayatollah Ali] Sistani and he actually wrote a fatwa – which is very difficult to get – that says that a judge has to have masculine qualities but doesn’t necessarily have to be a male, therefore allowing her to be sworn in. It was a beautiful move, putting the ball back into the Coalition’s court. But when Nidal went back to the Coalition, they told her, “We’re afraid to swear you in because of what some crazy people might do to you.’ Now, it’s ironic, because that’s the same reason conservatives are using to force women to cover themselves. We were very disappointed at the failure to swear her in.

~ Katherine Townsend

Justin Raimondo replies:

Mother Jones and the group you cite are wrong: See “Woman Judge in Iraq? Not yet, U.S. Military Finds,” by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times.

NY-Bound Flights Get False Hijack Threats

See what I mean about the phony stories before and after on the home page?

The first is what appeared and is still on the site as of 11 p.m. today [Friday, February 4]: “Two Delta Flights Detained Over Security Concerns.”

The second is the true story of what really happened: “NY-Bound Flights Get False Hijack Threats.”

~ Phil Crincoli

Sam Koritz replies:

The Wall Street Journal (a good newspaper outside of its blood-and-iron editorial page) ran an article this week titled “People Believe a ‘Fact’ That Fits Their Views Even if It’s Clearly False,” which describes a study that has determined that “retracting a report isn’t the same as erasing it from people’s memories”:

[F]or the study, the scientists showed more than 860 people in Australia, Germany and the U.S. a list of events … for each report they said they had heard, they noted whether it had subsequently been retracted. If the report had been retracted, surely people would no longer regard it as true, would they? Here is where memory parts ways with reason. The Germans and Australians responded as you’d expect. The better they recalled that a claim had been taken back, the less true they judged that claim. They did not believe in events they knew had been erroneously reported. But for the Americans in the study, the simple act of remembering that they had once heard something was enough to make them regard it as true, retraction be damned. Even many of those who remembered a retraction still rated the original claim as true. …

In the case of memories about Iraq, people’s mental model is why the U.S. invaded. The Germans and Australians in this study were skeptical of the official justification, namely, to find weapons of mass destruction. … “People who were not suspicious of the motives behind the war continued to rely on misinformation,” Prof. Lewandowsky said, “believing in things they know to have been retracted.” … In contrast, those who were suspicious of the WMD justification believed the retractions. The reason is probably that they weren’t sold on the original, erroneous reports – all of which cast the U.S. in a good light and Iraqi forces in a bad one. …

The news media would do well to keep in mind that once we report something, some people will always believe it even if we try to stuff the genie back in the bottle. For instance, six months after the invasion, one-third of Americans believed WMDs had been found, even though every such tentative claim was discomfirmed. The findings also offer Machiavellian possibilities for politicians. They can make a false claim that helps their cause, contritely retract it – and rest assured that some people will nevertheless keep thinking of it as true.

The New Kosovo War

“No wonder the ICG and its allies are so bold: they can smell the cowardice and incompetence all the way to Washington.”

Dear Mr. Malic,

I would hope you would clear this statement up for the benefit of those good people in Serbia and the Republika of Srpska. The majority of Serbs that I have dealt with on a professional as well as personal level can be described as kind and brave souls. If there is cowardice and incompetence, it is contained in the shameful policies of the so-called International Community in its dealings with those good people. The ICG is so bold because those in charge are bullies who wouldn’t step a foot in Serbian territory without at least a platoon of armed men protecting them.

I agree that it is time for Serbs to “get smart” politically. However, when you are surrounded by insane governments, it is rather difficult.

As for those who would write unkind and ill-thought-out responses to my words, I challenge them to spend some time in Serbia and/or the RS living as a local rather than in some expensive hotel for tourists.

~ Robert Leifels

Nebojsa Malic replies:

Mr. Leifels,

I thought it was obvious, from the way in which I wrote about the Serbian authorities’ nonresponse to ICG’s onslaught, that the cowards and incompetents were in power (or wanting to be) in Belgrade. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, and for that I apologize. I know many “common folk” in all parts of the former Yugoslavia who are courageous and honest, and in fact think they can compete with the best of them when it comes to doing business. This is the reason I have persistently advocated the liberation of these peoples from their oppressive governments, who – almost without exception – either serve the Empire or line their own pockets. Of course, the ICG and the Empire mean them harm; that doesn’t mean they can’t, or shouldn’t do something about it. Except surrendering, I mean.


I am an English teacher in a public high school. I read daily and have donated a number of times. Among the many qualities that I appreciate in are the quotables. I often think that I would like to print out some and put them on my classroom walls, particularly those from known American historical figures. However, if I do not write them down immediately, they are lost to me. Do you have a Web page that contains these quotes? If you do not, having such a page would be a resource that I, at least, would love to use.

~ Daniel Yordy

Michael Austin replies:

Dear Mr. Yordy,

Good news! You can take a look at all the quotes in the “Quotables” archive by simply clicking on the word “Quotable” on the home page. Some disclaimers: this little-known list is a straight translation of our database, so they are in the order they were entered (not alphabetical – seemingly random) and sometimes the same quote is entered multiple times (if we really like one, we enter it more times so as to increase its chances of being randomly selected by the program which puts the quotes up on the main page). But if you can deal with those things, you are welcome to use them for your classroom walls. We’re happy to hear you’re spreading the antiwar message to your students, and we hope you keep reading.

Economics of Oil, Part 2


In a couple of previous posts you kindly reproduced some of my discussion speculating about the “petro-paradigm” the Pentagon and/or the neocons may have in their heads.

Are they “peak oil theory” (POT) petro-pessimists, or are they techno-cornucopians? It’s a bit hard to tell. The neocons do claim to favor open markets, but then again, they claim to favor human rights and democracy too. Leftists sort of believe them on point one but are thoroughly cynical about points two and three.

Considering the pessimistic and combative imaginative world neocons like to inhabit, at least as indicated by their rhetoric, they would seem to be naturally glass half-empty sort of guys. This may explain their reliance on “last resort” measures as their first resort.

I have come across this on Slate, which indicates, by indirect evidence, that my speculation that they don’t really understand market economics, at least in energy, is true: “As Green as a Neocon: Why Iraq hawks are driving Priuses.”

~ Tim Gillin, Sydney, Australia


I am an independent documentary filmmaker from Europe making a document about the war in Iraq (shooting days: February 2005). I am looking for Iraq veterans who live in southern California and want to participate in my project. Please contact me at

~ Monica Nouwens

I‘m a soldier protesting illegal orders (Stop Loss Program) to serve in Iraq beyond the length of my contract, which ended in August 2004. I refused to report for training with the Texas National Guard at Fort Hood and left Austin, Texas, back in August with the intent of eventually turning myself over to the military authorities. Right now I’m creating a Web site at where people can find more information. Click on the link to the press release – here.

~ Carl Webb,

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