Backtalk October 7, 2006

Are You an ‘Unlawful Combatant’?

“This kind of fear is understandable to Americans only on a very abstract level. We, after all, have no experience with a police state – not in the sense of a systematic totalitarian approach to repression – of which the European and Third World nations have plenty.”

I think the Deep South in the ’50s, ’60s, and at least the early ’70s approached a systematic totalitarianism. I remember some Millsaps College students (white) in Jackson MS talking about their feelings of unexpected liberty after driving north in the summer of 1967 or ’68. They could feel the Iron Curtain lifting and then falling again as they returned. I had the same feelings myself when I flew to NYC for a conference and then flew back. Mississippi truly felt like another country. When I moved to Illinois in 1971, it took about 2 years before I stopped keeping my eye out for police cars.

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for all his elaborate and extensive wartime apparatus of political repression and propaganda, never even came close to the police-state methods of his European cousins-once-removed in Moscow, Berlin, and Rome. And the comic-opera machinations of J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, while reprehensible, never approached the savage efficiency of the KGB – about the only efficient institution in Soviet society.”

The apparatus of the White Citizens Councils, which controlled the state government, and the KKK, plus the State Police and local law enforcement and courts, put Mississippi somewhere between these U.S. examples and a European-style police state.

~ Bill Peltz, Albany NY

Bravo Raimondo!

You hit the nail on the head. The issue of torture of detainees, while not to be taken lightly, is really serving as a decoy in this instance. The real issue is that in a sleeper move the Military Commissions Act of 2006 suspends the Constitution and gives the president absolutist dictatorial rule. It kinda feels like the last days of the Weimar Republic.

~ Michael Parenti, author of The Terrorism Trap and The Culture Struggle

George Shultz’s Unconvincing Case for the War on Terror

The first thing former Sec. Shultz should do, at the beginning of his article on terrorism, is disclose his involvement with the Bechtel Company, past and present, that has been awarded huge no-bid contracts in Iraq, etc. The second thing he should do is to disclose his families interest in the United Defense Group. From these proper disclosures the reader would quickly understand that Dear George has deep-seated conflicts of interest, that his contribution to Policy Review is audaciously biased in favor of self-interest and otherwise without merit.

~ Frank Orrell

David Henderson replies:

Dear Mr. Orrell,

I agree with you that George Shultz should disclose his relationship with Bechtel and United Defense Group because those organizations have such a strong interest in various outcomes in the Middle East. I have done some consulting for the Microsoft antitrust case and, whenever I write on Microsoft issues, I disclose that fact, even though my work for them ended three years ago.

I disagree, though, with your statement that “from these proper disclosures” the reader would “quickly understand . . . that his contribution to Policy Review is audaciously biased in favor of self-interest and otherwise without merit.” Knowing Shultz’s economic interests and biases tells us precisely zero about the merits of his argument. That is why I focused, not on his motive, but on his argument, which, as you know, I found weak and unpersuasive.

Put the shoe on the other foot. What if Shultz learned that I had received money from Hezbollah? (I haven’t, by the way, and don’t plan to.) Would that in any way undercut anything I said in my article? Paul Krugman on the liberal/left side and Sean Hannity on the conservative side are making a living out of arguing against or for various positions, not on their merits, but on the wealth, economic interests, patriotism or lack of same, or race (Krugman loves to talk about old white men funding the Cato Institute as if that has anything to do with anything) of those whom they are arguing against. I teach my students to judge an argument on its merits, not on the merits, self-interest, or personal characteristics of the various arguers. I practice what I preach.

Why We Can’t Win Against Guerrillas

I read Utley’s article with interest. I think his analysis is pretty much an accurate synopsis of shallow American attitude and inept methodology.

However I believe I can condense the whole thing into one large paragraph:

America is arguably a nation of morons – plain and simple. We are the most uneducated people on the planet on most every important topic except of course – meaningless NFL football games. We have no collective wisdom – only inane mindless brute strength. We are an arrogant immature people that have lost most all of the goodness and compassion we once possessed. We teach our already dumbed-down children that America is the center of the universe and to look down on ALL foreign people and their "backward" cultures. We have also come to believe that the ONLY lives that are of ANY importance in the universe are Americans’ – other races and cultures are inferior to us – even though we are so abysmally stupid that we cannot find their countries on a map. You are correct about Special Forces (I was an A-team Commander in the mid-’60s). We were much more sophisticated in our approach to warfare and were taught that most battles were won or lost before we even had engagement. It was our job to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous people of the country that we were at war with. We were NOT taught to murder helpless innocent civilians! The sinister terms – COLLATERAL DAMAGE – so freely thrown about by clueless sadists like Rice and Albright was never used to whitewash war crimes. There was a book that was required reading by the Ft. Bragg Special Warfare School back then. It was titled The Art of War by a Chinese dynastic general named Sun Tzu. Perhaps if our drooling sneering war criminal president had spent more university time learning the wisdom of the sages – instead of wasting his time with drunken drugged-out parties – we might not be in the horrible mess we are in today. I travel much, and will GUARANTEE you that thanks to this sadistic grinning moron, we are now one of the most – if not THE most – feared and HATED nations on earth! May Bush be damned to eternal hell for the immeasurable evil he is responsible for. Mark my words. He will, in the future, be held in contempt as the most evil president ever – by all decent people on the planet.

~ Joe Cortina, father – veteran – activist – Christian – patriot

Jon Utley replies:

Mr. Cortina,

I appreciate very much such comments as yours from men who have had actual experience in the military. Of course it is the military who also oppose torture of prisoners, etc. I see in Washington that it is so often men who were not in service (or even in a fight) who are the most enthusiastic for wars, etc.


Hey guys, you continue to do an incredible job.

Regarding the top headline tonight about Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Rice getting a report on July 10, 2001 about possible attacks, immediately my mind remembered that Ashcroft around July 25 switched from commercial flying to leased government aircraft (see "Ashcroft Flying High.") But no story mentions this fact when talking about it.

I always suspected that he was told about something, and this seems to now be confirmed.


~ Josh


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