The nonfalsifiable victory
Is it V-I Day yet? (Victory in Iraq or Victory for Imperialism, whichever.) If V-I Day isn't today, then we may expect to see it shortly: tomorrow, or the day after, or next week, maybe. Soon enough, surely, the Imperials (clever lads) will find a way of officially proclaiming a victorious conclusion to their highly unofficial war.
And then, if not before, if not already today, the domestic consumers of imperialism, driving about with flags stuck in their car at odd angles, will rave about how right they were about the war, they and their Imperial supervisors, and how wrong we opponents of it were. Look, the home team won! And here we Bad School-Citizens, standing hunched out in the parking lot trading dirty jokes about old Coach, dragging on our cigarettes, and passing around a bottle of vodka in a paper bag, didn't even want them to play the game.
In lieu of the immediate outbreak of a wildfire of guerrilla resistance, or something else just as drastic, the Empire's victory in Iraq is likely to prove nonfalsifiable. A mere "checkpoint war," however protracted, won't falsify it, and neither will the coalition's war crimes, even if they're fully reported. The staggering atrocities committed by the Imperial legionaries against the Iraqi civil population and now against independent foreign journalists will not be allowed to stink up the triumphal procession, because "the Devil (Saddam) made 'em do it." (Foreigners with their little lives and little deaths have never been quite real to most Americans, anyway.)
Nonfalsifiable? Let us imagine that eighteen months from now some Muslim radicals mount an attack of 9/11 proportions against an American or British or Israeli target. Or that two years from now a new U.S.-hating revolutionary Shiite regime takes over a big Middle Eastern country or that rebels throw a big country such as Egypt into chaos, Somalia style. Or let us imagine that three years from now we start hearing about a new monster-dictator in the Middle East or about a new cave-dwelling Dr. No: a new Saddam, Qaddafi, Bin Laden, al Qaeda, or Taliban. (Need I stipulate that one or more of those developments are highly likely?)
And let us imagine, further, that those new "monsters abroad" cite the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a motivation for their jihad. If experience is any guide, the first thing we'd hear was that they were lying, and that actually they were motivated by hatred of McDonald's and Britney Spears, i.e., Freedom. That explanation can always be counted on to satisfy a certain cohort of idiots; but even if few were satisfied, do you really think the Empire would have to get out its eraser and amend its win-loss record? Not a chance.
Not. A. Chance. At least that's what history tells us. More precisely, that's what the history of the people who are oblivious to history tells us.
Off the top of my head here's a little list of the monsters whom the U.S. Empire has gone abroad first to nurture and then to destroy (or resist, or undermine): Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel Noriega, Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem (double points for Vietnam), Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein. And, oh, I almost forgot: Joseph Stalin.
In the case of Uncle Joe you don't even have to count Lend-Lease and all those Studebaker trucks and cans of Spam that Roosevelt sent him and the rest of our fraternal, democratic, peaceloving Soviet comrades in the 1940s. American intervention in World War One, 1917-18, unrolled a blood-red carpet for Stalin, not to mention for his predecessor Lenin and his contemporary Hitler. American intervention in China against the Japanese rolled out another similarly colored carpet for Mao, who is almost certainly the champion murderer in human history. For decades Washington armed, educated, and protected innumerable murderous fascist brutes in Latin America, many of whom it never turned against. In fact, for decades the American state (and its Soviet ex-ally) armed nontechnological peoples all around the world who otherwise would have had to prosecute their eternal tribal squabbles with sticks and stones.
That's an awfully long record of chaos production and monster creation, but it has had little if any long-term effect on our people's attitude toward foreign intervention. Even those actions that our rulers themselves would classify as blunders from Vietnam to the bizarre suicidal raid on Mogadishu have had about as much effect on the amnesia and blindness of Americans as aspirin has on brain cancer.
Two or three years from now the Empire will be busy filling the front pages and the newscasts with its response to the latest crisis it has fomented, laying the groundwork, as it does so, for the next crisis after that. And if someone is so careless as to delve into irrelevant history and mention Gulf War Two, people will say, "Oh, yeah. The Gulf War but what do you mean, Two? Were there two of them? Where did all of that happen, anyway? Ir Iran? Irvine? Hey, who was that guy with the mustache and beret Saddang? Sam the Sham ...?"
As for the role of Israel and the U.S. alliance with Israel, the neocons may as well save all their distracting mouthfog about a "clash of civilizations." They won't need to confuse the taxpaying helotry with all that fancy talk. Most folks won't be any more aware of the special relationship with Israel, and its evil consequences, than they are now. Most will shrug and say, "I guess the Iraqanians invaded us 'way back then because they didn't like our movies or something."
Don't laugh. According to one recent poll I've heard about, only 14 percent of American youths can find Iraq on a world map. That's one poll result I can believe. I suppose that, for all America's young people know, Saddam's Iraq, bristling with all those hard-to-find Weapons of Mass Destruction, is as close by as Canada or Mexico. That is assuming they have at least a hazy idea of where Canada and Mexico are.
In his introductory essay on the thought of Walter Karp, Ronn Neff writes that Karp "was confident that the probability of evil outcomes could be immeasurably reduced by a proper republican education, 'the very core and spine' of which must be history, political history," the study (quoting Karp, now) of
that vast and wonderful stage of public action, which reveals what is most noble and most vile in men, which discloses the scope of man's power over forces and processes, which displays ambition under all its shapes, which tells stories of the death of kings and of republics. Such stories ... would be far more interesting to the young, just as they would be far more instructive, than the prancing of Dick and Jane, the "evolution of transportation" and the whole farrago of "social studies" which is now obliterating the very idea of political history from the minds of the young in accordance with the oligarchs' fundamental pedagogical commandment: thou shalt not be taught what free men must know. (Neff, "'Any day is a good day to fight for liberty,'" part five; Karp citation from Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America [Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1974], p. 312)
A correspondent of mine notes that the regime recruits young folk for its military not only because they have strong young bodies but also because they have empty young minds.
In his essay, Neff reminds us of an indispensable insight of Karp's: that "men intend the foreseeable consequences of their actions." Truer words were never written. It is equally true that not all can be foreseen. In light of some of the Empire's actions that, in time, produced evil outcomes, apologists often say that those actions honestly seemed to be a good idea at the time: that, in short, "We did the best we could in the light of naturally imperfect knowledge." But even taking them at their word, attentive students of political history will snort with contempt. When you study history you start noticing some patterns, making some connections; and eventually you're able to risk some generalizations, as unpopular as that type of cognition is nowadays. Which is to say, more consequences of certain categories of human action become foreseeable. At least you have a good sense of how to bet. And when you see people engaging in the same statist behavior over and over, and heading straight for the same chaos for the nth time, you may feel justified, finally, in shouting, "For God's sake, stop doing your best! Stop doing altogether!"
Those who own and operate leviathan are not inclined to listen, of course, and really there's nothing we can teach them that they don't already know. They always pretend they're seeking order, but in fact they seek chaos because they live on chaos, thrive on it, thirst for it. They have their own kind of foresight. They can see that if they don't keep producing chaos their Frankenstein's monster laboratory will be foreclosed upon and their test tubes repossessed.
Nevertheless a people properly educated in political history is a danger our masters would rather not have to confront. Well, look what's happened. Americans have been rendered ignorant of geography and of history, especially political history. Not only that, but rendered ignorant as well of the Golden Rule and of the precept that two wrongs do not make a right. And rendered, finally, ever more brutish and arrogant in their ignorance of (what used to be) their civilization.
If we wish to be conservative on the question of how much of that was planned, we may imagine that the ignorance, arrogance, and brutishness of our people have flowed from the same fount as the imperial ambition and power of our masters: that both, in short, are the shocking and awful product of American history to this point. One thing, though, is hard to deny even if we are conservative in our imaginings: Americans' ignorance, arrogance, and brutishness perfectly serve the purposes of their Imperial supervisors.
P.S. If 9/11 couldn't make the D students in the cheerblock suspect that imperialism is bad for them, what could?
April 9, 2003
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