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Stan Goff

Stan Goff

Posted: August 14, 2007 07:31 AM

Foray into KOS


Last night,, after hearing on one of those putative "new" program on television that all three Democratic Presidential front-runners had crawfished away from their tepid aversion to the war in Iraq, all three now talking about an indefinite "presence" there, I dashed off a threat at Daily Kos not to vote for them, or any other Dem who refused to call for an Out Now position. Nothing new there.

I've done that on these pages many times before, and elsewhere. In the process, I linked a definition of Edward Said's critique of Orientalism -- that peculiar brand of Euro-American racism that allows we Yanks to believe that what we do here in the US -- politically -- is the only real exercise of political agency, while all those Islamic.... Arab... whatever... people, well, they are controlled by their culture -- which is, of course, irrational, emotional, and primitive.

Mahmood Mamdani's book "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim," nominated herein for the New Canon and enthusiastically recommended, calls this substitution of culture for politics Culture Talk. The Civil Rights movement in the US was run by church-folk, and spoke in a religious idiom, and yet we were quite clear that this was a political movement with political goals... Politics being the contest for social power.

Yet we conflate the Iranian State, Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Muqtada al Sadr together as "Muslim fundamentalists." This idiotic homogenization that betrays a shocking ignorance (until you realize that it is American) of the politics of the region (Iran is an existing state, hello; bin Laden is fighting for control of Saudi Arabia; Hamas is the legitimately elected Palestinian formation; Hezbollah is Lebanese; and Sadr is a Shia Iraqi nationalist).

It is upon this ignorance that the general impression hereabouts is based that Iraq will become some indescribable catastrophe (or a haven for -- gasp! -- al Qaeda) if the US military occupation ends. Like things could get worse than they are now, and like the US occupation is benevolent. News flash: the US is holding out for permanent bases and a "hydrocarbon law" that will give US companies access to Iraqi oil. Democrats are no less committed to this.

Another new flash: We are an imperial nation. Our "way of life" as is depends on the subjugation and immiseration of others around the world, safely invisible behind distance and mystifying public discourse... like Orientalism and Culture Talk. Democrats are every bit as much in the pay of mega-capitalists (especially Wall Street), and every bit as committed to maintenance of the Imperial project, as Republicans.

At any rate, I opened the door on this at dKos with the link to Orientalism, just as a kind of sociological experiment, as well as on the kind of politics (contest for social power) that doesn't use elections the way the ruling class wants us to -- by undermining one of the Imperial parties as a way of exercising political agency, instead of remaining trapped inside our quite clueless "realism."

But the effect of this post at dKos was similar to injecting a big rat with crystal meth, then throwing it into a roomful of feral cats.

If hit counts matter, there are already more than 250, and I posted around 8 last night (EDT). Oddly many of my replies were somehow erased, as were a few others. At any rate, what it reminded me of was an Army locker room once the gay-baiting begins. Collectively self-referential, and desperately afraid... the fear camouflaged behind a mask of bluster, irony, ritual denunciation. Oh yeah, and 90% ad hominem.

What this tells me is that the fear is general; and it is exacerbated by the ignorance. This should be a great comfort to authoritarians of the right. America will remain obedient. It will stay in the box while the house burns around them. We will be good Germans, and our denunciations will always be rituals instead of agential deeds.

It also tells me that this horrible war will drag on for quite some time. We will voice our opposition, be patted on the head, and then we will go back to work to obediently pay off our sub-prime loan sharks.

Funny thing I learned from a JSTOR article by Doug McAdam and Yang Su, entitled "The War at Home: Antiwar Protests and Congressional Voting, 1965 to 1973." When protest of the Vietnam occupation was non-violent, Congress took more actions, but those actions were largely symbolic. When protest involved violence, initiated by or against protesters, Congress took fewer actions, but they were more substantial in ending the war.

With approval of the Executive Branch at around 30%, what now accounts for Congressional approval at less than half that?

There is a lot to think about, and the remaining crowds tailing after the Democrats, instead of confronting them on their complicity, don't want us to think about it.

I happen to think that malignant empires who are driving the world into exterminist war and pestilence, and that are engaged in ecocide, should be brought down. Even if we have to take the risks of abandoning our inertia, and changing our profligate debt-supported lifestyle.

Or we can just stay on the reservation.