Huffpost Homepage
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Stan Goff Headshot

PING & PONG: you are the ball

Posted: Updated:
Print

Confession: I watch TV.

I've been watching MSNBC for some time now, just to say I have kept track of the corporate televised news. Every night I get the chance. Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews, and Keith Olbermann. Fox is like watching bad slapstick, only more offensive, and CNN alternates between being the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office and and featuring that fascist puke-maggot, Lou Dobbs.

Actually, I had to give up on Tucker after a fashion, too. All I can think of is slapping him when I hear him talk; and I'm trying to leave that part of me behind. He's one of those pampered racist boarding school dickheads who was told by fawning parents that because he made good scores on standardized tests he is bright... and believes it with all his heart, even though he couldn't find his ass with a ground surveillance radar. When he compared Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with Kim Il Sung, I was done... so now I watch Rachael Ray do 30-Minute Meals on the Food Channel. The food looks good; and she is smarter than Tucker by orders of magnitude.

Which sort of leaves me with Matthews and Olberman... gets pared down pretty quickly, eh?

At any rate, now I watch Chris Matthews, who I believe is being himself more than most TV personalities, even if that is cluelessly sexist and nationalist with a whiteboy tendency to talk all over the top of his guests. And Keith Olbermann, a former sportscaster who is essentially a Democratic satirist... kind of an Air America for television. One reason I've stuck with these guys is that MSNBC tolerates them even as both are incessantly and openly critical of the Bush administration. This, I think, is significant. I mean, MSNBC is owned by Microsoft -- a Bush campaign contributor -- and NBC -- the property of General Electric... yes, the defense contractor. This is not exactly the Indymedia crowd, and commercial sponsors are more drug companies than anything else (someone, please do a Cialis-commercial spoof!). They fired Phil Donahue in 2003 for opposing the war. Why are these conservative ruling-class entities tolerating this kind of dissent?

Unless it's not. Dissent.

And it isn't.

Matthews and Olbermann have been featuring Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden so often, I'm surprised other candidates haven't sued for equal time. So what is Biden saying, and how does that fit with the way Matthews and Olbermann frame their subjects?

Matthews and Olberman are pretty much on record as anti-Bush. Matthews was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, and Olbermann has called for Bush and Cheney to resign. When they have Biden on, Biden is very good... in a sly kind of way. He displays emotion, including grief and anger, about the American military occupation of Iraq (even though he endorsed it). He seems centered -- like a good method actor -- when he mirrors the frustration and impatience of many of us. He uses what in Washington is sharp language (we could give 'em lessons down here), saying that this comment was "disgraceful," that remark "tragically flawed," and this action was "unconscionable"... and he is very circumspect about his candidacy, avoiding the redolence of narcissism that seems to cling to most presidential candidates like the odor of a wet fart.

But what is he saying? What are they saying?

First, they are saying that the war is a "failure."

Second, they are saying that "the American people" elected Democrats to "change course in Iraq."

Third, Biden is saying that his plan is the "third way."

First response: Would the war be okay if it weren't failing?

Second response: Wanting to get the US troops out of Iraq is far more specific than "changing course."

Third response: This talk of a "third way" is a way to foreclose that specific option of withdrawing US forces from Iraq... right by God now.

Let's unpack this a bit further, starting with this "failure"-meme.

What does not get said when we say the war is bad because we are losing? Or not winning?

(1) What goes unsaid is that the United States of America is a nation that has reserved to itself the right to invade other countries.

(2) What goes unsaid is that the invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law; and the reason the Democrats endorsed it was that they had already violated the same laws when they endorsed Bill Clinton's military actions against Yugoslavia. My own Congressman unabashedly told me this in front of witnesses.

(3) What goes unsaid is that the war is immoral (Is this more important than "failure"?).

(4) What goes unsaid is that our troops are killing more civilians than combatants.

(5) What goes unsaid is that Iraqis have a right to attack foreign invaders, just as we would claim that same right for ourselves. (And I say that as someone who has had two sons deployed there.) The Iraqis believe this, too; a majority approves of attacks against American soldiers.

(6) And what goes unsaid is that the Democratic Party was in the front ranks when the nation was stampeded to war, supported by virtually every major media outlet in the country.

What gets left unsaid when we substitute "changing course" for "bring them home now"?

(1) What goes unsaid is that the Democratic Party doesn't want to bring the troops home. They want to continue a permanent troop presence in the region. This will be part of whatever new "course" they chart. They are beholden to war profiteers and so-called defense contractors. They are beholden to the big business interests that require access to fossil energy that is not theirs. They are fully in support of maintaining the imperial rule of the US, which includes the post-Cold War redispostion of the imperial military (or esle that military would stay its ass at home) into strategic Southwest Asia.

(2) What goes unsaid is that the elected representatives of the Democratic Party -- the many who are too ill-informed and stupid to comprehend this big picture, even as they serve it -- will follow their dicks, as we say, and do anything to avoid being called the people who "backed down" in the face of "terrorists" (a male thang).

(3) What goes unsaid is that the Democratic Party is more interested in appealing to some mythical and static "center" to win elections than it is in preventing more mass death, disfigurement, and dislocation in Iraq. If there is a secular definition for "sin," this surely fits it. Ambition that literally walks over bodies... human bodies, all ages, ethnicities, nationalities, and sexes. It is also the aforementioned narcissism, symptoms listed here:

A. has a grandiose sense of self-importance
B. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
C. believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by other special people
D. requires excessive admiration
E. strong sense of entitlement
F. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
G. lacks empathy
H. is often envious or believes others are envious of him or her
I. arrogant affect.

(4) What goes unsaid is that the Democratic Party operatives believe, or want us to believe, that the US military presence in Iraq is preventing even worse violence than already prevails there (It is not. The US military presence there is the key catalyst for the violence. This is a tale that was trotted out for years about Vietnam, too, and it turned out to be wrong.)

(5) What goes unsaid is anything substantive about the "hydrocarbon law," which guarantees US companies access to Iraqi oil. They know what is in this law, and they intend to "stay the course" until they get it (it is a "benchmark"), but they never say it to us. Instead, they characterize this law as one that compels Iraqis to "revenue-share" among themselves. The latter is not the main sticking point for this law among the non-governing Iraqi government. The guarantee of access to US private firms is.

(6) And what goes unsaid is that a powerful foreign lobby from the State of Israel insists that the US treat Iran as an enemy, and therefore to prevent any increase in Iran's influence on the situation in Iraq. Iran is not a threat to the US, and has consistently sought better relations with the US. Iran is a more appropriate partner for any future Iraq or federal division thereof than the United States. They are neighbors. The demonized President Ahmadenijad is held up as a bogeyman, but he has no power to make foreign policy for Iran (This goes unsaid by Democrats, too.). Iran is not being demonized for its theocracy. Israel calls itself a Jewish state; and it practices Apartheid against many of its inhabitants; and it has violated more international laws with impunity than any other country in the world today (hiding behind a US veto in the UN Security Council). Pakistan was founded in the same year as Israel, as "a Muslim state" (breaking away from India), and is run by a petty military dictator, yet it is an American ally in the region. Saudi Arabia is a more closed society by far than Iran, and more repressive, yet it is seen as an American ally. Iran's crime is insistence on political independence from the US; and it would stand down its nuclear program today, if Israel gave up its nuclear weapons.

What does the Democratic Party apparatus leave unsaid when they craft a phrase-for-repetition (Rove-style) like "third way"?

(1) What it leaves unsaid is that many if not most Americans did not elect Democrats out of a wish for a "third way," but the "second way" that the Democratic Party apparatus has ruled out: Bring them home now.

(2) What it leaves unsaid is that they can -- contrary to what they would have us believe (with talk of veto-proof majorities) -- cut the funding for the war and stop it.

(3) What it leaves unsaid is that they can impeach (and won't, even though there is ample and conrete evidence to do so).

(4) What it leaves unsaid is that they could force one Constitutional crisis after another, but when the Republicans themselves threaten to do this, the Democratic Party goes to ground like prairie dogs in a twister. The very basis of what this administration has gotten away with -- aside from Democrat capitulation at every turn and the able assistance of the commercial media -- is the consolidation of Executive power.

(5) What it leaves unsaid is the apparatus of the Democratic Party is trying to marginalize those within its own party who demand an immediate end to this imperial occupation.

(6) What it leaves unsaid is that the Democratic Party background story for this "third way" is dressed-up Islamophobia and Orientalism, two species of plain imperial racism that are based on the assumption that the "advanced development of the US" is meritocratic (no account for the theft of a continent or a slave economy or imperial expansion or global financial hegemony to build up and hold together this vast entropic entity); and the "failure" in Iraq is our failure to understand how backward and primitive and venal and violent those awful Arabs (and Persians) are... so they can't possibly find their own way without our tutelage (and a Hydrocarbon Law of course).

What do all of these things together leave unsaid?

The intentional bewilderment of the population and the mystification of reality that accomplishes that bewilderment are like a plant in a garden. Ten percent of the mystification resides in the seed, in what is things-said-directly. 90 percent of the mystification resides in the composition of the soil, the analog being what remains unsaid.

What goes unsaid is that there are two parties of the dominators that play bad-cop/good-cop with all of us. One is the Ping Party, and the other is the Pong Party, and we are the ball, batted back and forth perennially. When the population just begins to become radicalized, as it is doing in the face of this criminal war that has exposed so much of the system itself, threatening to bounce off the table so to speak, the Pong Party will reach way out to the side to keep the ball in play. They will allow Matthews and Olbermann to say the things that got Donahue canned four years ago by the same network, MSNBC; and Joe Biden will come aboard as the fine Pong Party method actor he is, reflecting our frustration and our grief and our anger back to us, and make soothing noises that leave so much unsaid, and tap us back across the net.

Here are some other things that are not being said:

The average consumption lifestyle of the United States, which keeps politicians in office, is based on extortion, violence, and plunder in places we don't see, and from activities the media seldom mention. To maintain that lifestyle, which is an imperial political payoff for a quiescent home base, requires ever expanding inputs of finite resources -- many from abroad -- and the continued ability to back up financial extortion with military force where necessary. The pivotal resource that makes it possible to make all the other consumer goods, be they cars, clothes, computers, or whatever, is fossil energy. The United States, with five percent of the world's population, used 26% of the word's energy supplies. Our domestic production has been falling since 1973, even as our aggregate demand has continued to rise steeply. The United States has allowed car companies and developers to establish an economic infrastructure that depends absolutely on private automobiles. This massive fleet of around 250 million automobiles runs on oil. This oil cannot be replaced by biofuels, contrary to the bullshit being propogated to support a fresh new vote-buying-and-corporate-welfare scheme for Cargill, Monsanto, and Archer-Daniels-Midland.

Follow the logic.

The US economy cannot continue to operate as it is without guaranteeing its access to fossil fuel that comes from abroad. The establishment wants this to be our dirty little secret, and that's why we twist ourselves in knots talking about it, including deluding ourselves that we can continue our energy profligacy and ignoring the wet work that gets done to maintain control over a region as strategically vital to this end as Southwest Asia. This, of course, means that when Republicrats use coded language about "vital American security interests in the Middle East," they are really talking about maintaining secondary political control over the human beings who live on top of those energy lakes. If you accept that maintaining the American way of life is the highest priority, then you have to accept that the US has to intervene with force when necessary to get the energy supplies, and even that this force be maintained through a constant threat, i.e., a permanent US military presence in the region and support of unsavory regimes to act as our surrogates.

If you believe that people in that part of the world should have the right to decide when, where, and how to use their own resources, then you have to accept that this might result in a dramatic and painful change in the "American way of life."

It's that simple, that stark.

The powerful interests behind both the Republican and Democratic Parties know it; and the smarter members of the Congress know it, too. And they won't say it directly, because they know that raising the issue this way puts the public morally on the spot. If you want to go on this way, we have to be willing to invade countries, kill people, and support surrogates who beat down their own populations. If you are unwilling to support invasion, murder, and surrogate-despotism, then you have to accept that your way of life may be dramatically and painfully changed.

This bitter choice is concealed by shifting the premises to that old political stand-by, the external threat... the Dark Other from which we must protect ourselves.

Note, if you will, that neither Democrats nor Republicans will question the concept of a Global War on Terror, even though it is one of the most illogical and cynical constructions within living memory. Find the limits of discourse, and you will find the wall that conceals the determining-unsaid.

The war in Iraq was not merely taken up for oil. This is a simplistic idea.

It was taken up to establish permanent bases in the region; and now in 2007, the President of the United States has acknowledged this. Many of us pointed this out in 2003. The disposition of the military after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 was obsolete. The imperial armed forces had to be re-positioned, and the question has always (for Republicans and Democrats) been "How?" The "peace dividend" of standing down the imperial armed forces was never an option; and the Dark Other of the World Communist Conspiracy (TM) required a replacement.

Energy demand is rising worldwide and in the US, but worldwide per capita energy consumption has been falling for decades; and world production is at its final peak. Establishing control throughout Southwest then Central Asia, doesn't merely guarantee access for the US, it gives the US leverage in the new Great Game against other potential competitors (Europe, China, India).

This redispostion of the imperial armed forces also positions bases on the doorsteps of Russia and China.

This is strategic synergy... at least, in theory. In the real world, real people live in these places, and they do not see their land and homes as pieces on someone else's chessboard.

This is the "oops principle" in operation. Someone doesn't get the script.

The attack on Iraq itself, originally seen as a "cakewalk" by the game-theory academics advising the Bush administration, was also valued for its "demonstration effect." This would be the Shock and Awe that would cow anyone else who dared to defy the imperial master. The Democratic Party establishment supported this, as well. Ask yourself why the Democratic response to the war the DP supported -- now that the war has lost its original xenophobic popularity -- has been crafted as "failure."

What failed? The bases are there. Saddam Hussein is dead. There was no threat to the US. Couldn't the Democrats just as easily say, "We were wrong, and this war is immoral."?

What failed is Shock and Awe. The imperial armed forces are bogged down in an unwinnable war amidst an ever more unpredictable milieu, giving up ground in Iraq while US allies Turkey and Pakistan are thrown into political crisis and Iran -- anathema to the independence-averse US establishment -- grows in influence at the heart of this strategic region, and talks with Chinese and Russian "multipolarity" advocates.

Monetary hegemony and military power are the twin pillars of US imperial power; and the latter has been called into question in Iraq.

The US domestic economy itself is thoroughly dependent on war spending and military "research and development." With the US running record trade deficits, the Department of Defense (a purely polemical title if ever there was one) serves as a surrogate export market for US manufactured goods. And, of course, one can never underestimate the power of Pentagon pork in Congress.

This is an additional Unsaid that Democrats conceal with their excusatory blather about "changing course" now that the Iraq Adventure has turned into Friday the 13th.

So what can we do?

On the political front, we have to see politics for what it is -- power, not elections. Elections are just a piece of it.

When we relate to elections, we have to think out how we relate in ways that exercise the strengths we have against the weaknesses of the system. The disaffected left wing that has heretofore voted Democrat has now come up against an existential dilemma. We cannot not be responsible, and so we are faced with a choice.

Re-re-re-re-surrender that power to the Pong Party Democrats (and therefore the system), or actualize our latent power by calling the Democratic Party bluff. Withdraw support for Democrats (unless they have called for immediate withdrawal and pledge to de-fund the war now), then organize an extra-electoral fight against whomever gets elected in 2008. Democrat Johnson ran against war hawk Goldwater in 1964, won, then escalated the war. The Vietnam invasion and occupation was ended on a Republican's watch. Think about that.

The most basic element of that "relating" to elections is losing our fear of Republicans.

We can know what Republicans do, and what they will do, and that it will have bad consequences. But to fight the system, we need to accept these realities -- decrying them where we must -- without trans-substantiating them into perpetual fear. Evading the contingent evils of Republican power by perpetuating the power of the imperial forces they represent through self-containment is perpetuation of the systemic evils of imperial (and need I say, patriarchal) exterminism.

I know this is a very "tactical" mindset. But the people that both those parties represent most consistently are consciously and aggressively at war against humanity. We didn't choose a war (against imperial exterminism); but we are in it. They made this war, not just in Iraq, but against the majority of the world and our very biosphere, and the stakes have never been higher. Our failure to recognize this is the first failure that then leads to the others... like clinging to the pantlegs of the Democratic Party.

There are no "ways out" for humanity that are not through a lot of bad consequences. That's just the circumstance we have been born into. Evading them reflexively is a recipe for inaction; and this is a crime of omission against future generations.

If we want to exercise real popular power in the US, it doesn't get done by trying to build toy Parties, by organizing more mass actions at huge expense that can be dutifully ignored by media and exploited by a few slick Democrats, or by continuing the slow hemorrhage of the lesser evil in 2008. It happens by showing our teeth to those who are in range of those teeth: Democrats. Any Democrat who fails to (1) call for impeachment, (2) calls for an immediate withdrawal of all forces from Iraq, and (3) refuses to vote for another dime in support of the war, has to be informed right now that we will show up at the polls in 2008, and we will leave their line on the ballot blank, and hold press conferences to that effect.

That is our choice. Exercise our power and be prepared to follow through extra-electorally (this means taking disruptive actions against the system when it is necessary, and even threatening general stability), or surrender that power once again to the Pong Party and leave our grandchildren to ask why our courage failed.