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Journal Deskpoet's Journal: Entrenched ideology 14

My old friend, Neocon, wrote a message to me today, asking me--well, let's quote him so there's no misunderstanding (from this posting):

"Funny, I was in downtown Manhattan on September 11, about a block and a half from 1 WTC, and it sure looked like a battlefield to me...

But as you see no purpose in our nation seeking to defend itself except (in your phrase) to `spend excess ordinance', perhaps you'd care to explain how we should deal with those who are planning further such attacks?"

The question put to me, then, is how should "we" (in his words, "our nation") defend ourselves (again, the collective form is used; it appears Mr. Neocon has no identity outside of his chosen affiliation) against those faceless evil doers who are even now plotting greater peril for the Empire (the inherent paranoia in this view speaks for itself.)

There are solid levels of ideological purity reflected in this message. On the one level, as symbolized in the first paragraph, we have the Witness testifying to the Truth of the State. Like Walter Cronkite, he was there, and knows the "war" is real, because he has experienced it. Never mind that no bullets flew over his head, nor any depleted uranium rounds are irradiating his environment; Mr. Neocon sleeps well in his bed tonight, dreaming of his revenge against the wanton criminals who dared strike against his god (the State, in this case the US government). That thousands died in this terrible tragedy is enough only to justify the deaths of thousands more for him; justice isn't necessary in the land of the free and the home of the brave. He knows this because he has seen it, felt it, and by god, there will be a reckoning. (Yes, this is all a bit purple, but the "eye-for-an-eye" mentality *is* purple to those who can see it for what it is, particularly in the context of human destruction. In the world of true believers, there is never enough blood to be had; kill them all and let god sort them out is the mantra for the perfect little citizen in the modern State.)

On another level, after establishing his moral authority through his "eyewitness account", Neocon demonstrates his devotion with his rhetorical device of the second paragraph, drafted in such a way as to elicit response--not all that different from a flame, really--with the unspoken understanding that the question cannot be answered in any "logical" way other than what his ideology makes self-evident to him. Literally for Neocon, views outside his strigently defined worldview do not exist; they are heretical in the most insane way--like explaining quantum mechanics to a goldfish, it's just nonsense to him. An advocate of a position other than Neocon's manufactured belief system is simply beyond the pale. Yes, they're disloyal, unpatriotic, perhaps even ee-vil, but they're just fundamentally *wrong*, in the same way the natives were when Columbus and the missionaries arrived: poor savages, they can still be saved, if only the Neocons of the world can shake them from their madness. That's Neocon's raison d' etre for posting on Slashdot, after all--folks like me need to be rescued: we need to be taught the Way of the State.

However, if I were to take his question at face value and answer it (which will go unheard even as Neocon's eyes scan this entry), I would answer it thusly: remove all US troops from the Middle East, Asia, and wherever else they are risking their lives supporting oppressive regimes (dependent on them to protect the profits of multinational corporations whose extorted booty winds up in places off the shores of the US anyway), and work through the legal mechanisms established in the civilized world (largely ignored by the US, except when supporting the ideological aims of the Washington Consensus) to bring the criminals to justice. Simply, if the US behaved like a true world leader, as opposed to a rogue state defending a failed ideology--neo-liberalism, corporate capitalism, whatever one wishes to call the socio-economic policy that condemns most of humanity to misery--most of the motivation the fanatics use to wrap themselves in dynamite would disappear. (Yes, this is not a truly "anarchistic solution", but I'm not too far gone from pragmatism that I deny the victims of 911 their right--and the human necessity--of punishing those who wantonly murder. What I do deny is the autocratic use of force by *any* State, and the greatest of these, the US, is not exempt from this. If the US was a just state, administered by just people, this would not even need to be said.)

I've a feeling, though, that the entrenched ideology of the Neocons is going to drive thousands--maybe millions--more to their deaths. They'll feel good doing it, too, because they're right, damn it--how can they not be?

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Entrenched ideology

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  • What's funny... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neocon ( 580579 )
    What's funny about Deskpoet's post is that on the morning of September 11, those were not ideologies jumping out of 90th-story windows to avoid the heat of burning jet fuel. They were not affiliations, either. They were people, individuals. And they are dead.

    Now, our friend DeskPoet would have us forgo a response to these deaths. He shrinks so far in fear of the righteous use of force by a democratic state seeking to protect its citizens that he would have us use any solution to such violence -- but only if it was guaranteed to be ineffective. He would have us use a law enforcement approach, and he speaks of `punishing' those who committed these murders.

    But those who committed these murders are dead, by their own hand. And in going to war, we are not seeking to (in Deskpoet's words) `punish' them, nor are we seeking to avenge ourselves upon them. We are seeking to prevent the next attack, an attack that is most certainly coming if we do not prevent it, and which, with the aid of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons may be much worse than the attacks we have seen so far.

    Now, I would posit that the US is a `just' nation, and more importantly, I would point out that the American Ideals which DeskPoet is so quick to declare `failed' have provided more individuals more liberty, more democracy, and more prosperity than any other system in the world's history. But this is not the issue here. At issue is a conflict between a free democracy which wages war in a just manner (minimizing civilian deaths, even when this means putting our own troops in great danger) in pursuit of a just aim (defense of our nation from further attacks of the type seen on September 11), and a totalitarian foe waging a war in which he seeks to kill as many civilians as possible in pursuit of an unjust aim. And still DeskPoet sits on the sideline, unsure which side he despises more? This is almost as laughable as it is sad...

    • Ok, I'm going to indulge here a bit, because apparently I haven't been clear enough up until now. Our Little Fascist has finally gotten *my* bloodlust up (though the pixels I'm wielding are far less harmful than the canards--and appeals to wonton violence--that are Neocon's stock-in-trade.)

      In paragraph one, there is this: .....those were not ideologies jumping out of 90th-story windows to avoid the heat of burning jet fuel. They were not affiliations, either. They were people, individuals. And they are dead.

      Now, he expects us to believe that he cares for these individuals as people, all the while advocating the wanton death and destruction of *other* people, all in the name of "prevent(ing) the next attack, an attack that is most certainly coming if we do not prevent it". Neocon, it is a pity you've swallowed your belief system so completely that you cannot see the inherent moral contradiction in this argument (not to mention the paranoia.) If you are advocating what you appear to be--a holy war against a "totalitarian foe" that can only end with the death of any potential "attacker", you are simply a genocidal maniac. Raining daisy cutters on villagers is the same as driving planes into buildings: they both kill people who should live, and they're both done in the name of ideologies that the dead and dying couldn't care less about. Unless, of course, you believe that everyone in the world's poorest country is Osama Bin Laden, which makes you a virulent racist as well as a bloodthirsty warmonger.

      Oh, now I've done it, I've called him names; he's won the debate, and can now bomb babies out of their homes at will--after all, just because they're not wearing a beard, doesn't mean they're not a potential foe.

      But I digress.

      Then, there's this little gem:

      He shrinks so far in fear of the righteous use of force by a democratic state seeking to protect its citizens that he would have us use any solution to such violence -- but only if it was guaranteed to be ineffective.

      Where to begin? The US is a *republic*, and has *never* been a democracy. The whole of my position is that the State should *never* usurp the rights of its citizens to protect themselves--indeed, the State should be totally subservient to the individual, not the other way around. Neocon just can't get this--as I noted in the post that started this thread--because his belief system is so deeply entrenched that he can no more tell it's there than a fish can tell you there's life beyond the sea. But the crowning, and most galling point is the "ineffective" line. Who is he to say that a just procedure would not work? Who is he to make that judgement for *all* of us? Particularly since it hasn't even been *attempted*, how can you expect your statement to have any meaning, serve as any basis for action, Neocon? Simply, it doesn't, but it is infuriating that you state it as gospel truth, all the while holding up the shield of righteous justice. Is it only you that cannot see that your concept of justice is nothing more than the power of the sword? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way, as I obviously do not share your dark worldview.)

      I could go on, particularly about the "democracy" stuff--really, Neocon, due a *little* poly-sci reading, would you?--but as I noted long ago, there is little point in it. Your ideological sickness cannot be cured by me--I'm just a humble bitstream posting to an obscure bulletin board system; you're on your own on this. And if, one day, you're at the other end of the barrel pointing at my head--a place you cherish being, apparently, except for your squeamishness about the blood spatters--I don't expect you to show me any mercy, because it's not within you, just as justice is not. Like other believers of nonviolence, I can only hope that you somehow miss. Not much of a defense, I know, but the resistance to bloodshed has to start somewhere.

      You think my stand is funny and sad; yours is simply angry and insane. I think I win out on this one .....

      • Re:What's funny... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by neocon ( 580579 )
        Ah, DeskPoet -- so firm in his conviction that the US must not defend itself, that he is willing to let thousands or millions of others die for his beliefs.

        The fact is that the US has demonstrated quite clearly in Afghanistan both our commitment to not harming (and indeed to helping) innocents who happen to be in the area, and our ability, through precision strikes and placement of our own troops in the line of fire to spot for airstrikes, to avoid hitting unintended targets.

        In contrast, our enemy has not only shown that their commitment is to killing as many civilians as possible, but they have shown a continued commitment to attaining weapons of mass destruction which will allow them to do so more effectively.

        Try as DeskPoet may to convince us all that what we saw on September 11 does not warrant a response, and try as he may to claim that our response has been or will be `genocidal' (the very claim is absurd), the fact remains: if we do not dismantle the infrastructure which made September 11 possible, there will be another attack, and it may well be much more deadly than the attacks which we have already seen.

        And if those like DeskPoet succeed in paralyzing us with lies about our own nature or our actions, so that we take no steps to prevent such an attack, then the blood of those killed will be on their hands.

        Now DeskPoet comes back with a bunch of idle nonsense at the end (`not a democracy but a republic' is a ten-year-old's point. No one has claimed otherwise in this argument. The US is a republic for the very simple reason that a republic provides more actual democracy to the individual citizen than the mob rule and clique structure which result from pure democracy do), but these arguments are inane. If DeskPoet actually believed in the rights of the individual, he would not hesitate when the choice between attacking and defending the nation which has best defended those rights came up.

        He has hesitated. Luckily, the American people have not hesitated with him.

      • And of course, once again, we see how far removed our friend DeskPoet is from being willing to present (much less defend) a rational position.

        In the course of a pretty short thread, he has accused any who disagree with him of being `Fascists', of being `racists', of wanting `genocide' or a `holy war'. Needless to say, he has not backed up any of these claims, for they are absurd.

        No, in DeskPoet's world, the aims of the US are simply genocidal, and the US is so compromised morally (he never makes clear how) that it would be far better to ask the UN to take a `law enforcement approach'. Never mind that such an approach was a complete failure after the first World Trade Center bombing, after the embassy bombings, after the attack on the USS Cole -- DeskPoet wants to know how we can be so sure such an approach will not work this time.

        He takes a similar approach to news and to history. Never mind that the US has gone to great lengths (and put our soldiers at great risk) to avoid hitting civilians. Never mind that we have spent billions of dollars on humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, even as we attacked its leaders, and never mind that the people of Afghanistan danced in the streets at our arrival, and greeted us as liberators. In DeskPoets weird little universe, these acts comprise `genocide', and we are attacking `everyone in the world's poorest country'. Funny how the Afghans don't see it that way, now isn't it?

        But of course, looking at something so mundane as the facts of the situation would require our friend here to deal with facts and opinions, instead of grand flights of incoherent rhetoric and wild accusations.

        And he says my worldview is `dark'? How odd...

        • Facts are simple and facts are straight
          Facts are lazy and facts are late
          Facts all come with points of view
          Facts don't do what I want them to
          Facts just twist the truth around
          Facts are the living turned inside out
          Facts are getting the best of them
          Facts are nothing on the face of things

          -------from Talking Heads _Crosseyed and Painless_

          In my mind, there has never been a better criticism on the dated empiricist thought process in this post-Einsteinian universe (and over a killer baseline, too.)

          This observation on the fluidity of support mechanisms for belief systems seems particularly appropriate when one considers Neocon's use of "facts", and how his mind works. Throughout his diatribes and taunts, he appeals to them in the typical pedantic, sophist manner: *I* must provide "facts" (even long after I stated I was not interested in participating in such a pointless exercise; see here [] for an explanation) to support my views, as if I don't have a right to my opinion unless I use the same data that has been approved to fit through his ideological filters. Meanwhile, Neocon sits above the field, spouting his "facts"--which are as devoid of data as any of my opinions. Specious platitudes about how the State has done this to protect that civilian, as if the word of the State can be trusted, as if another innocent death is acceptable to prevent supposed future attacks, as if saying this is "factual", hardly makes it so. Never mind that the most conservative body counts coming out of Afganistan have already exceeded the WTC killings, never mind that weddings have been bombed, killing most celebrants; these are acceptable losses for Neocon, as he goosesteps into his safe little future.

          They are not acceptable to me, Neocon. That is the whole point here. Nor was the "precision" of the Phoenix program acceptable to me, either. By defending these actions, you are no better than the "enemy" you revile.

          You feel the need to defend the US. Fine, have at it. I don't. But don't think for a second that I've singled out the US, that I am a "self-hating American". *My* ideology is based on the free association of individuals, without State interference. The US is a state, and by that definition, it deserves scrutiny in *all* its actions, *particularly* because it is the most powerful state in recorded history. This isn't a high school football game, Neocon. Step back for a moment and consider what you're really espousing; maybe I won't be so "absurd" when I use words like fascist and racist (I mean, come on, the Taliban *were* bad, but they weren't all there was to Afganistan. If your argument basically comes down to "break a few eggs to make an omelet", then you really are no better than those who see all Americans as evil--which I don't, by the way, as I am one. I will say this: I resent the shortsighted, opportunistic "realpolitik" practiced by the US government as it has put a bullseye on my back every time I go abroad. As a free citizen of the planet, I'm angry that the state that has built up a mythology of "freedom and justice" has created Orwellian Homeland Security organizations, Gestapo groups like the FBI, and amassed a stockpile of destructive power--with my tax dollars--that would make even Dr. Stangelove blush. You may call that "democracy"; I call it national socialism.)

          Finally, I make no claims about "any who disagree with" me; I make only statements about you, Neocon. Again, you hide behind the collective we, feigning an "absurd" attack on reason, when my attack is solely on *your* absurd reason. If there are others like you, then I'll tar them with a different brush. In others words, lovey, this is all for *you*.
          • Mmm, yes. The new metaphysics.

            So it appears that over in DeskPoet Bizarro-World, our friend's tendency to make wild and baseless accusations (any who disagree with him are `fascists'. The US is committing `genocide' and trying to kill `all Afghans', our motivations in defending ourselves are `racist', etc.) don't need to be backed up with any reasonable evidence, because this is a `post-Einstein' universe, where apparently any assertion of his is to be taken as fact, wholly without evidence.

            Nice try, but as with most /. readers, I think I'll pass. Empty and inconsistent flights of rhetorical fancy are simply not a substitute for backing up your allegations with evidence and consistent reasoning.

            So again, I will repeat what I consider to be facts in this matter:

            • The US has consistently gone out of our way to avoid civilian casualties in this war
            • Our enemies have gone out of their way to maximize civilian casualties, killing 3,000 Americans in an attempt to kill 50,000
            • Relatively few Afghan civilians have died in this conflict (contrary to DeskPoet's claim, all serious investigations [] (see the section on civilian casualties at the end of the article) have concluded that at most 1300 or so civilians have died in this fight. The interim government's figure is 900.)
            • Such civilian casualties who have died have been unintended victims, not targets, unlike the 3,000 civilians who died in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on September 11).
            Speechify as he our friend may, he has not seriously contested any of these statements, asserting instead that facts do not matter, or a reliance on fact instead of wild feats of imagination is a `dated Empiricist approach'.

            Nor is our friend consistent in his ideals. Were his goal really to prevent death, were he really interested in preventing individuals from being murdered, he would be supporting action to prevent the next wave of attacks. It appears that either American casualties just don't matter to much to Deskpoet, or he is so committed to his ideals that he is bravely willing to see thousands or millions give their lives for his beliefs. Given his earlier statements about his hopes for extinction of the human race [], this is telling.

            To our friend here, the FBI is `Gestapo-like', Tom Ridge is `Orwellian', but the Taliban were not so bad. Forgive me if I find it hard to conclude that such nonsense is anything but a projection of a pre-existing and pre-rational hatred of the US onto a situation which, no surprise, does not fit very well into the mold DeskPoet is trying to fit it in.

            • You have a nasty tendency to misquote. Never once have I stated that I think the human race should be extinguished; I merely noted that I won't particularly mourn its passing. I clearly DID state the Taliban were bad, but you gloss over that in your rush to judgement by stating the exact opposite.

              Your list of "facts" are merely assertions, JUST LIKE MINE; you've truly deluded yourself into thinking otherwise. Your lack of historical knowledge on the FBI's origins is laughable; your defense of the consolidation of the police state is reprehensible. You have projected your hatred of others who think differently from you onto me, while claiming *I* hate the US, which is the kind of demagogic reasoning any Little Fascist would indulge in. (Again, proof? Have I ever *said* I hate the US? No, I haven't. But that doesn't fit your "factual" smearing, does it? If you had read any Thoreau, you might understand that I'm more of a "patriot" than you pretend to be.)

              You are a hate-filled warmonger, sir. You are a good Little Fascist.

              • With due respect, it is meaningless for you to state that both of our facts are `just assertions', as they contradict each other. On one matter (numbers of civilian casualties), I have already posted a reference, and I would certainly be willing to back up any of the other statements I have made.

                But now its your turn. You assert that US policy in Afghanistan is genocidal. You assert that the US is attempting to `kill every Afghan'. You also assert a much higher number of civilian casualties so far than any credible source has claimed. It's time for you to provide credible backing for these claims, or admit that you made them up.

                You also need to explain how you would prevent a next attack from occuring, or explain why this is not something worth doing. Simply whining about any and all possible strategies to do so is not constructive.

                • You also need to explain how you would prevent a next attack from occuring, or explain why this is not something worth doing.

                  You do like to bark orders at people, telling them what they "need" to do.

                  Sometimes you argue that they "need" to, "in order to convince us", though you never seem too clear on who this "us" is for whom you claim to speak. Are you posting on behalf of some club or something? Or was there an election on slashdot for Official Spokesman, which deskpoet and I have missed?

                  Other times it's because any and all assertions to your left are necessarily "wild and unsubstantiated", or "not credible". It's our duty, you maintain, to post reams of precise data from some superhumanly independent and objective source, rebutting each of your own assertions, whereas everything you assert in reply is just Unvarnished Truth, self-evidently correct, with no proof needed. It's a sort of reverse filibuster: you can simply wear someone down with unlimited demands for proof, and when some evidence or argument is cited from an organisation or magazine or writer of which you don't approve, well, then it's "wild and unsubstantiated".

                  In this specific case, you say that deskpoet "needs" to explain how he would prevent a next attack occurring. Why? Because bombing Afghanistan is "preventing" it? How do you figure? Because no more terrorist plane-crashing has happened since Sept. 11? Well, then bombing Afghanistan must also be be an effective deterrent to giant asteroids hitting the earth too, since none have hit since the bombing started. Hurrah for Rumsfeld!

                  The burden of proof is not on deskpoet, it's on you. Why is bombing Afghanistan, and occasionally managing to hit a few guerillas who may or may not have been involved in 9/11, a way, or even the only way, to prevent the next attack? Do you think Pakistan and Saudi are blameless? Are you in favor of bombing them too?

                  It's perfectly logical for deskpoet to assert that the Bush administration's actions in Afghanistan are morally wrong, without outlining an alternative plan of action. The two things are entirely separate matters, and for you to demand an alternative plan, rather than logically refute his argument, is simply a distraction tactic.

                  Why not just say "I disagree with deskpoet", and leave it at that?
                  • Do I think Pakistan and the Saudis are blameless? Not at all. Am I in favor of bombing them too? If, and only if, they show the level of backing for attacks on us as the Saudis, the Iraqis, and others have shown (and the Saudis, at any rate, are certainly not far from that point), and if and only if doing so is the least intrusive way to deal with the problem.

                    In the case of Afghanistan, we have taken a situation where the group attacking us were in control of a nation and its resources, and were using that nation as a base from which to attack us, and turned it into a situation where the group attacking us is scattered or holed up in caves, and lacks the use of this nation as a basis for attacking us. Based on this accomplishment, I would indeed say hurrray for Rumsfeld. And Bush. And Rice. But most importantly for the fighting men and women who accomplished this on the ground.

                    As for what DeskPoet `must' prove (or even argue), you are quite correct that he doesn't owe me, or you, or anyone else, anything of the sort. However, for his position to be coherent (much less correct), his argument against our defending ourselves in this manner would have to be accompanied either by an argument that some other manner of defending ourselves would work, or by an argument that defending ourselves is not worth doing.

                    Without this, what we have is an argument that we should defend ourselves, but not by any actual means which will accomplish an abatement of attacks. This is self-contradictory.

Forty two.