The Real Intelligence
The following article was written before the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, revised in August 2003 and posted on a number of websites. Republishing it verbatim five years later makes the point that whatever “Intelligence” the invaders manufactured to justify this war, it was clear to good judgment that this project was a misguided affair. The article attempts to articulate the real intelligence behind good judgment.
Much credit is being claimed by those who stood up against the war when it was not popular to do so. This may determine the outcome of the 2008 election. And it should. We simply cannot afford any more bad judgment.
There is very little in this article that has not been borne out. In fact despite my stated hopes that I was wrong, the outcome has been considerably worse than I feared. The country laid waste, the incalculable suffering of the Iraqi people and the staggering suicide rate of returning American soldiers are all eloquent testimony.
If I were to change anything in the essay, I would add a third fable: Pandora’s Box.
August 10, 2003
WHY WE ARE LOSING OUR GREAT WAR
Explained in Two Tales and One Ancient Principle
William Pennell Rock
What author writes with the fervent hope that he is mistaken? Yet this is the position I find myself in. These are desperate times.
Who am I to speak out? An American who is a patriot of the planet.
Flag waving Americans have been thrilled at the televised advance of our massive armory across the earth, like the glittering hi tech imperial armies of Star Wars, and the toppling of the giant Saddam. The rest of the world, however, and Americans not hypnotized by the administrative hype, have all along considered it something of a catastrophe. Although the true onsite horror of this invasion is carefully concealed by the American media, even the flag wavers are beginning to have their doubts: the terrible WMDs, falsely touted as the cause of war, do not turn up. National and religious resistance daily intensifies deadly anti-American resolve. Body bags continue to arrive home, and the horrific bill for this folly begins to be tallied.
These developments daily confirm another fact. Our Superpower has declared a War on Terrorism, and, despite our flashy victories, it is misconceived and we are losing it. Will Americans wake up in time to the depth of their responsibility for the course of events in the world and for their own fate? I seriously doubt it.
Our situation is tragic, but because we are also its perpetrators, it is ridiculous and comical. In describing this tragicomedy through two tales and analyzing it in terms of an ancient principle, I do not wish to seem precious or simplistic, nor do I mean any disrespect for the massive suffering that we have generated. My purpose is to bring to bear some basic wisdom–easy access to fundamental moral and spiritual intuition–which is being overridden in our blind rush toward preemptive disaster.
The first tale comes straight out of the American heartland and the wisdom of Uncle Remus. Brer Rabbit has a mortal enemy, the wily Brer Fox. To entrap this feisty hero, Brer Fox hatches a plan to fashion a life size doll out of tar, which he fits out real smart with a hat. He sets Tar Baby out on the road and hides, snickering, in the brush nearby. Sure enough, Brer Rabbit comes sauntering along, “sassy as a jaybird”. He shouts a friendly greeting to Tar Baby, but when he finds him unresponsive to his advances, he becomes insistent, growing more annoyed, until he finally wallops him. When his fist gets caught up in the tar, he gets real angry and hauls off with the other fist, which also sticks into the tar. As his rage grows he just keeps getting more caught up, to the point where he bops the disintegrating icon with his head, completely entrapping himself in the sticky black mess. At this point Brer Fox saunters forth out of the brush, looking “just as innocent as a mockingbird. ‘Howdy, Brer Rabbit’, says he, ‘you look sorta stuck up this mornin’’, and then “he rolls on the ground and laughs and laughs, til he can’t laugh any more”. Now our hero is completely in his power.
The tales of Uncle Remus were brought to us in glorious Technicolor in the famous Disney classic, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit embodies the spunk and vigor of the fifties American hero, flush from the idealistic victories of World War II–the kind embodied in the movies of Ronald Reagan. Cowboy Bush has now adopted this pose, which the majority of Americans, disoriented by alarming new realities, find comforting. “Tranquilizing” might be more apt.
Consider Brer Rabbit’s basic modus operandi. If folks don’t do what you want or what you think they should do, just whop ‘em up side the head. Brer Rabbit believes that force works…war works. So does Bush and Company, fat cats who sit in big offices and enjoy the visceral high of wielding force, but have never experienced the abject horror of war. They have convinced the majority of Americans to believe, with Brer Rabbit, in this archaic reflex of force. The one restraining exception in this cadre of stupid white men has been Colin Powell, the only real man of war in the group, who sees force strictly as a measure of last resort. One senses the wisdom of Uncle Remus, who gets the whole picture of force and its consequences. Unfortunately, however, Powell is foremost a
soldier, and a soldier alwa
ys follows orders from the chief.
There are two dimensions of this belief in force. The first is that it is effective to follow the aggressive impulse to apply physical force. If we are blind to history, we should at least take heed from the daily spectacle of macho Israelis and desperate Palestinian youths who share faith in this primitive impulse. There certainly is an effect, but only in the short term and at the physical level. In the realms of the heart and the spirit, ultimately more determinative, it is completely counterproductive. In fact, the fable shows that the use of violence just catches the perpetrator up more and more in a cycle that ultimately returns upon his own head. Furthermore, ever since we invented weapons of mass destruction, physical force ain’t what it used to be. This broadens the fallacy of the second belief–the effectiveness of war. World leaders did not in any way support the Bush war effort, except for the ones that were bought off, (with the exception of Bush Buddy, callow Blair, who is too young to remember.) What these leaders know is that if you look at the whole picture–the devastation, the hideous suffering and death, the infrastructure reduced to rubble, the political upheaval, and the chaotic but fateful way that violence spirals into more violence–you understand that it is not a viable option. Up to this point, victims of American force have been only tangentially aligned with al-Qa’eda. After this “liberation” of Iraq, they are lining up behind bin Laden, “dead or alive”.
For further wisdom from Uncle Remus, let us return to our tale. Brer Rabbit was always outsmarting the shifty and unscrupulous Brer Fox, a kind of praeter Saddam Hussein. But the fox had his secret weapon: Tar Baby. While a happy shift in fortunes in a further episode of this tale may provide a glimmer of hope, the pertinent lesson has to do with how Brer Rabbit got himself trapped in such a tarry mess in the first place.
It has to do with our addiction to oil.
Bush failed to garner support for his war on Saddam Hussein, because most of the world outside of America was on to the fact that the good guy/bad guy rhetoric has been basically a pretext. After all, there are enough unscrupulous dictators in the world fiddling with instruments of mass destruction to justify war on every continent. (Persons of discernment should be grateful to the pipsqueak in North Korea for exposing this inconsistency.) No, the substantial advance against Iraq has had to do with this black goo, which is at once vital and deadly. The objective: control Tar Baby.
Let us be clear about the larger picture, which our wonderful war has made us forget. Our addiction to this energy source is destroying the atmosphere of our planetary home. We are dependent upon it, but we do not need to be. The technology of alternative energy sources is already sufficient to replace this mess. What is required is bold vision and the enormous expense of retooling the infrastructure to these new energy sources, starting with America. It would take the kind of energetic visioning we are putting into our warring, plus a substantial chunk of our war budget to pay for such a change. If we did not have to control the world sources of oil, however, we could probably afford it. This way we would free ourselves from our dependency upon oil and from our leaders’ smarmy hidden agenda to control the oil producing areas, primary among which is Iraq. This is a bold, but entirely workable strategy that also addresses the more fundamental problem of the planetary toxicity of this energy source.
In actuality, our leaders are in even greater peril than Brer Rabbit, and the situation is considerably racier. With all of their personal fortunes and political commitments to the oil industry, they are also in bed with Tar baby. (These are the moral leaders chosen in reaction to Clinton’s Oval Office indiscretions.) Where there is so much addictive passion and greed, a violent lovers’ quarrel is bound to ensue. The government throws our money at military domination as a strategy to control the planetary oil sources. For all the righteous rhetoric, the powers of Europe, Asia, and the United Nations have all along been on to this ludicrous charade. Because we’re the big boy on the block, some of the leaders go along, but we have no real moral allies among them.
The oil rich Middle Eastern countries are deeply unstable. Most of them were arbitrarily created after the First World War by the British Empire to serve its oil interests. The people of the consequent nations know that their governments are in bed with our leaders. The collective resentment of all who do not directly benefit from this infamy enflames all the other, deeper discontents. With each incursion into the Tar Baby Middle East in the hypocritical name of liberation and democracy, we become more and more entangled in the mess of reinforcing oppressive anti-democratic regimes. The tide of mendacity and injustice will simply be too great.
Each blow that falls on Tar Baby increases our entanglement in the mess of oil and the mounting archaic rage of the dispossessed sons of Mohammed. We are ending up like Brer Rabbit, entangled in this gooey mess by our need for control, our addiction to this energy source, our own stupid aggression and the fierce spiraling vengeance of the rest of the world.
David and Goliath
The second tale goes to the Hebraic roots of our Christian culture. One of the great inspirational stories in the Old Testament is David and Goliath. Way back in the Bronze Age, the ragtag armies of Israel were under siege by superior forces of the infidel Philistines, whose great weapon was the giant, Goliath. He was nine feet tall, wore “a helmet of bronze, a two hundred pound coat of mail, bronze leggings, and he carried a bronze javelin several inches thick, tipped with a twenty five pound iron spearhead. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a huge shield.” Hurling arrogant insults at the paltry soldiers of Israel, the invincible giant challenged any among them to come forward and do battle with him. The Israelites turned and fled in fright. A fresh faced shepherd boy from Bethlehem, young David, destined to become the great, if horny King of Israel, stepped forward to take on this challenge. It seemed inconceivable. Yet, inspired by the righteousness of God, David, armed only with his sh
epherd’s staff and sling, shouted, “You come to me with a sword and spear, but I come to you in the name of God. The Lord does not need weapons to fulfill his will.” One well-aimed stone to the forehead of the giant knocked Goliath senseless. The invincible one fell to the ground, and the red-cheeked boy beheaded him.
To comprehend the relevance of this story, we have to perform a feat perhaps inconceivable to flag waving Americans–to imagine that in the greater picture (that regarded by most of the rest of the world) we ourselves may be the bad guys. I realize that to suggest such a thing in God’s country is heretical to say the least, but to make any sense at all of the miasma of our unfolding fate, we may find ourselves called upon to rise to this odious, but more objective view.
This possibility having been opened, please indulge one more bit of heresy. Have you ever taken a good look at bin Laden? That is, when his photographs have not been retouched to suggest the embodiment of evil. In his traditional white dress and geffiah framing his noble features and prominent nose, he looks (but for some little rifle held in his fine hands) like central casting for a fifties Jesus. This bin Laden is no impoverished discontent, smoldering with resentment at our luxuriant freedoms; on the contrary, he is a man of surpassing wealth to whom all the richness of Western life has been offered on a golden platter. The awful truth is that he is a renunciate of passionate moral and spiritual conviction, who, with one bold stroke, brought down the giant towers of Mammon, throwing the entire world of bottom line profit motive into complete disorientation.
Since 9/11 bin Laden, designated the evil enemy directly responsible for our national catastrophe, is nowhere to be found. For all of Bush’s twanging rhetoric and the gross superiority of our military prowess, he miraculously eludes the Superpower. The greatest danger, however, would be that we should find him or kill him. In fact, what could we possibly do to him that would not elevate his messianic status to the state of divinity, his martyrdom rallying inspiration for the counter force–sympathizers with the battered dispossessed of Palestine, freaked out Iraqis, moral discontents with the plastic American hegemony, impoverished losers in the Globalization system.
In fact, our massive armory, designed for technological and military ascendancy over other sovereign states, is practically irrelevant as far as the real adversary is concerned. Yes, in a spectacle compared in Parliament by one British Lord to watching the World Heavyweight Champion beating up on a disturbed child, the US did rout the regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan (killing incidentally far more innocents than the 9/11 attacks). A similar spectacle entertained Americans in “Operation Freedom” in Iraq. The Taliban and Iraqi jihadis, however, like the armies of Israel, just dispersed into the hills. There they hide under different names, regrouping to continue the next phase of the war on Satan.
Even strategically, the massive armory is irrelevant, because the terrorists will never engage it directly. On the contrary, the major terrorist attacks will always be directed where that force is not looking, as has been the case in New York, Washington, and Indonesia.
We are a giant flailing about in disorientation–a war here, a war there…
The actual situation is even worse. The deployment of our massive armory is more than irrelevant; it is vigorously counterproductive. Wherever it is used preemptively, it breeds more anger and antagonism than it can possibly dispel. In fact, its deployment only feeds the hatred of the traumatized victims and survivors of our military might.
This gross irrelevance constitutes what is probably the gravest danger to the American agenda. We should take heed. Fearless David, infused with a relentless faith in God, brings down the unbeatable giant with one true, well-placed shot. It is the strength of this phenomenon of integrity versus massive force that created America in the first place: a ragtag bunch of passionate patriots was able to defeat the arrogant military machine of the British Crown. America has already suffered defeat through this phenomenon in Vietnam. Our vastly superior armed forces, whose leaders trumped up a geopolitical war to fight the paper tiger of communism, were vanquished by the inexorable passion for national self–determination on the part of the Vietnamese people. We have been witness to the same vehemence from the Iraqi people, as we demolish their national integrity. Look at America’s great epic, Star Wars. Every American child knows that it is precisely this kind of integrity on the part of a few righteous warriors on a desert planet that destroys the hi-tech forces of the Universal Empire.
The massive defense masks the greatest weakness: our inordinate and sentimental valuation of life. The seminal fear of all is the fear of death. In America it is a cottage industry. The dedicated terrorist, committed to martyrdom out of his devotion to God, becomes a formidable enemy of a culture preoccupied with its own power and drugged on sex, movie stars and sentimental trivia. Righteousness of conscience is a greater power than hi-tech might. Like David’s blow to Goliath, it strikes not to destroy, but to disorient. The disorientation undermines the very massive complexity of the behemoth and its system, a weakness in its own right. Eventually it collapses of its own weight and inherent contradictions.
In fact the very massiveness of the giant is a distinct disadvantage. Disoriented by the true shot, the giant is distracted as he flails about trying to apply his massive force, thereby exposing his weaknesses at every turn.
The greatest weakness is the true tragedy of the present situation. The absorbing spectacle of our Texan cowboy naming his axis of evil and moving upon it in massive aggression is effectively a distraction from the greatest threat of all: the ecological juggernaut of unconscious technological development fueled by oil, hurtling with ever increasing volition toward rendering the field of battle, the planet itself, uninhabitable.
Weapons of Mass Destruction, indeed.
Hubris and Nemesis
A deeper level of analysis of these tales and of our situation takes us back beyond the relative comfort of Good and Evil to the Greek roots of our culture and their understanding of tragedy. The Greeks understood our human reality, the Kosmos, to be mercilessly self-regulating. From the highest perspective, it is about balance and equilibrium. Any tendency that leads away from this equilibrium automatically sets up a compensatory force that brings the tendency back upon itself, thus reestablishing the balance. Observing the intransigence of this law convinced the Greeks that reality is divine.
Our Greek ancestors observed the dynamic of this equilibrium in the law of hubris and nemesis. Hubris is always an excess of self-confidence, small scale, like the feckless arrogance of Brer Rabbit or big scale, like the massive bravado of Goliath. Hubris, seen by the Greeks as arrogance before the gods, defies the divine equilibrium and pushes one tendency to such an extreme that it creates, out of nowhere, nemesis, the inevitable counter tendency in which the violated equilibrium re-establishes itself. By this law, Brer Rabbit creates Brer Fox, just as Goliath creates David.
There is no hi-tech way of fixing this. Humans are not the authors of this compensatory tendency. Because it is prior to them, they are entirely subject to it. Force, the unfortunate, but understandable reflex of excessive self-confidence, just intensifies the excess. No amount of force can counter nemesis, because it has a power as inexorable as a physical law. Those who use their power to commit and enforce their hubris always fortify nemesis and suffer from it.
Human beings have to learn to live in harmony with this equilibrium; otherwise there is hell to pay. This is what tragedy is all about.
The hubris of the Bush administration in its arrogant disregard for the wisdom of the world is but the tip of the iceberg. The White Man has committed hubris on many levels: the first relatively recent, but based on others that are far more fundamental.
The recent hubris is geopolitical economics. The age of colonialism has intensified and become planetary through American led corporate globalization, or market imperialism, fortified as it is by America’s military might. You will not find this reported by CNN or any other organ of the other American media, as they are the broadcast intelligence and self-congratulation of this imperialism.
In the last decade things were looking very good for the intoxicated winners on the stock market, so good that no one in this country noticed the general trend, unfettered by yucky Communism, of an ever-widening gap between the winners and the losers in our glorious global game. Recently, however, the appalling spectacle of our own disappearing wealth has given pause to notice that the cadre of winners is becoming smaller and smaller. It will soon comprise only a few multi-millionaires in Washington and a handful of CEOs reaping vast profits by making their godlike decisions in super skyscrapers.
The system of globalized economy is in fact market totalitarianism producing an ever-growing infestation of poverty and dispossession around the globe. There are countless examples of this that you will not see reported on any American network. When the corporate authorities recently stopped importing coffee from El Salvador, there was massive starvation. (Did you see anything about that on CNN?) We assume we are the good guys, because up until now we have not been into naked military expansionism like the Romans or the Nazis, but in our intoxicated stupor, we overlooked the rampant victimization of the systemic violence inherent in market totalitarianism. The system itself is violent. With awful justification, the losers in this game hate it.
The rule of a handful of fat CEOs is only theoretical. It will not go that far. We do not have to look back to the Greeks to understand how this works: we can look to Karl Marx, who had his own understanding of hubris and nemesis. Unfortunately Marx has been discredited. His proposed solutions to economic imbalance were screwed up in the Twentieth Century by the tempting hubris of totalitarianism: his analyses of the dynamics at play however were right on. He demonstrated the physics of exploiter and exploited, and showed how such economic imbalance inevitably produces violent historical adjustment. Bottom line: you exploit in the short term, you pay in the long run. But Marx was looking at the relatively contained Nineteenth Century phenomenon consequent upon the industrialization of Europe. In the present world this imbalance has reached staggering proportions. The hubris is massive and planetary, and its inherent instability is manifesting in every way.
The present world crisis is the activation out of the soil of things as it were, out of the core of the dispossessed, the nemesis. Consider the most significant terrorist targets and contemplate their meaning: the gravity defying assertiveness of the Twin Towers of Mammon, the seat of military might in Washington, and the den of exotic Western pleasure in Bali. These are the tokens of our hubris.
Bin Laden is the prophet of our nemesis.
In the light of these considerations, the strategy for dealing with the present situation through military force is ludicrous. In its rigid support of exploitation and ever widening persecution and destruction of the exploited, force is irrelevant and profoundly counterproductive. To date, terrorist attacks have only been thwarted by a combination of sensitive infiltration and Intelligence work. But this is just a more subtle use of force. Ultimately, it too will prove ineffective, unless it is backed up by a concerted international effort led by America to redress the terrible imbalance between exploiter and exploited in corporate globalization, with a concerted eye to forms that serve local communities, the common good, the well being of humanity, and the course of circumstances that threaten our true home.
Things always e
nded happily in the Fifties. In a follow up episode in Uncle Remus’ saga, Brer Rabbit has the last word by tricking Brer Fox into throwing him into the briar patch, which is his true home, his “laughing place”. Would that we could be thrown back into the nature that is our true home.
But this is unlikely to happen. The present hubris of economic totalitarianism is rooted in another more fundamental, archaic, and systemic one: the arrogance of the White Man over nature. Over the last centuries, with the approbation of humanism, He has dominated the earth and its peoples. This is the hubris of Christian culture. In the arrogant conviction that it is the one true religion, and the unfortunate fusion of bottom line profit motive with the name of the Champion of Unconditional Love, our ancestors explored, colonized, dominated, plundered and destroyed the cultures of the earth, whose indigenous wisdom was rooted in delicate participation with nature.
This rapacious arrogance is in turn rooted in the Christian belief that Man is superior over all of creation, and that because spirit is good and flesh is bad, Man has necessary dominion over gross earth and its progeny. Instead of inspiring true responsibility, this belief has entitled the White Man to satisfy His greed through the vicious exploitation of its resources and peoples, and to rape the intrinsic balance of the biosphere to satisfy His greedy ends. In His superior hegemony and in the name of progress, the White Man has inspired the deracinated cultures of the world to do the same. Now the cowboy, when he is not preoccupied with making war, is busy satisfying his corporate bedfellows by rolling back our feeble attempts to control the tide of greedy infamy against our planetary home.
All of this constitutes the hubris of the White Man, the most monumental in human history, the nemesis of which is finally revealing itself in the horror of plague, overpopulation, planetary destruction and terrorism so desperate it has no fear of death.
This is why we are losing our Great War. We have only ourselves to blame.