By Paul Fitzgerald & Elizabeth Gould
As the U.S. becomes more and more the kind of country it has traditionally opposed, the answer to where we are headed may lie more in the arcane traditions of a dim past than in a bright future.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, numerous commentators from across a broad spectrum of opinion focused their alarm not so much on the horror of events in lower Manhattan ten years before, but on what America has become in the aftermath of that horror. Ten years on, the United States desperately expands what appears to be an increasingly irrational, corrosive and ultimately self-destructive national security mandate around the globe and here at home.
In the darkening gloom of the upcoming 2012 Presidential elections as the U.S. builds up its forces in the Middle East and returns its attention to Asia’s Pacific rim, the CIA’s focus is no longer on analyzing intelligence on terrorists, but simply killing those perceived as a threat to its existence or perhaps more cynically, its livelihood. In the hardened fortresses of endless war, American soldiers walled off from human society claim their own lives in record numbers while in beltway foreign policy circles “Peace” has become a dirty word. In the darkening gloom, robot Predator drones target those thought to be “terrorists” or those suspected of being terrorists. Those unfortunate enough to be standing nearby are targeted as well and will one day be the target of drones piloted by computer software and facial recognition, making the machine-killing completely autonomous.
In this house of mirrors where endless war has made guilt and innocence or even facts irrelevant, the U.S. has left the realm of science and empiricism and entered a realm more mystical than real. It is a realm where ideology dictates plans and programs and not logic and empirical evidence. It is a realm where ideology dictates who dies and who lives and is populated by men and women who can neither be understood nor reasoned with outside the confines of their own internal and hermetically sealed logic.
From its inception during World War II, America’s military/intelligence apparatus has acted more as a subculture of America’s ruling elite than a bureaucracy dedicated to the nation’s security. It was said of America’s first spy agency the OSS that its initials stood for Oh-So-Social because of its abundant staffing with New York’s high society blue bloods. Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks even titled their 1974 book on their life in the CIA and Foreign Service as The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence.
But over the last forty years and especially since the events of 9/11, that “Cult,” and its sister organizations in the military/intelligence community have emerged from behind the curtain to become a ubiquitous and forbidding presence.
In effect, 1974’s American “Cult” of intelligence has grown to become in 2011 the dominant American “Cult-ure.” But what that culture really is and where it’s leading us remains a frightening proposition that each and every American needs to understand.
Openly and unashamedly, “national security” now pervades all aspects of American life from the grocery store to academia to hotel check-ins to manufacturing to religion. This militarization of American society has helped to polarize the political process, dwarf diplomacy as a tool of American interests overseas and slowly and inexorably change the way Americans think about their country and behave towards each other.
Its hypnotic pull on the young (and not so young) through online electronic video games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare whose most recent release pulled in a staggering $400 million on the first day of British and American sales, continues to astonish even professional observers. This celebration of modern warfare as a “game” after ten years of budget-busting real war and only two days before the November 11, Veterans Day commemoration was a cruel reminder of the Orwellian illogic of life on the other side of the mirror. But the deeper and more troubling problem now surfacing is that real war and the imagined war played out on the video screens of America now appear to have merged into one stark unreality.
Apart from the moral implications, the future of society and the very nature of who we are as human beings have been fundamentally altered by such technology. Recent studies indicate that heavy gaming may structurally alter the brain in ways comparable to a behavioral addiction.
The altered states of awareness traditionally offered by drugs and mysticism, religion and meditation have been replaced by technology of all kinds and through technology real war and fantasy war have exchanged places. But as this narcotic enticement spreads into the public sphere of politics and business, this new altered state of mind threatens to permanently upend the very nature of reality.
The tyranny of illogical thinking evidenced by the U.S. in its War on Terror can be traced most recently to the Cold War where it became necessary to throw out the burden of proof and invert the rules of logic in order to defeat Communism.
We were personally subjected to this illogic in 1982. In response to our PBS documentary on Afghanistan, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds we were informed by Karen McKay, a former U.S. army officer and spokesperson for the right-wing Washington-based propaganda outfit Committee for a Free Afghanistan, that the Soviet’s use of poison gas in that war didn’t require proof because “we know they’re guilty.”
Such faith-based assumptions were more the realm of medieval theologians than rational analysts and the late Senator J. William Fulbright said so in his 1972 New Yorker article titled, Reflections: In Thrall To Fear.
“The truly remarkable thing about this Cold War psychology,” he wrote, “is the totally illogical transfer of the burden of proof from those who make charges to those who question them… The Cold Warriors, instead of having to say how they knew that Vietnam was part of a plan for the Communization of the world, so manipulated the terms of public discussion as to be able to demand that the skeptics prove that it was not.”
Fulbright realized that “Rational men could not deal with each other on this basis,” and arrive at anything resembling “truth.” But this understanding quickly evaporated as the Vietnam era ended and the U.S. drifted into a realm governed by irrational men unable to accept that God might not forever be on America’s side. Powered by an ideology freed from logic as well as the reality that Vietnam had overwhelmingly disproved their theories of war and their rationales for using them, America’s defense intellectuals lapsed deeper into a distorted mirror of illogic.
Guided by old ideologues who’d helped to create the Cold War like Paul Nitze, Leo Cherne, William Casey and General Danny Graham and leading neoconservatives like Richard Perle, Harvard professor Richard Pipes and Paul Wolfowitz, their group known as Team B guided the restructuring of American military policy towards the Soviet Union not on the basis of fact or proof, but only on what their minds could imagine in their wildest fantasies.
In fact, Team B accused the CIA’s analysts of “Mirror imaging,” their own intentions once again as President Kennedy’s science advisor Jerome Wiesner had claimed back in the 1960s. Only this time (in a further twist of logic) they claimed the mirror image was of American weakness and not strength reflected in the mirror of the Soviets’ steely eyes.
The idea that the Soviet Union could or should be judged solely based on an ideological perspective was rejected by Washington’s more rational elite. “I would say that all of it was fantasy,” said Anne Hessing Cahn who worked on the staff of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1982 to 1988. “They looked at radars out in Krasnoyarsk and said ‘this is a laser beam weapon’ when in fact it was nothing of the sort… And if you go through most of Team B’s specific allegations about weapons systems and you examine them one by one, they were all wrong… I don’t believe anything in Team B was really true.”
So what is true about the prevailing motives that drive American national security policy today? In the summer of 1980 we got a major clue to the thinking behind the neoconservative’ s aggressive plotting to overturn the U.S. government’s rational policy regarding nuclear weapons (Mutual Assured Destruction) by replacing it with a faith-based policy that would justify fighting nuclear wars.
Join us next as we unravel the de-evolution of rational defense policy and its immersion into the mystical as we explore the radical 1980 re-interpretation of the 4th century Just War Doctrine of the Catholic Church and it perennial advocates.
Copyright © 2011 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
Published on Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story , Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice.