Thursday, August 28, 2003

A Brief Return...My Fellow Sophisticated Americans

A recent interview with Leonard Downie, editor of the Washington Post, brought to my attention by Cursor this morning, has prompted a momentary respite from vacation.

I get into the Downie interview in a little more detail in the post above, but in the process of reacting to that, I went back to see the stuff I sent to the Washington Post about the war, around the time that Walter Pincus was struggling to get heard in regards to doubts and shoddy evidence in the case for war, and when undoubtedly countless others were also assailing the Washington Post with letters, diatribes, and pleas to "cover this more critically".

With that in mind, here is my first letter to the Washington Post, in regards to a "shaming" of Dennis Kucinich by Robert Cohen.


RE: Richard Cohen's denunciation of Kucinich's war arguments and the lack of invitation for Kucinich to respond...

"Civilization is threatened not only by terrorists but also by the means we use to fight them." Richard Cohen, March 6, 2003

Knowledge is threatened not only by ideologists but also by the haste in which we believe them.

We are told the case for war is top secret, and that we are to accept that the information justifying war really exists. To have faith amidst uncertainty. The only problem is a powerful case has already been made for explaining our course of action, freeing our minds of the demands of faith and towards the exercise of reason.

This case is what's known as The Project For A New Century, which very clearly supports military action in the Middle East, has aggressively done so for a number of years, and is grounded upon reasons very clearly different from those being forwarded by the current administration, the key planners of which for all intents and purposes ARE THE SAME PEOPLE.

Call me naive...I'll call you a fool.

Our dilemma is quite profound. No longer is the question "who do you believe", but an altogether more bewildering, since we already know the who we're dealing with, "what version of your truth do we believe"? The one that makes political sense, or the one that very clearly warns of its political dangers?


America is a free country, with discourse and argumentation being its lifeblood. Let's not throw this away defending an ideology and not an argument for war. An argument must be made with information, and the more accurate and less (widely known to be) fabricated the better. The current mix of secrecy, innuendo, fear-mongering, fabrication, forgery, plagiarism, reason recycling, and little substance interpreted with great hyperbole is less than convincing to any free thinking and non-jingoist individual.

Let's lay it on the line. The projection of American power in the world is, by definition, the projection of the "people" of America. We have a stake, a voice, a responsibility, and the vulnerability that accompanies them. The editorial page is one of the places for this gauntlet to be thrown down. Don't hijack the debate, bring disrepute to your name, and sell out the "people" in favor of "focus groups". Air the arguments, referee the dueling interpretations, and lay bare the ground upon which we stand as a freely willing moral people defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Am I being unreasonable? Naive? To believe that communication, information, debate, and shared understanding are essential in decision making and accountable collective moral action? No way. Accountability, and a clear sense of direction, are paramount. We don't have that today, and we need to declare it. In this regard, the UN is not serving as an "irrelevant debating society", but a very relevant one, being the testing ground internationally for asserting values, making a case for action in their regard, and defending the case against rival cases.

The Washington Post editorial page should do the same, or face the fate of becoming "irrelevant".


an afterthought, having just searched the web on the postmodern after writing the above...

"Any meaning history has "we" shall have to give it by our actions. Yet the fact is, although we are all of us within history, we do not all possess equal powers to make history. To pretend that we do is sociological nonsense and political irresponsibility. It is nonsense because any group or any individual is limited, first of all, by the technical and institutional means of power at its command; we do not all have equal access to the means of power that now exist, nor equal influence over their use. To pretend that "we" are all history-makers is politically irresponsible because it obfuscates any attempt to LOCATE RESPONSIBILITY for the consequential decisions of men who have access to the means of power.

"From even the most superficial examination of the history of the western society we learn that the power of decison-makers is first of all limited by the level of technique, by the means of power and violence and organization that prevail in a given society. In this connection we learn that there is a fairly straight line running through the history of the West. That the means of oppression and exploitation, of violence and destruction, as well as the means of production and reconstruction, have been progressively enlarged and increasingly centralized.

"As the institutional means of power and the means of communication that tie them together have become steadily more efficient, those now in command of them have come into command of instruments of rule quite unsurpassed in the history of mankind. And we are not yet at the climax of that development. We can no longer lean upon or take soft comfort from the historical ups and downs of ruling groups of previous epochs. In that sense Hegel is correct: we learn from history that we cannot learn from it.

"America--a conservative country without a conservative ideology-- appears now before the world a naked and arbitrary power, as, in the name of realism, its men of decision enforce their *often crackpot definitions* upon world reality. The *second-rate mind* is in command of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood, irrationality, are raised to principle. Public relations and the *official secret*, the trivializing campaign and the *terrible fact clumsily accomplished*, are *replacing reasoned debate* of political ideas in the privately incorporated economy, the military ascendency, and the political vacuum of modern America.

"The men of the higher circles are not representative men; their high position is not the result of moral virtue; their fabulous success is not firmly connected with meritorious ability. Those who sit in the seats of the high and the mighty are selected and formed by the means of power, the sources of wealth, the mechanics of celebrity, which prevail in their society."

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, 1956