Discover more from God's Spies by Thomas Neuburger
Links for Friday, July 7
What the State protects isn't life, but a “way of life.”
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State
—Randall Jarrell, “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”
Today we consider the State — what feeds us, enables the way we live (hello, big screens and smart phones), and defends our way of life from attack from within and without.
Note that I wrote “defends our way of life.” The State doesn’t defend our lives, protect us from death, except theoretically. Our hundreds of military bases are engaged in offensive wars, not defensive ones, or are seated among our friends and client regimes. We’re no more subject to attack than most other countries. Bombings in Europe are worse than those we see here.
As to protecting our lives, consider George Floyd, or any of the hundreds murdered by our police. Not much protection there.
What the State protects instead is a “way of life.” It maintains an empire that maintains a way of life among our people sufficient only to keep our rulers in power, and not much more. The goal is maintaining the extravagant way of living the too-rich enjoy. The standard of life allowed to us citizens, is a byproduct only of their desires for themselves.
If we’re kept too happy, they’re wasting their money on us. Thus the constant push for “austerity” — ours, not theirs. If we’re kept too unhappy, maybe we’ll actually rise up.
Thus what we see in our lives, why we get what we get. And thus the theme of today’s Friday Links.
• Presidents Keep Hiring Elliott Abrams Because The US Empire Is Just That Evil (Caitlin’s Newsletter)
As Forrest noted, this would be the fourth presidential administration that Abrams has been a part of, despite being a confessed crook and despite pushing for bloodshed at every opportunity in some of the US empire’s most notorious criminal actions. Abrams is such a cold-hearted killer that he openly admitted during a 1985 conference that the purpose of aiding the Contras in Nicaragua was “to permit people who are fighting on our side to use more violence,” and has promoted US military violence against Iraq, Syria and Iran with remarkable forcefulness throughout his career. The fact that someone so tyrannical, so corrupt and so unscrupulous keeps getting appointed to positions involved with US foreign policy tells you everything you need to know about the nature of US foreign policy. (emphasis added)
Caitlin Johnstone never puts too fine a point on anything, and this piece is no exception. If you’re not familiar with Elliott Abrams, please read. Not to put too fine a point on it myself, but the man is monster.
File under “Violence of empire.”
• Gitmo’s Permanent Chains (Seymour Hersh)
Ní Aoláin is a brilliant observer. She is the first UN official ever to be allowed to visit the prison. She acknowledges that the basic living conditions of the remaining prisoners have been much improved in the recent years as the population of detainees dwindled, but those improvements, she writes, are offset for those still jailed by the “cumulative effects of past rendition, disappearance, incommunicado detention, systematic torture and ill treatment, and continued detention,” which “have had severe and long-term psychological and physical consequences.” She is especially critical, as were past observers, of what she found to be “serious structural and institutional deficiencies in present care.” She links those concerns with her unique observation that the medical and psychiatric care available “may trigger for some detainees previous experiences of torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” She noted that the US government’s “failure to provide such care exacerbates the impact of the horrific treatment or punishment they previously suffered and prolongs the consequences.”
In her conclusion, Ní Aoláin writes that every current or prior prisoner she met with speaks bitterly of the public perception that they are “the worst of the worst,” despite the fact that most of them have never “been charged, let alone convicted of a single crime.” She adds: “None of the former detainees have been compensated by the US Government for the systematic crimes of extraordinary rendition, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and arbitrary detention.”
President Biden issued a statement last month declaring his administration's opposition to “all forms of inhumane treatment” and its commitment to “eliminating torture and assisting torture survivors as they heal and in their quests for justice.”
…in the context of Russia and Ukraine.
File under “Violence of empire.”
• Blood on His Hands: Survivors of Kissinger’s Secret War in Cambodia Reveal Unreported Mass Killings (Nick Turse, The Intercept)
The U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 has been well documented, but its architect, former national security adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who will turn 100 on Saturday, bears responsibility for more violence than has been previously reported. An investigation by The Intercept provides evidence of previously unreported attacks that killed or wounded hundreds of Cambodian civilians during Kissinger’s tenure in the White House. When questioned about his culpability for these deaths, Kissinger responded with sarcasm and refused to provide answers. […]
The incidents detailed in the files and the testimony of survivors include accounts of both deliberate attacks inside Cambodia and accidental or careless strikes by U.S. forces operating on the border with South Vietnam. These latter attacks were infrequently reported through military channels, covered only sparingly by the press at the time, and have mostly been lost to history. Together, they increase an already sizable number of Cambodian deaths for which Kissinger bears responsibility and raise questions among experts about whether long-dormant efforts to hold him accountable for war crimes might be renewed.
The Army files and interviews with Cambodian survivors, American military personnel, Kissinger confidants, and experts demonstrate that impunity extended from the White House to American soldiers in the field. The records show that U.S. troops implicated in killing and maiming civilians received no meaningful punishments. (emphasis added)
Another monster. To put a number on it, “Kissinger bears significant responsibility for attacks in Cambodia that killed as many as 150,000 civilians — six times more noncombatants than the United States has killed in airstrikes since 9/11.”
File under “They hate us for our freedom.”
And finally, a brief section from a very long interview by Ryan Grim with billionaire campaign financier Dimitri Mehlhorn.
• How Democratic insiders are thinking about 2024 (Ryan Grim)
One of the leaders of the big money counter revolution is not a household name. He’s a tech executive named Dmitri Mehlhorn, whose largest source of power comes from his connection to his college classmate Reid Hoffman, the billionaire founder of LinkedIn who was recently in the news for having financed E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against Trump. But Dmitri, as Democratic insiders all call him – always using only his first name – has been good at organizing other like-minded mega donors as well, which means that he can now move millions of dollars with the flick of a wrist.
He has directed much of that money, in alliance with the group Democratic Majority for Israel, targeting progressive Democrats in primaries, burying them under an avalanche of Super PAC spending.
And a taste from the interview itself:
RG: I characterized your politics very briefly at the top of the show, but how would you, in your own words, describe the strategy that you are trying to get the Democratic Party to emulate?
DM: Ah, so, as a strategic — The only thing that I am focused on is making sure that Mr. Trump does not get another term of office. I believe that would be a catastrophic event. And if there’s anything else that gets in the way of that, I’m opposed to that other thing. So that’s the broad background.
It’s that simple for him. And when progressives get in the way, he allies with the Democratic Majority for Israel to, as Grim points out, “target progressives in primaries.” He’s behind the money that defeated Nina Turner, for example.
DM: … I believe … that everybody, from AOC to Liz Cheney, needs to be a part of the coalition to prevent Mr. Trump from taking office again. And so, if AOC is spending all of her time energy attacking Mr. Trump, then she’s on my team.
The reason we invested in groups like the Mainstream Democrats, who elevated Shontel Brown over Nina Turner, is we believe that Nina Turner was actually training her fire on somebody other than Mr. Trump; specifically, Mr. Biden, who was actually the center of our team.
File under “Why progressives can’t win.”
• Your musical treat: