Monday, August 24, 2009

Simple answers to simple questions

Glenn Greenwald: Looking back several decades or more from now, who will possibly be able to understand how that happened: the almost perfect inverse relationship between one's culpability and the price they paid for what they unleashed?

A: People who've been alive long enough to see the same thing happen again and again to the 'unleashers': Henry Kissinger, George H.W. Bush, all the Iran-Contra criminals who came right back into policy-making positions under Bush II...



At 6:05 PM, August 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right wing attempts to seize power through illegitimate means go back at least to William Smedley Butler and the plot on FDR.

Then there's McCarthy, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the false scandals against Clinton leading up to impeachment, the 2000 election, and the entirety of the Bush presidency.

The only one who paid any real price was Nixon.

It's hard to take the Dems seriously when they almost never punish those who do wrong.


At 11:15 AM, August 25, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

I really like Glenn Greenwald, and I sound like I'm insulting him whenever I saw he isn't really a political historian or analyst, but I don't mean to be. That isn't what he knows. Statements like that quoted show it. He can't get over his astonishment at things that have been going on forever. Attempts to "seize" or maintain power through illegitimate means go back to The Beginning, whenever that was. Sharp-eyed historians in the future will look back on the Bush/Cheney years and see much more continuity than Greenwald does.

Charles is right that it's a big part of our mostly unknown history. I assume it's a big part of other nations' histories too. And what we know about the true facts of what happened in the past is the tip of the iceberg, though frankly even the tip of the iceberg, such as Smedley Butler's testimony before Congress in the mid 30s, isn't known by that many people other than Charles.

As for Nixon paying a price, he didn't pay a price for his misdeeds--he paid a price for crossing the military and CIA. The old Cold Warrior became unreliable and mistrusted by his fellow Cold Warriors. See Silent Coup, Family of Secrets. You can even read the beginning of Silent Coup, with its fascinating discussion of the Pentagon spy ring surveilling Nixon, here:

Yes, the Democratic Party has for several decades been the party of Acquiescence. It's still the better party, with some very progressive elements, but it's ultimately dependent on money, which means it won't push too hard. So yes it's hard to take the Democratic Party seriously as a potential agent for change. It needs to be changed first.

At 1:40 PM, August 25, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the thesis of Silent Coup, Ovid.

Certainly Nixon had his enemies in the national security apparatus, notably Deep Throat himself, but that's more because his personality made him all too easy to hate.

To believe the thesis of Silent Coup, you have to believe in a grand conspiracy of the Senate and House, of Mark Felt, and many other people. You alo have to believe that John Dean is much smarter than any of his subsequent writings have revealed him to be.

I have found that most conspiracies are simple and out in the open. Even Iran-Contra, for example-- which involved thousands of players--was unknown until 1986 only because most Americans don't care about Central America (the Iran side was done more discreetly and involved many fewer players). Similarly, all the attempts to seize power that I mentioned were done out in the open, with the exception of the 2000 election. Even many aspects of how that election was stolen are known. If we had a Democratic Party worthy of its name, Bush wouldn't have become president. He'd still be serving time for election fraud.

--Charles of MercuryRising

At 6:29 PM, August 25, 2009, Blogger Darlene said...

Only history will reveal all of the dirty deeds and that will be the penalty the criminals will have to pay.

At 10:58 AM, August 26, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...


How you can start out talking about Smedley Butler and then say "most conspiracies are simple and out in the open" certainly does make me scratch my head. Well, err, except for the one you mentioned.

And, I would add, nearly all the rest are covert and complex too, because otherwise they would be easy to foil. Only the things you see are simple and out in the open, so your opinion is understandable. But if you look deeper long enough you'll see plenty that is neither simple nor out in the open. Of course, don't look if you have better things to do--that's fine. There are many better things to do.

There is more than one thesis to Silent Coup, and Colodny has recognized that subsequently released information (see Klingman and Hoff articles and books) has proved him wrong on some points, though only partly about Dean, who smells like a skunk to me. Colodny certainly wasn't wrong about Moorer/Radcliffe or Woodward's connections to Navy intel and Haig, which should itself be enough to make you entirely rethink your opinion that conspiracies are "simple and out in the open." Not hardly.

Iran contra was not a major scandal. Trading arms for hostages was illegal, and supplying the contras with the money was illegal, but Ollie North could put on a uniform and wax patriotic and make those things seem like technicalities, because nobody respected Congress even then and rescuing hostages sounds sort of noble. The thing is, the arms started going to Iran years earlier, as part of the Bush/Casey "October Surprise" deal to keep the hostages from being released, which was sort of TREASON, but all's fair in politics I guess, such as stealing elections as you astutely mentioned. After about 20 years, the October Surprise of 1980, the one that kept the hostages in Teheran much longer than necessary, has been documented well enough so that even Kevin Phillips and his publisher could recognize that the sources (including the memoir of Bani Sadr) acknowledge it. But it was very secret, certainly not out in the open, so much so that even the highly informed like yourself still don't know about it. And it was complex too, with plenty of deception, because that's what intel agencies do. They're not to be underestimated. (By the way, Richard Secord was a mission planner for the poorly planned and failed rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw. Yes, the Richard Secord.)

Anyway, enough of that. Keep up your good work for the True and the Right. I am with you.

At 2:29 PM, August 26, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Smedley Butler conspiracy was the most open, Ovid. Butler reported it to Congress, which investigated, and-- doubtless to keep the New Deal on track--Irenee DuPont and the other money people behind the coup were left alone. The conspiracy was discussed in the newspapers and their very derision helped to convince people that it was true. And I can't see where it was complicated: top industrialists attempt to hire war hero to conduct military coup. There are not a lot of moving parts to the plan.

As for the October Surprise, I first became aware of it in the early/mid 1980s. According to Wikipedia, Jack Anderson wrote about it in the Washington Post in 1980, so even I was a bit slow on the uptake.

And Iran-Contra... there's more to it than is generally known. There's the question of drug smuggling, which would have been a huge issue had it become known in a timely manner. There's also the role of right-wing evangelical organizations in overthrowing governments and in murder and torture, which Sara Diamond documents in her amazing book, Spiritual Warfare. Even though what they did may or may not have been legal, it would have been political dynamite.

I think the difference in our perspectives may be this: if things are discussed in newspapers and probed by Congressional committees, I consider them out in the open, even if most Americans are not aware of them. People can be ignorant by choice, and I think many Americans are. They are afraid, and I suppose they have good reason to be. Now, one can blame the system for their fear. The American left (even the Humphrey/Truman/Kennedy left) has been destroyed, any reporter with any curiosity has been drummed out of the profession, the whole nation has been beaten into a resigned acceptance. But the Honduran people, who have endured much more for much longer, show us that our passivity is a choice, not an inevitability.

At 6:57 PM, August 26, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...


General Smedley Butler was as popular and famous in his time as Colin Powell is now, so when he blew the whistle it got press, but even so none of the Wall Street players, including Colonel Grayson Murphy, had to testify before Congress, so no one can say what the Business Plot specifically was going to entail. It's the details that would have been complicated. Everything is simple at the level of a general concept, whether killing the President, framing someone for a crime, stealing elections, breaking one law or another. It's the details, and the cover, that make a plot complex. That being said, I suppose the Business Plot probably wasn’t as complex as what intel agencies do now, because the intel agencies were still in the late stages of fetal development then, and they have grown considerably since. Plus, practice makes perfect, and they have had lots of practice.

By the way, Colonel Grayson M-P Murphy was one of two young officers sent by Teddy Roosevelt back at the turn of the century to incite Panama to secede from Colombia while our warships were offshore, a violation of international law that actually shocked some Americans at the time though these days of course we think we can do whatever we want anywhere. Panama is in Central America, so we are getting closer to the subject of Honduras.

That book Spiritual Warfare by Sara Diamond is indeed a gem, and yes for decades the evangelical right has been involved in unlawful acts around the world, including Central America. That work has often been covert and involved the CIA too. The New York Times investigated those intel/evangelical connections during that brief period of openness in the mid 70s, before we got the Reagan Revolution, and if you go to a public library database you can search those articles. And yes, drug running has been part of it all too, though very covertly. In fact, almost nobody would admit those activities by covert parts of the federal government even now, when the CIA has actually admitted some of it and all of it has been proved. That’s how much proof matters.

Ordinary Hondurans probably aren't as resigned as Americans because they're fighting for their survival, and maybe because propaganda doesn't work so well on people who directly experience what we only read about. I agree that there is a lesson for everybody in the political involvement of Hondurans in this crisis. But don't give up on Americans. Progress moves in fits and starts, and we can't see the changes that are brewing. We don't know what's coming, let alone the end game. I go a little easier on ordinary people because they aren’t the culprits, and even the assholes among us are victims of a sort. What I think is important to realize is that everything is not straightforward and out in the open. I actually vaguely supported the First Gulf War at the time it happened because I didn't know all the real facts that led to it. Most people probably fall into that category. There are many things that people don’t know, and wouldn’t believe if they did know, that would shock their conscience IF they could learn the true facts. That’s why there is so much deception. And in a way the fact that deception is necessary is encouraging.

At 12:59 AM, August 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. I forgot to sign the previous post, Ovid. That was me, Charles. Phoenixwoman is my co-blogger and the founder of MercuryRising.

Thanks for the interesting history on Colonel Murphy.

Being one, I'll try not to give up on Americans. I do think that the historical terrain is not favorable to "conservatives." They cannot sustainably raise real living standards. All they can do is convince us that we deserve less. The healthcare insurance system and "defense" spending have brought the economy to the brink. At some point, it won't be possible to sustain even the illusion of prosperity and we will see how poor we really all.

Charles of Mercury Rising

At 5:29 AM, August 27, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...


I agree with your economic analysis. Capital is mobile now, more mobile than labor, and so we have our neoliberal world economic system. But there are some very alarming trends, without even considering resource depletion, global warming, and environmental degradation. I'll put in a plug here to a great economic analysis by a left-leaning scholar, Robert Brenner:

Per Brenner, the rate of profit in manufacturing has been declining since 1970, moving capital into finance, insurance, and real estate ("FIRE"), which are not socially productive sectors of the economy. Those sectors involve wealth transfer, not really so much creation, at least not creation of productive wealth. Basically, the economy has shifted heavily into the rich taking from the poor via credit cards, mortagages, derivatives, health care premiums, etc., along with international trade and foreign investment (which is to say investing in China or elsewhere).

Combine that with the defense spending and other costs of empire you allude to, and add in the cost of securing new energy sources, and we're headed for ruin. The rich will seek to avoid that, if history is any guide, and heap all that ruin upon the poor. The process is underway now, I think.

At some point, it will not be possible to maintain the facade of democracy in a society where too great a percentage of the population is poor. That is a familiar situation elsewhere, of course, as in Honduras, but I think the U.S. is on the path to confront that situation this century too.


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