Wednesday, September 11, 2013

more on 9-11

Well, that last post touched a few nerves!  About conspiracy theories surrounding 9-11.  My point was not to debate the significance of various bits of evidence, some real some nonsense, that inevitably come up over the question of whether operatives in the US government planned the attacks.  That never goes anywhere except for some particularly passionate devotees of the US-responsibility hypothesis who - when anyone remains unconvinced - then flood you with internet articles written or heavily cited by other 9-11 conspiracists.



If there was any salient point in there, at least that I intended to make, it was not related to the merits of the various arguments, but to the human need for control and denial in the face of our animal mortality.

Then there was a point about Christ.

But now that I've been re-bombarded with these theories, and understanding that practical arguments are not convincing if piecemeal they don't damage the foundation of the theory, that is, the narrative - the story of what happened into which various facts and pseudo-facts are fitted.  But it is an anecdotal story, one act by one body of actors, for one purpose, and when this act is accomplished, everything afterward becomes the denouement.  The real climax is the collapse of the buildings.

So now, just because it won't take that long, and because I think it's a more plausible story that hasn't ended yet.  To tell this story, I have to suspend my own identity and adopt a dispassionate and functional gaze.

9-11 was - speaking as an amateur military historian - one of the more stunningly successful strategic direct actions in modern history.


9-11 was a glimpse into postmodern war, which will be characterized and determined by asymmetry.  Our whole historical conjuncture is pregnant with new conflicts, and with new kinds of conflict.  The new imperial reliance on smart weapons, drones, missiles, and air ordnance is an attempt to outmaneuver asymmetry, because asymmetry defeated the United States military in Iraq and it is defeating the United States in Afghanistan at this very moment.  The internet creates conditions favorable to asymmetric conflict, even if it is just ideological conflict, as well as providing potentially asymmetric communications in support of material goals.  That is why the powers that be are trying to get hold of it as we have seen with the Snowden revelatons.  All things that the weak can use against the strong, turning weakness and decentralization into strengths.

I have no idea if Osama bin Laden was brilliant or lucky or both - again speaking from a totally dispassionate historical point of view.  Most successful military operations involve both, and I am saying that 9-11 was a brilliantly calculated military attack.

That's my story.

It begins with the psychology of the operation - because all military operations are at their root political actions, and postmodern politics is about psychological operations - a military term that someone like Gramsci would call consent-of-the-governed, or hegemonic power.  Performance and perception.  Roles and scripts.

Three targets are chosen.  One is not only a financial center of the empire, but an iconic double-phallus over the world's financial nerve center.  Another is the Capitol, the political center and repository of the nation's identity.  Another is the military center, the very beating heart of history's most expensive, technically-sophisticated, and lethal military institution.  As a provocation, it is irresistible.

George W. Bush will certainly lash out; he will have to because any seated President of the United States will be obliged to strike back at something.  The demand for blood from the public - calculated correctly - was overwhelming, even alarming in its intensity.  I remember people who warned me that I ought to put a flag decal on my car and a flag in front of my house, or I might come under suspicion.

But George W. Bush was specifically knowable.  Anyone who could read could research Bush's record, his own personality, his own handlers and cronies, and his own policy coterie.  Moreover, anyone who was awake knew that Bush had been faced with a political credibility crisis ever since the 2000 election and that he was a political opportunist.  He would certainly move to consolidate executive power, breathe life into various agendas, take advantage of political opponents, and pursue to the maximum extent possible the stated goals of his foreign policy advisers.

The neocons' publications have been heavily cited by 9-11 truthers, which they read after the fact then retroject onto their own narrative as support for it.  But Osama bin Laden and his fellow planners - rich and well-educated - were able to study the beliefs of these men before the attack.  As the truthers point out, the US actions after 9-11 were foreshadowed in many publications.  That this doesn't seem sensible if you plan a false-flag operation does not enter into their thinking; and likewise, it does not occur to them that the  neocons had telegraphed their future enemy about their intentions.

Their screwy academic notions about reshaping the Middle East in the US image were widely on record.  And anyone as familiar with the cultures, complications, and politics of the region - like Osama bin Laden - knew that any attempt to carry out such a program would meet with serial disasters.

Bin Laden never got over the US and Saudi Arabia disallowing his forces the principle role in fighting Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 1990.  His past history with the US and with the Saudi regime was broken, and from then on his sights were on them.

In one bold gesture, one that was not only tactically sophisticated, embedded in an advanced understanding of how all military actions must be political actions, and cognizant of public psychology as a determinative strategic variable, bin Laden tricked an imperial government and a imperial society into a massive, expensive, disruptive, and years-long strategic blunder that cost trillions, exposed the myth of US military invincibility, destroyed US credibility in a large fraction of the world.  Not only did the US not win a war, but their invasion of Iraq ultimately strengthened a strategic enemy - Iran - with a Shia victory in Iraq.  Almost certainly a powerful Taliban government will end up ruling in Afghanistan at the end of the day. The imperial core has been crippled permanently by the last decade and a half, and the strategic turning point that led in a direct line to that historic phase-shift was 9-11.

From OBL's perspective, as a strategist, this is an inconceivably massive success.

We can't know what was actually in his head, because he was killed.  But my story tracks better, in my view, than the preposterous notion that this was engineered in the USA and not a single peep in twelve years from anyone in the know.  I worked among the most cold-blooded operators employed by our government, and none of us would have ever consented to kill almost 3000 Americans to advance a political agenda.  Only in the movies...

One of my disputants read a kind of abbreviated version of the above account, and he was almost relieved.  Said I sounded like the "old Stan," meaning when I wrote about war and war's outcomes without counting the human costs, looking at it as a purely strategic matter... then he told me that if I'd "get out of the OBL box" I'd come to the correct (9-11 truther) conclusions.  His sense of relief was that I was making recognizable man-talk... ignoring the human realities to explicate the strategic ones... that is, war talk.  So there is my little counter-thesis in recognizable man-talk/war-talk.

All I've got to say on 9-11.  Now I'll tell you what man-talk covers up.

The struggle between good and evil is not divided up among the "sides," but in the hearts of each person in a broken world, and in the material outcomes of social relations that make war inevitable.  We are not faced with a few evil men and their conspiracies.  We are faced with structures and their inertia that articulate evil like some bacteria articulate toxins.  Slaughtering human beings and valorizing cruelty is the very essence of evil.  Visiting grief and misery by design on other human beings is the essence of evil.  Would that someone could conspire against that.  War, that is.

War is altogether evil.

4 comments:

  1. Your last paragraph sums up well what you said to me in the first communication I had with you, back around '04, when I made a rather immature observation on Cheney and Bush and the financial class being a few guys with bad ideas. You were a lefty then, but the seeds of what you are now were there.

    I have had the feeling for many years now that no one/nothing is in control of what is going on, and I thank you for presenting that in an eloquent way.

    But, for those who have power to believe in a system that has shown itself to be patently false, as long as the "game" of it keeps them comfortable and powerful and on the other side of the boundary of shoveling their own shit (and is in itself another form of whistling past the graveyard) is something I can accept. As Hugh Trevor-Roper said in "The Last Days of Hitler": "God is capricious in designing the human mind".

    I don't have to like it, and I don't, but to be exhausted by the continual outrage that the system generates through its actions (THAT might be conspiratorial, in the sense of giving the chattering liberal intelligentsia something to chatter about and the working class something to fear), is worse. It IS better to give food, wash feet, and I will add as a musician (one who has played to the baser instincts of an audience often enough to make grocery money), to comfort and raise consciousness.

    Can't truly consider myself a Christian (yet?), but Jesus was a here-and-now kind of person, it seems. Now. Here. This.

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  2. I remember you saying that people often asked you, "What happened?" as if you were struck blind on the road to Damascus, referring to your shift away from the type of thinking that allowed you to wear a uniform for so many years. In response you said that it was nothing like that, not a moment of blinding clarity, that it was a long, gradual proccess.

    That is more understandable to me, and more a reflection of complex realities.

    And I still wonder, when it comes to your shift into being a Christian, "What happened?"

    I have had, and know others who've had experiences of God. Each were different, and affected us in our own ways. For me, one moment was just feeling like I was wrapped in an energetic blanket of love suddenly, and it was the only time in my life that I feel like I glimpsed some notion of my true self, and a large defining characteristic of that self was not feeling anxiety about death, while simultaneously feeling loved and able to so freely give love. That moment has never come back for me, but I remain a loving person, albeit one who lives with the fear of chaos and death.

    My moment of experiencing God didn't last long but I've always remembered it. But I have no specific notion of a particular religion or faith. My experience was not that specific. There was just love, without fear.

    What is your experience of God, Stan, and how did your faith become so specific? I can remember sitting up in bed one night, not long after 9/11 I believe, reading the last chapter of Hideous Dream, and man, there is some pretty staight up atheist talk in there. I know I've got no right to ask these personal questions, but curiosity is getting the better of me.

    "The struggle between good and evil is not divided up among the "sides," but in the hearts of each person in a broken world, and in the material outcomes of social relations that make war inevitable. We are not faced with a few evil men and their conspiracies. We are faced with structures and their inertia that articulate evil like some bacteria articulate toxins."

    Damn right. Participated in another big raid on public lands around my home,the other day, lots of camoflage, guns and helicopters, and that youthful enthusiasm for the possibility of combat. And the shit of it was that I was right there with them in the all the complexity and contradiction, an active participant, reluctant and solemn and alone. In my heart, its not my scene, but there are men in the hills with guns, and I'd ask them politely if they would mind putting them down and being better neighbors. But my experience tells me they wouldn't listen.

    Much love Stan. Keep up the great writting.

    Jack

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  3. Haven't heard from you, Stan, in quite a while...hope you are OK.

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