On Protein Wisdom -- the right-wing blog of Pajamas Media's Jeff Goldstein -- there is a "response" to a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago concerning the exaggerations of the Muslim threat from Marty Peretz's assistant, Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic and Commentary. The Protein Wisdom response to my post is entitled "Hey
As we all know, Ann Coulter is a total aberration in the right-wing movement and the liberal blogosphere is filled with vulgar, angry radicals.
For whatever reason, right-wing blogs over the past couple of days began writing about that Kirchick post I wrote and, as a result, my inbox is filled with furious and deranged missives similar to the Protein Wisdom post. Nothing is more sacred in the right-wing/neocon religion than the intense fear of Muslims and the belief that they are coming to get us all. Here is one representative email I received this morning:
Glenn -- just read your post about how we're all over-reacting to Islamic fundamentalism. How refreshing! I had no idea that our fears were so ill-founded. There I was, all set to actually believe the rhetoric of Al Qaeda and Iran and the countless video tapes of suicide bombers, not to mention the actual language of the Quran. In fact, I'd even begun to believe this poll, which says that quite a few American Muslims think that there is justification for strapping a bomb to yourself and walking into a mall [GG: I wrote about that poll here and here]. But who needs polls when I have Glenn Greenwald! Thank heavens we have you to balance all this with an argument that can basically be summed up as, "well none of these people who mocked Islam have been killed, so you all need to relax, OK?"
I picture this moment, Glenn, and it brings me a little chuckle. It's you, begging some terrorist for your life, pointing out all the wonderful things you wrote that undermined America's resolve to fight against Islamic terrorism. "Look," you say, pulling articles out of your pockets with shaking hands, "I have served you! Clearly this means that I deserve to be spared!"
I won't tell you how it ends, Glenn.
The Nose On Your Face
One can only marvel at how developed and richly detailed is the fantasy that he has created and carries around with him -- being on one's knees before a Muslim terrorist, begging and pleading and shaking, dialogue about "having served you." It is really right out of some cheap, trite sadomasochistic pornography script, and yet these fears and truly creepy fantasies are the foundation for their political beliefs, driving most of our political discourse and policy.
And this bile that spewed forth really illustrates so much about why we continue to fight one of history's most absurd wars ever, whereby we occupy Iraq indefinitely even though the original justifications for invading have long ago vanished and even those who want to stay have no idea what we are trying to accomplish. It is the same dynamic that fueled so much of the intense and obsessive hatred for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and which drives the insatiable quest for new Enemies to attack, including what looks increasingly like the new War with Iran.
Bombing and killing Muslims is the only path for avoiding the humiliating scenarios which our nation's war cheerleaders carry around obsessively in their heads, and which are currently filling my inbox. They're not going to be the ones on their knees, begging. They're not going to be the "faggots." Instead, they are going to send others off to fight and bomb and occupy and kill and thereby show who is strong and tough and feel protected.
In his excellent and well-documented book "The Wimp Factor," Psychology Professor Stephen Ducat reviews clinical studies which demonstrate that many men "are more likely to experience a vicarious boost in their own sense of power and potency when American military forces attack, and especially when they defeat, an enemy." Neoconservative war tracts almost invariably are suffuse with explicit warnings about submission and humiliation.
One of the most unintentionally revealing newspaper articles of the last several decades was a 1989 front-page article in The New York Times written by R.W. Apple, on the very day when the first President Bush ordered the ludicrous (though deadly) invasion of Panama ("Operation Just Cause"). The NYT declared that Bush -- by sending the U.S. military to invade a weak and tiny country and chase around its President -- had, with one fell swoop, erased all doubts about his toughness and manliness:
For George Bush, the United States invasion of Panama early this morning constituted a Presidential initiation rite as well as an attempt to achieve specific goals.
For better or for worse, most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest. John F. Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon in South Vietnam, Gerald R. Ford in the Mayaguez affair, Ronald Reagan in Grenada and Lebanon, and now Mr. Bush in Panama -- all of them acted in the belief that the American political culture required them to show the world promptly that they carried big sticks.
For President Bush -- a man widely criticized as recently as a month ago for his purported timidity, a man assailed on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for failing to fully support an attempted coup against General Noriega only in October, a man still portrayed in the Doonesbury comic strip as the invisible President -- showing his steel had a particular significance.
Whatever the other results of this roll of the dice in Panama, it has shown him as a man capable of bold action . . . ."We have cut off the head of that government," said Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Yesterday's 'maximum leader' is today's hunted fugitive," said Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d. Most experts agreed with their assessments.
It mattered little that Panama is a tiny country with a military that was an absurd shadow of U.S. military might, a country that could never remotely threaten the United States. What mattered was the display of strength that, in American political culture, comes from war, no matter how senseless the war is, no matter how weak the enemy. That need among those who feel a lacking of power and strength -- to send others off to fight wars so that they can feel powerful -- is insatiable and far more potent than any rational arguments about "national interest" and "just wars."
That is a major reason why -- despite the endless debates and overwhelming public sentiment -- we stay in Iraq (because to leave would be to "lose," to suffer a "humiliating defeat" at the hands of a laughing Al Qaeda), and it is why war with Iran is so appetizing for so many -- we need to show the world who is boss. It is warped psychology masquerading as political belief. And that is why nothing triggers hysteria of the sort in the above-excerpted post more than challenging the notion that it may not actually be necessary to wage Permanent and Endless War on Muslims. Arguing that is virtually tantamount to advocating that our nation's vicarious war cheerleaders be deprived of food, water and oxygen.
UPDATE: I honestly just read the most unbelievable and enlightening article I have ever read. If someone asked: "I would like you to show me one article that explains everything that has happened in the U.S. over the last six years," I would show them this:
It is this 1963 Commentary essay by Norman Podhoretz (.pdf) -- our nation's leading warmonger, Godfather of Neoconservatism, top foreign policy guru to Rudy Giuliani, and loudest advocate of attacking Iran. The essay is entitled "My Negro Problem -- and Ours," and in it, Podhoretz argues that "I am convinced that we white Americans are . . . so twisted and sick in our feelings about Negroes that I despair of the present push toward integration."
But it isn't the malicious racism that is so notable (though it is certainly notable) -- such open expressions of pure racism were common in 1963 and he would undoubtedly claim that he has left such sentiments behind. Rather, what is most significant is Podhoretz's own description of his psychology and view of himself that illuminates so much of the vicarious warmongering culture that dominates our political system today (emphasis in original):
To me, at the age of twelve, it seemed very clear that Negores were better off than Jews -- indeed, than all whites. . . . [I]n my world it was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around. The Negroes were tougher than we were, more ruthless, and on the whole were better athletes. . . . I was still afraid of Negroes. And I still hated them with all my heart. . . .
The orphanage across the street is torn down, a city housing project begins to rise in its place, and on the marvelous vacant lot next to the old orphanage they are building a playground. . . . A week later, some us are swatting flies on the playground's inadequate little ball field. A gang of Negro kids, pretty much our own age, enter from the other side and order us out of the park. We refuse, proudly and indignantly, with superb masculine fervor. There is a fight, they win, and we retreat, half whimpering, half with bravado. My first nauseating experience of cowardice. . .
Gradually we abandon the place and use the streets instead. The streets are safer, though we do not admit this to ourselves. We are not, after all, sissies -- the most dreaded epithet of an American boyhood. . . . .
That day in school the teacher had asked a surly Negro boy named Quentin a question he was unable to answer. As usual I had waved my arm eagerly . . . and, the right answer bursting from my lips, I was held up lovingly by the teacher as an example to the class. I had seen Quentin's face -- a very dark, very cruel, very Oriental-looking face -- harden, and there had been enough threat in his eyes to make me run all the way home for fear that he might catch me outside. . . .
For me as a child the life lived on the other side of the playground and down the block on Ralph Avenue seemed the very embodiment of the values of the street -- free, independent, reckless, brave, masculine, erotic.. . .
The hatred I still feel for Negroes is the hardest of all the old feelings to face or admit, and it is the most hidden and the most overlarded by the conscious attitudes into which I have succeeded in willing myself. It no longer has, as for me it once did, any cause or justification (except, perhaps that I am constantly being denied my right to an honest expression of the things I earned the right as a child to feel). How, then, do I know that this hatred has never entirely disappeared? I know it from the insane rage that can stir in me at the thought of Negro anti-Semitism; I know it from the disgusting prurience that can stir in me at the sight of a mixed couple; and I know it from the violence that can stir in my whenever I encounter that special brand of paranoid touchiness to which many Negroes are prone. . . .
There were plenty of bad boys among the whites -- this was, after all, a neighborhood with a long tradition of crime as a career open to aspiring talents -- but the Negroes were really bad, bad in a way that beckoned to one, and made one feel inadequate.
There will never be enough bombings and sending others off to start new wars that will erase those feelings. But Podhoretz and his bloodthirsty followers -- including his combat-avoiding protegee Rudy Giuliani -- will never stop trying.