Thursday, August 17, 2006

an axis of fascists

* another terrific post by emptywheel - I hope she doesn't mind if i grab it all:
"I'm fascinated by the outpouring of moderates' conversion narratives, from balanced and temperate to, um, shrill.

[snipping her quotes from josh, kevin and ezra]

I've got some mixed feelings about the pattern. A big part of me wants to ask, "what took you so long?" But, acknowledging the same sense of urgency as these gentleman, mostly I say, "welcome."

Then there's a part of me that thinks of Gore and Kerry. Josh dates the "the founding political bad act" to Bush v. Gore, while I think many of us in the already-shrill category would date it earlier--at least to Clinton's impeachment, but probably earlier (raising again the question of "what took you so long?"). Anyway, I think both Gore and Kerry went through a similar conversation process as Josh, Ezra, and Kevin through the process of losing. That is, both--like Ezra--thought the best of their opponents, until it was too late. Somehow, none of the beltway types seem to see us losing in Congress day after day, due to the same tactics the Republicans use to beat us in elections. Is it going to take all of them losing to GOP hysteria in a Presidential election before they, too, make the conversion to shrill?

Then finally, taking Kevin's call for more attention to the shrillification of the moderates, I think we'd be better to study a dual movement. That is, there's the shrillification of the moderates. And then there's the engagement of people like me who had previously been too turned off by the commodification of politics (on both sides of the aisle); what Brent Wilkes teaches us to call transactional lobbying. The same sense of urgency that got Josh and Ezra and Kevin to shrillify brought a lot of people who had had been disengaged into the party. It's not so much that angry bloggers took over the party. It's that a bunch of us are meeting in a new kind of middle, bred from a sense of urgency.

The problem is, and has always been, we have failed to communicate that sense of urgency. Many of us were trying, well before Bush v. Gore. Many of us have been pointing out that one's predictions were more accurate if you expect the worst from the Republicans. Yet I don't know that anyone has succeeded in converting someone easily, without that whole process. Because our urgency is dismissed as shrillness (and even was by some who have now themselves become shrill), it is too easy to ignore the sense of patriotic urgency you see in many places, now, even from moderate Republicans.
I'm sure that will generate an interesting comment thread.

For me - I wasn't really interested in politics - so I didn't really get it till really late. I'm 35 years old - and not american - so i wasn't even aware of the Gingrich Contract For America. And I didn't ever understand Iran-Contra - I was hardly even aware of it. I was glued to a tv in san francisco watching the Lewinsky/impeachment thing in horror - but mostly as a sideshow. Then I was living in London and wasn't taking much notice of American politics - but I had to come to Australia for a funeral for a couple of weeks at the end of 2000 - and I saw a very scary documentary about Osama at the same time that Katherine Harris was making a name for herself - and I figured that if Osama was smart, he should attack America then - when the country basically didnt have a president. It still didn't occur to me that there was anything particularly nefarious going on. And then came 911 of course, and I still didn't get it.

But at some point over the next year, watching the run-up to the Iraq war, I realized that something was SERIOUSLY amiss. And I've been obsessed, and scared, ever since (or as EW describes it "the engagement of people like me.")

I can't remember exactly when, but I think it was way back in 2003 when I first noted, shrillly, that a military revolt may be our only chance. Literally tanks-at-the-whitehouse stuff. I still think that might be the case. I honestly don't believe that the occupiers in the WH can afford to get kicked outta power. Impeachment is the least of their worries if the Dems win a House or two in November. And as EW suggests, those of us who have been the most shrill have long been ahead of the curve.

I didn't blame Gore, mostly because I didn't understand - I'm not sure whether I blame him now or not. I do blame Kerry. That was simply appalling.

But as EW and Larisa and others have long argued, we got here today because these people werent buried as a result of Iran-Contra. If we ever get out of this fix, we really really really need to make sure this shit never happens again.

all of which brings me back to Don's question the other day about how Iran Contra fits in with the stuff that's going on today - emptywheel dropped by and offered this answer/explanation:
I've been saying for a while that we need to get out of the habit of referring to Republican scandals as discrete affairs. Since the 1970s at least, there has been a concerted effort to adopt an authoritarian, one-party system leading either intentionally or by logic to a neofeudalist system.

That said, I think there are three strands that help us see how Iran-Contra connects to the current expression of the Neocon effort. First, this is about the illegal financing of an unoffical foreign policy. There are sveral ways they're doing it this time around: burying the funding in black ops budgets than outsourcing to loyal Republicans (CIFA), using Abramoff- and Wilkes-like schemes to fundraise, laundering money through affiliate groups like the INC or MEK, or using the proceeds of illicit goods (drugs). The point is to get huge amounts of readily available cash to implement your own foreign policies.

Second, is the establishment of some proto-fascist allies around the globe, to establish a network of power. They're actually moving backwards right now, since they've lost Berlusconi and Aznar. But I think the point is to extend the power of this network across the globe.

And third is the use of the same people and the same methods (Ghorbanifar) as they did the last time. This puzzles me. Why use Ghorbainfar again unless you were satisfied with what he did for you last time? I think it comes from the sense that Iran necessarily plays in a geostrategic sense, and a longing to return to the days of the Shah (that is, where they could combine number two with the geostrategic imperative).

What's different from Iran-Contra (but is more a yoking of the lessons from Iran-Contra and those of Watergate) is that Cheney's basically taking over the Federal government like a cancer. It's like he's trying to change government into an authoritarian one at precisely the moment his foreign policy exploits succeeds, so he can give his "conquest" legitimacy after the fact. Or maybe that's not right--maybe he's just working the covert and legitimate means at the same time.
interesting, and insightful, as always.

Why use Ghorba? I have no idea. By all accounts that I'm familiar with, he really only re-appeared again in those Paris/Rome meetings - and then all of a sudden Darth Cheney is using Ghorba to spy of Khalilzad. Perhaps we need a better sense of what Ghorba was doing through the nineties to understand the bigger picture. I suspect that there is a lot more continuity than we currently understand.

Re Cheney's cancer, that's one of the key indicators that there's something rotten in denmark. I don't think for a minute that they really believe in the unitary executive - they only believe in their unitary executive. Any rational observer recognizes that there's a good chance that the repugs could be out of power for a long time - yet Addington and Cheney continue to redraw the power map - giving the 'president' more and more power. That scares the heck out of me - because it suggests that they don't plan on being anything other than president for a long time.

As emptywheel notes, the difference between now-and-then is that Iran-Contra didn't really have a domestic component. Perhaps we need to understand which is the horse and which is the cart. Which is the primary motive/goal?:
a) the geostrategic imperative
b) an axis of fascists
c) domestic authoritarianism
d) other
or perhaps they are necessarily all part of the whole...

regardless, i'm still scared.


LeeB said...


At last we have a really good word to describe what happened to my otherwise normal, reasonably well-functioning mind in November and December 2000.

Thank you, Marcy.

noise said...

Is anyone familiar with Al Martin? He wrote The Conspirators: Secrets of an Iran-Contra Insider. I keep meaning to order the book. I subscribed to his site for awhile and have listened to some interviews. I can't really vouch for his credibility, I just don't know.

He talks about Bushonomics, which is generally speaking consolidation of wealth (by the corporate class I guess). Here is a recent column in which he suggests the US is transitioning to a 3rd world nation. (1)

I would point out the obvious difference between I-C and now is 9/11. That has given them a world of protection. Blatant law breaking and nary a word from Sen. Intel. Com. or Sen. Jud. Com. Dem. Min. Leader Reid seems to be against impeachment for crying out loud.

My gut tells me the neocons were put in power by the Establishment to do a dirty job. Not enough resistence to them considering how out of control they are.

IMO, you don't stage a real coup with a guy like W.

To answer your question, I'd would guess a/oil, b/ need psychos to do a dirty job w/o expressing guilt, c/possibly there if/when the public gets tired of exporting democracy, d/why now factor?

Yeah, all of the above.

rimone said...

what LeeB said above totally describes what happened to me.

and Lukery, i /do/ blame Gore (as much as i dig him). i blame him for taking the high road re: SCOTUS when it was so obvious to me--a political nobody--that the only way to fight back was to descend to using the rethugs' own dirty tactics.

as i said many times before, the SCOTUS thing put me into a shock from which i still haven't recovered.

emptywheel said...


Interesting thoughts. Thanks for reposting mine.

One thing I didn't say in my Iran-Contra comment is that I think one fundamental continuity in the last 40 years of Republican authoritarianism is the Texas oil money that morphed and merged into big construction. I'm listening to Caro's Master of the Senate now (on LBJ, one of the best political books I've ever read, by far), and the precursor to Brown and Root bought him very early on (some more plausible Kennedy conspiracy theories involve these creeps). But they began to switch parties with the illegal Nixon fundraising scheme that landed in Poppy's pocket. And from that point forward (parallel with the growth of Halliburton), the Bushes and with them the Republicans were the new property for these guys. That's what I was trying to do with this post--to show that Anne Armstrong (who was personally involved in Watergate and Iran-Contra) and Katharine Armstrong (who seems to be involved with our illegal wars) have been part of this Republican effort all the way through. Add in what we learn from Confessions of an Economic Hitman, and you see how these construction firms have been an instrument force behind the whole Free Trade charade, which has kept them in power up till now. Cheney's job is to find something to replace 90s style globalization with, partly because that globalization depends on oil, and partly because Americans can no longer compete.

Which is a circuitous way of saying I think there has always been a domestic part to this, whatever the Brown family wanted. But that the larger focus is to ensure the world hegemonic plan put in place by them. They need compliant desperate workers here to be able to carry out their plans overseas.

Totally different point--Ghorba. What I'm most fascinated is the way that Ghorba and Chalabi are both selling a kind of access to the Iranians, but we saw with Ghorba that he was either lying (he didn't have that access under the Ayatollahs), or--more likely--he's an Iranian operative and he is a master at stringing us along. Anyway, maybe it's just as simple as Ledeen thinks he is running Ghorba, when in fact the reverse is true.

Kathleen said...

I'm with EW on "the bad' starting possibly earlier than Bush v Gore. I'd say "the bad" definitely started earlier, but I'm soooo much older than everyone here, I'm having trouble deciding on that starting point. Every time I think I've got it, I remember a preceding gross injustice.

Bill Clinton's impeachment was a gross abuse of the Constitution for partisan purposes, at taxpayers' expense. It began the day Newt the Brewt set his sights on being Speaker of the House and 3rd in line to the Presidency, the perch from which he could impeach the President and the Veep. They tried to get something on Gore, but nothing stuck.

It was a grand scheme which Newt nearly pulled off. To get there, he had to eliminate former Speakers Jim Wright and Tom Foley and he used taxpayers money to accomplish it.

Newt curried favor with his Congressional collegues in both houses by introducing legislation giving Congress a 50% pay raise, with an automatic annual 10% cost of living increase.

Now that's "transactional". Everybody wanted it, but they just didn't want to have to go on record, yay or nay. Reagan had said he would sign it, when it reached his desk, the Senate said they would pass it, so it fell to Jim Wright, who knew the people were furious about the pay raise and the "passed by unanimous consent" bit, to do the right thing and he called for a vote. That was the end of the bill and the end of Jim Wright.

Newt drove the ship to investigate Jim Wright for accepting $7,000 in book royalites, which were "exempt". The headlines all read 69 charges, but if you read the committee report you see in the fine print that most charges were dropped. Newt went on to accept a $1 million dollar advance on his book, though. Tom Foley had to promise a 35% pay raise to get the job and then GOPAC went to Foley's home district and defeated him there.

A similar thing happened to Senator Alan Cranston. Of the Keating 5, Cranston was the only one who did not accept a campaign contribution from Keating, but he was the only one disciplined. Cranston had formed a non-profit for voter registration and Keating contributed. Cranston called the Federal Agency investigating Keating and asked them to do a speedy hearing. Everyone is entitled to a speedy disposition of an investigation, but this was construed to be improper.

What Cranston and Wright had in common was their very outspoken criticism of Reagan/Bush and Iran-Contra. They were exhilerating in their stands, getting the Boland ammendment adopted, to stop the sale of arms to Nicaragua. Even so, Reagan hosted breakfast with the Gipper for private donors who paid for arms for Nicaragua in violation of the Boland ammendment. Seperate foreign polcies, and shoadow gov'ts, anyone? Dems had the majority in both houses, so some intra-party rivalries came into play here too.

Iran-Contra makes Watergate seem like a pre school sand box fight.

Then there's the whole Vietnam horror. This is when I became "engaged" as opposed to simply voting.

If I had to find a common thread throughout these serial wars and disregard for laws, I'd say that under Republicans, a "Me first", winning at all costs, by any means, competitiveness and unseemly greed, hypocricy, and prevarication, prevails.

For the Democrats' part, they've pulled too many punches. Out of fear of being called "partisan", shrill, if you will, they too often let transgressions slide.

Clinton, for example, barely mentioned Iran-Contra and all the Presidential Pardons during the 1992 campaign. It was all swept under the rug and he paid the price. So did we.

Gore erred in not calling for an entire state recount, which was the only appeal proof position. Then as Rimone says, in taking the high road. Dems were sorely remiss in the failure of even one Senator signing the Congressional Black Caucus objections to the certification of the Presidential electors from Florida. I'm not over that yet.

Then there was Kerry's conceding, etc. I'm not suggesting that Democrats should emulate the worst conduct of the NeoCons, because I don't think it benefits anyone to lower one's standards, but I am asking Democrats to stop pulling their punches and to sock it the hell to em with the hard core truth.

9/11 might have meant that everyone joined together as fellow victims, but it sure as hell didn't make Dopey and Darth infallible, so stop with the obeisance, already.

I don't accept the term "shrill". I've been on the planet long enough to have noticed that whenever someone doesn't want to hear what you have to say, they accuse you of shouting. They cover their ears, squint their eyes shut and make a face and say "Stop shouting", even though you are speaking in a normal voice. They just don't want to hear it.

That I disagree with the "flat-earthers", and defend my belief that the earth is round, does not make me shrill.

LeeB said...

It appears we have the development of a useful bit of punchy shorthand.

If one is a political candidate, the new name assigned by the left for typically nasty GOPPER tactics (since 2004), "Swiftboating," is what we have come to understand as a series of lies and smears used in their attempts to undermine their opponents, since they are totally unable to argue from any superior factual platform.

I would then say "shrillification" is what they try to do to the rest of us. It, too, is used in an attempt to deflate and render useless the opposition via smears and lies. To their fact-free ears, I'm sure we do sound shrill when we are, in our state of utter exasperation, calling foul on their crap. They seem to be unable to recognize normal responses to the offenses they dish out on a daily basis.

I guess we have to start turning their demeaning tactics back around by lobbing our word at them as an opening to spell out their lying ways and total bankruptcy of any useful ideas that actually benefit the country. It's another tool to use in the "watercooler wars."