Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

The Book That Got the Bro Tazed

The Book that Got the Bro Tazed

Armed Madhouse
Greg Palast
Dutton (2006)

I’m with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul
is innocent and immortal it should never die
ungodly in an armed madhouse

Allen Ginsberg, Howl (1955)

Greg Palast is an angry man, a funny man, a brilliant man, and an unapologetic egoist. You might say he’s like Sy Hersh and Mike Moore and Ed Murrow and Milton Friedman rolled into one. His book, Armed Madhouse, has been released in several editions, with various Swiftian subtitles, since 2006. This reviewer used the English Dutton edition from the Ann Arbor Public Library, which, bless them, has four copies.

The book is like a volcanic eruption. Where to start? Most anywhere, since Palast has dispensed with conventional narrative, chronological progression, and logical argumentation in favor of a thematic and topical approach which is much like his blog at gregpalast.com. Palast says, “I like to read in the loo, so this book, like my last [The Best Democracy Money Can Buy] can be read in short spurts, in any order. To that end, I’ve eliminated the consistency and continuity I despise in other books.” A pity, that.

I first became interested in Armed Madhouse during the infamous “Don’t Taze Me, Bro” incident at the University of Florida on September 17, 2007. A young man spent 90 seconds attempting to ask former Presidential candidate John Kerry a series of questions based on Palast’s book. The unfortunate young man, Andrew Meyer, was dragged to the back of the auditorium by campus police. While Meyer was waving a yellow trade paper edition of Armed Madhouse, he was pinned to the ground and “drive stunned” with a Taser while pleading “What did I do?… Don’t Taze Me, Bro!”

Public interest in the Andrew Meyer case has subsided since Meyer, on the advice of counsel, wrote a letter of apology exonerating the police who had taken him down, drive stunned him and arrested him for taking 90 seconds to ask an argumentative question. Meyer reportedly is to complete a “voluntary” 18 month probation, which if successful, will result in him not facing charges over the incident. Video of the incident was a YouTube phenom, with more than 2 million viewings to date. Interest in Palast’s book, which had reached the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list in May 2007, has resurged since the Tazing of the Bro.

Palast is savage in his treatment of President Bush Jr’s defining “Mission Accomplished” moment:

On Thursday, May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Forgetting to undo the parachute clips around his gonads, our President walked bowlegged on the ship’s deck in a green jumpsuit looking astonishingly like Ham, first chimp in space.

It is really quite disgraceful of Palast to make such a comparison to Ham, a perfectly respectable hero-chimp-astronaut.

Beyond his bombast, Palast clearly has excellent investigative instincts and deep national security sources. His investigations of Exxon and Enron helped blow the whistle on major scandals of the 1990’s. His analysis of the Bin Laden’s and Bush’s as motivated by the same oil-baron class interests is similar to the thesis of fellow BBC contributor Adam Curtis’ documentary The Power of Nightmares which we reviewed in Current in January, 2006. Palast says:

Fear is the sales pitch for many products…Better than toothpaste that makes your teeth whiter than white, this stuff will make us safer than safe… Real security for life’s dangers–from a national health insurance program to ending oil sheiks’ funding of bomb-loving “charities”–would take a slice of the profits of the owning classes, the Lockheeds, the ChoicePoints and the tiny-town big shot who owns the ferry company. The War on Terror has become class war by other means.

Palast’s investigation of ChoicePoint alleges this organization grew out of the now-officially-defunct “Total Information Awareness Office” at DARPA. He associates ChoicePoint with the database techniques used to “suppress” votes by millions of legally registered Democratic voters in the 2004 election.

Palast ties the war in Iraq to oil–not to an attempt to sell the oil but rather, to prevent it from being sold in order to drive up prices. He points out that there is no oil shortage geologically–world proven reserves, he says, top 1.189 trillion barrels. That’s 49,938,000,000,000 gallons of oil remaining by my calculation. He quotes Mobil Oil heir Lewis Lapham of Harper’s as saying that “we have been ‘running out of oil’ since the days when we drained it from whales”. Palast later refutes, or refines, his own theory in an afterword called “Return to Hubbert’s Peak: Why Palast is Wrong”.

Greg Palast’s website may be found at http://www.gregpalast.com/

Armed Madhouse is a work to taste, chew, and enjoy. A troubling work by a troubled man, and wicked funny. But I repeat myself.

Ham:
Ham


Bush:

Bush

You be the judge!

see also: keyword “Andrew Meyer” on scanlyze

Copyright © 2007, 2008 Henry Edward Hardy

A version of this article has previously appeared in Current.

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23 January, 2008 Posted by | Allen Ginsberg, Andrew Meyer, Armed Madhouse, BBC, book, Bush, ChoicePoint, DARPA, Don't Taze Me Bro, economics, Greg Palast, Ham the Chimp, Howl, media, news, oil, politics, review, scanlyze, taser, Thomas A Swift Electric Rifle, torture, Total Information Awareness, war | 1 Comment

A New ‘Great Game’ In Afghanistan?

A New ‘Great Game’ In Afghanistan?

The head of the British Army has made clear Britain’s quasi-imperial ambitions in Central Asia. The British Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt says that Britain is, “On the edge of a new and deadly Great Game in Afghanistan.” The “Great Game” was a term coined by a British Intelligence Officer, Lt. Arthur Connoly of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry in 1834, to describe the rivalry between the British Empire and Russia in Central Asia. Dannatt envisions a state of permanent war. He asks, “how do we prepare ourselves for potentially a generation of conflict?”

Dannatt’s speech is here: CGS speaks on “Tomorrow’s Army, Today’s Challenges”

Mentioned in The Guardian: Miliband leaves way open for Iraq troops reduction

Dannatt has attracted considerable controversy regarding public comments which have been seen as suggesting that Britain should withdraw from Iraq: General seeks UK Iraq withdrawal

So Dannatt’s comments about Afghanistan are perhaps more a warning than an endorsement of Her Majesty’s Government’s position.

See also, What if Bush has a strategy working as intended in Iraq and Afghanistan? What could it be?
New Great Game (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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28 August, 2007 Posted by | Afghanistan, Army, Britain, CGS, Chief of Staff, grand strategy, Great Britain, Great Game, Iraq, military, news, oil, peace, permanent war, Richard Dannatt, scanlyze, speech, strategy, war | Leave a comment

What if Bush has a strategy working as intended in Iraq and Afghanistan? What could it be?

Let’s imagine that George W. Bush is intelligent, that he is not insane, and that he has a strategy at work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s imagine further that Bush’s strategy is working as intended. What could that strategy be?

The Great Game/Containment

In this theory, the bombs fall on Baghdad and Helmand but the target is Moscow.

The term, The Great Game is attributed to a British Intelligence Officer, Lt. Arthur Connoly of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry. He used the term in, Journey to the North of India through Russia, Persia and Afghanistan, London, Richard Bentley, 1834, to describe the rivalry between the British and Russian empire in Central Asia.

A similar theory, now called containment, was proposed in a famous article by George Kennan. In The Sources of Soviet Conduct, Foreign Affairs, July, 1947, Kennan, writing as “X”, proposed that the Soviet Union be crippled economically through an economic and cultural blockade, while it would be destabilized through covert actions and propaganda. He wrote,

…it will be clearly seen that the Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points…

…we have in Russia today a population which is physically and spiritually tired. The mass of the people are disillusioned, skeptical and no longer as accessible as they once were to the magical attraction which Soviet power still radiates to its followers abroad. The avidity with which people seized upon the slight respite accorded to the Church for tactical reasons during the war was eloquent testimony to the fact that their capacity for faith and devotion found little expression in the purposes of the regime.

In these circumstances, there are limits to the physical and nervous strength of people themselves. These limits are absolute ones, and are binding even for the cruelest dictatorship, because beyond them people cannot be driven. The forced labor camps and the other agencies of constraint provide temporary means of compelling people to work longer hours than their own volition or mere economic pressure would dictate; but if people survive them at all they become old before their time and must be considered as human casualties to the demands of dictatorship. In either case their best powers are no longer available to society and can no longer be enlisted in the service of the state.

Managed chaos

The idea here is that the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan is not an aberration but is in fact calculated and intended. Doctrines of “asymmetrical warfare” hold that terrorism and armed propaganda are “force multipliers”… therefore we destroy the pillars of civil society so that our own “freedom fighters” can do their asymmetrical thing. This could be considered similar to the Sudanese strategy in Darfur, or the Contra war the US has conducted in Latin America, most notably in the 1980’s.

Peter Beaumont et al After the surge … what next? The Observer, Sunday January 14, 2007
David L. Grange, Asymmetric Warfare: Old Strategy, New Concern, National Strategy Forum Review Winter 2000
James Johnson Implications for the Ten Division Army: Selective Engagement or Managed Chaos Masters Thesis, US Army Command and Military Staff College, 1994

Opium Wars

Afghanistan

world’s largest producer of opium; cultivation dropped 48% to 107,400 hectares in 2005; better weather and lack of widespread disease returned opium yields to normal levels, meaning potential opium production declined by only 10% to 4,475 metric tons; if the entire poppy crop were processed, it is estimated that 526 metric tons of heroin could be processed; source of hashish; many narcotics-processing labs throughout the country; drug trade source of instability and some anti-government groups profit from the trade; 80-90% of the heroin consumed in Europe comes from Afghan opium; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering through informal financial networks

CIA Word Factbook, Field Listing, Illicit Drugs

This is the full report of the opium survey of Afghanistan that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime made public in September 2006. There was considerable alarm when it was announced that opium cultivation in Afghanistan rose to 165,000 hectares in 2006, a 59% increase over 2005.

This 6,100 tons of opium gives Afghanistan the dubious distinction of having nearly a monopoly of the world heroin market.

Major traffickers, warlords and insurgents are reaping the profits of this bumper crop to spread instability, infiltrate public institutions, and enrich themselves. Afghanistan is moving from narcoeconomy to narco-state.

While criminals prosper, the rest of society suffers. In Afghanistan, opium is choking development and democratization. The rule of the bullet and the bribe exists where there is no rule of law.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Opium Survey 2006

Britain fought two Opium Wars from 1834 to 1860 to force China to buy British opium. After World War II, the United States has fought a series of wars and proxy wars in the worlds major opium growing areas, including Burma, Laos, Thailand, Columbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Kurdistan.

see also,

William E. Colby, Heroin, Laos, and the USA New York Review of Books, November 22, 1990.
Gary Webb, The Dark Alliance, San Jose Mercury News, 1996.
Jensen-Stevenson, Monika and Stevenson, William. Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POWs in Vietnam. New York: Dutton (Penguin Books), 1990 [namebase entry]
Kwitny, Jonathan. The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987. [namebase entry]

Oil War

This is a common theory, the only twist here being that the intent would be not to obtain the oil but simply to drive up prices by restricting supply. As long as Saudi Arabia remains on board (how much longer?) the US-aligned corporations have enough excess capacity to meet the oil demand. So to guarantee profits, the Seven Sisters need not to obtain more supplies, thus putting yet more oil on the market; but to simply insure the destruction of the productive capacity of their rivals.

Divide and rule

In this scenario, the US would intentionally foment sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and elsewhere. The US would favor the Shiia because they are in the minority and the idea would be to destabilize the Sunni regimes in particular Saudi Arabia, which has an economic stranglehold on the US by means of its massive investment portfolio and oil reserves.

Divide and Rule (wikipedia)

Permanent war

The theory of Permanent War is eloquently articulated in George Orwell’s novel, 1984:

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed…

War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

George Orwell, 1984

The basic authority of a modern state over its people resides in its war powers. (There is, in fact, good reason to believe that codified law had its origins in the rules of conduct established by military victors for dealing with the defeated enemy, which were later adapted to apply to all subject populations. ) On a day-to-day basis, it is represented by the institution of police, armed organizations charged expressly with dealing with “internal enemies” in a military manner. Like the conventional “external” military, the police are also substantially exempt from many civilian legal restraints on their social behavior. In some countries, the artificial distinction between police and other military forces does not exist. On the long-term basis, a government’s emergency war powers – inherent in the structure of even the most libertarian of nations – define the most significant aspect of the relation between state and citizen.

In advanced modern democratic societies, the war system has provided political leaders with another political-economic function of increasing importance: it has served as the last great safeguard against the elimination of necessary social classes. As economic productivity increases to a level further and further above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more difficult for a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring the existence of “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” The further progress of automation can be expected to differentiate still more sharply between “superior” workers and what Ricardo called “menials,” while simultaneously aggravating the problem of maintaining an unskilled labor supply.

The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military activities make them ideally suited to control these essential class relationships. Obviously, if the war system were to be discarded, new political machinery would be needed at once to serve this vital subfunction. Until it is developed, the continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other reason, among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree of poverty a society requires as an incentive, as well as to maintain the stability of its internal organization of power.

Lewis Lewin, Report From Iron Mountain

Shock and Awe: A Strategy of Terror

The purpose of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might be to establish for the world and the internal population, the utter ruthlessness of the Government and its willingness to use maximum force against those who disagree with its agenda.

Harlan K. Ullman and James Wade Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, National Defense University, 1996
Scanlyze review of The Power of Nightmares by Adam Curtis

Establish dictatorship

A strategy of permanent war could be a means to establish dictatorship inside the US, suppress dissent, co-opt the media, and take control of the reins of power at home and abroad. The use of torture and concentration camps abroad will provide the legal and social acceptance of such measures in the Fatherland, er, Homeland.

And finally the ever-popular,

All of the above!

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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31 January, 2007 Posted by | 1984, 6th Bengal Light Cavalry, 9/11, Afghanistan, Arthur Connoly, Bush, capitalism, containment, corporations, covert operations, dictatorship, Gary Webb, George Kennan, grand strategy, Great Game, intelligence, Iraq, Lewis Lewin, managed chaos, military, oil, opium, Opium War, Opium Wars, Orwell, peace, permanent war, politics, Report from Iron Mountain, scanlyze, shock and awe, strategy, war, William Colby, X | 1 Comment