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The Triumph of Crackpot Realism


The frayed threads anchoring the American government to reality have finally snapped, just at the moment radiologists are reporting that Americans are getting too fat to be x-rayed or shoved into any existing MRI tube.

The gamma rays can’t get through the blubber, same way actual conditions in the outside world bounces off the impenetrable dome of imbecility sheltering America’s political leadership.

Twenty-three years after one of America’s stupidest Presidents announced Star Wars, Reagan’s dream has come true. Behind ramparts guarded by a coalition of liars extending from Rupert Murdoch to the New York Times, from Bill O’Reilly to PBS, America is totally shielded from truth.

Here we have a Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who gazes at the rubble of Lebanon, 300,000 refugees being strafed with Israel’s cluster bombs, and squeaks happily that we are “witnessing the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

Here we have a president, G. Bush, who urges Vladimir Putin to commence in Russia the same “institutional change” that is making Iraq a beacon of freedom and free expression. Not long after Bush extended this ludicrous invitation the UN relayed from Iraq’s Ministry of Health Iraq’s real casualty rate, which was running at least 100 a day, now probably twice that number.

Iraq’s morgues reported receipts of 3,149 dead bodies in June; over 14,000 since the beginning of the year. Senior Iraqis in the government confide that break-up of Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish enclaves, each protected by its own militias, is now inevitable. Iraq as a viable country has been utterly destroyed, with even vaster carnage coming up over the horizon, and here’s the numbskull President touting it as an advertisement for American nation-building at its best, and inviting its prime minister to Washington to proclaim Iraq’s approaching renaissance, all in sync with the U.S. 2006 election campaigns.

Here we have a Congress which reacts with outrage when America’s picked man in Iraq, Prime Minister al-Maliki, states the obvious, which is that Israel’s attack is “dangerous” and that the world community is not doing enough to curb Israel’s destruction of Lebanon.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi rushes out a statement “Unless Mr. Maliki disavows his critical comments of Israel and condemns terrorism, it is inappropriate to honor him with a joint meeting of Congress,” Another twenty Democrats said al-Maliki shouldn’t be allowed to set foot in the place.

Actually, I’m not so sure Congress is impervious to reality, particularly if reality spells out as a threat of withdrawal of support from the Israel lobby in the next electoral cycle. The place is about 98 percent bought and paid for by the Lobby. How these transactions spell out on the ground was well described by Tom Hayden the other day ( as he explained why he felt it necessary for his political future in Los Angeles to stand, Jane Fonda at his side, next to Israelis gunners shelling Beirut back in 1982.

What we are now witnessing is the simultaneous collapse of two countries-Iraq and Lebanon-as sponsored or encouraged by America’s ruling bipartisan coalition and its ideological counselors-ranging from Christian nutballs like Falwell to secular nutballs like Hitchens. Wesley Clarke is now saying that back in late 2001 he visited the Pentagon and was told the planned hit list included Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan as part of a five-year campaign plan. Two down, five to go.

The attack on Lebanon was planned in detail at least a year ago. Israel picked the supposed provocation of the Hezbollah capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 25, but almost any excuse would have sufficed. In 1982 Israel lied flatly, and said it was responding to shells lobbed over the border, even though there’d been none for over a year.

With Bush and Rice and the policy-makers and intellectual courtiers surrounding them, crackpot realism is the prevailing mode.

“Crackpot realism” was the concept defined by the great Texan sociologist, C. Wright Mills in 1958, when he published The Causes of World War Three, also the year that Dwight Eisenhower sent the Marines into Lebanon to bolster local US factotum, Lebanese President Camille Chamoun.

“In crackpot realism,” Mills wrote, ” a high-flying moral rhetoric is joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands. .. The expectation of war solves many problems of the crackpot realists; … instead of the unknown fear, the anxiety without end, some men of the higher circles prefer the simplification of known catastrophe….They know of no solutions to the paradoxes of the Middle East and Europe, the Far East and Africa except the landing of Marines. … they prefer the bright, clear problems of war-as they used to be. For they still believe that ‘winning’ means something, although they never tell us what…”

The Israeli elites, so habituated to selling intransigeance to their ever- receptive opposite numbers in Washington, are now crackpot realists themselves to the very core. Their generals bellow about dumping ten rockets on south Beirut for every one landing in Israel and are astounded when people start talking about the fact that exacting reprisals on a civilian population — which is what the onslaught has been all about — is a war crime.

Israel is systematically trying to destroy Lebanon as a functioning social and economic entity, cleanse the south and reoccupy up to the Litani River The head of Lebanon’s Industrial Association, Charles Arbid, told Agence France Presse on July 24 that Israel’s strategy is to destroy the whole chain of manufacturing, from production to distribution. Bridges, airports, roads, trucks, ports have been methodically attacked.

Israel’s hack legions here recycle the usual mad nonsense about extirpating the terrorist seed, just as they did in 1982, when Henry Kissinger, the crackpot realist supremo, announced after that onslaught that he could see “a fresh beginning” emerging from under the rubble. True in a way. What sprouted from under the rubble was Hezbollah. Only crackpot realists think they can suppress that inevitable cycle.

Note: a version of this column originally ran in The Nation, which went to press last Thursday.




Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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