FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Torturing the Obvious

by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

The New York Times reports that a National Intelligent Estimate (NIE) from April 2006 concludes the Iraq War has actually increased Islamic radicalism. You don’t say! Americans want to know why our bombing, devastating and occupying a country that has done us no harm would inflame its people.

“Common Sense”, wrote Einstein, “is prejudice acquired before the age of 18”. In science, the obvious is often contrary to the truth, which explains why scientists are sticklers for ‘proof’. As Isaac Asimov said, anyone could ‘see’ that the sun revolved around the earth. Mistrusting the obvious is thus the first attribute of any scientist.

In human affairs, on the other hand, the obvious may be the most important thing. Not for nothing does the Declaration of Independence say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”. If instead, Thomas Jefferson were to have set out to prove why Life, Liberty and Happiness are essential commodities for human existence, the British might still be here. As it is, the document calls out to us across the centuries. The great leaps in politics are made by appeals to the heart, not the head.

The great truths (eternal verities, my dad called them) have no proof, nor are they pious. They are merely based on emprical, societal, experience. In the old saying “Honesty is the best Policy”, the use of the word, “Policy” is worth noting. It appeals not to ideology or ethics, but to simple everyday practicality. It says that any temporary gains of dishonesty are bound to evaporate and cause a loss over the long run.

The devotion to such obvious truths was America’s salvation. It was a uniter. It was obvious that rules were to be obeyed, that the law was majestic. Even more, it was obvious that the law acquired teeth not by adding provisions, but by first enforcing the ones that existed. Scrapping or changing laws was difficult by design. Even people on the street seemed to have a working understanding of the Constitution and were aware of things like the first or fourth amendments, no mean achievement for a large society.

What should one say when, in a few short decades, a people whose native pragmatism and instinctive linkage of societal and personal self-interest made their country unique, suddenly seem to have reached a stage where the obvious requires a dissertation? We live in a milieu where coffee stores need to put up signs warning patrons that spilling hot coffee on your crotch can be painful.

Whence this sudden descent? Not so sudden, actually, for the signs have been there all along. As Michael Neumann wrote, the onset of Dementia Americana seems to have its origins all the way back in the election of Ronald Reagan. Whether or not Neumann is correct, take a look at this list; blunders that would have been immediately obvious to a previous generations, but which barely trouble the current one:

The proposition that budget deficits and lowered taxes would together usher in the millenium, an obvious crock, gives the Gipper a 49 state reelection win,

The notion that shutting down American factories and getting things manufactured abroad, touted and accepted as the way to enduring prosperity,

NAFTA, whose obvious consequence was described best by Ross Perot’s “Giant Sucking Sound” (a prediction realized in greater measure than even Perot might have imagined),

Attacks on the preservation of the environment, an American ideal dating back to Teddy Roosevelt, steadily under attack begining with James Watt, with state after state voting for the notion that land conservation was inimical to individual prosperity,

The obvious advantage of having a common language for the country, undermined by a tawdry appeal to multiculturalism and multilingualism (signs in every language, so long as we can sell in one of ’em!),

Country actually entertains a serious debate about whether illegal immigration is bad,

President ignores warnings of ‘bin Laden determined to strike inside the US’, vacations, reads My Pet Goat, and refuses to order an inquiry into 9-11 until over a year later, when forced,

Responding to 15 hijackers coming from a country which financed madraasas and recognized Osama’s hosts, by going to war against a country which had no connection to 9-11,

Responding to the attack by training our guns on the American Constitution, a la the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, detentions without trial …,

Reelecting a President who had not only flubbed 9-11, but was so obviously clueless three years later that he had to explain in the first presidential debate, “Of course I know Osama Bin Laden Attacked Us. I know that”.

Comedy happens when the fool pays inordinate attention to some trifling problem while disaster looms in the background, unknown to him but obvious to the audience. While America gets riled up over gay rights (for or against) and engrossed in who won Survivor last night, state and country totter under a quarter century of determined movement (see James Kurth’s excellent essay, The Rich Got Richer) toward a split society.

Now, three hundred billion dollars (and counting) have bought us, we are told, the spread of Islamic radicalism. The obvious solution? Go after those who leaked the story, of course. Thank God for that brand new torture agreement. Now at least the President is bound (unless he decides otherwise) to permit the Times and the leakers to see the evidence.

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com. His blog is at http://njn-blogogram.blogspot.com.

 

 

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail