FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Real Mission of the Uniformed Ghost at the Border

These three sentences prove why Generals are not paid to determine political policy:

“The border should not be militarized,” said National Guard Chief Steven Blum at Thursday’s press conference in Austin. “We made a conscious choice not to use the National Guard as a police force. We should intervene to save lives, not to take them.”

If the plain speaking General were paid to make policy, we would stop at the first sentence and scrap the deployment of National Guard to the border.

In the logical transition that Blum makes from police to military between sentences two and three, his propositions make it seem like the real function of a police force is to take lives not save them. Again, this kind of plain speaking would have policy consequences quite different from the ones being made by politicos. Especially if we add to the consequences of police work the entire network of jails and prisons, we could ask, are the police saving lives or taking them?

The third sentence on its own terms suggests sending the Guard to rescue people from the border desert, preventing the summer death toll from climbing with the heat. But as if to interrupt the startling revolution inaugurated by his logic, the General gives us three more sentences to hear.

“This is not a military mission,” Blum said. “This is not militarizing. This is not an invasion.”

Here, with his thrice repeated invocation of the great Hegelian “this”, the General switches his propositions from universals to existentials, proving Hegel’s thesis that “this” can be anything, anywhere, anytime.

In “this” the General speaks just the facts: he is not commanding a military mission, his troops are not militarizing anything, and (presumably since the Guard will keep to this side of the Rio Bravo, etc.) this is not an invasion.

Is it the general’s fault that he is speaking exactly from where he has no real business being? And isn’t it only a matter of time before this happens to any other general in the USA?

Added Paul McHale, the Pentagon’s assistant defense secretary for Homeland Defense: “We would send the wrong message to our friends and neighbors to the south to have a large, visible buildup along the border.”

Back to universals. A border buildup would send the wrong signal. You have to supply what follows. Are we not sending troops to the border? Yes we are. Are they not visible or large? In this question lies the crossroads to our logical challenge.

If the military force is visible and large, it will send the wrong signal to “our friends to the south.” If we are not sending the wrong signal, “our friends” should try to see it as invisible and small (and there is a case to be made for this along a line that stretches a couple thousand miles.)

But the military deployment of 6,000 troops, half of whom will stand guard along the border, must be visible and large enough for something. Otherwise, why is the Pentagon’s man standing here? So let’s leave aside for now the likelihood that we are sending the wrong signals to our friends.

If the troops being deployed by the Pentagon are not police, and if they are not military, then what are they large and visible enough to accomplish? And however we answer the question, don’t we already have the marks of a demoralizing mission from a military point of view? Another nonmission with a nonpurpose that troops will be ordered to do?

In fact, the troops will be large and visible enough to stand as uniformed symbols of something. But what? What is being signified in this pure surface of a nonmission in uniform? Collective fear? State identity? Here we begin to see a psy-ops borderland where (in the language of Slavoj Zizek) the real meets reality right along the line where we make our existence into what we need to be.

To answer the question of what this mission is, one must ask the egos of the people for whom this signifying is taking place.

Which brings us to the saddest part nearly, because the saddest thing isn’t the need of millions to see this pure image of the uniform standing between self and the Other. One hardly expects to be free of “friends and neighbors” such as these, who know that they need it.

The saddest part is the indifference of millions for whom, even in times instructive as these, the haunting by this pure, uniformed symbol only serves to ask why we have failed to speak the truth: you’re dead, now go away!

Note: Thanks to Austin American-Statesman reporter Mark Lisheron for these quotes taken from the Friday paper. They echo KVUE’s live television report from Camp Mabry: the military is not militarizing.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net.

 

 

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail