XLIX– The Purposes of State

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It
has been interesting to observe the epilogue to the Bush administration's
fable about alleged Iraqi efforts to purchase nuclear materials
from Niger. Not since childhood, when I delighted in reading of
magic carpets and genies, have I encountered such fantastic stories
with a Middle Eastern setting. It's not that I would consider such
efforts beyond the motives or the means of Hussein — or any other
government official — but that such accusations were cobbled together
with "documents" that would not pass muster in a freshman
journalism class, was remarkable.

Even
more amazing has been the unwillingness of most Americans to take
offense at the fraud offered up for their consumption. For many,
the fault lay in those who dared to expose the grand lie ("from
whom did the BBC get this report?"). When, like the naked man
at the party, the embarrassment could no longer be ignored, efforts
were made to shift the blame. The President, along with the state
itself, had to be shielded from any suspicion of wrongdoing in the
matter. As with any hierarchic system, underlings within the government
were offered up for sacrifice.

Does
it not seem remarkable that there is very little acknowledgment,
by most Americans, that their government has — at least in recent
times — engaged in unconscionable or tyrannical practices? The United
States has amassed the most potent military machine in history,
has trillions of dollars of resources at its disposal, enjoys a
legal monopoly on the use of violence which it seeks to expand throughout
the world, and yet few are prepared to admit that such a combination
could ever produce heinous consequences. The horrors of Nazi Germany,
the Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Cambodia, or Saddam Hussein will be
readily admitted; but what others would call the wrongdoings of
the United States will be vociferously denied. I still recall the
plaintive response of a student who, upon being told that the Americans
had manipulated the Japanese government into the attack on Pearl
Harbor, declared that "our government wouldn't do that."

Whatever
their nationality, most people seem to share a three-tiered view
of the nature and purposes of their own governments. The initial
stage is that their political system is beneficent, or well-intentioned.
This purpose is usually picked up from the political establishment
itself, wherein it declares its intention to "establish justice,
insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote
the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty."
What's to distrust in a government that announces such wonderful
purposes? That these same words could be employed by the most vicious
tyrant to justify his rule (e.g., locking people up without benefit
of a trial serves the cause of "justice" and "domestic
tranquility") never enters the minds of most. Their government
"means well" and, since most people identify themselves
with their nation-state, that seems sufficient to overcome any fundamental
criticism. To think ill of their own government is to think badly
of their own character.

The
second stage is one in which people regard the purposes of their
government in more neutral terms. If political wrongdoing
is revealed, such conduct is nothing more than the product of mistakes
in judgment, inadequate information, or the fault of outsiders (e.g.,
foreign agents, special interest groups, etc.). The idea that governmental
leaders would be prepared to lie, deceive, coerce, or even kill
to achieve their secret purposes, cannot be admitted. And so, we
see neocons and other Bush defenders arguing that the Niger contract
fraud amounted to nothing more than a "mistake" in fact
gathering!

The
final stage is one in which people look upon political institutions
as malevolent forces. According to this view, the purpose
of the state is to allow some people to benefit at the expense of
others by using lawful force and violence. It should be observed
that, except in times of insurrection or imminent revolt, and for
the reasons already discussed, most people are unprepared to accept
this characterization of their state while, at the same time,
insisting upon such a view of opposing systems. If a violent
confrontation occurs between two governments, the moral accountability
for any wrongdoing must lie with the other government.

When
one state system confronts another, mass-mindedness gets mobilized,
with most of the citizens of each state convinced of the beneficent
intentions and methods of their side, and the malevolent
purposes and actions of the other side. In such ways
do irreconcilable divisions get created, producing the conflicts
that keep all political systems — as well as flag manufacturers
– well-fed. Once such a sharp line of demarcation is drawn,
citizens must be careful never to transgress the established boundaries:
one's own side is inherently "good," while the enemy side
is unalterably "bad." One hears such sandbox reasoning
expressed by Pres. Bush's continuing references to the forces of
"good" and "evil," a demarcation also expressed
by the Husseins, bin Ladens, and other practitioners of political
violence.

It
is for such reasons that most people are unwilling to acknowledge
the wrongs of their own government. Most Americans still resist
the solid evidence that FDR manipulated the Pearl Harbor attack
(see Robert Stinnett's Day
of Deceit
), or that the World War II bombings of Dresden,
Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were clear wartime atrocities with no military
significance for the war itself. To most, the Civil War was conducted,
by the North, with the beneficent motive of ending slavery — even
though the purpose of the war was to maintain political hegemony,
with abolition of slavery a purpose expressed only well after the
war began (see Thomas DiLorenzo's The
Real Lincoln
). To point out that slavery was protected by
the federal government for many more years than it was by the confederacy
(see the fugitive slave laws, e.g.) or to otherwise doubt the politically
correct interpretation of that war, is to risk being labeled a "racist."

Political
systems thrive on people accepting this distinction between the
benevolent purposes of their state and the malevolent purposes of
others. Once this kind of divisive thinking is accepted, the state
has an open-ended process for generating and sustaining those "perpetual
wars for perpetual peace" of which historian Charles Beard
warned. The state can then fill in the blank spot for any change
in the identity of this year's "enemy." In my lifetime,
Germany, Japan, and Italy were identified as my "enemies,"
while Russia and China were my "friends." No sooner was
World War II completed than there was a role reversal: Russia and
China were now by dreaded "enemies," and Germany, Japan,
and Italy were now my "friends." Now that the Cold War
has ended, Russia and China are no longer my "enemies"
but my "friends," a category enlarged by our current leader
to embrace whoever is "with us." A Saddam Hussein who,
a few years ago, was an American government operative who received
weapons technology from Washington, is now the devil incarnate,
for whose destruction a war of imperial ambition must be undertaken!

This
deadly game was neither designed nor monopolized by American political
interests. It goes well back into the history of statism. India
and Pakistan are now playing it out in Asia, while Northern Ireland
and the British have their own versions. In the Middle East, Israel
and the PLO have been battling one another in a symbiotic relationship
that benefits the political ambitions of both sides. The Israeli
government needs the PLO as a threat for the same reason that the
PLO needs the Israeli state: to rally the support of their respective
constituencies in order to solidify political power.

Does
it not offend you that the operatives of political systems have
so little regard for your intelligence or integrity that they can
count on you to keep participating in these deadly games? That these
moral slugs can lie to you, deceive you, tax and regulate you, and
ask that your children be offered up as sacrifices for such deadly
purposes; and then expect you not to respond with disgust,
but to intensify your displays of "loyalty," ought to
be enough to catch the attention of any thoughtful person.

The
apparent ease with which states are able to sustain these bloody
scams undoubtedly has much to do with the size of the nations involved.
In his "size theory of social misery," (The
Breakdown of Nations
) Leopold Kohr suggests that political
institutions become ever more violent and oppressive as they increase
in size. When Germany consisted of a collection of smaller principalities,
their war involvement was much less than after their unification,
in the 1870s, into the German Empire. As the United States became
more powerful, it began involving itself in more and more wars,
unlike such smaller nations as Luxembourg, Costa Rica, Norway, and
Portugal.

Evidence
for Kohr's thesis abounds in our daily lives. The police of Los
Angeles or New York City are far more violative of individual liberties
than are the police in my wife's hometown of some 1,400 residents.
As George Bush and Tony Blair continue to try to lie themselves
out of the preposterous fraud perpetrated upon the world, the prime
minister of Finland — accused of misleading her parliament and leaking
secret documents relating to the proposed war with Iraq — was forced
to resign her office.

Following
this resignation, the president of Finland declared: "we are
very strict concerning discipline and honest behaviour in Finland."
Can you imagine such a response in Washington? The American president's
attitude toward accountability is far more lax. In responding to
questions about how his administration was going to deal with accused
terrorists being held by the military, Bush said: "I'm the
commander. . . . I do not need to explain why I say things. That's
the interesting thing about being the president."

It
is also the "interesting thing" about being an emperor
or dictator: not being answerable to anyone for your actions. I
suspect Bush's comment sent a rush of pride through the veins of
flag-wavers everywhere, as they puffed out their chests and declared
"now there's a leader!" After all, what's the use
of having oppressive and destructive political machinery if the
leaders don't act like tyrants? People want their money's worth!

An
aversion to corruption is fine for Finland, but for America a genuine
insistence upon openness and "honest behaviour" would
bring down the entire political system! As Lord Acton observed,
power is a corrupting influence, and the greater the power exercised
the more the accompanying corruption. If America is to achieve its
desired world monopoly in political hegemony, its leaders must play
their parts. Nothing less than Caesarian or Henry VIII absolutism
will do! It's like the state not trusting you with July 4th
fireworks, but then failing to put on a spectacular show of its
own as it celebrates your freedom for you! Much better that we continue
indulging ourselves in official lies, and condemn those who would
speak truthfully! It's the patriotic thing to do!

When
people ask me "what can be done?" to change all of this,
I reply: nothing, if you are speaking of a collective solution.
Collectivism — and the mass-mindedness in which it is grounded —
is the problem. One can accomplish all sorts of ends if one
is to begin playing the political game and start organizing others,
but such methods only inject more energy into the political system.
To move beyond the destructiveness of politics requires highly-energized
individual action, and a recognition — in the words of Carl
Jung — that "the salvation of the world consists in the salvation
of the individual soul." Anything less is but to engage in
the kinds of patchwork reforms that keep us spinning our hamster
wheels.

Such
change will begin to occur — at least within yourself — with an
awareness of how the divisive thinking in which we have been trained
is destroying us. Neither George Bush nor his retinue of shameless
advisors have been smart enough to have dreamed up the mindset upon
which this game continues to be played. They are simply exploiting
it for their own ends. You, on the other hand, can withdraw your
energies and move on to more peaceful pursuits.

Lest
you believe that such a course of action is meaningless and futile,
please remind yourself of the "butterfly effect" of chaos
theory (i.e., that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly over
the Andes will affect the weather in Tibet). Our social world is
becoming increasingly decentralized, despite the ongoing
efforts of the institutional establishment to force it back into
a controllable mass. If it is your desire to bring about meaningful
change, you need not waste your time trying to reform the crumbling
system; you need only to walk away from it!

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