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19 April 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney recently addressed the "American Israel Public Affairs Committee," also known as AIPAC. His remarks may be found on White House news release. Mr Cheney proclaimed four myths:

    "The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror. Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. We hear this over and over again, not as an argument but as an assertion meant to close off argument."

This is indeed curious, his last sentence in particular. He claims others employ this myth as "an assertion meant to close off argument." If this isn't a projection by Mr. Cheney himself, we have never seen one. He sees a world where cutting off debate is the norm. Here is a man for whom dialogue seems to be unknown, unpracticed. Time after time he himself cuts off debate in exactly this way. He is very good at it too; recall the 2004 election debates on TV.

Read his first myth again. Is not his own response intended to cut off debate? It was effective, too, for his pro-Israeli audience applauded, according to the transcript. Enough said? Not quite. In this case the "myth" he complains about happens to be more truth than fiction. Mythos has captivated this administration. And sadly, the same seems to be true of a large part of the Armerican electorate. Now to some specific points:

  • If Iraq is not a distraction, how else can we explain why terror has increased in response to our escalations? Call it a diversion, same question.
  • Al Qa'ida had zero presence in Iraq before Cheney. Iraq is now an important western outpost.
  • Meanwhile, al Qa'ida is resurging in Afghanistan; its tentacles now extend throughout the Arab world and into Europe, is more diffuse, less centralized, more sophisticated. Lop off a leader--two take his place. al Qa'ida is growing and has secured a base of operations in the Pakistani badlands. Secure? Yes secure. Pakistan is now armed with nuclear weapons.
  • The frequency of terror has grown steadily for over five years now. Our standup-and-fight response has been self-defeating. This is remindful of two farmers: One mows down the weeds every month. The other thinks a bit, then roots them out once a year. What does Mr. Cheney get by mowing people down? More "weeds."
  • The terrorists themselves say it is our presence in the Middle East that motivates them. It looks like it from the data.
  • Yet another perspective: The nations of Islam expend huge amounts of energy fighting each other--historically, much more than they do fighting outsiders.

Psychological projection has the effect of deceiving the deceiver. How else can one explain these actions by an otherwise very intelligent man? Mr. Cheney goes on:

    "The second myth is the most transparent. And that is the notion that one can support the troops without giving them the tools and reinforcements needed to carry out their mission."

This one is known as "mind rape." In mind rape, the mind rapist attempts to make you disbelieve what you know is true, or believe what you know is not. S/he uses intimidation as a weapon. We have yet to read a commentator who does not support our troops. It is the mission they are on that cannot be supported. Since when is a desire to get out of Iraq the same thing as neglecting our troops? Since when is it supportive to continue exposing our young boys and girls to casualties and death with a clean vistory ever more remote. An irony Mr. Cheney neglects to mention is the obscene neglect of our own wounded at Walter Reed and other military hospitals. This is a case where the pot is calling a kettle black. In our view, asking for casualties, then neglecting their care is criminal behavior at its worst. Congress is quite right in excercising it right to checks and balances. Mr. Cheney continued in similar vein:

    "There is a third myth about the war on terror, and this one is also the most dangerous. Some apparently believe that getting out of Iraq before the job is done will actually strengthen America's hand in the fight against terrorists. This myth is dangerous because it represents a full validation of the al Qaeda strategy. The terrorists don't expect to beat us in a standup fight. They never have. They're not likely to try. The only way we can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission and the terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome."

Is our hand any stronger today than it was five years ago? If so why has terror increased so dramatically? If not, then why do we persist with a wrong strategy? We read the al Qa'ida strategy as one of persistent terror to exhaust the other side. In this they have made much progress--even if we neglect to include our significant losses in capital--be it human, monetary or equipment and facilities. And what of our considerable loss of prestige throughout the world. Mr. Cheney's reference to a "standup fight" is more projection. He seems not to be able to think in other terms, though in his philosophy, he noted accurately the new type of war we are in. Why not figure out an effective strategy that actually works against terror instead of demonizing honest criticism? In his fourth "myth," Mr. Cheney completes his attacks on his critics implying they are "cruel." OK, he does not literally say that. But how else can one interpret his word--"cruelest"?

    "And that leads me to the fourth and the cruelest myth of all and that is the false hope that we can abandon the effort in Iraq without serious consequences to the broader Middle East."

We have yet to read a commentator, pundit, or member of congress who has said anything of the sort. The only disagreement we see among them is in the degree of seriousness in lies is ahead, whatever we do, however we choose to do it. We deplore the few Democratic congress people who would stay a course that has failed. To be sure, "the surge" if carried to its extreme, might quiet the core of Baghdad behind a literal Iron Wall. But even that is quite unlikely. And what of the rest of the country? What of the millenium-long tradition of conflict between the Sunnis and Shias? What of the tradition of imperialism that finds us there in the first place? What about Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and al Qa'ida where problems of magnitude go neglected because of Iraq? Al Qa'ida is especially worrisome. It now has resiliency to go with its considerable muscle. Mr. Cheney, what are the consequences of staying? More Abu Ghraib, more useless deaths, a stronger al Qa'ida, continued attrition of our national treasury, a Middle East war? These look more ominous than anything following a withdrawal.

These so-called myths, of course are consistent with Mr Cheney's philosophy, which he also stated explicitly:

    "An enemy that operates in the shadows and views the entire world as a battlefield is not one we can fight with strategies used in other wars. An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for negotiations. Nor can we fight to a standoff -- (applause). Nor can we fight to a standoff, hoping that some form of containment or deterrence will protect our people. The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive, facing the threat directly, patiently and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed."

May we ask?: What is there to negotiate? Our presence? Then why are we there? Oil? Of course. Who owns the oil? Those who live there. The leaders of the greatest nation the world has ever known seem not to recognize that for the price of Iraq, we could develop alternative power that would not only avoid the misguided quagmires, Abu Ghraibs, and Walter Reeds, but put us back in the forefront among innovative societies. That is how we can regain security lost, well except for Luby’s, Jonesboro, Columbine, and Virgina Tech. We have a few fences at home that need to be mended.

While the world is indeed a target, most of the war is occurring in and over the homelands of Judaism and Islam. While the sons and daughters of Saladin are killing Americans defending their homelands, Americans are killing Americans right here at home at a rate some 20-30 times over, mostly with GUNS.

How massive can one's denial get? We are truly sorry that General Petraeus has to be the front man for a strategy gone astray. Things might have been different had he been in supreme command from the start with policy control, but it is now too late. Even he can not rewrite Islam's history of internecine warfare, nor can he redirect its future. What General Petraeus would likely have accomplished in any event is the salvation of our dignity among nations-along with our exchequer of course.

Visitors wondering about the personality type that cuts off all debate and its ramifications may visit [historiical order]:

As Milgram and Altemeyer found, over half (~65-80%) of the people they studied were Authoritarian in greater or less degree. As we see it, this trait is a product of evolution as is its counterpart, obedience. Authoritarianism happens to be a very common personality type. John Dean vividly describes how it is affecting current US history, for the worse, both he and we feel.

If this trait is so common, how can civilization exist? It is a testament to civilization that it does. Most basically, civilization brings impulse control to the individual for the sake of the group. But even that is not enough for some people. Martha Stout, Sociopath Next Door, has made a career of studying the fallout from sociopthic (or psychopathic) personalities. These people, about one in twenty-five of us, are not crazy, they just have no sense of guilt or concern for others. They are perfectly sane in every legal sense; they know well what is right and what is wrong. They specialize in leaving human wreckage in their wakes--simply because they do not care, except, for themselves perhaps. When they are in government positions, the damage they can cause is magnified manifold.

It is one thing to criticize what we have here; it is quite another to offer a coherent solution. It has been a long road from 9/11 to here--from our initial, astonished confusion to pulling together something of an outline for action that happens to agree with Mr. Cheney's views in one important aspect: realizing peace will be a job for generations. One of the co-founders of this site, a psychologist, led us to Teodor Adorno et al, Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo. After her untimely demise we kept swimming and discovered a more modern trio of researchers who added further bricks to understanding the brick wall of terrorism, Bob Altemeyer, John Dean and Martha Stout. More from each of these appears in the links above. These sources along with other research we have conducted bring some coherence to what otherwise seems like chaos.

To summarize, our current thinking is that terrorism will haunt humanity until at least some of the following become intrinsic to society everywhere:

  • Conditions that lead to alienation and humiliation no longer exist.
  • All human beings are reared such that their emotional construct is at least roughly balanced between external and internal loci of control, recognizing the values of both the individual and the group control.
  • People recognize the virtues of and differences between logos and mythos, and practice each in appropriate manner.
  • From the above, people naturally come together to celebrate and rejoice in their differences instead of fighting over them.
  • People naturally engage in dialogue in their search for improved understanding of their surroundings and resolution of any differences.
  • Aberrant people who are sociopathic or mentally ill are recognized for what they are and handled in humane ways that will protect others as individuals or groups.
  • All people live within their ecological and energy budgets ordained by nature.
  • Solutions to overpopulation are known and practiced such that reserves are maintained to preserve humankind should a bolide or equivalent disaster wipe out most of us.
  • The ogre of a nuclear holocaust has been solved by international agreement and cooperation.
  • All people everywhere are steeped in human and natural history along with a strong sense of personal ethics.
  • All nations take on these principles in dealing with other nations.


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