Doorgaan naar hoofdcontent

Frank Westerman's Provinciale Schrijverij 52

Bas Heijne: ‘de immer onkreukbare Barack Obama.’

Nu NRC-columnist Bas Heijne zijn kwaliteitspubliek heeft laten weten dat ‘Voor veel mensen in de VS en Europa, en ook in Nederland, Poetin de gedroomde sterke man [is], het tegenwicht tegen het op de idealen van de Verlichting gebaseerde wereldbeeld van Obama,’ dient de vraag te worden gesteld wat de winnaar van de P.C. Hoofdprijs 2017, ‘voor zijn beschouwend oeuvre,’ precies verstaat onder ‘de idealen van de Verlichting’? Tijdens het presidentschap van Obama heeft de VS in 2016 tenminste 26,171 bommen geworpen op andere landen, waarbij grote schade en chaos onstond. Is hier nu sprake van een ‘verlichtingsideaal’? Of kenmerkt Obama’s Verlichting zich door het feit dat onder zijn presidentschap:

the nature of the U.S. military [changed] in a way that most Americans have yet to come to grips with. Thanks to that permanent war across the Greater Middle East and later Africa, a secretive second military of startling proportions would essentially be fostered inside the existing U.S. military, the still-growing elite forces of Special Operations Command. They were the ones who, at least theoretically, would be the swamp drainers. TomDispatch regular Nick Turse has long been following their development and their increasingly frenetic deployment globally -- from, as he reports today, an already impressive 60 countries a year in 2009 to a staggering 138 countries in 2016. Those special operators would train and advise allied armed forces, while launching raids and drone strikes against terrorists across a significant part of the planet (including, of course, taking out Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011).  In the process, they would be institutionalized in ever more ways, even as the terror groups they were fighting continued to spread. Perhaps you could say that they didn’t so much drain the swamp as swamp the drain.

Is het één van Obama’s ‘Verlichtingsidealen’ dat in 2016 ‘US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries — a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration’ hetgeen betekent ‘that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Of dat de ‘nightmare that civil libertarians have warned of for years has now tragically come true: instead of dismantling the surveillance state and war machine, the Obama administration and Democrats institutionalized it.’ Of dat: 

The Obama administration could have prosecuted torturers and war criminals in the Bush administration and sent an unmistakable message to the world: torture is illegal and unconscionable. Instead the president said they would ‘look forward, not backward,’ basically turning a clear felony into a policy dispute.

Of dat: 

Obama promised to close the stain on our Bill of Rights known as Guantánamo prison in his first week in office. Yet to this day, it remains open, with dozens of prisoners still in legal limbo after being held without charge for almost 15 years.

Of dat:

Obama, who once campaigned against government secrecy and the NSA’s mass spying powers, instead entrenched the agency’s incredible surveillance apparatus when he came into office and then defended it in the face of the Snowden revelations. Modest changes were enacted due to public pressure, but the surveillance state as we know it remains.

Of dat:

The Bush administration’s secret and unaccountable CIA drone programme has only been further entrenched under the Obama administration. It has dropped bombs in more than half a dozen countries, and even asserted the legal authority to kill US citizens abroad without due process. At the same time, the White House — with the help of a spineless House of Representatives and Senate — has dramatically expanded the president’s authority to unilaterally wage war all over the world without Congress having declared war, as the constitution requires.
Of dat nu zelfs een mainstream-columnist als Jonathan Freedland wel moet constateren:

What horrors are in store for us during the reign of President Trump is anyone’s guess, but he will have all the tools at his disposal to wreak havoc on our rights here at home and countless lives of those abroad. We should have seen this coming, and we should have put in place the safeguards to limit the damage. And now it might be too late.

Zijn dit allemaal manifestaties van wat Bas Heijne ‘de idealen van' het op 'de Verlichting gebaseerde wereldbeeld van Obama’ betitelt? Of beschouwt de in de polder zo bewonderde ‘denker’ dit allemaal slechts als verwaarloosbare futiliteiten? Het zou kunnen, de kleinburger is per slot van rekening geen kosmopoliet. Maar dan nog: zijn ook de argumenten van de kritische Amerikaanse zwarte hoogleraar Cornel West te verwaarlozen details bij de beoordeling van de zogeheten ‘eerste zwarte president’? Professor West schreef in de Guardian van maandag 9 januari 2017:

The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump — but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.

A few of us begged and pleaded with Obama to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street. But he followed the advice of his ‘smart’ neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street. In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail.

We called for the accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians. Obama’s administration told us no civilians had been killed. And then we were told a few had been killed. And then told maybe 65 or so had been killed. Yet when an American civilian, Warren Weinstein, was killed in 2015 there was an immediate press conference with deep apologies and financial compensation. And today we still don’t know how many have had their lives taken away. 

We hit the streets again with Black Lives Matter and other groups and went to jail for protesting against police killing black youth. We protested when the Israeli Defense Forces killed more than 2,000 Palestinians (including 550 children) in 50 days. Yet Obama replied with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth ‘criminals and thugs.’

In addition, Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones. The top 1% got nearly two-thirds of the income growth in eight years even as child poverty, especially black child poverty, remained astronomical. Labor insurgencies in Wisconsin, Seattle and Chicago (vigorously opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close confidant of Obama) (en de zoon van een zionistische terrorist. svh) were passed over in silence.

In 2009, Obama called New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg an ‘outstanding mayor.’ Yet he overlooked the fact that more than 4 million people were stopped-and-frisked under Bloomberg’s watch. Along with Carl Dix and others, I sat in a jail two years later for protesting these very same policies that Obama ignored when praising Bloomberg. 

Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.

The gross killing of US citizens with no due process after direct orders from Obama was cast aside by neoliberal supporters of all colors. And Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling and other truth-tellers were demonized just as the crimes they exposed were hardly mentioned…

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief — nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch — Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans. 

Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic ‘aliens,’ a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.

What a sad legacy for our hope and change candidate – even as we warriors go down swinging in the fading names of truth and justice.

Al deze feiten spelen bij Bas Heijne geen rol bij zijn beoordeling van Obama. Hoe is dit te verklaren? Om die vraag aan te scherpen: hoe is het verklaarbaar dat één van de meest vooraanstaande columnisten in Nederland, die volgens de jury van de P.C. Hooftprijs ‘een vernieuwende impuls’ geeft ‘aan wat literatuur in maatschappelijke zin betekenen kan,’ en die ‘schrijft als een denker én denkt als een lezer,’ meent dat het grootscheeps geweld van ‘de immer onkreukbare Barack Obama,’ en diens onvoorwaardelijke steun aan het neoliberalisme, gebaseerd zijn ‘op de idealen van de Verlichting’? De enige verklaring die ik kan bedenken is dat het establishment in de polder, (inclusief de ‘politiek-literaire elite’) even oppervlakkig en onverschillig is als de a-culturele ‘populisten’ die ‘het volk’ aanvoeren. Bas Heijne vertoont namelijk net zo weinig moraliteit als Geert Wilders. Wat de witte columnist van de witte Nederlandse intellectuelen prijst als het ‘op de idealen van de Verlichting gebaseerde wereldbeeld van Obama,’ wordt door de insider Cornel West, die aan de prestigieuze Princeton University doceert, gekwalificeerd als ‘the sad legacy of Barack Obama,’ dat hij als zwarte hoogleraar alleen maar ‘beklagenswaardig’ kan vinden. Argumenten voor het feit dat ‘onze’ Bas ‘Obama hoog’ heeft ‘zitten,’ geeft Heijne, onthullend genoeg, niet. Zijn onverschilligheid tegenover degenen die door het Westen worden geslachtofferd, kenmerkt de aloude combinatie van minachting en racisme, die ook de aanhangers van Wilders zo onuitstaanbaar maakt. Sterker nog: Heijne’s racisme is gezien het feit dat hijzelf met zoveel pedanterie hoog van de toren blaast, terwijl hij beter kan weten, nog weerzinwekkender dan die van een ongeschoolde. En dit geldt zeker op dit moment, nu het Westen ‘a neofascist era’ is binnengetreden met ‘a neoliberal economy on steroids,’ en met ‘a reactionary repressive attitude profit-hungry corporate media,’ van wie Heijne in Nederland de spreekbuis is. Net als Geert Mak presenteert hij de VS als ‘superieur,’ waaraan hij toevoegt dat ‘Poetins ideologische aantrekkingskracht,’ voor ‘veel mensen in de VS en Europa, en ook in Nederland,’  de ‘enige reden [is] dat een leider van een economisch derderangs wereldmacht erin slaagt het in alle opzichten superieure Amerika zo te ontregelen.’ 

De NRC-stem van de Nederlandse gevestigde neoliberale wanorde gaat ervan uit dat hij met dit soort nonsens kritiek op het ‘superieure Amerika’ te kunnen criminaliseren en stigmatiseren en daarmee kalt te stellen, want als er iets is waar het gecorrumpeerde establishment altijd en overal zo de pest aan heeft, dan is het kritiek van ‘veel mensen,’ die geacht worden hun mond te houden. De neoliberale ideologie duldt — gelijk elke andere ideologie — geen enkele serieuze tegenspraak. Maar wat maakt ‘Amerika,’ in de ogen van Heijne, ‘in alle opzichten superieur’? Het klopt inderdaad dat de VS een tot de tanden toe gewapende nucleaire mogendheid is die jaarlijks meer dan de helft van haar ‘discretionary federal budget’ aan het militair-industrieel complex uitgeeft, om overal met zoveel mogelijk geweld de elite-belangen in stand te kunnen houden of zelfs uit te breiden, maar gezien het feit dat de VS na 1945 geen enkele omvangrijke oorlog heeft gewonnen — niet in Korea, niet in Vietnam, niet in Afghanistan, niet in Irak, niet in Libië, en niet in Syrië — is het waanzin om te stellen dat de VS ‘in alle opzichten superieur’ is. En ook op economisch gebied is de VS niet langer meer ‘superieur,’ zo beseft de Amerikaanse elite zelf, nu de macht in Washington en op Wall Street zich gedwongen voelt om vóór 2020 niet minder dan 60 procent van zijn oorlogsvloot te verplaatsen naar de Zuid Chinese Zee, in een poging de toenemende economische, financiële, en politieke invloed van de economische grootmacht China in te dammen. Vanwege het feit dat China meer dan eenvijfde van ‘all foreign-held U.S. Treasury securities’ in handen heeft is deze opkomende wereldmacht de grootste schuldeiser van de VS, en kan gesteld worden dat zonder Chinese leningen de VS zijn oorlogen niet meer zal kunnen bekostigen, want de buitenlandse schuld van de VS onder Obama is opgelopen tot het astronomisch hoge bedrag van rond de 20 biljoen dollar, oftewel: 20 maal een miljoen maal een miljoen,, wat neerkomt op meer dan 60.000 dollar voor iedere Amerikaan, waarover tevens een gigantisch bedrag aan rente moet worden betaald. Zo besteedde de VS in 2012 rond de 220 miljard dollar 

in net interest on its debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office — a figure that is expected to spiral ever higher in coming years. Erskine Bowles, a co-chair of the president's bipartisan deficit-reduction commission known as 'Simpson-Bowles,' has called the nation's compound interest burden one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the United States.

'We'll be spending over $1 trillion a year on interest by 2020. That's $1 trillion we can't spend to educate our kids or to replace our badly worn-out infrastructure,' said Bowles at a recent forum hosted by IHS Global Insight. 'What makes it doubly bad is that trillion will be spent principally in Asia, because that's where our debt is.'

What does it all mean? How daunting that $220 billion figure is depends on how you frame it. Compared to other government spending, it might seem like an exorbitant price to pay—at more than double annual federal outlays for education. Compared to interest spending, federal outlays on food stamps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are also dwarfed. And it's one-third the size of the Defense Department's massive annual spending.

Desondanks, of misschien wel mede juist daarom probeerden de neoconservatieven in Obama’s regering een oorlog met Rusland uit te lokken. Immers de komende onvermijdelijke confrontatie met China noodzaakt de VS allereerst Rusland uit te schakelen. Niet voor niets waarschuwde in 2015 Henry Kissinger, de voormalige Amerikaanse veiligheidsadviseur en minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, voor het feit dat onder president Obama ‘breaking Russia has become an objective,’ terwijl volgens hem juist ‘the long-range purpose should be to integrate it,’ wil er geen desastreuze oorlog uitbreken als gevolg van de Amerikaanse confrontatiepolitiek. Een gewelddadige politiek die via de NAVO ook Europa kan meetrekken in uiteindelijk een nucleair armageddon. De lezer moet weten dat  eveneens voor president Obama gold dat ‘I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,’ zoals hij in 2015 verklaarde tegenover afgestudeerde cadetten van de militaire academie Westpoint. Kortom, met elke vezel van zijn lichaam geloofde hij in de gevaarlijke mythe dat de VS in de geschiedenis van de mensheid fundamenteel anders is dan welk ander land, en wel, zoals de officiële rechtvaardiging luidt, ‘because of its national credo, historical evolution, and unique origins, America is a special nation with a special role — possibly ordained by God — to play in human history.’ Daarom is de macht in Washington en op Wall Street gerechtigd, nee zelfs verplicht om de mensheid zo nodig met massaal geweld te dwingen de belangen van de Amerikaanse elite te dienen. Vandaar dat de VS 93 procent van haar bestaan in oorlog is geweest, en slechts 17 van de 241 jaar sinds 1776 vrede heeft gekend. De VS heeft niet zozeer een militair-industrieel complex, maar is in feite een militair-industrieel complex, een ‘War Nation,’ die nu op de grenzen van haar  expansionisme is gestoten, waardoor de kans bestaat dat de Amerikaanse elite een derde wereldoorlog zal forceren. Voor deze ontwikkeling waarschuwt de onderzoeksjournalist John Pilger  in zijn nieuwe documentaire The Coming War on China (2016) die ‘reveals what the news doesn't — that the world's greatest military power, the United States, and the world's second economic power, China, both nuclear-armed, are on the road to war.’ Om alleen de belangen van de obsceen rijke elite veilig te stellen is onder Obama een begin gemaakt aan de vernieuwing van het totale Amerikaanse nucleaire arsenaal. December 2015 werd bekend dat ‘Three independent estimates put the expected total cost over the next 30 years at as much as $1 trillion,’ ten koste van onderwijs, gezondheidszorg, cultuur, volkshuisvesting, bestrijding van de toenemende armoede en dakloosheid, allemaal om de hegemonie van de Amerikaanse elite in stand te houden. De Guardian berichtte op dinsdag 10 november 2015 onder de kop ‘America's new, more “usable,” nuclear bomb in Europe,’ dat de B61 ‘bomb,' waarvan '180 are stockpiled in Europe,' een  zogeheten 'upgrade' krijgt 'which will make it more “usable” in the eyes of some in the American military.’

Niet alleen verzwijgt de Atlanticus Bas Heijne al deze informatie, hij plaatst de feiten ook niet in een bredere historische, politieke en economische context. Tegelijkertijd voedt hij wel de hetze tegen Rusland om zodoende de geesten rijp te maken voor een nieuwe wereldoorlog. De vraag is derhalve: waarom verspreidt een redelijk ontwikkelde man die zijn midlife crisis inmiddels achter zich heeft, een dergelijke waanzin? Omdat ik meer van dit slag mensen van nabij heb kunnen observeren, denk ik dat de voornaamste reden is dat Heijne over onvoldoende talent beschikte om, net als Frans Kellendonk — de man tegen wie hij als adolescent opkeek — uit te groeien tot een auteur, en zich daardoor genoegen moest nemen met een plaats in de mainstream-journalistiek, een tamelijk hoerige positie waarbij hij gedwongen werd zich de ‘ideologie’ eigen te maken ‘van het uitgeschakelde denken en de volautomatische moraal,’ zoals Kellendonk dit zo voortreffelijk onder woorden bracht. Met zijn scherpzinnig inzicht besefte hij al ruim een kwarteeuw geleden dat in ‘Nederland zich het gekke verschijnsel voor[doet] dat de ideologie meer greep op het denken krijgt naarmate haar praktische toepassing in de politiek geringer wordt,’ waardoor de ‘ideologie weemoedig los[raakt] van deze wereld’ en in wezen ‘transcendentaal’ wordt. ‘Voor de schrijver is ethiek iets persoonlijks. De journalist preekt een publieke moraal. Ethiek betekent voor “ik”: het kwaad in zichzelf onderkennen. Zonder die twijfel zou zijn denken geautomatiseerd en dus niet meer creatief zijn.’  Daarin verschilt Frans Kellendonk van Bas Heijne, dus de auteur van de opiniemaker, want de 

publieke opinie kent geen ‘ik.’ Twijfel en geloof zijn haar beide wezensvreemd. Ze is extravert. Zelfkritiek is in haar ogen ziekelijke zelfkwellerij. Ze doet aan zelfrechtvaardiging. Om haar eigen voortreffelijkheid aan te tonen zoekt ze een tegenstander die ze met modder kan bekogelen. Kritiek is voor haar etikettering, nooit discussie. Een idee is voor haar een dogma of een ketterij. Het staat altijd in het gelid van een partijprogramma, dat weer in het gelid staat van een ideologie. Het draagt een geweer en daarom moet ze het wel partijdig bejegenen,

aldus de auteur Frans Kellendonk. Zijn beschrijving typeert de houding van Bas Heijne wanneer die met zijn manicheïsch mens- en wereldbeeld weigert ‘het kwaad in zichzelf onderkennen,’ maar in plaats daarvan namens het collectief — zijn NRC-publiek — het kwaad onmiddellijk reflexmatig in de Ander projecteert, door bijvoorbeeld met grote stelligheid te beweren dat ‘Poetin de gedroomde sterke man [is], het tegenwicht tegen het op de idealen van de Verlichting gebaseerde wereldbeeld van Obama.’ Dit simplisme maakt ook meteen duidelijk hoe lachwekkend de beoordeling van de P.C. Hooftprijs-jury is wanneer zij stelt dat ‘onze’ Bas ‘een vernieuwende impuls’ geeft ‘aan wat literatuur in maatschappelijke zin betekenen kan,’ want ‘vernieuwend’ is deze Koude Oorlogspropaganda niet, en al helemaal geen ‘literatuur.’ Maar omdat in Nederland het niveau van de zogeheten intelligentsia dermate laag is, komt een ieder met deze nonsens onweersproken weg. Aangezien sinds de jaren tachtig als gevolg van het onderwijs, de algehele culturele nivellering, en de verpaupering van het publieke domein, het niveau van de journalistiek naar een MAVO-niveau is gedaald, werden een journalist als Heijne al snel aangezien voor een intellectueel die, ik citeer opnieuw, ‘schrijft als een denker én denkt als een lezer.’ Het probleem is alleen dat, zoals een goede kennis van mij, de auteur Ian Buruma, terecht stelt, 'Westerse intellectuelen niets dan hun eigen idealen [vertegenwoordigen].’ Maar het feit dat Heijne verzwijgt dat volgens één van de best geïnformeerde bronnen, namelijk Henry Kissinger, onder Obama ‘breaking Russia has become an objective,’ en Bas desondanks beweert dat het ‘wereldbeeld’ van dezelfde ‘Obama’ gebaseerd is ‘op de idealen van de Verlichting,’ toont aan dat de NRC-columnist de ‘idealen’ vertegenwoordigt van de neoliberale en neoconservatieve ideologie. In die functie spreekt Heijne van ‘Verlichtingsidealen’ die de Democratische Partij en het militair-industrieel complex plus de zeventien Amerikaanse inlichtingendiensten hoog in het vaandel zouden hebben. Dat Obama met al zijn ‘Verlichtingsidealen’ de eerste president van de VS werd die zijn volle ambtstermijn oorlog heeft gevoerd, wordt in dit propagandistische verzwegen.  

Net als de meeste westerse mainstream-opiniemakers creëert ook Heijne de basis voor wat kritische Amerikaanse intellectuelen als ‘totalitarianism’ zien. Zo maakt de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Henry A. Giroux al meteen in het eerste hoofdstuk van zijn boek America at War with Itself (2017) onder een citaat van president Eisenhower ‘And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the world’ het volgende duidelijk:

In white America's collective psyche, and in its traditional narratives of historical memory, authoritarianism is always viewed as existing elsewhere. Seen as an alien and demagogic political system, it is primarily understood as a mode of governance associated with the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and, of course, in its most vile extremes, with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini's fascist Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. Both societies glorified war, soldiers, nationalism, militarism, fallen warriors, racial cleansing, and a dogmatic allegiance to the homeland. These were states in which society became armed, security became the raison d'être of both the citizen and state, and fear became a pretext for giving up one's liberty. Education and the media were the indoctrination tools of authoritarianism, merging fascist and religious symbols with the language of God, family, and country. These cultural systems were used as weapons to achieve servility and conformity among the populace, something many are seeing re-emerge in our current political moment.

In its earlier forms, the language of authoritarianism relied upon the discourse of command and courted mass hysteria, one that produced totalizing world views, punished dissent, disseminated hate-filled propaganda steeped in the vocabulary of ultra-nationalism and racial purity, and emptied language of any substance, reducing it to a ritualized performance. This script is well known to the American public; it has been fully commercialized and marketed in the form of countless products: from films, television series, video games, and works of fiction, to museums and other cultural apparatuses. As a result, the public has been conditioned to perceive totalitarian modes of governance as dead relics from a bygone era rather than as part of a historical narrative with living legacies at play in the present.

Hannah Arendt and Sheldon Wolin, the great theorists of totalitarianism, believed that the fluctuating elements of fascism are still with us and that they would crystalize in different forms. Far from being a thing of the past, they both believed, totalitarianism ‘heralds… a possible model for the future.’ Wolin, in particular, was keenly aware that the corporatization of the state and civil society, the destruction of public goods and commons, the commercial control of the media, and the rise of an economic survival-of-the-fittest ethos posed a serious threat to American democracy. According to Arendt, the culture of traditionalism, the dismantling of civil and political rights, the ongoing militarization of society, the ‘religionization of politics,’ the attack on labor, the obsession with national security, the perpetration of human rights abuses, the emergence of a police state, entrenched racism, and the attempts by demagogues to undermine education as a foundation for producing critical citizenry were all at work in American society. For Arendt, these anti-democratic elements in U.S. society constituted what she called the ‘sand storm’ — a metaphor for totalitarianism.

Historical conjunctures produce different forms of authoritarianism, though they all share an intolerance for democracy, dissent, diversity, and human rights. It is too easy to believe in a simplistic binary logic that strictly categorizes a country as either authoritarian or democratic and leaves no room for entertaining the possibility of a competing mixture of both forces. American politics today suggests different forms of authoritarianism. The possibility of white America becoming a fascist nation has a long legacy in American fiction that includes Sinclair Lewis's ‘It Can't Happen Here’ and Philip Roth's ‘The Plot Against America.’ For Native Americans who were exterminated, descendants of Africans who were dehumanized, trafficked, and enslaved by whites, Japanese Americans subjected to concentration camps, and people of color who have been degraded by violence, coercion, and various forms of apartheid for generations, questions of freedom and fascism are quite different from those historically faced by whites, who never feared racist cops, lynch mobs, or burning crosses.

Nevertheless, following World War II, the shadow of fascism was never far from U.S. shores. It is worth remembering Huey Long's response to the question of whether America could ever become fascist: ‘Yes, but we will call it anti-fascist.’ Long's reply indicates that fascism is not an ideological apparatus frozen in a particular historical period, but, as Arendt and Wolin have suggested, a complex and often shifting theoretical and political register for understanding how democracy can be subverted, if not destroyed, from within.

The notion of soft fascism was articulated in 1985 in Bertram Gross's book ‘Friendly Fascism,’ in which he argued that if fascism came to the United States it would not embody the same characteristics associated with fascist forms of the past. There would be no Nuremberg rallies, overt doctrines of racial superiority, government-sanctioned book burnings, death camps, genocidal purges, or abrogation of the U.S. Constitution. In short, fascism would not resemble the way it has been packaged, marketed, and sold to us as commercial entertainment, nor would it take the form of a previous ideological grid simply downloaded into our political moment. Gross believed that fascism was an ongoing danger and had the ability to become relevant under new conditions, taking on familiar forms of thought that resonate with nativist traditions, experiences, and political relations. Similarly, in his Anatomy of Fascism, Robert O. Paxton argued that the texture of North American fascism would not mimic traditional European forms but would be rooted in the language, symbols, and culture of everyday life in America. According to Paxton:

‘No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.’

It is worth noting that Umberto Eco's discussion of ‘eternal fascism’ also argues that any updated version of fascism would not openly assume the mantle of historical fascism; rather, new forms of authoritarianism would appropriate some of its elements, making it virtually unrecognizable from preceding forms. Eco contended that fascism will, if it manifests in America, have a different guise, although it will be no less destructive to democracy. Instead of an all-powerful supreme leader, the government is now controlled by the anonymous and largely remote hands of corporate power and finance capital. More recently, in the face of what Paxton has called an ‘alarming willingness’ on the part of some Republican Party candidates to ‘use fascist themes and styles,’ he has updated his own view of fascism as ‘a mass nationalist movement intended to restore a country that's been damaged or is in decline, by expansion, by violent attacks on enemies, internal as well as external enemies, and measures of authority, the replacement of democracy by an authoritarian dictatorship.’ Rather than cancel each other out, all of these theorists offer up elements that bear traces of old and new forms of authoritarianism. However, the 2016 candidacy of Donald Trump — embraced by white supremacist groups as their ‘Glorious Leader’ — illustrates how the two forms of authoritarianism may now be advanced in one political package.

Until now, the trend has been toward economic sovereignty replacing civic sovereignty as corporate power buys access to elections, governance, law enforcement, national budget, and foreign policy. The more money influences politics, the more corrupt the political culture becomes. Under these circumstances, holding office is largely dependent on having adequate corporate patronage, while laws and policies at all levels of government are mostly fashioned by lobbyists representing big business corporations and financial institutions. As Ralph Nader says, we have entered an era of a plutocracy of maximums for the wealthy few, a democracy of minimums for everyone else.

Moreover, as the politics of Obama's healthcare reform indicate — a gift to the health insurance giants — such lobbying, as corrupt and unethical as it may be, is now carried out in the open and displayed by insurance and drug companies as a badge of honor — a kind of open testimonial to their disrespect for democratic governance and a celebration of their power.

But markets are not the only major institution under the new authoritarianism. As David Theo Goldberg has argued, the military has also assumed a central role in shaping all aspects of society. Militarization is about more than the use of repressive power; whether it be through the use of the police or the armed forces, it also represents a powerful social logic that is constitutive of values, modes of rationality, and ways of thinking. According to Goldberg:

‘The military… has assumed such a central role in modern society's sense of itself, to its sense of and insistence on its own sovereignty and security, that it not only eats up the resources and revenue commandeered by the state; it likewise determines their more general social use and set of meanings… [T]he military is not just a fighting machine. It is both constitutive and instrument of social power and culture. It serves and socializes. It hands down to the society, as big brother might, its more or less perfected goods, from gunpowder to guns, computing to information management, the internet and global positioning systems (gps), vehicles to video games and gaming platforms, fashion wear to some of the very language of critical analysis itself. In short, while militarily produced instruments might be retooled to other, broader social purposes, the military shapes pretty much the entire range of social production from commodities to culture, social goods to social theory.’

The commercialization and militarization of the social sphere permeates American society. Rather than forcing the country to adhere to an explicit state ideology, the general public in the United States is largely depoliticized through the influence of corporations over media, entertainment, schools, higher education, and other institutions and spaces. This is what the late Herbert Schiller called ‘Culture, Inc.’ The deadening of public values and civic consciousness is also the result of the work of self-serving financial interests, right-wing ideologues, conservative think tanks, powerful commercial media, and a market-driven public pedagogy that acts relentlessly to replace the open power of citizenship with a closed set of pre-defined consumer choices: Coke or Pepsi, Burger King or McDonalds, Republican or Democrat. This neoliberal-driven culture of consumption, commerce, financialization, and self-interest also functions to depoliticize people by encouraging market-driven ideals of unrestrained individualism and self-reliance. Under these conditions, politics becomes inner-directed, lost in a language of therapy, self-help, and self-transformation that has exploded in American culture. Thus, the self becomes cut off from any sense of common purpose and solidarity.

Military glorification pervades popular culture, entertainment, policy, and social relations. For example, the blockbuster success of the Star Wars films, a commercial idealization of war in space, targets the youngest and most impressionable minds. In addition, a pedagogy of historical, social, and racial amnesia is constructed and circulated through a highly popular celebrity culture, all-encompassing consumer culture, and an ongoing display of violence, all of which are reinforced through a regime of neoliberal cultural apparatuses to be found in corporate-driven news, television, radio, and mass entertainment to produce a culture of stupidity, censorship, and diversionary spectacles.

Fight culture now shapes every facet of society, as war-like values, hyper-masculinity, and an aggressive militarism seep into most major institutions in the United States, including schools, the media, and local police forces. The criminal justice system has become the default institution for dealing with all social problems except those caused by Wall Street, the crimes of which are managed without arrests, trials, or prison time. At the same time, low-income communities — particularly communities of color — are considered ignorable or disposable, as in Flint, Michigan, where the local white political establishment stood by while Black neighborhoods were pumped filthy water poisoned with lead.

What is clear is that it is impossible to understand the rise of authoritarianism without thinking about the consolidation of the military-surveillance state at every level. Since the end of the Cold War the United States has built ‘the most expensive and lethal military force in the world.’ The defense budget for 2015 totaled $598.5 billion and accounted for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending. The U.S. defense budget is ‘larger than the combined military spending of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil.’ Since 2001, the United States has both intensified the range of its military power abroad and increased the ongoing militarization of American society. The United States circles the globe with around 800 military bases, producing a massive worldwide landscape of military force, at an ‘annual cost of 156 billion.’ Moreover, ‘there are U.S. troops or other military personnel in about 160 foreign countries and territories, including small numbers of Marines guarding embassies and larger deployments of  “trainers” and “advisors” like the roughly 3,500 now working with the Iraqi army.’

Not only is the Pentagon in an unprecedented position of power, it thrives on a morally bankrupt vision of domestic and foreign policy steeped in a war mentality and the constant evocation of well-armed enemies, looming attacks, and perpetual fear. Military-grade weaponry and armament are now donated or sold to local police departments and are used to intimidate free speech activity protected by the First Amendment, as was seen when police snipers were deployed during street protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Around the world, the U.S. disperses its machineries of war and violence through the use of drones, secret bases that support special ops, and the increasing use of Navy Seals, CIA personnel, Army Rangers, and other clandestine operational forces in multiple countries. Under such circumstances, it is not surprising, as Andrew Bacevich points out, that ‘war has become a normal condition [and the] use of violence has become the preferred “instrument of statecraft.”’

Adding to the scope and power of militarization, Tom Engelhardt points to a number of additional registers of the growing authoritarianism in the United States, which can be found in the mobilization of the military-industrial complex in the service of privatization, and ‘militarization’ of the military. He writes:

‘In the post-9/11 era, the military-industrial complex has been thoroughly mobilized under the rubric of “privatization” and now goes to war with the Pentagon.  With its $80 billion-plus budget, the intelligence bureaucracy has simply exploded.  There are so many competing agencies and outfits, surrounded by a universe of private intelligence contractors, all enswathed in a penumbra of secrecy, and they have grown so large, mainly under the Pentagon’s aegis, that you could say intelligence is now a ruling way of life in Washington -- and it, too, is being thoroughly militarized.  Even the once-civilian CIA has undergone a process of para-militarization and now runs its own “covert” drone wars in Pakistan and elsewhere…

In a sense, even the military has been “militarized.” In these last years, a secret army of special operations forces, 60,000 or more strong and still expanding, has grown like an incubus inside the regular armed forces. As the CIA’s drones have become the president’s private air force, so the special ops troops are his private army, and are now given free rein to go about the business of war in their own cocoon of secrecy in areas far removed from what are normally considered America’s war zones.’

Vanuit deze werkelijkheid bezien moet het toch voor iedere weldenkende lezer duidelijk zijn hoe levensgevaarlijk het zwart/wit simplisme van Bas Heijne is, en hoe absurd de ‘politiek-literaire elite’ in de polder is om hem te onderscheiden met de P.C. Hooftprijs. Geen enkel dissident feit en geen enkele afwijkende visie dringt door tot de verstikkende, knusse ambiance waar het ons kent ons van het poldermodel heerst. Er bestaat daar geen enkele aandacht voor de waarschuwingen van bijvoorbeeld een alom gerespecteerde intellectueel als de Amerikaanse auteur Tom Engelhardt die in 2012 met klem wees op de militarisering van de Amerikaanse samenleving: 

Diplomacy, too, has been militarized.  Diplomats work ever more closely with the military, while the State Department is transforming itself into an unofficial arm of the Pentagon -- as the secretary of state is happy to admit -- as well as of the weapons industry. 

And keep in mind that we now have two Pentagons, thanks to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is focused, among other things, on militarizing our southern border. Meanwhile, with the help of the DHS, local police forces nationwide have, over the last decade, been significantly up-armored and have, in the name of fighting terrorism, gained a distinctly military patina.  They have ever more access to elaborate weaponry and gadgets, including billions of dollars of surplus military equipment of every sort, often being funneled to once peaceable small town police departments.

Onder de tussenkop ‘How to Set the Planet on Fire and Learn Nothing’ oordeelde Engelhardt over ‘the web of drone bases being set up from the Seychelles Islands and Ethiopia to the Arabian Peninsula — clearly meant for expanded drone wars across the region’ dat het desalniettemin

a remarkable example [is] of the general ineffectiveness of applying military or militarized solutions to the problems of a region far from your own shores. From Pakistan and Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia, the evidence is already in: such ‘solutions’ solve little or nothing, and in a remarkable number of cases seem only to increase the instability of a country and a region, as well as the misery of masses of people. 

And yet the general lack of success from 2002 on and a deepening frustration in Washington have just led to a stronger conviction that some recalibrated version of a military solution (greater surges, lesser surges, no invasions but special forces and drones, smaller ‘footprint,’ larger naval presence, etc.) is the only reasonable way to go.

In fact, military solutions of every sort have such a deep-seated grip on Washington that the focus there might be termed obsessive. This has been particularly obvious when it comes to the CIA’s drone wars. Back in the Vietnam War years, President Lyndon Johnson was said to have driven his generals crazy by ‘micromanaging’ the conflict, especially in weekly lunch meetings in which he insisted on picking specific targets for the air campaign against North Vietnam.

These days, however, Johnson almost looks like a laissez-faire war president. After all, thanks to the New York Times, we know that the White House has a ‘nominating’ process to compile a ‘kill list’ of terror suspects, and that the president himself decides which drone air attacks should then be launched, not target area by target area, but individual by individual. He is choosing specific individuals to kill in the Pakistani, Yemeni, and Somali backlands. 

It should be considered a sign of the times that, whatever shock this news may have caused in Washington (mainly because of possible administration leaks about the nature of the ‘covert’ drone program), few have even mentioned presidential micromanaging, nor, it seems, are any generals up in arms. Some may have found the ‘nomination’ process shocking, but rare are those who seem to think it strange that a president of the United States (in dit geval de, volgens Heijne, ‘immer onkreukbare Barack Obama.’ svh) should be involved in choosing individuals (including U.S. citizens) for assassination-by-drone in distant lands.  

The truth is that such ‘solutions,’ first tested in the Greater Middle East, are now being applied (even if, as yet, in far more modest ways) from Africa to Central America. In Africa, I suspect you could track the growing destabilization of parts of that continent to the setting up of a U.S. command for the region (Africom) in 2007 and in subsequent years the slow movement of drones, special forces operatives, private contractors, and others into a region that already has problems enough.

Here’s a 2012 American reality then: as a great power, the U.S. has an increasingly limited toolkit, into which it is reaching far more often for ever more similar tools.  The idea that the globe is a chessboard, that Washington is in control of the game, and that each militarized move it makes will have a reasonably predictable result couldn’t be more dangerous.  The evidence of the last decade is clear enough: there is little less predictable or more likely to go awry than the application of military force and militarized solutions, which are cumulatively incendiary in unexpected ways, and in the end threaten to set whole regions on fire.  None of this, however, seems to register in Washington.

The United States is commonly said to be a great power in decline, but the militarization of American policy -- and thinking -- at home and abroad is not.  It has Washington, now a capital of perpetual war, in its grip. 

This process began, post-9/11, with the soaring romanticism of the Bush administration about, as the president put it, the power of the “greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known” (a.k.a. the U.S. military) to change the world.  It was a fundamental conviction of Bush and his top officials that the most powerful military on the planet could bring any state in the Greater Middle East to heel in a “cakewalk.” 

Today, in the wake of two failed wars on the Eurasian continent, a de-romanticized version of that conviction has become the deeply embedded, increasingly humdrum way of life of a militarized Washington.  It will remain so. 

Hier is de diepe kloof zichtbaar tussen een mainstream-opiniemaker uit een klein kikkerland en een kritische intellectueel in een wereldmacht. Terwijl Bas Heijne president Barack Obama prijst als een representant van de ‘Verlichtingsidealen,’ laat Tom Engelhardt precies het tegenovergestelde zien, door zijn publiek al in 2012 te attenderen op het feit dat:

as a great power, the U.S. has an increasingly limited toolkit, into which it is reaching far more often for ever more similar tools. The idea that the globe is a chessboard, that Washington is in control of the game, and that each militarized move it makes will have a reasonably predictable result couldn’t be more dangerous. The evidence of the last decade is clear enough: there is little less predictable or more likely to go awry than the application of military force and militarized solutions, which are cumulatively incendiary in unexpected ways, and in the end threaten to set whole regions on fire. None of this, however, seems to register in Washington.

Maar blind voor de werkelijkheid blijft Heijne doorgaan met de versleten Koude Oorlogsretoriek. Daarom is hij gedwongen ‘Poetin’ af te schilderen als een tiran die een directe bedreiging vormt voor het voortbestaan van het hele Westen, ondanks het feit dat alleen al de NAVO-landen tezamen tenminste 13 keer meer spenderen aan het militair-industrieel complex dan de Russische Federatie. Als propagandist van het establishment richt Bas nu zijn pijlen ook op Donald Trump, die nog voordat hij als president aantreedt, volgens The Huffington Post van maandag 16 januari 2017, verklaarde dat de NATO als instituut ‘Obsolete’ is, en dat ‘Trump Wants To Cut Russia Sanctions In Return For Nuclear Arms Deal.’ Onthullend genoeg hebben deze voorstellen tot matiging -- op het moment dat de wereld geconfronteerd wordt met de gevaren van de klimaatverandering, overbevolking, milieuvernietiging, uitputting van de grondstoffen en een hernieuwde wapenwedloop  -- grote paniek veroorzaakt bij de Democratische en Europese elite, die al sinds eind jaren veertig van de vorige eeuw, hun macht ontleenden aan het Amerikaans militair-industrieel complex, waar de Republikeinse president Eisenhower al in 1961 met grote nadruk voor waarschuwde. Niet beseffend dat niemand in de VS president kan worden zonder door een deel van de gevestigde orde naar voren te worden geschoven, begrijpt Bas Heijne met al zijn pedanterie ook niets van de geopolitieke strijd die achter de schermen al geruime tijd geleden begonnen is en die niet Rusland betreft, maar de opkomende wereldmacht China.  Het middenrijk vormt met zijn 1,4 miljard inwoners een grotere economische bedreiging voor de snel afnemende Amerikaanse hegemonie dan Rusland ooit geweest is. Zo is bekend dat:

Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, has set the stage for a potential clash with China, saying it should be barred from artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea. 

Tillerson said China’s control and construction of artificial islands in waters claimed by neighbouring countries was 'akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.’

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, building seven artificial islands on reefs and rocks and outfitting them with military-length airstrips and anti-aircraft guns. 'We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,' Tillerson said during his confirmation hearing to become America’s top diplomat. 'They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s.’

‘The statements are sure to worry China, which has taken an extremely rigid stance on challenges to its sovereignty claims. Last year, an international tribunal ruled much of China’s territorial claims were invalid, but had little effect and the Chinese government ignored the verdict…

While Tillerson did not elaborate on how the US would bar China from islands in the South China Sea, experts agreed it would have to involve some form of military deployment. 'Blocking China’s access, presumably with US warships, would precipitate a crisis, a military clash,' said Ashley Townshend, a fellow at the University of Sydney’s United States studies centre.

Wanneer de lezer ook nog weet dat de oud ‘ExxonMobil CEO and chairman’ Tillerson goede banden onderhoudt met president Vladimir Poetin dan kan men op zijn minst vermoeden dat de komende jaren de relaties in de wereld ingrijpend zullen veranderen, en dat de geconditioneerde reflexen van Heijne even ‘obsolete’ zijn als bijvoorbeeld die van de NAVO-landen. Meer hierover de volgende keer.

Populaire posts van deze blog

Geert Mak Pleit Nu Voor Vriendschap met Rusland

Ik kwam zojuist mijn oude vriend, de bestseller-auteur en mainstream-opiniemaker Geert Mak in de regen op straat tegen. Na elkaar te hebben begroet, vertelde Geert mij dat hij van oordeel is dat Europa zo snel mogelijk met Rusland om de tafel moet gaan zitten, om de opgelopen spanningen te deëscaleren. De VS heeft heel andere belangen dan 'wij,' aldus Mak, die benadrukte dat de macht van 'onze' Atlantische bondgenoot ingrijpend aan het afnemen is. Kortom, ik hoorde wat ikzelf al enige jaren op mijn weblog schrijf. Opvallend hoe een Nederlandse opiniemaker binnen zo'n betrekkelijk korte tijd zo wezenlijk van oordeel kan veranderen.  Immers, Mak’s gevaarlijke anti-Rusland hetze was een treffend voorbeeld van zijn opportunisme. Mei 2014 beweerde op de Hilversumse televisie de zogeheten ‘chroniqueur van Amsterdam, Nederland, Europa en de VS,’ dat er sprake was van een 'Russische gevaar,’ aangezien ‘meneer Poetin’ aan ‘landjepik’ deed en dat de Russische president d…

America Has Been at War 93% of the Time Since 1776

America Has Been at War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 Years – Since 1776 By Washington's Blog Global Research, December 26, 2017 Washington's Blog 20 February 2015 Region:  Theme: 

Native American Rape Survivors

A sign marks the entrance to White Earth Indian Reservation in Mahnomen County, Minn. (J. Stephen Conn / CC 2.0) WHITE EARTH RESERVATION, Minn.—Candice (not her real name) awoke with a start. Someone was pulling down her sweatpants. It was a male friend. “Stop!” she shouted. He kept groping her. She kicked him and he fell off the bed. She dashed out of the bedroom, tripping and tumbling down the stairs. Gripped with fear, she heard his footsteps behind her in the dark and forced herself to stand upright as she staggered out to the porch. Candice was still intoxicated. She got into her car and drove into a ditch. A white police officer pulled up. She struggled to hold back tears as she told him about the attempted rape. All the officer saw was a drunk and disorderly Native American woman. He dismissed Candice’s report of sexual assault as a lie she had made up to avoid getting a DUI. He did not take her to the hospital for a forensic exam. The sexual assault was not recorded in his pol…