At the risk of sounding like a Chomskybot, may I recommend everything political by Noam Chomsky? Sure, he’s the uniting symbol of hatred for the far right and even most centre-right Republicans, but he’s also the most-deserving doyen of dissdents. I just finished Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post 9/11 World by him and am throughly impressed by him once again.
A few months ago, I saw Robert McNamara’s The Fog Of War
and the minute I read the tagline,
A film about the former US Secretary of Defence and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war
I knew Chomsky would be all over it, the way he lambasted the US for the East Timor crisis in Manufacturing Consent, and I wasn’t mistaken at all. In Imperial Ambitions, Chomsky vituperates McNamara for his role, even invoking the familiar ‘banality of evil’ phrase. The Fog of War is immensely watchable, I highly recommend it as well. What better way to learn how the military machine of the mightiest country the world has ever seen works, than to hear it from the mouth of the its chief planner? McNamara, the “human IBM machine” as he was nicknamed, is unashamed about the bombings of Tokyo and Vietnam that killed thousands, but is meticulous about the logistics and statistics of every raid carried out while he was the Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968. This machine-like thinking must have served him in good stead during his tenure as President of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981, and after watching the documentary, it is apparent that it did.
Here is a quote from the book about how Britain, the home of democaracy [sic] simply lacks the gumption to do anything but give in meekly to the Americans’ imperailist orders, how Britain, once a mighty empire in her own right is reduced to being a second grade lackey, a ‘partner’ who is not even informed of major decisions until they have been executed in full.
Tony Blair is a good propaganda agent for the United States. He’s articulate, his sentences hang together, apparently people like the way he looks. He’s following a position that Britain has taken, self-consciously, since the end of the Second World War. During the Second World War, Britain recognized – we have plenty of internal documents about it – the obvious: Britain had been the dominant power, but the United States was going to become the dominant power after the war. Britain had to make a choice. Was it going to be just another country, or was it going to be what they called a “junior partner” of the United States? It accepted the role of junior partner. And that’s what it’s been since then. Britain has been kicked in the face over and over again in the most disgraceful way, and Blair sits there quietly and says, “We will be the junior partner.” We will bring to the “coalition” our experience of centuries of brutalizing and murdering foreign people. We’re good at that. We’ve got centuries of experience in what Lloyd George called “bomb[ing] niggers”. We’ll be the junior partner and maybe in return we’ll get some privileges. And that’s the British role. It’s disgraceful.
Here is another quote about Bush’s voter base:
This is a very worrisome feature of U.S. culture. No other industrial country has anything like the degree of extremist religious beliefs and irrational commitments that you commonly find in the United States. The idea that you have to be avoid teaching evolution or pretend you’re not teaching it is unique in the industrial world. And the statistics are mind-boggling. Roughly half the population think the world was created a couple of thousand years ago. A huge percentage, maybe a quarter or so, say they’ve had a born-again experience. A substantial number of people believe in what’s called “the rapture”. Large majorities are convinced of miracles, the existence of the devil, and so on. …
For example, before Jimmy Carter, no U.S. president had to pretend to be a religious fanatic, but since then every one of them has. This has contributed to a genuine undermining of democracy since the 1970s. Carter, probably inadvertently, taught the lesson that you can mobilize a large constituency by presenting yourself, honestly or not, as a Bible-fearing, evangelical Christian. Up until that point, religious beliefs were people’s concerns. There has been a conscious takeover of the electoral system by the public relations industry, which now sells candidates the way they sell commodities. And the image of a God-fearing, believing person of deep faith who is going to protect us from the threats of the modern world is one you can sell.
The book has several other passages that can be quoted, but it’s best if you go out and buy or rent this gem yourself. It’s well worth the tag price of $19.95, if you’re in Canada.