Dover Bitch

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Neocon Mind

DB has never been an enormous fan of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, but he deserves credit for one immeasurably large contribution to all mankind. If he didn't have a level head for at least a few days in October 1962, there's a pretty good chance that the world might have ended. McNamara was the main proponent of the U.S. blockade of Cuba during the Missile Crisis.

When it was discovered that the Soviet Union was delivering nuclear weapons to Cuba, President Kennedy called his closest advisors to a series of meetings. In his Executive Committee (EXCOMM) meetings, Kennedy discussed the options. If you want to hear what it sounds like when the President of the United States is considering "trading Berlin" during a "nuclear exchange" (and if you have time to download a 130MB MP3), click here. It's fairly disquieting.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy wrote in "Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis" that the Russians were a week away from having the ability to kill 80 million Americans within minutes. What Kennedy did not know at the time was that there were already operational nuclear weapons installed there (and that Cuban President Fidel Castro would implore Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to launch them during the crisis).

On Oct. 18, the EXCOMM met to come up with their plan:

The members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were unanimous in calling for immediate military action. They forcefully presented their view that the blockade would not be effective. General Curtis LeMay, Air Force Chief of Staff, argued strongly with the President that a military attack was essential. When the President questioned what the response of the Russians might be, General LeMay assured him there would be no reaction. President Kennedy was skeptical. "They, no more than we, can let these things go by without doing something. They can't, after all their statements, permit us to take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians, and then do nothing. If they don't take action in Cuba, they certainly will in Berlin."


Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson began attending our meetings, and he was strongly in favor an air attack. I was a great admirer of his. In 1961, President Kennedy asked him to prepare a report for the National Security Council recommending a course of action to deal with the Russian threat to Berlin. Listening to his presentation then, I had thought to myself that I had never heard anyone so lucid and convincing and would never wish to be on the other side of an argument with him. Now he made his arguments that an air attack and invasion represented our only alternative in the same clear and brilliant way. He said that the President of the United States had the responsibility for the security of the people of the United States and of the whole free world, that it was his obligation to take the only action which could protect that security, and that that meant destroying the missiles.

There are apparently no tapes or transcripts of the meetings with Dean Acheson, only an extremely lonely-sounding JFK describing Acheson's position (6MB MP3).

[INTERESTING SIDE NOTE: If there is anybody on earth who could brag to know the most about these tapes and transcripts, it might be Philip Zelikow, whose recent departure from the State Department figures prominently in Sidney Blumenthal's important story about the irrelevancy of Condoleezza Rice this week. Zelikow was co-editor of "The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy: The Great Crises", the official transcriptions of the EXCOMM meetings.]

Though there are no tapes of what Acheson said to Kennedy, the film "Thirteen Days" portrays the meeting like this:

Dean Acheson: Gentlemen, for the last fifteen years, I've fought at this table alongside your predecessors in the struggle against the Soviet. Now I do not wish to seem melodramatic, but I do wish to impress upon you a lesson I learned with bitter tears and great sacrifice. The Soviet understands only one language: action. Respects only one word: force.

It's not entirely unfair to put those words in Acheson's mouth. Acheson was Harry Truman's Secretary of State and was an important player in the administration during the Korean War, about which Truman later commented "The conclusion that I had come to was that force was the only language that the Russian dictatorship could understand."

Fortunately, Acheson and the Joint Chiefs did not win the debate over Cuba. If they had, the human race today would probably consist of a handful of mutants in mineshafts.

When Seymour Hersh wrote his stunning article about Abu Ghraib in 2004, it contained this disturbing passage (among many):

The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was "The Arab Mind," a study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression. "The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women... and all the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world," Patai wrote. Homosexual activity, "or any indication of homosexual leanings, as with all other expressions of sexuality, is never given any publicity. These are private affairs and remain in private." The Patai book, an academic told me, was "the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior." In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged- "one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation."

Much has been written already to discredit "The Arab Mind." Its absurd reduction of millions of people to a cartoon stereotype has already led to Americans building naked pyramids of Iraqis. But even though Bush called Abu Ghraib the biggest mistake of the war last June, as Dibgy notes, the U.S. Marines are still encouraged to read this garbage.

But there is something disturbing on that reading list, which is that the top recomendation for staff sergeants and first lieutenants --- the leaders who generally have the most face to face contact with the locals --- is that piece of trash "The Arab Mind." I had thought that it was only considered a bible by the senior brass. I didn't know they were having the troops read it too. No wonder things have gone so badly.

This is another in a long line of errors, but it points to one of the biggest motivations for this invasion and occupation --- racism. There were far too many people who were willing to believe that when it came to teaching the world who's boss, any arab would do. This book helped create the sense that arabs are all alike and that they are just a little bit less evolved than we purebred (hah!) Americans.

They're still encouraged to read it because the people running America still think it's the bible. To Dick Cheney and his cabal, Arabs only understand force.

So here we are today, on the brink of a war with Iran. Our nation (and Israel) considering using tactical nukes. An administration convinced the enemy only understands force and we must escalate and expand a war we are losing because any sign of weakness will "embolden" them.

A regional conflict which some in Washington have described as having the potential to become a "miniature Armageddon" or "potential World War III" and an administration comprised entirely of neocons.

There's nobody even as level-headed as Robert Freaking McNamara, nor is George W. Bush remotely as smart as John F. Kennedy.

God help us all.

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