Tuesday, October 26, 2004

on Homeland Insecurity and Ralph Nader

The offbeat literary magazine, The Sun, may sometimes be plagued by sentimental, new-age, confessional, depressingly mediocre pieces of writing desperately attempting to be "raw," but every once in a while an issue comes along worth reading, at least for the political pieces. Two articles then: the first an interview with Stan Goff, 22-year veteran of the Special Forces, eloquent dissident and activist (member of BringThemHomeNow.org) and author of Hideous Dreams: A Soldier's Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti, as well the new book Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century. In short, he seems to be in the same parrhesiastic league as Christian Parenti and Scott Ritter.
An excerpt from the interview:

During the Clinton administration, when Hugh Shelton was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he began what Donald Rumsfeld calls the "revolution of military affairs," which is the complete restructuring of the U.S. military. The shorthand for it is "full spectrum dominance." This refers to dominance in three dimensions: technology, the full spectrum of conflict (from street riots to thermonuclear war), and geography. The belief that we can achieve such dominance is quite likely the most grandiose delusion in human history. It simply is not possible. It's amazing and worrisome to me that people who hold the reins of power would actually believe in something like this.


I have at least grudging respect for those on the Right who openly admit that if we don't crush the will of people all over the Third World, then we can't live the way we do. The Left often wants to soft-pedal it and tell people that we can live even better without the use of military power, but that is a grotesque misrespresentation.


For such an "advanced" society, the U.S. has the most indoctrinated citizens in the world...[Bertolt Brecht] said, "Within the contradiction lies the hope." It means that periods of instability create opportunities. Stability creates inertia. It's when things get shaken up by contradictions that inertia can no longer be sustained. We can use instability as an opportunity to shape the future, and we are entering a period of extreme instability in this country: economic, political, and otherwise.

The second article, a personal meditation on Ralph Nader, is written by the editor himself. Bear in mind, this is someone whose life's work has been profoundly inspired by Nader, who happens to be a contemporary of Nader's in the deepest sense:

Nader was an inspiration to me...[but] I never tried to emulate all of [his] habits -- better to walk barefoot on hot coals for the love of a woman, it seemed to me, than to pad around alone in cheap socks -- but there was no one in public life who inspired me more.


However, Nader didn't change his tune even after studies showed that if he hadn't run, roughly half of his nearly 3 million supporters would have voted for Gore and only 25 percent for Bush, with the rest sitting out the election. This year, not only does Nader continue to ignore these numbers, but a few months ago he told "the liberal establishment" to "relax and rejoice" over his candidacy, as he'll draw more Republican than Democratic voters. When I read this, I wondered whether Nader was delusional or, like most polititians, simply ignoring whatever he chooses. Either conclusion was discouraging.

One prominent progressive after another urged Nader to stay out of the race this year, but Nader insists on his right to run with all the aggrieved innocence of a neighbor who reminds you, when you ask him to turn down his music, that we live in a free country. He's sorry about your sick kid who can't fall asleep. It's too bad your puppy trembles when the bass shakes the walls. Did he mention it's a free country? Besides, this isn't just any music; he's marching to the beat of a different drummer.


Ralph Nader was once my hero, and his intelligence and accomplishments still merit my respect. Maybe great men make great mistakes. Maybe there should be a twelve-step program for men who love their country too much. Sadly, Nader reminds me these days of a guy who shows up uninvited at his ex-girlfriend's wedding and ruins the moment for everyone. As he loudly insists he has the bride's best interests at heart, she cringes: Ralph, the intense one. All these years, he's kept a picture of her, certain that one day she'd come to her senses. And now, she's about to marry someone who isn't right for her. Only Ralph understands what she really needs.


I woonder, as Nader approaches the end of his life, whether the stubborn determination that once served him -- and us -- so well hasn't calcified. I wonder if he's become bitter as his former enemies grew stronger, not weaker. Powerful corporations became even more powerful multinational corporations, government itself began turning into a corporate oligarchy. Mabye he thinks he's failed. Certainly he thinks his old allies have failed him. Maybe, as Yeats once wrote, "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart."

Like many others, I want to see the emergence of a strong progressive movement in this country. Maybe Nader could play a key role in it -- as long as he remembers that until we have real electoral reform, a third party's greatest influence will come through grass-roots organizing, not another unsuccessful presidential bid. In 2004, at least, voting for Ralph Nader isn't like picking up a brick and laying the foundation for a revitalized progressive movement. It's like picking up a brick and hitting ourselves in the head.

Full articles (in pdf). One may wonder why neither party seems to share Nader's sudden conviction that he is only helping Kerry. Maybe the unprecedented number of newly-registered voters are truly all former Republicans suddenly feeling inspired to vote for that seatbelt guy? The plot thickens...(On the other hand, claims that Kerry is about to smell sweet empire's victory in a landslide are probably naive and, for many reasons (such as, um, baseball games?), exaggeratedly euphoric. For a more biting and witty appraisal see here. For more tired appeals to the alleged "reasoning" powers of Republicans, see Garrison Keillor's latest. Meanwhile Seymour Hersh seems to think a second Bush term would be "very interesting" for the way it may finally unite the European bloc against us.

No comments: