Saturday, May 26, 2012

How to spread FUD in IPA Bergian style ...

(Above: the worst drawn comic book in the 21st century? Northrop Grumman delivers the goods, with more here).

The comedy stylings of Tony Abbott continue, and lordy lordy it looks like he's zoomed past the Three Stooges in his bid to poke a finger in the eye of common sense:

...Mr Abbott yesterday declared that he would not break election promises, but ''if I change my mind and an election commitment needs to be reworked, I will seek a new mandate''. (here)

So every time he changes his mind, he's going to call on a new election and seek a new mandate? Oh pull the pond's leg and pull it hard.

Or is he just going to ring up News Ltd and see what they think, and if they give it a front page go-ahead, why there's the brand spanking new mandate?

Well that's the joke of the day out of the way, and the pond is looking forward to an Abbott-led government, and the first change of mind. Could he be taken to court for failing to fulfil this naked promise, or would it just be better to call him a liar now, and wait for it to be confirmed? Good politics as well as good planning demands more flexibility than this blinkered - and eventually hypocritical - approach.

He's just pretended he's not Julia Gillard. Until he becomes Julia Gillard ... how will he cope with the cross-dressing involved?

So what else is happening? Well the pond has at last worked out Chris Berg's game plan, and it's a considerable feat for a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs (so right wing, the pond's informed, that its fellows refuse to travel on planes with a left wing).

Berg's game changer? To attack the left from the left, and sound more leftist than your average greenie, and sound like such an outraged leftist pacifist opponent of the US industrial military complex that the FUD will last for months ... while sneaking in thought bubbles like Republicans good, climate change silly.

First it's important to remove any inconvenient truths or awkward examples arising from the current crop of Republican candidates:

It's been fun for the left in Australia to fixate on the Republican candidates for the American presidency. It's been fun to joke about their policy quirks and eccentricities. Fun to pronounce that nothing is scarier than the prospect of a Santorum or Romney administration.
Yes, the Republican race has been a convenient distraction.

This is an important disabling first move. When you think for a moment too long about the likes of Santorum's outrageous proposals in relation to social and foreign relation issues, driven by conservative Catholic fundamentalism, the mood would be broken, the spell torn apart.

Speak on, Ancient Mariner of leftist truths:

Because it would not do to dwell on an uncomfortable, undeniable reality - Barack Obama, the left's man in the White House, who was supposed to restore America's standing in the world and end George Bush's assault on civil liberties, has been much worse than his Republican predecessor.

Worse than George Bush!? Oh no, say it ain't so:

Obama has undermined more individual rights and hoarded more presidential power than Bush ever did. It's not that he has simply failed to roll back Bush's anti-terror excesses. (Although that is true, as well.) It's that Obama has trumped them. More than 10 years after the September 11 attacks, the White House is still amassing extra security powers. On December 31 last year, Obama signed the National Defence Authorisation Act.

Note the clever juxtaposition. These days Bush can be reviled by Berg for his anti-terror excesses, because truly, put up against the satanic extreme right wing - one might almost say fascist excesses - of Obama, he seems like an angelic liberal moderate.

But how, you ask, could American right wingers get it so wrong, and think that Obama is in fact a deviant left wing socialist commie pinko gay marriage loving pervert from Kenya?

How is it that only Chris Berg can see him in the right light, which is as a right winger more right wing and deviant than Bush?

It takes a special skill. You see there's the capacity to arrest and indefinitely detain anybody within Australian borders, and without any judicial authorisation. Oh sorry, did I type in Australia? Of course I meant American, how silly to think that Australia would practise indefinite detention.

And then there's the right to assassinate Americans and others abroad. Uh huh. Naturally the pond is looking forward to a vigorous campaign by the IPA to indict Obama for authorising the assassination, the illegal slaughter of Osama bin Laden.

Did we mention that Obama is worse than Bush?

There's more. George Bush's once controversial covert surveillance program has dramatically expanded under Obama. The President's emergency powers have been boosted. An executive order Obama signed in March (number 13603) grants more to the President in an emergency than any order yet: allowing the government to take over all food, transport, water, energy and health resources, and reintroduce conscription if the President wants to.
Executive orders are used to bypass the usual checks and balances in Congress and the courts. As the Cato Institute's Jim Powell pointed out last month, there is nothing in order 13603 about protecting constitutional rights.

The Cato institute? See the cleverness of the move.

Suddenly the confused left-winger, befuddled by FUD, is hypnotised by the righteous way that Jim Powell is striving to save the United States from totalitarian fascism, as expounded and practised by Obama, and which he outlined at extensive, one might almost say tediously hysterical fear-mongering length in Forbes:

To be sure, much of this language has appeared in national security executive orders that previous presidents have issued periodically since the beginning of the Cold War. (here)

Say what Jim? We've seen all this before?

No, no, that's not what we and Chris Berg meant. Tell us the real implications:

.... more than previous national security executive orders, Obama’s 13603 seems to describe a potentially totalitarian regime obsessed with control over everything. Obama’s executive order makes no effort to justify the destruction of liberty, no effort to explain how amassing totalitarian control would enable government to deal effectively with cyber sabotage, suicide bombings, chemical warfare, nuclear missiles or other possible threats. It’s quite likely there would be greater difficulty responding to threats, since totalitarian regimes suffer from economic chaos, colossal waste, massive corruption and bureaucratic infighting that are inevitable consequences of extreme centralization. Such problems plagued fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, communist China and other regimes. Totalitarian control would probably trigger resistance movements and underground networks like those that developed in Western Europe during the Nazi occupation. Totalitarian control could provoke more political turmoil than there was in the Vietnam War era of the 1960s. There would probably be a serious brain drain as talented people with critical skills escaped to freedom wherever that might be. Canada? (ibid)

There. That's more like it. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Soviet Union, Mao, Communist China, North Korea, Vietnam era hippies, Obama, quick flee to Canada ...

Oh no, not New Zealand, say not New Zealand ... (and by the way Jim, that's a humble hundred dollars for the pond's Godwin's Law swear jar).

But you see how Berg has smuggled in the most extreme right wing loonacy in his cause (ever ready as Jim Powell is to strike down Theodore Roosevelt's misguided attitude to corn syrup and Coca-Cola).

Now how about bringing in a gay hispanic in the form of Anthony D Romero?

No wonder the director of the American Civil Liberties Union says he is "disgusted" by the Obama administration's record.

Oh okay, enough with the American Civil Liberties Union. Truth to tell, if you look at their positions in depth, they really take a hard stand against any number of Republican pet memes. And they had some really harsh things to say about George Bush.

It's time for Berg himself to take up the cause:

Sure, Obama has withdrawn troops from Iraq. Mission accomplished, as they say. But on the other hand he has also personally pioneered an entirely new, more enduring form of global warfare.
Drone attacks will remain long after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have faded into historical memory.

Indeed. And it's only since drones have begun to appear over American skies - as outlined by Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker in Here's Looking at You Should we worry about the rise of the drone? (sorry, behind the paywall) that Americans have begun to sit up and take notice.

And it's at this point that Berg begins to sound like Fidel Castro:

Because drone war is permanent war. It is limited by nothing more than the whims of the President. It is the first war run entirely by the CIA. It is conducted on the territory of countries to which America is not formally hostile. And it took until February this year for the administration to even admit the drone war existed.

That's as opposed to the wars run by the CIA in Vietnam, Chile, and sundry other countries.

George Bush's wars of liberation, right or wrong, had their precedents.

Indeed. The pond understands that the Bush administration got the idea for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo by watching the television series 24.

Barack Obama's never-ending global bombing campaign by remote control is his innovation.

Except of course when it was innovated (sorry) by the Germans in world war 11, and the deployment of UAVs in Vietnam, and the use of UAVs by Israel in the 1982 war in Lebanon, helped along by the United States, and by George Bush's administration, and so on and on in a lengthy series of developments long before Obama ate dog in Indonesia (more in Drone Wars: Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.)

It's true that Obama has upped the ante, but George Bush provided the precedent, with the use of Hellfire-equipped Predators in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. And would future Republican presidents refuse to follow in the footsteps of George Bush?

It's a fair bet that no administration will ever shut down the drone program.

So now we get Berg the pacifist, and a pox on all the war-mongers.

A competent intelligence agency can always find new threats to be bombed into the Stone Age. So if we simply apply the criteria the left used to condemn Bush as one of the worst presidents in history, there is no ambiguity. Obama is far worse again. Not that you would know about it.
Partisanship has a habit of excusing anything, with 77 per cent of those who describe themselves as left-wing Democrats wholeheartedly approving of Obama's drone program.

Would that be the same partisanship that leads Berg to overlook the way drone strikes under Bush? The same partisanship that mounts an argument against leftist liberal Obama that proposes he's actually a right wing Republican in drag?

So what about the precedent?

In July 2008, Bush increased the number of drone strikes, totaling 34 attacks in 2008. Most of the key CIA personnel from the Bush Administration’s drone program remain, but the Obama Administration has far outpaced its predecessor in the frequency of drone strikes.

So Berg is criticising Obama for inheriting Bush's CIA and for being more Republican than Republicans, more Bush than Bush - why he even assassinated Osama - and dammit that's just not fair.

It's so wrong:

Imagine if a Republican did the same thing. There would be anti-drone marches in Washington and candlelight vigils in Paris and Berlin. Now the left are more interested in complaining that Republicans are sceptical about climate change.

Oh that's a very nice left-field touch. From Obama, Bush, Republicans and drones to climate change scepticism and denialism. Why it turns out climate change is just a left wing bit of political nonsense up there with hypocrisy about drones.

They ignore, excuse - even, according to the polls, defend - their President's abominable record on war and individual rights. Because he isn't a Republican.

Where to start? Well actually if you take these things seriously, you might not excuse Obama's record on individual rights, and equally you might wonder what Republicans like Santorum would do differently. Except double down.

And you might criticise the way Obama's chosen to conduct the various wars he's inherited - that's right, inherited - since a drone strike might kill dozens of civilians, along with the nominated target. But you might also remember these are Republican wars, and the Republicans even now are hot to trot with Iran.

If Obama manages to get himself into a firefight with Iran, Berg might then have a rough equivalent to the gigantic follies of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and that pack of woeful enchiladas.

The irony is that law agencies around America are clamouring to take up the rapidly maturing drone technology in a domestic setting. But that's not so much a function of the Obama administration as American obsession with the latest in technology ...

What we are offered by Berg is a vast array of furphies which suggest that Obama is worse than any Republican doing the rounds, because he happens to adopt some Republican strategies, options and positions.

It's as absurd, as silly, as nonsensical, as Tony Abbott saying he'll seek a new mandate if he changes his mind on a policy issue (lordy, what if he really did accept climate science?)

In the meantime, the debate about the easy 'casualty-free' option of drones in war, and their implications in a domestic setting deserve more substantial debate.

The law that set in motion the use of drones over American skies was passed in the United States Senate by 75 to 20, with a mere five Republican senators voting against it (here).

You can find more here at The New York Times in Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), but the ethical debate involved will require more than the cheap shots and blinkered "Obama bad, Republicans good" rhetoric at the heart of Berg's obfuscating, conflating bit of polemic.

If only it were possible to truly believe that Berg, the IPA, and the Republicans were defenders of individual liberty, took a strong Ron Paul line on foreign adventures, and were resolutely determined not to inflict their fading empire on the rest of the world.

Fancy some kool-aid? Or perhaps some capitalism at work:

For drone makers, the change in the law comes at a particularly good time. With the winding-down of the war in Afghanistan, where drones have been used to gather intelligence and fire missiles, these manufacturers have been awaiting lucrative new opportunities at home. The market for drones is valued at $5.9 billion and is expected to double in the next decade, according to industry figures. Drones can cost millions of dollars for the most sophisticated varieties to as little as $300 for one that can be piloted from an iPhone.

So are Republicans leading the fight against drones in a domestic setting? Let alone in foreign wars involving body counts ...

Here's your IPA Bergian flavoured kool-aid. Take another sip ...

(Below: click to enlarge and share the joy of droning).

1 comment:

  1. Well, I think it is safe to say that as soon a Gina buys a decent shareholding in a drone company Chris Berg will shut up about them...


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