Facilitate the power of love - confront the love of power

Wed, 26 May 2004

Holy Enemies

I need to remind myself from time what I'm up to here. The weight, the sheer horribility of events, especially in the Middle East but also out of that frame, tends to induce a lean. I am tempted to develop eloquent rants about injustices and oppression but this would be to enemize, one of the diseases of dominance of which more below. And so I need to remind myself that this inquiry is about confronting the love of power, pointing to evidence of the love of power, figuring out how it can be confronted and doing something to actually confront it.

Alongside that, the inquiry is also about freeing the power of love, of learning to live from and with love. A weak but adequate definition of love is a life in which coercion is absent; perhaps an overly passive and ultimately unsatisfying way of approaching love and loving. Yet it is a good question, not by any means settled, whether love can thrive if coercion is tolerated or condoned, if we fail to confront the love of power in ourselves. Some people prefer to try to jump straight to love, to living in the light, without attending to the culture of dominance that they are overwhelmingly likely to bring to this.

This, it seems to me, generates a spirituality that can often take the form of a flight from politics, a spirituality that bystands oppression in favour of the sweet delights of local harmony, or inner peace. At its most corrupt—when there is an insistence on the literal truth of the 'word of god' of whatever flavor—spirituality becomes completely water-logged with domination.

For example a friend visiting yesterday told of someone they know who is a charismatic Christian who believes in the literal truth of the bible, and who argues that, since Arabs are not mentioned in the Bible they don't have any rights to the 'Holy Land'. Mighjt this be one of the reasons why the present 'Christianate' US administration is so heavy on the Palestinians?

Trance-breaking cont.
Which brings us back to events in the Middle East and the ways in which they are described, I was going to say sold, to us, not perhaps too far from the truth.

A thought about that. Part of bystanding is the passive reception of what comes out nthrough ewspapers, TV, other media, or gossip. A small but important move away from bystanding is to actively seek out alternative sources, alternative perspectives. Part of the point of what I'm doing here, so far as I get it right, is to show how that can be done, what it looks like in practice, and to provide, at least via the web, a gateway to more active rather than passive participation. By comparison the one-eyed, down-market bevity of TV news looks well, inadequate.

Here is a mini shortlist of resources that can help the move away from bystanding.
Matters for America
Working for Change
Occupation Watch
Baghdad Burning
home of Salon des Refuse message board
AlJazeera in English
Desperately rebuilding Iraq blog
Common Dreams: News Center
Palestine Monitor
Use write back at the end of the text t0 recommend others. Or question these.

Spellbinding story lines
Evidence of the ubiquity of cultures of dominance continues to be overwhelming. As I've outlined earlier, two takes on how we do it to others and to ourselves (there may be more, but these will do for the moment) are 'trance induction' and the invention, editing, and censoring of stories that justify and rationalize dominant elites and the subordination, i.e. 'bystanding', of others. Along side this there is the mirror image of trance induction and the editing, invention and censoring of stories that justify and rationalize subordination and victimization.

What would a catalogue of this trance-induction/story-telling look like?
The first thing that comes to mind is the gradual acceptance of the conflict in Iraq being described as a 'war' when manifestly it was an unprovoked and illegal attack.

The notion of an 'endless war on terror' is a trance induction that serves to propagate terror i.e. it terrifies all of us, not the same as alerting us to changed levels of risk. For people in love with power it justifies dispensing with previously core essentials of judicial procedure. i.e. creating 'illegal combatants'. This hides the reality of prison communities of people without rights, 'unmenschen', and justifies holding them without charge or trial.

The pictures from Abu Ghraib have wonderfully shattered the trance that many Americans and others have taken to themselves, of an American moral superiority matching its technological and economic superiority.

Other trance inductions have effortlessly slipped into place to paper over these cracks, including calling the interrogation methods at Abu Ghraib 'abuse', when the experience of the participants was of 'torture'. If you doubt this, see these sworn statements by Abu Ghraib detainees som eof whomappeared in the infamous pictures.

The Washington Post who obtained these documents warned: 'Some of the descriptions in these statements may be disturbing because of their sexually explicit or graphic nature'. A misplaced warning that points us in the direction of seeing this as a local aberration rather than normality exposed.

Nori Samir Gunbar AL-YASSERI, Jan. 17:
Hiadar Saber Abed Miktub AL-ABOODI, Jan. 20:
Shalan Said ALSHARONI, Jan. 17:
Abd Alwhab YOUSS, Jan. 17:
Thaar Salman DAWOD, Jan. 17:
Mustafa Jassim MUSTAFA, Jan. 17:
Mustafa Jassim MUSTAFA, Jan. 18:
Kasim Mehaddi HILAS, Jan. 18:
Ameen Sa'eed AL-SHEIKH, Jan. 16:
[Name Withheld], Jan. 21:
Mohanded Juma JUMA, Jan. 18:
Asad Hamza HANFOSH, Jan. 17:
Abdou Hussain Saad FALEH, Jan. 16:
Hussein Mohssein Mata AL-ZAYIADI, Jan. 18:

An overarching relative of the denial of the experience of these prisoners is the failure to acknowledge, as anyone who, like myself, has worked with victims of torture and violence would know, that the damage, the traumatization generated by the Abu Ghraib interrogations is overwhelmingly likely to have life-long effects, generating flashbacks and nightmares decades later. Apart from a previously mentioned piece by Ariel Dorfman, I have yet to find statements in the US or UK where appreciation of this psychophysical damage surfaces.

Terrorist enemies of security and civilization
President Bush and other speak of being 'shocked' by the pictures. They don't speak of being shocked by the experience of the people in the pictures. Reading reasonably diligently accounts across the British and US press of the Abu Ghraib interrogation methods left me feeling that their exposure was regarded as a public relations disaster. In other words a failure of the dominant elite to contain and censor news or subsidiary plot-lines that undermined or contradicted the story it wished to have told.

The speech by President Bush that I saw yesterday contained many items of dominant elite story telling/trance induction that appear detached from reality. I'll take a look at a few of them.

Let's start with where it was held—the Army War College. Where as President Bush observed:

Generations of officers have come here to study the strategies and history of warfare.

Why, yet again, a speech to the nation from a military establishment? Because it guaranteed a tame compliant audience? I guess no one in the military is going to heckle a President.

I look through the speech for evidence of trance induction. A candidate emerges, Bush refers no less than 16 times to 'our enemy(ies)' in Iraq.

Trance induction—we have an 'enemy'.

But wasn't the invasion of Iraq an unprovoked attack? So how come people who, for whatever reason resist it, are 'enemies?' Perhaps they have little appetite for further humiliation in the name of freedom. And even the Saddamists, and religious fundamentalists, much though I deplore them, are entitled to their opinions and preferences.

There is a second candidate. President Bush refers to terror(ism)(ists) 19 times.

Trance induction— Terrorism. The more I have contemplated 'terrorism' as a political notion being sold as though it were a 'brand', the more I have had a sense that it is a rationalization, 'finding a reason for' how a supremely endowed nation, armed to the teeth with the latest and best in overwhelming weaponry, could be shown by the 9/11 events to be vulnerable to 'Independence Day' style attack by a handful of Afghan cave-dwellers.

A focus on Terrorism puts us into a trance that encourages us to bystand the denial of the reality on the ground for people in the Middle East and elsewhere, many of whom are likely to see their past and continued oppression as supported and financed by the US, Britain and other European nations.

The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology and give momentum to reformers across the region. This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world.

Here again we are invited to be entranced by the need for a victory by America and the civilized world. As though Mesopotamia has not itself been a cradle of civilization and as though the West with our reckless exploitations of peoples and planetary assets were so exemplary.

Keep in mind that trance works through restricting, narrowing awareness. Attention is captured by a narrow focus on a particular object and/or idea and from then on, depending on the depth of the trance, discrimination is more or less shut down. And then any of us can be highly suggestible.
We can come to believe, the reason for the attack on Iraq was that:

by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.

The trance seems intended to help us forget a series of other potentially very plausible reasons for the attack on Iraq: that Iraq was never the slightest threat to the US, Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (yesterday's trance induction) didn't exist after 1991; Iraq's contribution to terrorism was that of a murderous Stalinist repression of its own people; it was intended to be seen by 'evil axis' nations as 'making an example' of a 'rogue' nations; securing oil supplies in light of the oil production predicted to peak in 2008 (and the possibility that everyone in China will want to own a car); the likelihood of a fundamentalist meltdown in Saudi Arabia; an act of vengeance and revenge for the 9/11 attacks and so on.

Elsewhere In President Bush's speech there is the outright denial of reality, as in this section on the US response to the killing of four civilian contractors in Fallujah.

In the city of Fallujah there has been considerable violence by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters, including the murder of four American contractors. American soldiers and Marines could have used overwhelming force. Our commanders, however, consulted with Iraq's governing council and local officials and determined that massive strikes against the enemy would alienate the local population and increase support for the insurgency.

For anyone disposed to look at the non-mainstream sources of information on the attack on Fallujah, (see earlier entries here) the use by the US of overwhelming force was the reality, that massive strikes against the 'enemy' did alienate the local population and did increase support for the 'insurgency'.

'Insurgency', here is another dubious trance-inducing label. It denies the reality that many Iraqis are likely to see the US as alien, 'infidel' invaders displaying too many of the 'shock and awe' characteristics of overwhelming force of the previous regime. Abu Ghraib being an iconic reinforcement of this, if any were needed.

Another example of the highly dubious use of language occurs in President Bush's frequent reference (10 times) to 'sovereignty'. Various commentators have cataloged the severe limitations on the power that Iraqis will have at their disposal under the emerging sovereignty. I won't add to that here, except to argue that talk of sovereignty is a trance-induction that hides the reality that what the US has in mind is that of 'client state'.

President Bush notes that:

America has dedicated more than $20 billion to reconstruction and developmentprojects in Iraq.

To ensure our money is spent wisely and effectively, our new embassy in Iraq will
have regional offices in several key cities. These offices will work closely with Iraqisat all levels of government to help make sure projects are completed on time and on budget.

Again, others have documented the extent to which this 'gift' involves a huge pork barrel of business opportunities that overwhelmingly favors US corporations and that recycles the the American reconstruction 'gift'. What seems to have been missed is that there is a clear precedent for what this would look like on the ground in Shah Palavi Iran.

I have eye-witness experience of what a post Saddam client state might look like. In the mid 70's, along with several dozen other Brits, I spent many months making a film history of Iran for David Frost's production company. I'll end with a few recollections of this.

Looking for locations and resources for the large historical reconstructions meant a lot of driving, many hours of flying around in a helicopter and many visits to army installations. All of this was unusually privileged, and only feasible because, as I eventually realized, the whole project was literally being signed off personally by the Shah.

Some items from this experience included flying over military installations, where I saw literally hundreds of 40ft articulated trucks parked, a sea of them, all in military colors; counting five 747 military transport planes lined up at Tehran airport, this at a time when the 747 was a new and very expensive airplane. Using for daily location transport to a Chinook twin rotor helicopter, flown day after day very expertly by American trained crews. In case you don't see the connection, this hardware belonged to the Iranians, who had bought it and the training from the US. Persuaded perhaps that without this 'support' the USSR might look unkindly on the Shah's regime.

Lastly, when now and again we visited a military commander, or his deputy, down the corridor a door or two away we commonly saw the office of the US military 'adviser'. Add to this the creeping but unconfirmed emergence of a suspicion that my assistant/interpreter was a Savak secret police agent and you see how the US had secured the 'cooperation' of the Iranian nation.

Though much of the material we filmed was uncontaminated by the circumstances of its production, from today's perspective the work now seems politically indefensible, and something that I'd now decline. With the over-throw of the Shah, the film series itself became history and has never to my knowledge been shown anywhere.

Sat, 22 May 2004

Dances of death

I went on holiday thinking that the time away would provide perspective on the astonishing daily brew of dominance-related events.

I return to find it, if anything more poisonous, the dances of death more ominous.

While I was away I sometimes had the feeling of being the only person for whom the damage being visited on the middle east was of any great interest. How come it has that much reality for me?

Is it some illusion, even a delusion, to think that a curtain has lifted on 'how we do ourselves'? And that 'how we do ourselves', both locally and internationally, is a form of bullying and tyranny? And further, that, faced with the discomfort of this self-reflection forced upon us by the Iraq attack and the continuing oppression of the Palestinans, staring into cozy, unproblematic, media or retail spaces is preferable to confronting, at least in the UK and US, what is happening, in our name.

Would it be more 'real' to concern myself with food, and eating and shopping and neighborliness? Harder to do that when, as I have discovered, people you know, appear to be active in the military in Iraq.

I'll content myself today with a few items that at least intuitively support the g.o.r.i.l.l.a. notion of an inquiry into cultures of dominance and their counterpart, 'living from liking', 'living from love'.

Creative bystanding
In this film clip (you'll need realplayer installed) we see the normality of US military abuse of helpless detainees. Several things are of interest. A prisoner is punched in the head by a soldier. Replay the clip a couple of times and it is clear that he was resisting taking off his clothes. After the punch to the head he starts to strip off. This is casually watched by two men in military fatigues. The man doing the violence wears fluorescent green gloves that resemble these toy gloves on sale in an Italian market - place. Look at the recommendation that comes with them. The toy and the military violence, seem a clear example of what I mean by culture of dominance.

The two military bystanders in the Abu Ghraib video witness the dragging around the floor of another naked man and then the manhandling of a third man also naked, who is pushed into a kneeling position in front of the camera. A curiosity for anyone with video experience is that the video format is portrait, an accompanying Washington Post caption explains:

The video, which was originally recorded sideways, has been edited to display vertically here and certain body parts have been obscured.

They have indeed. In the background of a few frames of the sequence are several other naked men, huddled against the wall. The vertical mask, a more appropriate term for the reformatting, looks to have been deployed to keep their genitalia out of sight. Evidence, it would seem, of a bizarre double standard. A military machine that enacts grossly damaging abuse and a media machine that colludes with it by keeping the sexual content of the abuse out of sight. Violence is OK, sex is not. Yet the US is a nation where, as I have mentioned here on another day,(Monday 10th May) the 'adult' sexually explicit video market is worth perhaps $10 billion annually.

Tolerating the intolerable
And then on UK Ch4 news there are yet more Israeli bulldozers wrecking streets of houses in the Rafah Palestinian refugee camp and monstering their way through the orderly rows of plastic roofing of a large commercial horticultural business nearby. And destroying the zoo. And denying it was so.

And the newspapers, pursuing some petty journalistic balancing act (much, much worse in the US papers) argue about whether the numbers of children killed in Rafah on Thursday, or in the US attack on a wedding party in Iraq, are accurate. As though the overwhelming imbalance of scale of these attacks visiting the full force of modern military might on Palestinian refugees, or a tiny remote Iraqi village, did not denote yet another occasion for a war crimes investigation and trial.

Are we becoming de-sensitized? As Richard, in one of the write backs here (Monday 10 May) claims, US (and UK?) troops are made to watch videos of injury and damage to ready them for combat. Is this also true for us? Has gore fatigue set in? Has war crime behavior become tolerable? As though life were a Hollywood movie or a video game?

Or, as I prefer to think, have we become 'entranced', hypnotized, by the belief fed to us by mainstream media, in fairness, itself a reflection of popular opinion, that some lives, ours, are worth more than others, for example asylum seekers; that somehow an American or Israeli or British life is worth more than an Arab life.

So far as this is enacted, as it has been again in recent days in Rafah, is this not also racist? How can Israel, a nation carrying a history of racist persecution, forget this history, forget how damaging it is to be on the receiving end of overwhelming persecution? Forget it to the extent of enthusiastically inflicting so much damage and humiliation on another victim people?

The current extremes of force and damage in Israel and Iraq do have one small benefit, they make it even more transparently obvious how cultures of domination couple the use of, and threat of force, with the power to tell a story about events that rationalize them, denying, or obscuring, all or most of the facts on the ground. Rafah, and a few weeks back, Fallujah, exemplify the extent to which 'deniability' is form of weapon used against bystander populations.

Trance breakers cont.
The continuing revelations of bizarre levels of torture and abuse in US military jurisdictions in Guantanamo, Iraq and, more than likely, Afghanistan, continue to undermine the trance of US/UK moral superiority.

When Spec. Joseph M. Darby, who blew the whistle on the Abu Ghraib 'abuse', asked Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., one of the much photographed perpetrators, what he thought about the photographed 'abuse' in Abu Ghraib, Graner replied that "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'" (Punishment and Amusement: Washington Post Saturday, May 22, 2004; Page A01)

The abuse images often have the 'normality' of holiday snaps, for example this picture of a woman soldier posing for a 'fun' picture with the corpse of an Iraqi detainee in Abu Ghraib. It's a trophy picture, a celebration of dominance. Just as the pictures of white men and women standing with one foot on lions or elephants they have shot, celebrated their dominance over the 'wildness of pure nature'.

Similarly the hunters I see in France, who parade their ethical uprightness in this announcement that they are out for a morning's killing. There are usually about two dozen of them, mostly men but with some women, armed, and with as many dogs. When they have chased and killed a wild boar, they often tie it to the front of their 4x4 and then drive in triumph through nearby villages.

Why is this part of France supposedly over-run by wild boar? The part of the story that this trophy procession conceals is that, shortly after WW2, due to a shortage of boar for hunting, domesticated pigs were released to bred with the wild stock and the resulting stock breed about twice as often producing many more young.

Holiday snaps
Something about these shrines, more, more, that I saw in Italy fascinated me. In all of them the Virgin Mary seems imprisoned, literally behind bars. As Starhawk has pointed out, the prison is an archetypal expression of 'power over', of domination. An imprisoned mother? Is that all there is to it?

Language, language
And lastly. My wife called me out for talking carelessly about how a tardy insurance person 'was in need of a kick in the shins'. We have both found ourselves talking about 'advancing on a different front'. Warfare talk.

Tue, 11 May 2004

Cultures of domination

I turn on the TV at 9.45pm Monday 10 May to see the BBC 1 News at 10.

A stubbly man threatens another stubbly man with a knife. The threatened man headbuts the man with the knife, who falls to the ground.

I switch channels.

On Channel 5  there is a huge closeup of an enormous bleeding wound. I watch horrified. A surgeon chats casually about what she is going to do. It's an operating theatre. Its an 'operation', live.  Eventually I realize—a caesarian delivery live.

Shielded by a curtain across her abdomen from this astonishing violence, the mother, awake, alert, due presumably to an epidural injection, lies completely passive.

The surgeon cuts again. Into the uterus. She reaches into the cavity and grasping the baby, pulls it out. A wonder-full sight as ever. The new born baby I mean. After the umbilicus is cut, the surgeon holds the baby boy up over the curtain for a moment so that the mother can see it and then passes it to an assistant. She patiently wipes him clean. Weighs him. Wraps him in a blanket.

It seems an age before all this medical housekeeping is complete. She brings the baby back to the mother  'give me your hand' she says, 'I don't know where my hand is', the mother replies. Eventually the baby passes to the father who is close by.

In the studio, two men, consultant obstetricians I guess, recycle the notion that Caeserian birth is a 'good idea' and that the 25% proportion of UK births by this method is also a 'very good thing'.

Meanwhile, out of sight, the surgeon deals with the too messy to show placenta, and stitches up the mother's belly.  At 9.59pm the live peak-time show ends.

Childbirth as a spectacle.

Mon, 10 May 2004

Ships passing in the night

I've been struggling for a day or two now to find a voice adequate to the incoming tide of recent dominance-related events, especially the US forces treatment of Iraqi prisoners. My earlier notion of trance—of the US administration and the US population being entranced—spellbound—by their belief in the intrinsic naturalness of their right to dominate world affairs, may yet be adequate. We'll see.

From this perspective, calling the treatment of the prisoner in this picture 'abuse', is to reinforce the dominance trance. It denies the reality that, for the victim, this is torture. According to the New Yorker, unpublished pictures show the same man moments later on the ground bleeding, having apparently been savaged by the dogs in the picture. The revelations have been received with both horror, and as we'll see below, denial, except in this article by Ariel Dorfman nowhere have I found an empathic appreciation of the appalling traumatization and long-term psychic damage that this kind of treatment produces.

Nevertheless, the Abu Ghraib and British pictures do appear to have broken the moral superiority trance that justified the US and British attack on Iraq. Damage limitation, in the shape of mealy-mouthed near-apologies, testifies to the US administration's surprise that these events had not only occurred 'on their watch', as Secretary Rumsfeld put it, but were being seen world-wide. The spell of high moral superiority, of intrinsic American virtue, was in pieces.

Several attempts at trance repair (I'm making up the terminology as I go!) occurred during the US Senate Rumsfeld hearings on Friday, notably the several voices that claimed that the perpetrators at Abu Ghraib were 'rogue elements'.

Sec. Rumsfeld: these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number of U.S. Military...
Gen Smith. The situation at Abu Ghraib is not representative of the conduct of U.S. and coalition forces, it is a distasteful and criminal aberration
Sec: Brownlee: The reported acts of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib are tragic and disappointing, and they stand in sharp contrast to the values of our Army and the nation it serves.
Gen. Shoomaker:  what we are dealing with are actions of a few, as has been pointed out. These are conscious actions that are contrary to all that we stand for. This is not a training issue but one of character and values. Our Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are taught to our soldiers from the moment they enter the training base.

While they were commendably open, the Senate hearings contained nothing on the suffering of the tortured but a lot of agonizing about the broken US trance and how it could be restored.

Sec. RUMSFELD: This degree of breakdown in military leadership and discipline ......defies common sense. It contradicts all the values we Americans learn, beginning in our homes.
Sec. Rumsfeld cont. We value human life. We believe in individual freedom and in the rule of law. For those beliefs, we send men and women of the armed forces abroad to protect that right for our own people
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge immoral, intolerable, and un-American.
SEN. SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. These are indeed actions that go against the very core values of America.
....what we have seen [is] a violation of American values.
Our nation to a degree unprecedented in human history has sacrificed its blood and treasure to secure liberty and human rights around the world, now must try to convince the world that the horrific images on their TV screens and front pages are not the real America; that what they see is not who we are.

Others who I fancy who do indeed accurately reflect mainstream US values didn't see any need to repair the trance. As Media Matters reported for Rush Limbaugh - US right of sensible talk radio host, it evidently wasn't broken.
From the May 4 Rush Limbaugh Show, titled "It's Not About Us; This Is War!":
CALLER: It was like a college fraternity prank that stacked up naked men --
LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?
The day before, on his May 3 show, Limbaugh observed that the American troops who mistreated Iraqi prisoners of war were "babes" and that the pictures of the alleged abuse were no worse than "anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage."

There were also voices in the US, and to me a surprising number of them, who refused to feed the administration damage limitation and contradicted the notion that the Abu Ghraib events were an aberration. In the Senate Rumsfeld hearings, some Senators coupled the Abu Ghraib events with the US administration's decision to withdraw protection of the Geneva convention from Al Qaeda personnel.

Sen. Levin: The president's legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, reportedly wrote in a memorandum that the decision to avoid invoking the Geneva Conventions, quote, "preserves flexibility" in the war on terrorism. Belittling or ignoring the Geneva Conventions invites our enemies to do the same and increases the danger to our military service men and women. It also sends a disturbing message to the world that America does not feel bound by internationally accepted standards of conduct.

Sen. Kennedy: You and your senior leadership have shown, I believe, a disregard for the protection of the Geneva Conventions in detainee operations. In January 2002, you were asked why you believed the Geneva Conventions do not apply to detainees in Guantanamo. You replied that you did not have "the slightest concern about their treatment" in light of what has occurred in 9/11.

Sen. Levin: Secretary Rumsfeld, I was struck upon seeing one of the photographs from the prison depicting three naked prisoners in a lump on the floor being overseen by a number of soldiers, while other soldiers in the cell block were assisting or were going about their business without any apparent interest in or concern about the obvious abusive treatment, that the conduct that we were witnessing and watching was not aberrant conduct of a few individuals but was part of an organized and conscious process to extract information.

Dominant elite trances of the kind that appear to have captured large sections of the US population take upon themselves the right to insist that rules, regulation and laws are for other people. Boundaries and limits are defined by what you can get away with, rather than by negotiation, cooperation, empathy, caring, or a sense of social responsibility.  The Guantanamo prison regime with its as yet uncharged, untried, 'illegal combatants', is a continuing example of free-range dominance in action; the senators could have added the American refusal to be a signatory to the International Criminal Court because of the possibility that US citizens would be indicted. A realistic concern it would now seem.

To invoke another, more psychological dimension to these events, in this article Donna Hughes found the Abu Ghraib images 'Not Unfamiliar'. In her work inquiring into abuse and people trafficking in the Ukraine and elsewhere she had come across methods of identity demolition being used to initiate women into prostitution that very closely match the Abu Ghraib practices.

The images from Abu Ghraib are trophy pictures. The sadistic MPs are shown posing, smiling, and gloating over their victims and what they have made them do. Similarly, I found numerous offers on the Internet from pimps for men to bring cameras and video recorders with them to make trophy images and videos of their sexual use of women and girls.

From another perspective she echoes Limbaugh in seeing the Abu Ghraib pictures  and the events to which they testify as commonplace images of American Culture

President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have condemned the acts and the abuse of the Iraqis. They said that these acts do not represent American values. I want to believe that is true. Yet, I see the common themes and methods used by other types of perpetrators on different victims. These similar images are what the young American soldiers from the Internet generation have grown up with and learned to call "adult entertainment." Did they become desensitized to the harm of doing such things to people by seeing multiple images of similar abuse to women? Did they learn how to violate someone by being a voyeur to abuse, and in Abu Ghraib they had the chance to become perpetrators — and pornographers? Did they fully comprehend the harm they were doing?

And elsewhere, if we were to be in any doubt of the extent to which US values are dominance-driven, here is a mainstream account of the estimated $10 billion a year US 'adult entertainment' industry, a sub-set of the prostitution trade. Some headlines:

- well over 800 million rentals of adult videotapes and DVDs in video stores across the country each year
- 11,000 titles produced annually
- California 'adult 'entertainment employs an excess of 12,000 people
- California 'adult 'entertainment  pays over $36 million in taxes every year.
- The big hotel chains: Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt, Sheraton and Holiday Inn, all offer 'adult' films on in-room pay-per-view television systems. They are purchased by 50 percent of their guests, accounting for nearly 70 percent of in-room profits.

Judging from the number of porn shops near where I live in Brussels, similar figures would apply to Europe.

Two things emerge from all this for my inquiry. One is that the Abu Ghraib revelations have probably been a trance-breaking event comparable to the 9/11 events in New York. And second, that from an Islamic perspective, the US trance was already broken, or was never securely in place. In Islamic cultures if I understand them correctly, it is deeply shameful for men to see each other naked, and for women's hair, or in some corners of Islam, any part of women's bodies, to be exposed. For such a culture the extent to which sexuality has become a commodity in Western Societies will be anathema.

And yet I'm inclined to see that in their innermost workings both enshrine dominance as a given. In a way I hadn't seen before, they mirror each other, mirror control over women's bodies.

In Islamic societies, male dominance requires that women's bodies, perhaps bodies in general, be hidden. In the West, male dominance requires that bodies, especially womens' bodies, be exposed, made to seem potentially available. As for example in this ad in downtown Brussels, or this boutique window in Venice.

Small wonder then that such societies behave like ships passing in the night.

NB some of the US newspapers links require (free) registration for access to the linked pages

Fri, 07 May 2004

The Falluja Siege

Today has been the first full day of revising and building g.o.r.i.l.l.a. It took me in some surprising directions. I began the day with a feeling that there was a hole in the media coverage of the siege of Falluja in Iraq, now coming into its third week and I searched the net for some information. The first pages that offered themselves were from AlJazeera, pictures of many dead, mostly civilians, including women and children. I had ringing in my ears the figures from a day or two earlier of 2xx women and 2xx children killed out 300 hundred dead and a 100 or more wounded. Perhaps this was an 'exaggeration' and yet these scenes suggested otherwise So why wasn't this in the mainstream media I had seen? Digging deeper showed why that might be. The only crew inside the siege was the AlJazeera one. Vice Donald Rumsfeld dismissed their coverage of the American assault on the town as 'outrageous nonsense', and the US general running the siege had made the departure of the AlJazeera crew one of the conditions in the negotiations for lifting the siege, while describing the US approach to the siege as 'humane'. And then digging a bit further I found "Inside the fire" Jo Wilding's courageous account of driving into Falluja and of what she saw. Her eye witness account tripped me into tears. Why is the inside story missing from the media? Is it because, with the exception of alJazeera, the reporters are embedded with the troops?

I have to keep reminding myself that I'm building a site devoted to confronting domination. Falluja, like Jenin and Shatilla appears to be an example of the of wholly disproportionate use of overwhelming military power. Revenge (reprisal?) for the previous week's atrocious killing and humiliation of four US mercenaries appears to be costing the lives of hundreds of women and children. The Falluja equation of four American deaths with the terrorizing and killing of hundreds of Iraqis echoes the similar racist attitude to the indigenous population that shapes events daily in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.</P>

In my search for details of the Falluja siege I came on an apparently unrelated presentation in the Washington Post "One Land, Two peoples" that for me shockingly added to this sense of gross disproportion. I had not understood the extent to which Israeli governments had colluded with, or supported, the creeping expropriation of Palestinian territory. Like you I had heard of the 'settlements' and what a 'provocation' they were to Palestinians, while representing for Israeli Jews the consolidation of their 'return' to their biblical roots. But take a look at screen six of this presentation...'Israel today', check out the number of settlements and the way they are sprinkled evenly across the West bank and the Gaza strip. What does it look like to you? If you had been dispossessed of the rest of your homeland by the Jewish colonization of the last century what would you be likely to feel about the accelerating 'facts on the ground' that these settlements represent? Anger? Outrage?

We all live in Israel now
And then there was an interesting support for my relatively uninformed intuition that "we all live in Israel now" that, since as it seems to me having triggered the Intifada, Israel had succeeded in exporting the content and style of its grossly imperial ways of dealing with its Arab neighbors to the rest of us. (Not that we can claim, especially if British, to have been innocent bystanders in the generation of the mess the "Holy Land" is in). In an article in the London Guardian, "Sharon's Banana Republics", Afif Safieh explicitly tells of two alternate takes of the Arab/Israeli conflict by historians; one that the Israeli client state has mimicked the methods of the US along with the fire-power they have delivered... and secondly, which more than matches my intuition; that the reverse is often happening, that successive US governments have been spellbound by the Israeli approach to the Palestinians. As Safieh puts it, "This is seen as a result of a powerful pro-Israel lobby that succeeded in turning "Capitol Hill into another Israeli-occupied territory". From this perspective might not the US in Iraq be mimicking Israeli's heavy-handed and racist methods in its efforts at 'pacification' there? Maybe even had some tutoring from Israel? Further, not that controversial, I guess, a US administration facing a tightly contested re-election is not about to alienate the substantial pro-Israeli vote (which apparently includes large numbers of fundamentalist Christians) by restraining or even criticizing Sharon's government.

The Law of Conquest - the Justice of Civilization
One of my recurrent preoccupations here in g.o.r.i.l.l.a. is with the ways in which domination is threaded through the grain of the times. With how we live with it through ignoring it to death, by splitting off domination and the damage it causes from conscious awareness. Psychologists call this dissociation. Some of the most telling images of dissociation involve the use by American businesses of imagery and naming derived from Native American peoples. This use splits off the romantic image of the noble savage from the reality, as has been lately re-iterated by I. Charney, of by far the biggest genocide that we know about, the virtual elimination of indigenous peoples by the Spanish, Portuguese, British and then the American settlers as they colonized North America.

Genocide Chic
The use by Jeep (Daimler/Chrysler) of "Cherokee" for one of their vehicles that is driven by innumerable people, even near neighbors, where I live in west London, seem one of the most offensive dissociations between image and reality that I know (but you may be about to tell me of others). As though Mercedes were to name one of their vehicles the "Warsaw Ghetto: limited edition". There are innumerable parallel examples, a restaurant in West London has for several decades promoted its food with an over-life-size plaster statue of an Native American Chieftain and from my collection here are some Native American corn chips. But to get back to the Cherokees, I started to explore again their story, parts of which, for example, the forced removal from their homelands to Oklahoma, echo the Palestinian experience. Among this harrowing material I tripped over this footnote to the the genocide of Native Americans by L. Frank Baum, later to be famous as the author of that delightful children's story 'The Wizard of OZ'. Here is what the 'wizard' had to say about the Native Americans near him in South Dakota.

'About a week prior to the slaughter at Wounded Knee, Baum, the editor of South Dakota's Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer newspaper advocated the extermination of all America's Indians. "The nobility of the Redskin is extinguished and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The whites by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. (WHY NOT ANNIHILATION?) Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced, better they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are". Shortly after the massacre, (at Wounded Knee) Baum stated his approval, in the "Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, stating that; "we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up and wipe these untamed and untameable creatures from the face of the earth."

As you might imagine in this enquiry I sometimes need to find a moment of elation and delight. And there on the front page of the Washington Post was LockheedMartin's celebration of the great work that they have done in creating 'Iraqi Freedom'. A classic of the genre of dissociation, an example of how deeply we can split off results from intentions, damage from imperious gestures, made and sold by people whose commitment to the delivery of death and destruction pays their mortgages and puts their children through college. It is self- explanatory, or perhaps I should say, self-obscuratory. So far as I felt elated it was at the prospect of re-editing the LockheedMartin brochure to better match the 'facts on the ground'. Perhaps I'll yet do that.

Mon, 03 May 2004

Shock and H(Awe)rror

The 'pacification' of Falluja by the US and its allies triggered the installation of this blog.

Falluja sounded and felt, especially from eye-witnesses in the city, like punishment, an off the scale reprisal for the shocking killings and mutilation of four US civilian contractors. Reprisals count as war crimes.

The massive civilian casualties appeared acceptable to the US military and except on the Internet and alJazeera, no one seemed to be noticing. The extraordinary mismatch of overwhelming force coupled with gratuitous 'collateral damage' to civilians seemed an acute example of domination in action. See Monday April 19th page here for more on this.

And then a bit over a week ago, the capacity for the dominant elites to control the stories that they tell and to suppress stories that contradict their favorite tales was decisively broken by The New Yorker, which decided to tell what it knew about gross abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The New Yorkers' Friday publication, complete with a set of online photos, prompted a pre-emptive Thursday airing of a CBS Special on the same subject that had been on hold since the Pentagon had let it be known it would be 'unhelpful'.

The pictures of the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib unbuttoned the uniform of military denial of treatment of Iraqi detainees that the Red Cross and Human Rights groups had been complaining about since this time last year. Since then artifacts of domination from Iraqi prisons have become, and continue to be, front page news pretty much everywhere. A woman, photographed holding a 'dog lead' round the neck of a naked male prisoner – a more cogent image of dominance and subjection would be hard to find.

So where does this take me in my inquiry? In that curiously impressive and paradoxical way of things American, the Rumsfeld Senate hearings yesterday, despite patriotic grandstanding, began to put the finger on what ultimately matters about Abu Ghraib and the parallel British evidence of abuse. Is it due to a rogue, perhaps untrained, unsupervised, element in the military? Or is it systemic, intrinsic to the US military/intelligence gathering mindsets? Even reflective of core (if denied) US values?

Telling Stories
One take on this, following James C. Scott that I have found very helpful, introduces the notion that dominant elites tell and recycle stories to themselves and their subjects that justify and rationalize their dominance. Similarly subordinate individuals, groups and peoples—slaves, colonies, client states—tell stories that justify and rationalize their subordination, with the added value of helping them survive its difficulties.

An essential condition for this situation to be sustained is that this story-telling be in the form of one way traffic. Dominant stories are perpetually recycled inside the dominant elite groupings and broadcast in myriad ways to the subordinate populations.

Subordinate group's stories are also recycled in the subordinate populations but discreetly, because their content is likely to be regarded as 'dissent', 'unpatriotic', 'unAmerican', and it storytellers as 'troublemakers', or even 'evil-doers'. Active subordinate storytellers learn to take care where and when they tell their stories, lest, like Jesus, they become victim of a dominant elite's anxieties.

From time to time, some aspect of the subordinates story bridges the gap and is heard by both the dominant elites and the subordinates. A truth about their relative relationship is suddenly exposed in an event recognizable because it resembles a lightning strike. The 9/11 attack on New York, in which a bin Laden subordinate Islamic story was heard only too clearly by the world, seems an obvious example. Similarly the series of pictures of the 'abuse' and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

To put it another way, the dominant elite story that the US was bringing Infinite Justice and Freedom and Democracy to Iraq was short-circuited by the exposure in pictures of what this often looked like on the ground. Arbitrary arrest, detention without charge, no contact with relatives or lawyers, brutal, damaging interrogation techniques. Torture.

The US military establishment, having known at the end of last year about both the 'abuses' and the pictorial evidence, made a five-line text/oral announcement to the press in January that it was being investigated, guessing that like lots of such press releases, it would be ignored. Press releases are one of the myriad forms taken by the dominant elite stories we tell ourselves. They can instruct us to forget, or, as in this case, ignore.

Rather than acknowledge the origins of the appalling 9/11 demonstration of American vulnerability, the lightning strike of these events seems to have been absorbed immediately by most of the US into their dominant elite story of the invincible superpower starring Secretary Rumsfeld as Achilles. Faced with the near impossible task of finding bin Laden, the US military enacted a reprisal on his supporters, the perhaps justly infamous Taliban, and subsequently have been prepared to reach an accommodation with Afghan warlordism, the epitome of grassroots dominance.

Secretary Rumsfeld yesterday said that the pictures from Abu Ghraib were only the beginning, apparently there also videos and even more sadistic images. As the revelations unfold, they will continue to short circuit the tension between the dominant elite stories of patriotic men and women sacrificing their lives to protect America, and the Iraqi subordinate stories of a people whose lives are devoid of value, where humiliation, gratuitous damage and abuse are justified. An insidiously successful part of the dominant elite story about the Abu Ghraib events which I find myself wanting to reject, is that that the prisoners were not tortured, only 'abused'.

The scale of the Abu Ghraib contradiction worldwide of the US administration's dominant elite story of America as a 'crusader' in a 'war against terror', and 'protector of civilized values', has yet to sink in. Yesterday, in the Senate Rumsfeld hearings, this acute discomfort, and the extent to which the Pentagon, for all it supposed technical superiority was out- flanked by digital technology and the internet was (commendably) on public display.

Sec. Rumsfeld: We're functioning in a -- with peacetime constraints, with legal requirements, in a wartime situation, in the Information Age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had -- they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.

Reading the transcript of the senate hearing reinforced my sense of a disconnect between the American dominant elite story and life as lived on the Iraqi ground. The acute pain, damage, and traumatization that the detainees must have suffered was out of the frame. Abu Ghraib was on the way to becoming a public relations failure.

Sat, 01 May 2004

Dogs and 'war'

After just a week of this inquiry into domination I'm already becoming overwhelmed by the evidence.

Fallujah looks like it was some kind of 'a bridge to far', a turning point, a cusp defining the limits of US hubris. Using battlefield weapons, c130 gunships, Apache helicopters and 500lb bombs to 'pacify' a town of 300,000 people, redefines the notion of overkill. Jo Wilding's 'The second trip to Fallujah and the courteous kidnappers' fills in some of the missing detail of what was happening on the ground. Her article, 'Inside the Fire', woke me up to why events in Fallujah were so important.

And then there has been Jeannie, our 17 year old dog, a very sharp reminder of how domination can be very close to home. I'll come back to her.

In your face examples of cultures of domination this week have also included the images of US military rednecks tormenting naked Iraqi men. Most media accounts neglect to say that these men have been mostly picked up at check points and are being held without charge and out of communication in a country that has no settled judicial system for prosecution or defense. For a detailed account of the arbitrary way many of these prisoners have been accumulated, see this blog: 'Baghdad Burning' (Tales from Abu Ghraib... Monday, March 29, 2004). And then today, as if this were not enough, a UK newspaper has a series of pictures of UK soldiers apparently abusing an Iraqi prisoner (my caveat is because, as a photographer, these pictures looked posed, not as they purport to be, live action shots)

Yet why should we be surprised at such a gross culture of abuse? Only if we are unaware of the kind of bullying that military training commonly involves. Only if we are uninformed. The US created, and the UK government has tolerated, the continuing illegal imprisonment of thousands of prisoners in the Guantanamo base in Cuba. And faced with world-wide exposure of video evidence of gross abuse in Abu Ghraib what does the US do? They import the governor of Guantanamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller to sort it out. The application of an emperor of abuse to an already abusive regime. For an eye witness account of the culture of domination he commanded see this article.

If you have read some of the earlier entries you'll have seen that in this inquiry, my take on domination is favors the notion of trance. That dominant elites are entranced by the idea that domination is natural and inevitable. To sustain their dominance they use speechifying, law-making and media and copyright control, to promote trance inductions that install and re-iterate this belief. Subordinate peoples and groups buy into the dominance/subordination trance partly because it comes to seem that this is 'the way things are' and partly because the price of contradicting it can be very high.

From this perspective, events such as the public emergence of images of US personnel interrogating prisoners in the Abu Ghraib jail, previously notorious for some of the most gross human rights abuse in recent history, are trance-breaking. I want to add that considering its history, choosing this jail to house several thousand detainees seems to me further evidence of the extent to which the abuses of dominance are intrinsic to the US administration and thus its military. They choose to adopt (rather than raze to the ground) a site that is an icon of damage, agony and loss for Iraqis, and thus signaled that the US and its allies belonged to the same spectrum of abuse and damage as the previous regime.

But we'll let that pass. When the spell, or trance, of Infinite Justice and Iraqi Freedom is broken by the CBS transmission across the US of US soldiers torturing Iraqis, how does the dominant elite, in this case the Bush administration, respond? In the White House rose garden, President Bush says:
"I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. And so I didn't like it one bit."
Here indeed is trance induction. The American People and the American Way is intrinsically virtuous. Implicitly, these perpetrators are not truly American. By reinforcing the trance in this way, Bush disconnects the audience from the normality of the torturer's behavior. People who are so entranced would fail to connect the images of the Iraqi abuse with the images or reports of Guantanamo (or for that matter, the fact that there are close to 2 million people in prison in the US)

If you didn't read the eye witness Guantanamo returnee interview above here it is again. It details appallingly offensive and systematically damaging treatment of 'enemy combatants' imprisoned without charge.

The Guantanamo regime detailed in this trance-breaking account, only makes sense as retribution/punishment for the 9/11 events and as described, surely merits continued attention as war crimes. Guantanamo shows that, contrary to the trance induction of President Bush's assertion of the ultimate virtue of the American Way, the Iraqi torture regime in Abu Ghraib is an intrinsic part of the American Way. Far from being an aberration, it is a method of choice. Were we to seek further evidence of the disconnect, replacing the commander of Abu Ghraib with the Guantanamo prison chief seems a bizarre reinforcement of this level of approval.

The Jeannie
This much focus on the macro extremities of domination may seem to over-balance this inquiry into domination in the direction of 'out there', of 'blaming', of identifying bad other 'others', when, as I am sharply aware, these matters are also local and personal, and can be acutely painful.

Domestication of animals and pets in particular is one of the more obvious forms that domination takes. Pets are likely to be entirely dependent on their owners, and as they age bring sharply into focus the extent to which, however politically correct we may believe we are, domination is still with us. My wife's long-time companion Jeannie, a fox terrier (think of Millou in the Tin Tin illustrated stories) is getting close to the end of her life. She is very deaf, almost entirely blind, and has lost the use of her hind legs. Very fit, having enjoyed vigorous exercise all her life, Jeannie is otherwise healthy and not in any pain. For many months she has not been able to walk and so has to be carried everywhere, including up and down many flights of stairs to the street. My partner, honoring the decade and half of companionship they have shared, cares for her diligently, willingly carrying her up and down the many stairs several times a day and, using an improvised sling, takes her out for her visits to the grass patch nearby. A tremendous strain, endured willingly, even happily.

The usually invisible, but for us sharply defined, context of Jeannie last days, as you'll have guessed, is domination. She is my wife's 'possession', and convention about pet ownership gives her, within some limits, the power of life or death. Any vet seeing Jeannie would willingly end her life. But while severely disabled and fairly obviously very bored and frustrated, she is very evidently alive, if week by week, less present. Immobilized in her waking life, she runs and runs in her dreams, chasing, or being chased, growling and biting.

The choice, free of the trance words of 'putting her to sleep', 'letting go of her', 'mercy killing', 'putting her out of her misery', is between keeping her, or killing her. I certainly experience a tremendous tension between honoring the continuing living warmth of her life, and trying not very successfully to hold part of the responsibility for deciding that the time has come where her life may have mutated into intolerable suffering and should be ended. This is not a time for misplaced sentimentality, for distressed attachment. A choice for life means tolerating the inconveniences of dying, and bearing the grief of loss. Honoring life means being in touch with its astonishing improbability, that this bundle of fur with a cold wet nose, snuffling around for tidbits, and licking any available foot, continues to breathe and digest and look eagerly to her mistress, the leader of the pack, for reassurance and companionship.

The spell binding trances of domination make it easy to regard pets such as Jeannie as objects, things, possessions, adornments, status symbols, lifestyle enhancements—encouraging us to colonize the life a pet offers and end it when the demands of its living become burdensome. We are a species who have licensed ourselves to kill. Trouble is, the power we take to ourselves to kill pets and farmed animals is all of a piece with the power to declare some other living, breathing, digesting, human beings, people with histories, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, dreams and ambitions, and hurts and uncertainties, as 'objects', 'unmenschen', people who lives are regarded as devoid of value.

The perpetrators of the atrocity in Fallujah, the marines who visited retribution on its civilian population, the abusive interrogators of Abu Ghraib, and if confirmed, the British army abusers, appear to have lost sight of the intrinsic value of life in general and human life in particular, seeing themselves as dealing with 'unmenschen', non-persons. So far as we 'bystand' it and do nothing , just as most of the German population did in the middle of the last century, we join the trance.

As I mentioned in a previous item in this blog, the US administration rubbished AlJazeera's trance-breaking TV images of civilian casualties in Fallujah and tried to make the departure of the alJazeera crew one of the conditions for the cessation of their siege. That AlJazeera evidently sees Iraqi people as persons, people who do have a life of value, breaks the trance that some, or many Iraqis are likely to be 'terrorists', or at best, inadequate, uncivilized people who need a superpower parent.

Such news management, which in recent months has included the banning of images of dead American 'soldiers remains' being returned to the US, contrasts with this Faces of the Fallen website in the Washington Post. The title, 'The Faces of the Fallen' sustains the trance of righteous sacrifice, of American soldiers dying in defense of Iraqi Freedom and Infinite Justice. I nevertheless found it very touching, so many of the dead soldiers were in their early twenties, and surprised that there were so few black people among them.

The catalogue of horribilities of the last few days has masked for me the potentially massive contradiction of the American imperial model of how to be a powerful nation promised by the accession to the European Union of 10 more countries.

I live close to the heart of the EU in Brussels. I hear first hand of the painstaking negotiation that building such a communion of nations entails. While the jury is still out on whether the EU will feed an oppressive extension of globalization, the recent enlargement is a further historical moment in a deepening tradition of non-violent transformation, as Jonathan Schell points out his recent book “The Unconquerable World"; a family of countries running on improved, if imperfect levels of democratic transparency and accountability, where governments change without violence, where elbowwork in committee (and football) has replaced battlefield formations.

I presently look on the EU as a source of optimism, the continuing emergence of model of social relating that contradicts the whole style of American hegemony, which despite its unsurpassed technocratic sophistication, begins, by contrast to the EU, to look archaic and primitive. In its relation to the rest of the world, the US knows so much, and yet often, as in Iraq, seems to know nothing that is of value.

More later on the EU, perhaps including my recent visits to Mons in Belgium, and Lille in France.