SF Pride Board Cancels Promised Follow-up Public Meeting on Bradley Manning

Roy McKenzie

Roy is Back2Stonewall's webmaster and occasional contributor. You'll probably see most of his posts in the Gay Geek section.

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3 Responses

  1. Glenn Stehle says:

    All these anti-democratic, authoritarian antics by the Pride SF board are enough to drive one to libertarianism. And I mean libertarianism in the good sense of the word, like Glenn Greenwald.

    It’s like some strange militaristic curse has engulfed our society. (I could have called it a strange heterosexual curse, but this incident seems to highlight the fact that LGBTs are no better than anyone else.) And here I mean militaristic in the bad sense of the word, like the actions of the SF Pride board. Combine authoritarianism with gross incompetence, unaccountability and self-righteous piousness, and what comes out the other end is not a pretty sight. But nevertheless, that describes the US military, and Pride SF, today.

    But that’s not the military that Bradley Manning and those of us who support him are squared off against. No, we’re pitted against something entirely different. It’s a romanticized military, sanitized and faultless, that in the real world does not exist. And in the contest between the real and the sublimities the human mind is capable of dreaming up, the imaginary will come out on top every time.

    Many of those who write of military life today, including a Professional Homosexual class of Democratic Party court queers, seem to assume that they can be as arbitrary as they wish in their formulations. They have created a territory for infantile self-expression and intellectual anarchy. They write as though military life exists only in light of their belated regard, and they publish interpretations of military experience which would not hold true for their own or for any other form of human life. It is in the no-man’s land which lies between this imaginary world created by neocon/neoliberal pundits and the reality of military life in which Bradley Manning and his supporters are trapped.

    Andrew Bacevich challenges the myths and illusions spun by the neocon faithful, and he does so from a patriotism forged in the fire of experience of a soldier in Vietnam. After 23 years in the Army, the West Point graduate retired and has been teaching international relations and history at Boston University. His son was a soldier who was killed in the Iraq War.

    ►► American Empire and the US Military: The Myth vs. The Reality◄◄

    “We are capable of doing anything,” Queen Victoria confided to her diary in 1851.

    And yet, by 1870, Great Britain had begun its long economic and military decline, and by 1945 the British Empire’s day in the sun was over. But as the imperial magic waned, the imperial ambition and hubris did not. As Lord Bolingbroke aptly observed: “They who are in the sinking scale…do not easily come off from the habitual prejudices of superior wealth, or power, or skill, or courage, nor from the confidence that these prejudices inspire.”

    Andrew Bacevich, in his trilogy of books — The New American Militarism, The Limits of Power and The Short American Century — argues that America’s imperial mojo has also disappeared. But as is often the case with once-great empires beset by decadence, the desire to use power persists, inebriating, addictive. And as power wanes and hubris increases, the gap between the illusion and the reality grows to yawning proportions.

    ► I. The Myth of the US Military

    • Its Purpose: To perpetuate the empire of consumption

    “The unspoken assumption has been that profligate spending on what politicians euphemistically refer to as ‘defense’ can sustain profligate domestic consumption of energy and imported manufactures,” Bacevich writes. “Unprecedented military might could defer the day of reckoning indefinitely – so at least the hope went.”

    But even this crudest of tribal nationalisms needs a mission, and in the US’s case it is the propagation of the one true faith: American exceptionalism combined with free-market fundamentalism.

    • Its Capabilities: Full Spectrum Dominance

    As Bacevich explains:

    “The end of the Cold War coincided almost precisely with the first Persian Gulf War of 1990, 1991, Operation Desert Storm. Operation Desert Storm was perceived to be this great, historic, never before seen victory…

    “[T]he war itself was advertised as this great success, demonstrating that a new American way of war had been developed, and that this new American way of war held the promise of enabling the United States to exercise military dominion on a global basis in ways that the world had never seen.

    “The people in the Pentagon had developed a phrase to describe this. They called it, ‘full spectrum dominance.’ Meaning, that the United States was going to exercise dominance, not just capability, dominance across the full spectrum of warfare. And this became the center of the way that the military advertised its capabilities in the 1990s.”

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/transcript1.html

    • Its Soldiers: The Imperial Soldier

    Bacevich describes the perception of the professional soldier by the larger society, as well as the soldier’s own self-image, as follows:

    “Since the end of the Cold War, opinion polls surveying public attitudes toward national institutions have regularly ranked the armed services first. While confidence in the executive branch, the Congress, the media, and even organized religion is diminishing, confidence in the military continues to climb. Otherwise acutely wary of having their pockets picked, Americans count on men and women in uniform to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. Americans fearful that the rest of society may be teetering on the brink of moral collapse console themselves with the thought that the armed services remain a repository of traditional values and old-fashioned virtue. With Americans becoming ever ‘more individualistic, more self-absorbed, more whiney, in a sense, more of a crybaby nation,’ the columnist George Will told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, it is all the more important for the military to serve as a model for the rest of society, preserving values that others might deem ‘anachronistic.’ According to Will, ‘it is a function of the military to be exemplars.’

    “Confidence in the military has found further expression in a tendency to elevate the soldier to the status of national icon, the apotheosis of all that is great and good about contemporary America. The men and women of the armed services, gushed Newsweek in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, ‘looked like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. They were young, confident, and hardworking, and they went about their business with poise and élan.’ A writer for Rolling Stone reported after a more recent and extended immersion in military life that ‘the Army was not the awful thing that my [anti-military] father had imagined’; it was instead ‘the sort of America he always pictured when he explained…his best hopes for the country.’ According to the old post-Vietnam-era political correctness, the armed services had been a refuge for louts and mediocrities who probably couldn’t make it in the real world. By the turn of the twenty-first century a different view had taken hold. Now the United States military was ‘a place where everyone tried their hardest. A place where everybody…looked out for each other. A place where people – intelligent, talented people – said honestly that money wasn’t what drove them. A place where people spoke openly about their feelings.’ Soldiers, it turned out, were not only more virtuous than the rest of us, but also more sensitive and even happier. Contemplating the GIs advancing on Baghdad in March 2003, the classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson saw something more than soldiers in battle. He ascertained ‘transcendence at work.’ According to Hanson, the armed services had ‘somehow distilled from the rest of us an elite cohort’ in which virtues cherished by earlier generations of Americans continued to flourish.

    “Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, ‘two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve…. Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality.’ Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that ‘the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve,’ retired admiral Stanley Arthus has expressed concern that ‘more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve.’ Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are ‘not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy.’

    “In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgiveable sin is to be found guilty of failing to ‘support the troops.’ In the realm of partisan politics, the political Right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military Left.

    “In fact, the Democratic mainstream – if only to save itself from extinction – has long since purged itself of any dovish inclinations….

    “Even among Left-liberal activists, the reflexive anti-militarism of the 1960s has given way to a more nuanced view….

    “Likewise, liberals have grown comfortable with seeing the military establishment itself not as an obstacle to social change but as a venue in which to promote it, pointing the way for the rest of society on matters such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Advanced thinking on the Left calls not for bashing Colonel Blimp or General Halftrack as a retrograde warmonger but for enlisting his assistance (willing or not) on behalf of progressive causes.”

    ► II. The Reality of the US Military

    • Its Purpose: Keynesian mechanism to transfer public wealth to private industry

    As Bacevich explains:

    “The ideology of national security persists not because it expresses empirically demonstrable truths but because it serves the interests of those who created the national security state and those who still benefit from its continued existence – the very people who are most responsible for the increasingly maladroit character of U.S. policy.”

    Bacevich is a conservative, but more centrist and left-leaning thinkers have made the same point he does, such as in this video featuring Philip Agee, Noam Chomsky, Nancy Snow and John Stockwell:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1J9ybfRWSk&feature=player_detailpage#t=1388s

    • Its Capabilities: Very Limited

    Speaking of full spectrum dominance, Bacevich alleges:

    “That was fraud. That was fraudulent.

    “To claim that the United States military could demonstrate that kind of dominance flew in the face of all of history and in many respects, set us up for how the Bush Administration was going to respond to 9/11. Because if you believed that United States military was utterly unstoppable, then it became kind of plausible to imagine that the appropriate response to 9/11 was to embark upon this global war to transform the greater Middle East.”

    Then Bacevich goes on to elaborate:

    “The National Security State doesn’t work. The National Security State was not able to identify the 9/11 conspiracy. Was not able to deflect the attackers on 9/11. The National Security State was not able to plan intelligently for the Iraq War. Even if you think that the Iraq War was necessary. They were not able to put together an intelligent workable plan for that war….

    “The Iraq War was, from start to finish, maybe not from start to finish, the first two weeks maybe looked brilliant, the remaining 8.9 years were a disaster. An expensive disaster, an unnecessary disaster. And as people, we need to take that on board. We need to acknowledge that in order to avoid replicating those kinds of errors….

    “The best case [in Afghanistan] is that we’re going to be able to extricate ourselves. Ourselves, we and our NATO allies, without the place immediately falling into chaos….

    “[T]he failure of President Bush’s Freedom Agenda and the Great Recession that we’re still dealing with, together signify that the post-war period of American dominion has ended. And the question that the contributors to the book are invited to answer is, well, if the American century is over, what was the American century all about? What can we learn from it?”

    http://billmoyers.com/segment/andrew-bacevich-on-changing-our-military-mindset/

    Instead of a bigger army, Bacevich counsels, we need a smaller more modest foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capability. “Modesty,” Bacevich writes, “requires giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and then 9/11 gave rise. It also means reining in the imperial presidents who expect the army to make good on those illusions.”

    • Its Soldiers: The Imperial Soldier

    Bacevich describes the reality of the present-day soldier as follows:

    “No matter how great the disaster – in relation to Iraq alone, consider the flawed intelligence used to justify the invasion, the bungled occupation, and the billions of ‘reconstruction’ dollars squandered or stolen as a result of incompetence or blatant corruption – senior officials operate on the implicit assumption that they are immunized from accountability. In May 2007, in a stinging critique of post-9/11 military leadership, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote in Armed Forces Journal that ‘a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.’ Yingling is correct – and one could easily broaden his indictment to include high-ranking civilians. A Pentagon file clerk who misplaces a classified document faces stiffer penalties than a defense secretary whose arrogant recklessness consumes thousands of lives.

    “Failure does not yield apology or contrition or even acknowledgment of responsibility. Instead, it creates opportunities for yet more obfuscating explanations; in short, the chance to write a self-exculpatory memoir. ‘Look, not everything went right,’ Secretary of State Condolezza Rice explained in shrugging off Iraq. ‘This is a very difficult circumstance. There were some things that went right and some things that went wrong. And you know what? We will have a chance to look at that in history. And I will have a chance to reflect on that when I have a chance to write my book.’

    “Faced with a choice of acknowledging an uncomfortable truth or finding some way to conceal, spin, or deny that truth, those who preside over the institutions of the national security state invariably choose the latter…

    “Although nominally serving the public the institutions making up this apparatus go to great lengths to evade public scrutiny, performing their duties shielded behind multiple layers of secrecy. Ostensibly, this cult of secrecy exists to deny information to America’s enemies. Its actual purpose is to control the information provided to the American people, releasing only what a particular agency or administration is eager to make known, while withholding (or providing in a sanitized form) information that might embarrass the government or call into question its policies. In 1961, the social critic Lewis Mumford described the already expansive national security state’s modus operandi this way: ‘one-way communication, the priestly monopoly of secret knowledge, the multiplication of secret agencies, the suppression of open discussion, and even the insulation of error against public criticism and exposure…which in practice nullifies public reaction and makes rational dissent the equivalent of patriotic disaffection, if not treason.’ Events since have affirmed Mumford’s view many times over.”

    • Glenn Stehle says:

      For those who prefer art over the cold analytical calculus of Bacevich, there’s an absolutely superb German movie, Napola, which is available on youtube. Like Bacevich’s writings, it also juxtaposes the myth and the reality of “elite” militarism, but using art instead of analysis.

      One of the subplots of the movie involves a 16 year-old boy, Albrecht Stein, who is sent to one of the Führer’s elite military schools, Napola, by his father. His father is the regional head of the Nazi Party. Albrecht, however, is a very sensitive boy who speaks in a rather high-pitched voice and whose passions are poetry, writing and literature. He is not very good at sports, which greatly disappoints his father. His father wants to transform him into a ruthless, merciless, cold-blooded killer type like himself, but the transformation never takes place. After participating in an incident when several Russian escapees were killed, Albrecht writes an essay in defiance of his father, which can be seen on youtube here:

      “Despite being a bit childish, winter and a view of freshly fallen snow awakens in us a feeling of inexplicable joy. Perhaps because as children, we think of snow in relation to Christmas. In my dreams I am the hero who saves the virgin from the dragon, one who frees the world from evil. When searching for the escapees yesterday, I remembered the boy who wanted to save the world from evil. Upon returning I realized that I myself am that evil, the very evil I wanted to free the world from. Killing the captives was wrong. They weren’t armed, as Stein had told us, just to bait us. We didn’t shoot men, but helpless children.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=61NRJRfCWaQ#t=4877s

      Stein reminds me of Manning. And like Manning, he suffered devastating personal consequences for his overt defiance of “elite” militarism.

      Stein also reminds me of Ethan McCord, one of the foot soldiers sent in to clean up the bloodbath in the aftermath of the “Collateral Murder” incident (the video of which Manning has now admitted he released to Wikileaks). In a video interview, here’s what McCord had to say:

      “I wanted to be that soldier, that hero. So I went, and realized…that there was no enemy. The only terrorists when I was in Iraq was us. We were the terrorists. We were the one terrorizing people.”

  2. Will Kohler says:

    I think I love you. Hell I know I do!

What do you think?