What is it good for

“A war doesn’t merely kill off a few thousand or a few hundred thousand young men. It kills off something in a people that can never be brought back. And if a people goes through enough wars, pretty soon all that’s left is the brute, the creature that we—you and I and others like us—have brought up from the slime.” – John Williams, Stoner

When the war was young

“I am Sick—discontented—and out of humour. Poor food—hard lodging—Cold Weather—fatigue—Nasty Cloaths—nasty Cookery—Vomit half my time—smoak’d out of my senses—the Devil’s in’t—I can’t Endure it—Why are we sent here to starve and Freeze—What sweet Felicities have I left at home; A charming Wife—pretty Children—Good Beds—good food—good Cookery—all agreeable—all harmonious. Here all Confusion—smoke & Cold—hunger & filthyness—A pox on my bad luck. There comes a bowl of beef soup—full of burnt leaves and dirt, sickish enough to make a Hector spue—away with it Boys—I’ll live like the Chameleon upon Air.” – Albigence Waldo, Diary, December 14, 1777

We have met the enemy, and they are us

“Imperial war has neither a beginning nor an end, it is a permanent process of pacification. The essential aspects of its methods and principle have been known for fifty years. They were developed in the wars of decolonization during which the oppressive state apparatus underwent a decisive change. From then on the enemy was no longer an isolable entity, a foreign nation, or a determined class; it was somewhere lying in ambush within the population, with no visible attributes. If need be, it was the population itself, the population as insurgent force.” – Tiqqun, This Is not a Program (emphasis in original)

What is it good for

“What is primitive society? It is a multiplicity of undivided communities which all obey the same centrifugal logic. What institution at once expresses and guarantees the permanence of this logic? It is war, as the truth of relations between communities, as the principal sociological means of promoting the centrifugal force of dispersion against the centripetal force of unification. The war machine is the motor of the social machine; the primitive social being relies entirely on war, primitive society cannot survive without war. The more war there is, the less unification there is, and the best enemy of the State is war. Primitive society is society against the State in that it is society-for-war.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

The ghosts that haunt us still

“Colonial policy had always been to exclude Negroes from militia service, but more often than not a need for soldiers had dictated a contrary practice. Many blacks had fought in the French and Indian War. As the dispute with Parliament neared breaking point, Negroes volunteered for the New England militia. All were accepted. . . . In the late fall of 1775 Southern delegates to Congress were complaining that the Continental Army had become ‘a refuge for runaway slaves.’ They insisted that the blacks already enrolled be dismissed and that future volunteers be turned down. The Congress at first rejected these proposals. Then the delegates reversed themselves to the extent of barring future enlistments. On this matter they would alter their position several times during the war. Meanwhile, in the face of changing official edicts, blacks continued to join both their local militia and the Continental Army.” – Milton Lomask, The First American Revolution

They’ll be back

“The campaigns of the Mongol armies were the last and the most destructive in the long lines of nomad invasions from the steppes. In just over fifty years they conquered half the known world and it was only their adherence to tribal traditions and the rivalry of their princes that denied them the rest of it. Western Europe and Islam were not saved [on the battlefield], they were saved when Mongol armies halted in their moment of triumph. If [the Mongol leaders] had not died when they did, the largest empire that the world has ever known would have been bounded in the west not by the Carpathians and the Euphrates, but by the Atlantic Ocean.” – James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen

The balance and the point of it

“Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing good can come into the world without at once producing a corresponding evil. This painful fact renders illusory the feeling of elation that so often goes with consciousness of the present—the feeling that we are the culmination of the whole history of mankind, the fulfilment and end-product of countless generations. At best it should be a proud admission of our poverty: we are also the disappointment of the hopes and expectations of the ages. Think of nearly two thousand years of Christian Idealism followed, not by the return of the Messiah and the heavenly millennium, but by the World War among Christian nations with its barbed wire and poison gas. What a catastrophe in heaven and on earth!” – Carl Gustav Jung, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man” (trans. R.F.C. Hull)

There doesn’t seem to be a shadow

“The summer would be celebrated by people of every nation in the city. People marauding after work, discontented. Thugs surfing on the sides of cars, flagging. Going into the garbage cans and throwing bottles in the street. Immigrants working, forever working, watching people go by who have days off, time off, while they don’t. Trying to stay cool. Families with five young children going to Dunkin Donuts for a night out together in the air conditioning. The littered floors, the strange lone males reading the newspaper. Cabdrivers and dysfunctional individuals sitting in the window of the all-night Tropical. Messed-up guys with Puerto Rican flag hats talking to waitresses, high-fiving them, saying when do you get off? Spanish girls with Indian blood, slave blood, mopping floors at three a.m. Caribbeans saying we were brought here as slaves from India. We got together with the blacks and threw the British out. Now we listen to dub step. Let me tell you where it’s hot like fire burning. Where the party’s at. Where you can get robbed, stuck, shook, bucked and maybe fucked down on one hundred and ninth going towards Far Rockaway. Where no one’s gonna feel bad for you if you have problems. The Wenzhounese will sit outside in folding chairs in their pajamas on Cromellin Street, talking on the steps, fanning themselves in the gleaming night. The women will be pregnant and still they will be taking out the garbage, collecting bags of recycling, saving little fistfuls of money, little investments that, like children, will turn into something later. But for now, we’ll all have to deal with the heat first—all of us no matter where we’re from.” – Atticus Lish, Preparation for the Next Life

Either way, it just goes on

“He saw the sand going on and on across the continent. The broken palm trees and mud buildings and corrugated steel lean-tos and dead trucks and the domes and spires of the mosques. He could hear the loudspeakers wired by a man who weighed twenty pounds less and looked twenty years older and who was the same age as he was, a goat herder with missing fingers. He heard the static and the ram’s horn and the voices as they spoke together, wearing robes the same color as the landscape, kneeling together, rising together, chanting together. He could see them as if he were watching them through binoculars and the Arabian dusk was coming down. He saw the dim blue sky and smelled the sunbaked human waste and saw the dark forms of his many friends, their gear, their white eyes and very occasional smiles. He tasted the smell of burning tires, hashish, gun oil, animals, coal fire, chicken and rice and Tabasco sauce. The weight of the gear. The tearing down of the body. All the things you complained about. And the thing that was greater—the war itself. It was the one thing. You went outside the wire, and each time, either you died or you did not.” – Atticus Lish, Preparation for the Next Life

We have met the enemy and it is us

“Terror is the most dreaded weapon in the modern age and the Western media is mercilessly using it against their own people. It can add fear and helplessness to the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media is doing that.” – Osama bin Laden (quoted by Michael Scheuer in Imperial Hubris)

Paranoia strikes deep

“A small Christian subculture in the United States strongly believes in the notion of cosmic war. Believers are splintered into a number of small groups, the largest of which is the Christian Identity movement. According to Christian Identity ideology, the British are descended from ‘Aryan’ northern Israelite tribes who migrated to the British Isles in the wake of the Babylonian conquest of ancient Israel. These Aryans are the true Jews of the Bible. This self-serving myth about the genetic superiority of the British people appeared in England in the nineteenth century and quickly died out there, but not before migrating to the United States. The transplanted version took on anti-Semitic overtones, holding that contemporary Jews, who are assumed to be the descendants of the biblical Jews, are masquerading in that role and may well be the children of Eve and Satan. There are many variations on the core beliefs of the movement, which has now settled in Idaho and also has communities in the southern Midwest. Most adherents believe that mainstream Protestant churches in the United States are unwilling to confront the fraud perpetrated by the Jews, or have secretly been taken over by them. The Catholic Church is also believed to be part of this conspiracy. Identity sympathizers believe that the late nineteenth-century Czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which purports to disclose the Jewish plan for world domination, is genuine. In pursuit of their goals, the Jews have teamed up, in one or another variation of this story, with the United Nations, the federal government and the Federal Reserve Bank, the Democratic party, Freemasons, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos to thwart the quest of Aryan Christians for liberty and independence. The world is not as it seems: Aryan Christians are the true Jews; the Jews are scheming imposters; ordinary churches are in league with Satan. These convictions are intertwined with an obsession with firearms. In the perilous world inhabited by these Aryans, they will need their weapons to prevent the government from completely subjugating them and enthroning the Jews. Gun control legislation is therefore part of a larger, barely visible conspiracy to enslave white Americans.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

And the walls came down

“The scriptural emphasis on warfare has armed successive generations with powerful mental images of an embattled world. The community of the faithful is perpetually in crisis or at its edge. When a religious group believes that its identity is fundamentally threatened, it may turn to stories of apocalypse that describe the end of earthly history. In Christian apocalypses, Jesus is not the pacifist messiah of the Gospels, but a man of war. . . . In Christian and Jewish apocalyptic literature—exactly as in the Muslim literature, which is based largely on the earlier-born faiths—the reversal of fortune is a stock theme. The righteous advance from suffering under the murderous rule of a terrible beast to a restored community of believers who enjoy eternal life in the presence of God. The transforming event is the destruction of the beast, followed by the annihilation of Satan and death at the hands of a heavenly figure sent by God. . . . In times of severe social dislocation, political change, and economic upheaval, individuals overwhelmed by radical pessimism may turn to apocalyptic millenarianism. They see the signs that their tradition has identified as portents of the end of time. The tribulation they experience is interpreted as the era of cataclysms that precedes the eruption of a new order and God’s reassertion of his beneficent rule. When these individuals merge into groups and find a charismatic leader, or he finds them, they can be stirred to dramatic action intended to force the end of time and the kingdom of God.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

Yer gonna help us out, see?

“CIA officers prevailed upon an Austrian woman, Martha Schneider, a onetime resident of River Edge, New Jersey, to help them with safe houses. Schneider signed leases on apartments in Vienna and Salzberg that the CIA used in its activities from early 1969 through 1973. The agency apparently left her with broken leases and unpaid rent, for which landlords held her responsible. Schneider rejected a CIA offer of three thousand dollars to settle her claims, gained support from New Jersey legislators, and in September 1976 finally collected fifteen thousand dollars in cash from an associate general counsel of the CIA.” – John Prados, “First Freeze of the Cold War”

 

Another dismal political reality

“Religious violence is typically different from any other kind of warfare—for the simple reason that for a true believer, there is no compromise about the sacred. Or, to put it in a more monotheistic key: one God, one truth. Tolerance is not an intrinsic part of any of the monotheistic religions. For some believers, the outcome of a conflict cannot be ambiguous. When the issues are sacred demands, there can be no bargaining. The believer cannot compromise on the will of God. Killing becomes an end in itself, rather than one instrument arrayed among nonlethal instruments in a bargaining process. Such believers want a lot of people dead and may not care whether a lot of people are watching, as long as God sees what has been done in His name.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

But the rich have gotten richer, that’s a start

“Despite some success, the industrialized world has done relatively little to alleviate poverty, not just in the Arab and Muslim world, but globally. Indifference is not the full reason. In absolute terms, significant sums are given over to poverty reduction by contributors to multilateral development banks and by bilateral donors. The ineffectuality of aid programs is an equally important explanation for the persistence of poverty. Recipient countries do not have the financial, legal, and social institutions that would allow them to transform financial assistance into lasting economic gains, and donors do not know how to create these institutions. The governments receiving the aid resist the necessary structural reforms because their hold on power is often too fragile to subject their publics to the supposedly short-term pain of reform. The potential recriminations are not worth the uncertain long-term benefits.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

Decline and fall

“History, scholars say, is written in three stages: heroic, with the narratives of great individuals and their feats; revisionist, which turns those accounts on their head; and tragic, where we see how events conspired to bring about an end beyond the reckoning of most actors of the time.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

Newsmakers

“There is a schizophrenia about the power of the press. At times, we still think of it as an objective bystander, narrating events—and many of its leading practitioners portray it this way. In American democracy, however, the press is part of the policy process. As Washington reporters from top newspapers and the networks know well, their personal ability to move the wheels of government equals that of almost anyone in the stone and concrete piles that line Pennsylvania and Independence Avenues. The physicist Werner Heisenberg famously noted that observation changes matter at the subatomic level; it does so every bit as much at the political level.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

Not all it’s cracked up to be

“There are few more durable illusions in American life than the omnipotent presidency. For fear of appearing weak, incumbents rarely draw attention to the minimal powers accorded them by the Constitution and established practices of American government. Their critics in Congress and the public avoid mentioning this inconvenient fact because letting the executive off the hook never serves their purposes. Yet anyone who has worked in the White House knows that the office has remarkably little real power, not only when it comes to dealing with Congress and the judiciary but also in running the vast, unwieldy contraption that is the executive branch. A President relies on the loyalty of his appointees in the agencies to overcome the inertia and ingrained predilections of civil servants and the uniform military.” – Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror

Day of locusts

“Humanity today is living in a large brothel! One has only to glance at its press, films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms, wine bars, and broadcasting stations! Or observe its mad lust for naked flesh, provocative pictures, and sick, suggestive statements in literature, the arts, and mass media! And add to all this the system of usury which fuels man’s voracity for money and engenders vile methods for its accumulation and investment, in addition to fraud, trickery, and blackmail dressed up in the garb of law.” – Sayyid Qutb (quoted by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon in The Age of Sacred Terror)