<< . .

( 19)

. . >>

societies “ including the media, though they are only the most visible
It would be fair to say that the Jesuit intellectuals were dou-
bly murdered: first assassinated, then silenced by those who put the
guns into the hands of the murderers. The practice should be familiar
here. When Antonio Gramsci was imprisoned, the Fascist government
summed up its case by saying: “We must stop this brain from function-
ing for twenty years.” Today™s Western clients leave less to chance: the
brains must be stopped from functioning forever, and their thoughts
must be eliminated too “ including what they had to say about the state
terrorism that finally silenced these “voices for the voiceless.”
The contrast between Eastern Europe in the post-Stalin era and
US domains is recognized outside of the domains of Western privilege.
After the assassination of the Jesuit intellectuals, the journal Proceso of
the Jesuit University in San Salvador observed:

The so-called Salvadoran “democratic process” could learn a lot
from the capacity for self-criticism that the socialist nations are
demonstrating. If Lech Walesa had been doing his organizing
work in El Salvador, he would have already entered into the ranks
of the disappeared “ at the hands of “heavily armed men dressed
in civilian clothes”; or have been blown to pieces in a dynamite
attack on his union headquarters. If Alexander Dubcek were a
politician in our country, he would have been assassinated like
H´ctor Oquel´ [the Salvadoran social democratic leader
e ±
assassinated in Guatemala, by Salvadoran death squads,
according to the Guatemalan government]. If Andrei Sakharov
had worked here in favor of human rights, he would have met the
same fate as Herbert Anaya [one of the many murdered leaders of
the independent Salvadoran Human Rights Commission CDHES].
If Ota-Sik or Vaclav Havel had been carrying out their intellectual
work in El Salvador, they would have woken up one sinister

The secular priesthood and the perils of democracy

morning, lying on the patio of a university campus with their
heads destroyed by the bullets of an elite army battalion.

Is the Jesuit journal exaggerating? Those interested in the facts
can determine the answer, though only by going well beyond standard
Western sources.
What was the reaction ten years ago, when the intellectuals were
assassinated along with their housekeeper and her daughter, and a host
of others? That is revealing too. The US government worked diligently
to suppress the overwhelming evidence that the assassins were US-
trained elite military units who had compiled a shocking record of
atrocities, much the same hands that had silenced another “voice for
the voiceless,” Archbishop Romero, ten years earlier. We can be con-
fident that the twentieth anniversary of his assassination, next March,
will pass virtually unnoticed [added in proof: the prediction was con-
firmed]. Facts were suppressed; the main eyewitness, a poor woman,
was induced to withdraw her testimony after intimidation. The official
who organized the suppression and intimidation was US Ambassador
William Walker, greatly admired today for his heroic denunciation of
Serbian crimes in Kosovo before the NATO bombing “ terrible no
doubt, but not even a tiny fraction of what happened when he was
Salvadoran proconsul. The press adhered to the Party Line, with rare
A few months after the Jesuit intellectuals were assassinated,
another revealing event took place. Vaclav Havel came to the United
States and addressed a joint session of Congress, where he received a
standing ovation for his praise of his audience as “the defenders of
freedom.” The press, and intellectuals generally, reacted with awe and
rapture. “We live in a romantic age,” Anthony Lewis wrote in the New
York Times, at the extreme of tolerable dissidence. Other left-liberal

On nature and language

commentators described Havel™s remarks as “stunning evidence” that
Havel™s country is “a prime source” of “the European intellectual tradi-
tion,” a “voice of conscience” that speaks “compellingly of the respon-
sibilities that large and small powers owe each other” “ the US and
El Salvador, for example. Others asked why America lacks intellectuals
so profound, who “elevate morality over self-interest” in this way.
It is not quite accurate, then, to say that the Jesuit intellectuals
were doubly murdered. They were triply murdered.
We might imagine the reaction had the situation been reversed.
Suppose that in November 1989, Czech commandos with a horrifying
record of massacres and atrocities, armed by Russia and fresh from re-
newed Russian training, had brutally murdered Havel and half a dozen
other Czech intellectuals. Suppose that shortly after, a world-famous
Salvadoran intellectual had gone to Russia and addressed the Duma,
praising the Russian leadership as the “defenders of freedom” to a
rousing ovation, passionately echoed by the Russian intellectual class,
and never mentioning their responsibility for the assassination of his
counterparts in Czechoslovakia. We cannot complete the analogy, re-
ferring to the tens of thousands of other victims of the same “defen-
ders of freedom” in that miserable country alone, many in the course
of the same rampage in which the intellectuals were assassinated.
We need not waste time imagining the reaction. We may com-
pare the imagined events with the real ones, then and now, again
learning valuable lessons about ourselves, if we choose.
Consistent with historical practice, intellectuals who laud
Western power and ignore Western crimes are greatly revered in the
West. There were some interesting illustrations a few months ago,
when it was necessary to find ways to justify NATO bombing in
Yugoslavia. This was not an easy task, since the decision to bomb led to
a sharp escalation of atrocities and the initiation of large-scale ethnic

The secular priesthood and the perils of democracy

cleansing, as anticipated “ an “entirely predictable” consequence, as
NATO Commander General Wesley Clark informed the press when
the bombing began. The leading US intellectual journal called on Va-
clav Havel, who again lavished praise on his audience, scrupulously
avoiding all evidence while declaring that Western leaders had opened
a new era in human history by fighting for “principles and values,”
for the first time in history. The reaction was, again, reverence for his
profundity and insight.
There was once another Russian dissident named Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, who also had a few things to say about the bombing. In
his words:

the aggressors have kicked aside the UN, opening a new era
where might is right. There should be no illusions that NATO was
aiming to defend the Kosovars. If the protection of the oppressed
was their real concern, they could have been defending for
example the miserable Kurds.

“For example,” because that is only one case, though a rather striking
one. Solzhenitsyn much understated the case. He did not add the cru-
cial fact that the ethnic cleansing of Kurds and other atrocities, which
vastly exceeded anything attributed to Milosevic in Kosovo, were not
overlooked by Western humanists. Rather, they made the deliberate
choice to participate actively. The crimes were carried out mostly with
US arms, amounting to 80 percent of Turkey™s arsenal. Arms were dis-
patched in a flood that peaked in 1997, along with military training,
diplomatic support, and the great gift of silence provided by the intel-
lectual classes. Little was reported in the media or journals of opinion.
Solzhenitsyn too was “silenced without any official ban,” to
borrow Orwell™s phrase. As noted, the response to Havel was rather
different. The comparison illustrates once again the familiar principle:

On nature and language

to gain the approval of the secular priesthood, it helps to demonstrate
a proper respect for power.
Suppression of the role of the US and its allies in the attack on
the Kurds was no slight achievement, particularly while Turkey joined
in bombing Yugoslavia with the same US-provided F-16s that it had
used to such good effect in destroying Kurdish villages. It also took
considerable discipline “not to notice” the atrocities within NATO at
the commemoration of the NATO anniversary in Washington in April
1999. It was not a happy event, held under the sombre shadow of the
ethnic cleansing that was the (anticipated) consequence of the NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia. Such atrocities cannot be tolerated right near
the borders of NATO, speaker after speaker eloquently declaimed.
Only within the borders of NATO, where they must not only be toler-
ated, but expedited, until 3,500 villages were destroyed (seven times
Kosovo under NATO bombing), 2“3 million refugees were driven from
their homes, and tens of thousands killed, with the helping hands of
the leaders who are lauded for their selfless dedication to “principles
and values.” The press and others had no comment on this impres-
sive performance. It has been repeated in the past few days as Clinton
visited Turkey. “A tireless promoter of pluralistic societies,” the press
observed, “Clinton has meetings aimed at finding concord among
ethnic groups that cannot stand each other.” He was praised for his
“I-feel-your-pain visit to a quake site” in Turkey. Particularly notable
was the display of “Clinton charm” when he noticed a baby in the
cheering crowd, then “lifted the baby gingerly from his mother™s arms
and held him close for nearly a minute” while the baby “was trans-
fixed, looking deeply into the stranger™s eyes” (Boston Globe, New York
Times). The unpleasant word “Kurd” never appeared in these accounts
of Clinton™s charm, though it did appear in the Washington Post story,
which reported that Clinton “gently chided” Turkey on its human

The secular priesthood and the perils of democracy

rights record and even “gingerly prodded the Turks on treatment of
the Kurds, an ethnic minority that has sought autonomy and often
suffered discrimination in Turkey.” Unmentioned is the nature of the
“discrimination” they suffered while Clinton was feeling their pain.
There is a great deal more to say about the tenth anniversary of
the assassination of the Jesuit intellectuals, and the coming twentieth
anniversary of the assassination of the Archbishop, and the slaughter
of several hundred thousand people in Central America in the years
between, mostly by the same hands, with the responsibility tracing
back to the centers of power in the self-anointed “enlightened states.”
There is also much more to say about the performance of the secular
priesthood throughout these awful years and until today. The record
has been reviewed in some detail in print, with the usual fate of “un-
popular ideas.” There is perhaps little point in reviewing it again,
and time is short, so let me turn to the second anniversary: the fall
of the Berlin Wall.
This too is a rich topic, one that has received a great deal of
attention on the tenth anniversary, unlike the destruction of Central
America by US terror. Let us consider some of the consequences of the
collapse of the Soviet dungeon that largely escaped attention “ in the
West, not among the traditional victims.
One consequence of the collapse of the USSR was an end to
nonalignment. When two superpowers ruled the world “ one global,
the other regional “ there was a certain space for nonalignment. That
disappeared along with the regional superpower. The organizations of
the nonaligned powers still exist; branches of the United Nations that
reflect their interests to some extent also survive, though marginally.
But for the victors, there is even less need than before to pay much
attention to the concerns of the South. One index is the sharp decline
in foreign aid since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The decline has

On nature and language

been most extreme in the richest country in the world. US foreign aid
has virtually disappeared, and is scarcely even visible if we remove the
largest component, which goes to a wealthy Western client state and
strategic outpost. There are many other illustrations.
The decline in aid is commonly attributed to “donor fatigue.”
Apart from the timing, it is hard to be impressed by the “fatigue”
over trivial sums, mostly devoted to export promotion. The term
“aid” should be another badge of shame for the wealthy and privi-
leged. “Highly inadequate reparations” would be a more appropriate
term, in the light of a history that is hardly obscure. But victors do not
provide reparations, just as they do not face war crimes investigations
or even see the need for apologies, beyond the most tepid acknowl-
edgment of past “errors.”
The matter is well understood in the South. Prime Minister
Mahathir of Malaysia recently commented that

paradoxically, the greatest catastrophe for us, who had always
been anti-communist, is the defeat of communism. The end of the
Cold War has deprived us of the only leverage we had “ the option
to defect. Now we can turn to no one.

No paradox, but a natural expression of the actual “principles and
values” that guide policy. The topic is of extreme importance to the
vast majority of the people of the world, but it is little discussed in the
sectors of privilege and power in the industrial West.
Let us turn to another consequence of the collapse of the Soviet
Union, one of no slight import.
The United States is an unusually free society by comparative
standards, and deserves credit for that. One element of this freedom is
access to secret planning documents. The openness does not matter
much: the press, and intellectuals generally, commonly adhere to the

The secular priesthood and the perils of democracy

“general tacit agreement that ˜it wouldn™t do™ to mention” what they
reveal. But the information is there, for those who choose to know.
I will mention a few recent examples to give the flavor.
Immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, US global strategy
shifted in an instructive way. It is called “deterrence strategy,” because
the US only “deters” others, and never attacks. This is an instance of
another historical universal, or close to it: in a military conflict, each
side is fighting in self-defense, and it is an important task of the sec-
ular priesthood, on all sides, to uphold that banner vigorously.
At the end of the Cold War, US “deterrence strategy” shifted:
from Russia, to the South, the former colonies. The shift was given
formal expression at once in the annual White House budget message
to Congress, in March 1990. The major element in the budget, regu-
larly amounting to about half of discretionary spending, is the mili-
tary budget. In this regard, the March 1990 requests were much the
same as in earlier years, except for the pretexts. We need a huge
military budget, the executive branch explained, but not because the
Russians are coming. Rather, it is the “technological sophistication”
of third world countries that requires enormous military spending,
huge arms sales to our favorite gangsters, and intervention forces
aimed primarily at the Middle East, where “the threat to our in-
terests . . . could not be laid at the Kremlin™s door,” Congress was
informed, contrary to decades of fabrication, now laid to rest.
Nor could “the threat to our interests” be laid at Iraq™s door.
Saddam was then an ally. His only crimes were gassing Kurds, tortur-
ing dissidents, mass murder, and other marginalia. As a friend and
valued trading partner, he was assisted in his quest for weapons of
mass destruction and other activities. He had not yet committed the
crime that shifted him instantly from favored friend to reincarnation
of Hitler: disobeying orders (or perhaps misunderstanding them).

On nature and language

Here we touch upon something else that “it wouldn™t do to mention.”
Every year, when the time comes to renew the harsh sanctions regime
that is devastating the Iraqi people while strengthening their brutal
dictator, Western leaders produce eloquent pronouncements on the
need to contain this monster, who committed the ultimate crime:
not only did he develop weapons of mass destruction, but he even
used them against his own people! All true, as far as it goes. And it
would become fully true if the missing words were added: he commit-
ted the shocking crime “with our assistance and tacit approval, and
continuing support.” One will search in vain for that slight addendum.
Returning to the March 1990 call for a huge Pentagon budget,
another reason was the need to maintain the “defense industrial base,”
a euphemism for high technology industry. The enthusiastic rhetoric
about the miracles of the market manages to obscure the fact that the
dynamic sectors of the economy rely heavily on the vast state sector,
which serves to socialize cost and risk while privatizing profit “ another
well-supported generalization about industrial society, tracing back to
the British industrial revolution. In the US since World War II, these
functions have been fulfilled to a significant extent under the cover
of the Pentagon, though in fact the role of the military in economic
development goes back to the earliest days of the industrial revolution,
not only in the United States, facts well known to economic historians.
In short, the fall of the Berlin Wall led to an important rhetorical
shift, and the tacit admission that earlier pretexts had been fraudulent.
Some day it may even be possible to face the fact that case by case, the
Cold War factors adduced to justify various crimes commonly dissolve
on inspection: while never entirely missing, the superpower conflict
had nothing like the significance routinely proclaimed. But that time
has not yet arrived. When such matters are brought up outside the
ranks of the secular priesthood, the upstarts are ignored, or if noticed,

The secular priesthood and the perils of democracy

instructed to mind their manners and ridiculed for repeating “old,
tired, clich´s” “ which have been regularly suppressed, and still are.
So far, I have been citing public documents, but since little was
reported, the information is restricted to small circles, mostly dissident
circles. Let us turn next to the secret record of high-level planning in
the post-Cold War era.
Declassified Pentagon documents describe the old enemy,
Russia, as a “weapons-rich environment.” The new enemy, in con-
trast, is a “target-rich environment.” The South, with its fearsome
“technological sophistication,” has many targets, but not many
weapons, though we are helping to overcome that inadequacy by mas-
sive arms transfers. That fact is not lost on military industry. Thus the
Lockheed“Martin corporation calls for more publicly subsidized sales
of its F-16 fighters, while also warning that hundreds of billions of
dollars are needed to develop more advanced F-22 fighters to protect
ourselves from the F-16s we are providing to potential “rogue states”
(over the objections of 95 percent of the public).
Targeting the South requires new strategies. One is “adaptive
planning” to allow rapid action against small countries: for example,
destruction of half of the pharmaceutical supplies in a poor African
country in 1998, killing probably tens of thousands of people, though
we will never know, because there will be no inquiry. A feeble effort
at the UN to initiate an inquiry was blocked by Washington, and if
inquiries are taking place in the West, they have not reached the gen-
eral public record. There are good reasons for ignoring the topic: the
bombing was not a crime, by definition. The agent is too powerful to
commit crimes; it only conducts “noble missions” in self-defense,
though sometimes they fail because of poor planning, misunder-
standing, or the unwillingness of the public to “assume the burdens
of world leadership.”

On nature and language

Alongside of “adaptive planning,” technological innovation is
necessary, the Pentagon explains: for example, new “mini-nukes” de-
signed for use against weak and defenseless enemies in the target-rich
We learn more from an important 1995 study of the US
Strategic Command (STRATCOM), partially declassifed in 1998. This
study, entitled “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” reviews “the
conclusions of several years of thinking about the role of nuclear
weapons in the post-Cold War era.” Its primary conclusion is that
nuclear weapons must remain the basis for policy. The US must there-
fore ignore the core provisions of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT),
which call for good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, and
must firmly reject any ban against first strike. US resort to nuclear
weapons may be either a response to some action Washington does
not like or “preemptive.” The first-strike option must include the op-
tion to attack non-nuclear states that have signed the NPT, contrary to
international conventions.
Two years ago, in November 1997, President Clinton formally
approved these recommendations in Presidential Decision Directive
60 (PDD 60), highly classified but selectively disclosed. The Directive
authorized first use of nuclear weapons and maintains the nuclear
weapons delivery triad “ Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs),
Sea-launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers.
These are to remain in “launch-on-warning posture,” perpetuating
the high-alert regime of the past years, with its ever-present danger to
survival. New programs were initiated to implement these decisions,
among them use of civilian nuclear reactors to produce tritium for
nuclear weapons, breaching the barrier between civilian and military
use of nuclear power that the NPT sought to establish. The planned
National Missile Defense system, abrogating the anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty, is likely to spur development of weapons of mass destruction
The secular priesthood and the perils of democracy

by potential adversaries who will perceive the system as a first-strike
weapon, thus increasing the threat of accidental nuclear war, as many
strategic analysts have plausibly argued.
The STRATCOM study stresses the need for credibility: adver-
saries must be frightened, even potential ones. Any Mafia Don can
explain the point. Recall that “maintaining credibility” was the only
serious argument offered by Clinton, Blair, and their associates for
bombing Yugoslavia, though the secular priesthood has preferred a

<< . .

( 19)

. . >>

Copyright Design by: Sunlight webdesign