I’ve been waiting eagerly for John Dean to weigh in on the current Presidential eavesdropping, so reminiscent of the President he worked for.
The war in Iraq is not addressing terrorism; rather, it is creating terrorists, and diverting money from the protection of American interests.
Bush’s unauthorized surveillance, in particular, seems very likely to be ineffective. According to experts with whom I have spoken, Bush’s approach is like hunting for the proverbial needle in the haystack. As sophisticated as NSA’s data mining equipment may be, it cannot, for example, crack codes it does not recognize. So the terrorist communicating in code may escape detection, even if data mining does reach him.
In short, Bush is hoping to get lucky. Such a gamble seems a slim pretext for acting in such blatant violation of Congress’ law. In acting here without Congressional approval, Bush has underlined that his Presidency is unchecked — in his and his attorneys’ view, utterly beyond the law. Now that he has turned the truly awesome powers of the NSA on Americans, what asserted powers will Bush use next? And when — if ever — will we — and Congress — discover that he is using them?
Perhaps more importantly, will we care? Polls appear to show that something like half the US population is comfortable with being surveilled if it will give them some relief from their visions of insecurity.
“The most general and prevalent association with television viewing,” [George Gerbner, former dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania] testified to a congressional subcommittee on communications in 1981, “is a heightened sense of living in a ‘mean world’ of violence and danger. Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures…. They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities. That is the deeper problem of violence-laden television.”
That is a problem we have in spades, with the average home having a television set on at least seven hours a day. Many of my friends are convinced by television, without knowing it, that the world is a violent and scary place, in which tough action is needed to maintain one’s physical integrity. The question of one’s moral integrity is left to the prosecutors and the police, whom we know we can trust from our experience with Law and Order; the OJ trial was an aberration, or perhaps one of those weird reality shows. So if they feel a need to listen to my telephone calls, it’s probably for the best; they know more than I do, and I’m afraid.
The logical end of such an approach is reported, via Cursor (as always) and This Modern World, by Britain’s former Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has published documents on his website showing that the UK government accepted so-called intelligence from Uzbekistan, knowing, but not admitting, that the information was obtained by torture. Blair’s government has even found its own Gonzales, a lawyer willing to explain why accepting this information is legal. Murray protested while he was ambassador, and is now attempting to publish a book with the relevant documents and details. His view of the situation is refreshingly clear:
I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the “War against Terrorism” and that Karimov is on “our” side.
If Karimov is on “our” side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary — the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember them also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World’s old communist leaders.
It’s really not ironic; it’s an outgrowth of the same psychic tendency, called by Jungians shadow projection. The Jungian shadow is the part of the psyche that is repressed, undeveloped, and denied. Jungian theory claims that confronting our own personal shadow gives insight into the workings of the mind, eventually resulting in the acceptance of all parts of our being. What Darth Vader calls “the power of the dark side” can be integrated into the personality in a process Jungians call individuation. (Note: I’m not trained in Jungian psychology; mine is mere book-larnin’. If anyone in the audience is a pro, please feel free to correct my amateur’s take.)
We daily see examples of shadow projection. The belief that I act in good faith but the people I meet are trying to cheat me is an indication that I have unconscious tendencies to cheat that I have not recognized and accepted, because I prefer to see myself as above that sort of thing. This is not to argue that other people are better than I am; they have the same issues I do. But I also have the same issues they do.
The rule of thought I adopted some time ago was that when something someone does irritates me significantly, it’s probably an indication of something that I’m not happy with about me. I’m really irritated with myself. I should look at what I don’t like about myself, and deal with it. When I do, it becomes much easier to deal with suboptimal actions on the part of others.
It also becomes easier to acknowledge the part my actions and attitudes have played in creating the situation.
The failure to acknowledge the shadow doesn’t remove it from play; quite the opposite. Repression increases its power to disrupt. The unconscious acts on its own if not allowed to act in concert, bursting out at the most unexpected and often difficult times, doing things the conscious mind would not, and does not, approve. The strategy of denying the shadow has been employed for millennia by certain religions and philosophies, causing immense devastation along the way.
It’s this internal, personal, psychological tendency that we are seeing acted out on a national stage. When the estimable Dana Priest reports that
The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.
some of us wonder why, and others say, “Good”.
Bush has never publicly confirmed the existence of a covert program, but he was recently forced to defend the approach in general terms, citing his wartime responsibilities to protect the nation. In November, responding to questions about the CIA’s clandestine prisons, he said the nation must defend against an enemy that “lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again.”
And, l’état, c’est moi, those bad guys want to hurt me. I’m good, so whatever I do is to defend the good. They’re bad, so whatever they do is an attempt to advance evil. Thus, you’re either with me or against me, good or bad.
Conscious or unconscious.