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inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #0 of 75: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 18 Nov 04 11:52
    
Longtime political activist Carol Brightman (who first joined us in Inkwell
five years ago with "Sweet Chaos: The Greateful Dead's American Adventure")
returns today with a very different book, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of
American Omnipotence," which she likens to the Viet-Report she edited back
in the '60s.

"Total Insecurity" is all about the hollowing out of the American empire,
focussing on the reasons behind the reasons for the war in Iraq, why it has
become unwinnable, and how it is bleeding America dry.

Our moderator for this conversation is Eric Mankin. Eric is a longtime
journalist (Time/Life, LA Herald-Examiner, LA Weekly) who now does science
writing for the University of Southern California. He has been on the WELL
since 1996.

Welcome, Carol and Eric! Glad to have you here.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #1 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Thu 18 Nov 04 12:40
    
Thank you, Cynthia. 

I've been reading Carol's very personal memoir, revisiting some
memories. I seem to hear CSNY far away playing "Four Dead in Ohio" and
hearing Walter Cronkite's voice talking about a war in Southeast Asia.
Maybe the best place to begin is to talk about that past and how it
connects to this present. Carol, before we get into the latest set of
lies, can you talk a little about the Viet-Report, for people who
aren't familiar with it, such as, to be candid, myself.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #2 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Thu 18 Nov 04 14:49
    
Well, first, I wouldn't say this books is anything `like' Viet-Report,
which was a magazine, published around 8 or 9 times a year, out of New
York. It started in 1965 in response to the lack of info about Vietnam
and that war in the American media. "To inform and not to persuade,"
was our motto that lasted only for the first issue, which turned to the
French press (France, with US help, had lost the first Indochina war
in 1954) for help in bringing Americans up to snuff on the war breaking
over our shores. It ran until 1968, and very soon the editors were
doing much of the writing, going to South Vietnam and North
Vietnam--where I went in 1967--and we were very much committed to
persuading our readers to organize against the war. But there was a
peculiar feature to V-R which was that almost until the end (last
issue: "Colonialism and Liberation in America"), we ran relevant
material from administration spokesmen: Walt Rostow, William and
McGeorge Bundy, not to provide an 'even' balence, but to teach
ourselves and our readers what this war was all about.   
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #3 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Thu 18 Nov 04 15:29
    
Vietnam has been casting a much more emphatic shadow in the last year
or so -- particularly with the campaign issues coming out of Kerry's
service, and subsequent role in the protests against the war. And the
cultural divide that opened during the Vietnam war now seems more
ingrained than ever, 30 years after the helicopters took off from the
US embassy. 

So, perhaps we can start here: Iraq and Vietnam. Differences,
similarities, continuities, disconnects, lessons and non-lessons...
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #4 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Thu 18 Nov 04 18:14
    
Let's start with differences.... Iraq was/is all about oil, the 2nd
largest oil reserves (after Saudi Arabia). The US didn't want it just
for itself but to control the distribution to the rest of the world, to
Europe, Russia, China. Vietnam was not about a natural resource but
about military strategy: to introduce `limited war' (Kissinger)into a
Cold War world in which "mutual assured destruction," via nuclear
weapons, was threatened if either great power seized the territory of
the other. Indochina was a new region for the US, recently fallen from
the French tree; the gamble was to dislodge the Vietnamese communists,
lay in US bases which would surround China, and claim it for the US.
The Vietnamese communists were not serious enough for either Russia or
China to defend through a direct confrontation with the US. So the
thinking went...Never did it occur to Kennedy or McNamara or Johnson
that the Vietnamese were fully capable of taking on the most powerful
military force in the world... Just as it never occured to Bush or
Rumsfeld that there would even be an Iraqi resistance, much less one as
strong as this one is proving to be.

I'm so much in the middle of all this that I don't know where to stop.
But it occurs to me that "continuity" is the most important relation
between the two wars. The US didn't learn its lesson from Vietnam, not
really, so once again it's waging war against a people, who are being
brought together by the Occupation quicker than the US can throw up
governments. 
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #5 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Thu 18 Nov 04 19:49
    
Agreed, and, please, let's talk about the continuing. 

One important issue is the US is -- us, we're the United States, at
least in theory. A huge number of Americans don't accept the idea of
their country as world cop, but nevertheless aren't ready to renounce
American identity, much less citizenship. So how do we move forward?

The internal division created by the Vietnam war just seems to be
ramifying and duplicating. The intervention in Vietnam was initated by
Kennedy and escalated by Johnson, both Democrats. The resistance built
up for years in which the counterculture defined itself by demonizing
"liberals" as opposed to radicals. How do we now define the issues in
Iraq (and elsewhere) so that, to use your formulation, "the US learns
its lesson."?
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #6 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Fri 19 Nov 04 15:13
    
Of course, we embrace our citizenship and American identity, and show
how Bush & Company are losing the war at a tremendous cost to the US,
just as we did in Vietnam. Only we're at the beginning of that effort
now, and there's a tremendous amount of facts to get out. Just one,
right now: despite the oil hunger that drove us in and led us to
protect only one ministry from looting, the oil ministrly, no oil is
getting out of Iraq. None. The sabotage, carried out mainly by Shi'ites
in the Basra area, has been continuous.

I know I'm leaving your point about how Vietnam was a Democratic war
unexamined for the moment--though Kerry was on record as wanting to
leave American policy in the Middle East alone, and even wanted to step
up the war, though still without a draft... I want to stress the
blockage of the oil, something we doing hear about like so much in
Iraq.    
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #7 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Fri 19 Nov 04 15:46
    
I don't think the point about Kennedy and Johnson's role is crucial,
except insofar as they felt obligated to intervene to avoid charges of
being soft on communism. What I do think is important now is if we can
trace what were the threads and forces that caused the nation to turn
against what was initially a widely accepted war. That is, what is the
relevance of the Vietnam war to the present situation. 

I know that's a major thread in your book -- perhaps you could talk
about your discussion in "Total Insecurity:" Rather than clumsily
parapharasing you, perhaps you could state what you think are the major
lines of your thinking for people who still haven't see the title
(Verso Books, ask for it) in their local B&N

The Amazon address, by the way, is:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1844670104/qid=1100907942/sr=8-1
/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/103-1294609-8579055?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #8 of 75: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 19 Nov 04 15:56
    
(NOTE: Offsite readers who have comments or questions can send email to
inkwell-hosts@well.com to have them added to the conversation)
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #9 of 75: Christian Crumlish (xian) Sat 20 Nov 04 10:59
    
Hi, Carol! I never did publish my interview with you about "Fat Trip"
(I still like that title best)... someday it will appear in an archive
somewhere or something.

Now I need to get my hands on your newest book so I can ask a relevant
question.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #10 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Sat 20 Nov 04 13:20
    
Christian, hello!!

Eric, good question. But huge. First we were in so many ways a
different country then. No neocons. They only got started in the
mid-70s, partly to save the USA from liberals and radicals (remember
them?). I recall a bunch of farm women in southern Illinois around that
time organizing against the Equal Rights Amendment, much in the manner
that we had moved for women's rights. Neocons like Richard Perle
started out with conservative Dems like Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson,
then gradually worked their way into government by way of the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld was first Defense Sec in the Ford administration. But in the
60s these guys were only a rumor, and the Movement (as we called
ourselves) was coming up fast, first via the black-dominated Civil
Rights movement, then through the antiwar movement. 

I've come to see the anti-authoritarian thrust of this period as so
much unfinished business, but useful in the end to certain authorities,
like multinational corporations (then called conglomerates) who were
also sweeping the slate clean, bringing about a shift in control from
domestic companies to global ones. If anybody's interested in this, I
can try to explain later...But your question Eric has to do with the
chapter called "Vietnam Redux" in TI, and some of chapter one,
"Starting Over is Not An Easy Thing to Do." The latter describes (among
other things) the long, slow free-fall of liberalism, and the rise of
neoliberalism in the late 70s, and behind the withering away of
American traditions of dissent, the dying out of the idea of change.
This last is important, and can only swing back I think after the
dismal elections. 

For now change mainly exists as personal change or legislative
adjustments, and has lost its social agency. It's been replaced in the
popular mind by force or accident. The intricate chain of events that
led up to 9/11 or the war in Iraq--the actual history, that is--remains
largely unknown. It all appears like the hand of God or the Devil. And
we were ripe for all the lies about WMD and Saddam's link to al Qaeda.
It's only now that we're tracking the gathering storm over oil in the
Middle East, and in Iraq in particular, through the 60s, 80s, 90s to
2000, when Saddam became the first world leader to switch from the
dollar to the euro in the oil trade. That is a good place to stop,
because a lot of us are still unaware that ever happened, and remain
ignorant of the hidden battle between petrodollars and euros that in
the Middle East. 
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #11 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Sat 20 Nov 04 20:51
    
I think this is unquestionably true, but at least for me the question
is where do we go from here? Hidden agendas are as old as politics. In
1965-73, despite this agenda, a mass movement emerged that -- despite
the failure to elect George McGovern -- discredited the war in Vietnam,
and ultimately ended it.

That was then, this is now. What is peculiar to me is that many of the
tropes of the counterculture/antiwar movement have been adopted by the
war and money party. The alternative press has matured into mass
marketing for cosmetic surgery and movies, whereas the passionate
political engagement has moved to foam hate radio on a.m., listened to
by 17 percent of the population, which I think is more than ever read
the underground press. The rejection of network media and insistence
that the real truth is being hidden now goes to FreeRepublic & the ilk.


I was interesed to read about move to sell oil for euros rather than
dollars by Saddam Hussein — and I'm sure that the hidden political
economy of oil is an important thread in the scenario that we've seen
unroll. But what troubles me more than the fact that the policy is
obviously, transparently peculiar is the fact that it continued to draw
the support of an electoral majority.

Of course, Nixon's policy did too: McGovern lost by a landslide, and
then came Watergate. But absent a Watergate, how is this policy going
to be unraveled? And, more to the point, is a Watergate remotely
posssible now? 
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #12 of 75: If gopod's on our side s/he'll stop the next war (karish) Sun 21 Nov 04 12:15
    
Carol, thanks for coming to talk with us.

The preface to "Total Insecurity" lives up to the book's title.
I felt an almost-physical shock while reading it, as it brought
back all the fear I felt in the late 1960s, including my
intellectual uncertainty as I first tried to absorb new ideas
from the likes of DeBray and Fanon and Proudhon and to fit
them into my view of what was happening in the world around
me.  My insights from that time had been in the background
of the way I process news today; it's a revelation to see
them come back into focus.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #13 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Sun 21 Nov 04 15:01
    
Karish--that's me, never grows old. Thing is those insights never grow
old either, only (as Eric implies) the people have changed, and so
have their minders, fundamentally. The minders--tv, Fox, the preachers,
all those who prime the pumps of faith in the unreal world of Bush's
war--have the job, whether they know it or not, of keeping America's
eye far from what America does in the world. Thus most of us miss the
gore of Falluja and the steady buildup of the Iraqi resistance, which
has sent many of its men into the Iraqi army and police for training.
The insurgents fight dirty, no doubt about it; if you work for the
foreigners (US) your days are numbered. But there is more unity between
the Sunni and the Shi'ites, who fight when the Sunni are quiet, than
the US lets on or even knows. It's the result of the Occupation, which
has taken the divided people of Iraq and driven them into a unity that
transcends anything under Saddam around the demand that the US quit
Iraq.

What do we want to tallk about now? The back-door draft that the
Pentagon has just lined up, by calling up 4000 Individual Ready Troops
(2000 of which have refused) who are in their 40s? Or the talk of going
into Iran (without the troops), who is already behind many of the
Shi'ites in Iraq? Or how to get the word out about the war, and break
through the tv paradigm. Which is partly how to see the US as if from
Europe, China, Russia, Bolivia, Venezuela..Opec?

 
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #14 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Sun 21 Nov 04 21:19
    
Clearly, how to get the word out about the war, or, more to the point,
having the pieces fit together. The facts are lying out in plain
sight.  And, yes, the view from Kansas is not the view from Bolivia:
that's not so much a problem as a given.   
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #15 of 75: Karen (kgf) Mon 22 Nov 04 07:24
    
What about the sabre-rattling about Iran?  What the heck are we up to?
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #16 of 75: gazorinblat (dwaite) Mon 22 Nov 04 08:36
    
Hello Carol!  Well-come...
I'm captiovated by this book.  I've been following these wars in Iraq and
Afganistan - I think- pretty carefully, and your insite and reference help
shed new lights on old, and sometimes discounted issues including pipelines
in Afganistan and 1/5 of the oil reserve in Iraq.  I'm about a third of the
way through  - jsut picked it up a few days ago - as my commute book and I'm
tempted to take longer commutes on public transportaion to read more  :-)

There is a point in your book relative early on where you mention Iraq's
conversion from US-pretro dollars to the Euro and how frightening this was
to the US administration - especially those in power now.  They you show
that if the rest of Opec were to move to the Euro how it would devistate US
interestes and the economy - with that in mind, I'm hoping you might want to
comment about...
-Do you think that AlQueda my have been trying to push US military
involvement to give cover for OPEC nations to move to the Euro quicker?
and
- If using the term quicker is odd, do you thin Opec will ever move to the
Euro and therefore destabalize the US dollar...

thanks...
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #17 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Mon 22 Nov 04 18:11
    
Karen--I tend to think all the sabre-rattling about Iran is faked to
substitute for fact that US is losing in Iraq and badly over-committed
militarily. It was in the neocon cards (regime change in Iran), but
like the the real events in Iraq, victory is no longer even talked
about by the Bush administration.

gozorinblat--I never thought about al Qaeda pushing US military
involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq to give cover for OPec nations to
move to the euro quicker. It's too complex for me. But makes sense in a
complex sort of way. If you think of al Quaeda this way, with this
kind of power.. But yes, I do think Opec will turn to the euro--by the
end of the decade if the dollar keeps falling, and it makes less and
less sense to sell oil for the debased dollar. 

Opec is already leaning in this direction. After the oil crisis
started Saudi Arabia (Opec's leader) stopped putting its petrodollars
in US banks, and stopped investing them in US-sponsored Saudi
development projects. They turned toward Middle Eastern sources for
building vast hotel and shopping centers, whose markets are not
American either, far from it. 

Bush's satisfaction with the falling dollar is the short term benefit
to American exports. This is its only benefit as far as I can see, and
the rocketing US trade deficit is far more significant. It's a key idea
in my book. Put by Morgan Stanley's chief economist, Stephen Roach,
the question is "Can a savings-short US economy continue to finance an
ever-widening expansion of its military superiority?" And his answer is
"No."  
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #18 of 75: David Gans (tnf) Mon 22 Nov 04 18:18
    

I'm scared.  I don't know which is worse - that they're insane theocrats who
believe God will break the fall, or that they're selling the country to their
middle eastern partners, or that they're just bent on stealing everything
without regard to the end result.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #19 of 75: Low and popular (rik) Mon 22 Nov 04 18:48
    
My thoughts, exactly.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #20 of 75: Eric Mankin (stet) Mon 22 Nov 04 18:54
    
I really have no trouble at all finding things to worry about in the
current power constellation. What I'm looking for -- and hoping Carol
can suggest -- are strategies or directions or anything else that might
find a way toward changing things. These might be electoral, or media,
or anything else. But I don't think we're really short of information
on problems. 

To go back to a more basic level. 1. What's the alternate vision that
needs to be put forward. 2. How can it be put forward in Kansas, as
opposed to Portugal or Bolivia.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #21 of 75: David Gans (tnf) Mon 22 Nov 04 20:24
    
Thank you, Eric.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #22 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Tue 23 Nov 04 18:17
    
Maybe it's my familiarity with Vietnam but I think the real opening
here is the war in Iraq. I don't think Bush has an exit strategy but I
think we can help force our government to exit. The strategy behind the
war is full of holes, from the missing Iraqi oil to the plunging
dollar which weakens petrodollars, to the expanding resistance, to the
refusal of the Individual Ready Reserves--2000 of the 4000 who have
been called--to come to Iraq. The soldiers are the key, and were in
Vietnam when it was their increasing refusal to fight in '69-'70 that
led to increased reliance on the air war and on Vietnamization. Here
`Iraqization' is already in force and already collapsing. The US claims
to be able to pull out when the  Iraqi army and police are ready to
take over, but as in Samara or Mosul only a few weeks after the US
withdrew and left Iraqi forces in control, the Iraqis are wiped out. In
Falluja Marines encountered Iraqi national guard with red and white
tape on uniforms indicating their loyalty--without the tape they were
insurgents--and still the Iraqis opened fire.

Unlike in Vietnam we have little contact with these soldiers, who are
not draftees, who are much younger for the most part, and who are
embedded in the same culture that sees the war as a war on terror, or
even if they don't buy any of the lies, are still fighting for their
own and their buddies survival, with no time to question. There are
exceptions, and the soldiers who have come home to question the war
line have made contact with antiwar groups like Vets for Peace,
Military Families Speak OUt, Global Exchange, CodePink and El Guerrero
Azteca. Fernando Suarez del Solar of Vets for Peace and Medea Benjamin
of CodePink are organizing a Humanitarian peace effort in December to
meet on the Iraqi-Jordanian border and hook up with Iraqi humanitarian
aid organizations with medical supplies for Falluja, for example. 

There are a lot of actions like this getting off the ground. But it's
easier for anti-Bushniks to swap tales about the ogre than to take a
few hard steps toward ending the war. 
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #23 of 75: David Gans (tnf) Tue 23 Nov 04 20:17
    

Seems to me the whole nature of political discourse is different now.  We
have a compliant and often complicit press, 20-some years of relentless
pounding of Reaganistic values as opposed to the JFK world I grew up in, and
it seems to me there are an awful lot of people who have bought into the
faith-based style of the Bush regime.  I don't know if there are enough con-
cerned citizens to make a dent in the shield of bullshit and denial that
protects these kleptocrats from the consequences of their lies.
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #24 of 75: Carol Brightman (carolbrightman) Tue 23 Nov 04 21:12
    
When you get in touch with these concerned folks, suddenly you see it
all differently. I haven't been in touch with them myself up here in
Maine, and this more optimistic angle is a result of a few book tours
around the country over the last month or so. You can only hear so much
breastbeating over the elections before you want to take more direct
action.  In Maine the Iraqi recruits are mostly National Guard and
REserves, and the families are left without breadwinners, with kids and
drastically cut budgets. Something to do there... 
  
inkwell.vue.231 : Carol Brightman, "Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence"
permalink #25 of 75: David Gans (tnf) Tue 23 Nov 04 21:41
    
I sure hope so, Carol.  I'm not breastbeating; I'm depressed and scared.
We need to take our country back.
  

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