Bulletin N° 638
Subject: ON SYSTEMIC ANALYSES, THE LOGIC OF ZENO’S PARADOX, AND CUTTING THROUGH THE GORDIAN KNOT.
20 December 2014
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The British literary critic Terry Eagleton once made an observation on the nature of consciousness; departing from abstract literary theory, he made the mundane physiological observation that one can’t eat a banana and play the trombone at the same time, his point being that theory and practice come from different parts of the human anatomy. Pierre Bourdieu said much the same thing in a more academic way in his book, Questions de Sociologie (1984), when he wrote :
Sur le terrain de l’anthropologie où la question proprement politique ne se pose pas, la principale division est l’opposition entrée le subjectivisme et l’objectivisme. La tradition objectiviste conçoit le monde social comme un univers de régularités objectives indépendantes des agents et construites à partir d’un point de vue d’observateur impartial qui est hors de l’action, qui survole le monde observé. L’ethnologue est quelqu’un qui reconstitue une espèce de partition non écrite selon laquelle s’organisent les actions des agents qui croient improviser chacun leur mélodie, alors qu’en réalité, en matière d’échanges matrimoniaux comme en matière d’échanges linguistiques, ils agissent conformément à un système de règles transcendantes, etc. En face, Sartre s’en prend explicitement, dans la Critique de la raison dialectique, à Lévi-Strauss et à l’effet de réification que produit l’objectivisme. (p.89)
A few pages latter, Bourdieu provided his own manifesto to justify his work: « Si le sociologie a un rôle, ce serait plutôt de donner des armes que de donner des leçons. » (p.95) In an earlier book, Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977), he pointed out that what ‘goes without saying comes without saying’; it is often said, that which most governs our behavior is silence. To expose this silence with descriptive language is to challenge such behavior. Both Eagleton and Bourdieu count themselves among the public intellectuals who advocate democratic mobilization to change The System.
The role of human consciousness in producing both opposition and contradiction was the theme of the 1967 Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation that was held over a period of two weeks, from July 15 to 30 in 1967, at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London. With an interesting diversity of participants --which included the anti-psychiatrists David Cooper and R.D. Laing, biologist/anthropologist Gregory Bateson, sociologist Jules Henry, economist Paul Sweezy, psychologist Paul Goodman, political scientists John Gerassi, philosopher Herbert Marcuse, activist Stokely Carmichael, and other luminaries of the traditional and non-traditional left –this extended public meeting was an open-ended enquiry into the human ecosystem at various levels and the effect this system has on human consciousness. The participants examined various aspects of “The System,” which Gregory Bateson described as the interaction of at least three sub-systems which produce human behavior: the human individual system of inner space with its billons of microbes and chemical and electrical interactions; the social system which incorporates the individual and links him/her to wider spheres of human interaction; and the biological surroundings of the ecological system extending across the planet. Necessarily such a diversity of thinkers brought to the forefront of consciousness the qualitative difference between particular ‘opposition’ and systemic ‘contradiction’.
The dialectical approaches at this conference on human emancipation reflected an apparent paradox: Only individuals can become ‘free’ and social revolution must come from ‘below’ where reside the decidedly ‘un-free’ social classes. These radical scientists and activists who were out to discover new prospects for meaningful change from below found themselves caught in a conundrum: they were working toward systemic change in social relationships while at the same time they acknowledged that the system they were studying determined human behavior, ‘as above, so below’.
The second essay of Dr. David Cooper’s anthology, (To Free A Generation, The Dialectics of Liberation, 1968) --which is the only existing record of the proceedings at this famous international conference-- was Gregory Bateson’s presentation on “Conscious Purpose Versus Nature”. Professor Bateson began his talk by attempting to locate shared values held by the participants at this heterogeneous meeting of thinkers and political activists, all of whom appeared to agree with the axiom: ‘If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.’
Our civilization, which is on the block here for investigation and evaluation, has its roots in three main ancient civilizations: the Roman, the Hebrew and the Greek; and it would be seen that many of our problems are related to the fact that we have an imperialist civilization leavened or yeasted by a downtrodden, exploited colony in Palestine. In this conference, we are again going to be fighting out the conflict between the Romans and the Palestinians.
You will remember that St Paul boasted, ‘I was born free’. What he meant was that he was born Roman, and that this had certain legal advantages.
We can engage in that old battle either by backing the downtrodden or by backing the imperialists. If you are going to fight that battle, you have to take sides in it. It’s that simple.
On the other hand, of course, St Paul’s ambition, and the ambition of the downtrodden, is always to get on the side of the imperialists –to become middle-class imperialists themselves—and it is doubtful whether we are creating more members of the civilization which we are here criticizing is a solution to the problem.
There is, therefore, another more abstract problem. We need to understand the pathologies and peculiarities of the whole Romano-Palestinian system. It is this that I am interested in talking about. I do not care, here, about defending the Romans or defending the Palestinians—the upper dogs or the underdogs. I want to consider the dynamics of the whole traditional pathology in which we are caught, and in which we shall remain as long as we continue to struggle within that old conflict. We just go round and round in terms of the old premises.
Fortunately our civilization has a third root –in Greece. Of course Greece got caught up in a rather similar mess, but still there was a lot of clean, cool thinking of a quite surprising kind which was different. . . .
From St Thomas Aquinas to the eighteenth century in Catholic countries . . . the structure of our religion was Greek. In mid-eighteenth century the biological world looked like this: There was a supreme mind at the top of the ladder, which was the basic explanation of everything downwards from that –the supreme mind being, in Christianity, God; and having various attributes as various philosophic stages. The ladder of explanation went downwards deductively from the Supreme to man to the apes, and so on, down to the infusoria.
This hierarchy was a set of deductive steps from the most perfect to the most crude or simple. And it was rigid. It was assumed that every species was unchanging.
‘As above, so below’ . . .
[Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829)], probably the greatest biologist in history, turned the ladder of explanation upside down. He was the man who said it starts with the infusoria and that there were changes leading up to man. His turning the taxonomy upside down is one of the most astonishing feats that has ever occurred. It was the equivalent in biology of the Copernican revolution in astronomy. [see: Philosophie Zoologique (1809).]
The logical outcome of turning the taxonomy upside down was that the study of evolution might provide an explanation of mind.
Up to Lamarck, mind was the explanation of the biological world. But, hey presto, the question now arose: is the biological world the explanation of mind? That which was the explanation now became that which was to be explained. . . . He achieved and formulated a number of very modern ideas: that you cannot attribute to any creature psychological capacities for which it has no organs; that mental process must always have physical representation; and that the complexity of the nervous system is related to the complexity of mind.
There the matter rested for 150 years, mainly because evolutionary theory was taken over, not by a Catholic heresy but by a Protestant heresy, in the mid-nineteenth century. Darwin’s opponents . . . were . . . fundamentalist Christians whose sophistication stopped with the first chapter of Genesis. The question of the nature of mind was something which the nineteenth-century evolutionists tried to exclude from their theories, and the matter did not come up again for serious consideration until after World War II.
In World War II it was discovered what sort of complexity entails mind. And, since that discovery, we know that wherever in the Universe we encounter that sort of complexity, we are dealing with mental phenomena. It’s as materialistic at that.
Let me try to describe for you that order of complexity, which is in some degree a technical matter. (pp.34-36)
R.D. Laing had presented a paper earlier which was entitled “The Obvious” and in which he pointed out that what seems obvious to one person is often obscure or non-existent in the consciousness of another. Bateson replied to this report saying that the individual human system seems to be naturally endowed to protect itself against disturbances. What is not easily assimilated without disturbance is usually side-tracked or hidden, even to the point of shutting one’s eyes. Disturbing information, he continued, can be sealed off, according to one’s understanding of the system and what would be a nuisance. Bateson went on to assert that disturbances can be created when a human individual system becomes obsessed with “conscious purpose” to the point where he/she looses consciousness of his/her own systemic nature and the systemic nature of the environment, as well. The free enterprise system is a case in point, where “purposive action” is oriented toward private acquisition, eventually creating social divisions and gross imbalances within the ecosystem. As a result, the human individual system becomes weakened and the survival of entire species are endangered.
Developing communication theory of the Second World War period, Bateson introduced the self-corrective system of cybernetics and specifically the metaphor of the fly-ball governor.
The steam engine with a governor is simply a circular train of causal events, with somewhere a link in that chain such that the more of something, the less of the next thing in the circuit. The wider the balls of the governor diverge the less the fuel supply. If causal chains with that general characteristic are provided with energy, the result will be (if you are lucky and things balance out) a self-corrective system. . . .
Nowadays cybernetics deal with much more complex systems of this general kind; and we know that when we talk about the processes of civilization, or evaluating human behavior, human organization, or any biological system, we are concerned with self-corrective systems. Basically these systems are always conservative of something.(p.37)
On the ecology of the human mind, Bateson writes about human consciousness:
. . . in a balanced ecological system whose underpinnings are of this nature, it is very clear that any monkeying with the system is likely to disrupt the equilibrium. Then the exponential curves will start to appear. Then the exponential curves will start to appear. Some plant will become a we3ed, some creatures will be exterminated, and the system as a balanced system is likely to fall to pieces.
What is true of the species that live together in a wood is also true of the groupings and sorts of people in a society, who are similarly in an uneasy balance of dependency and competition. And the same truth holds right inside you, where there is an uneasy physiological competition and mutual dependency among the organs, tissues, cells and so on. Without this competition and dependency you would not be, because you cannot do without any of the competing organs and parts.
I think you have to assume that all important physiological or social change is in some degree a slipping of the system at some point along an exponential curve. The slippage may not go far, or it may go to disaster.(pp.39-40)
Bateson sees ecological controls that are operating in the outside environment as being also present in the human mind, the ‘total mind, which is perhaps only a reflection of the total body’:
There is a certain amount of compartmentalization, which is no doubt a necessary economy. There is one compartmentalization which is in many ways mysterious but certainly of crucial importance in man’s life. I refer t the ‘semi-permeable’ linkage between consciousness and the remainder of the total mind. A certain limited amount of information about what’s happening in this larger part of the mind seems to be relayed to what we may call the screen of consciousness. But what gets to consciousness is selected; it is a systematic (not random) sampling of the rest.
Of course, the whole of the mind could not be reported in a part of the mind. This follows logically from the relationship between part and whole. The television screen does not give you total coverage or report of the events which occur in the television process; and this not merely because the viewers would not be interested in such a report, but because to report on any extra part of the total process would require extra circuitry. But to report on the events in this extra circuitry would require a still further addition of more circuitry, and so no. Each additional step toward increased consciousness will take the system farther from total consciousness. To add a report on events in a given part of the machine will actually decrease the percentage of total events reported.
We therefore have to settle for very limited consciousness, and the question arises: How is the selecting done? On what principles does your mind select that which ‘you’ will be aware of? And, while not much is known of these principles, something is known, though the principles at work are often not themselves accessible to consciousness. First of all, much of the input is consciously scanned, but only after it has been processed by the totally unconscious process of perception. The sensory events are packaged into images and these images are then ‘conscious’.
I, the conscious I, see an unconsciously edited version of a small percentage of what affects my retina. I am guided in my perception by purposes. I see who is attending, who is not, who is understanding, who is not, or at least I get a myth about this subject, which may be quite correct. I am interested in getting that myth as I talk. It is relevant to my purposes that you hear me.
What happens to a picture of a cybernetic system . . . when that picture is selectively drawn to answer only questions of purpose? . . .
If you allow purpose to organize that which comes under your conscious inspection, what you will get is a bag of tricks –some of them very valuable tricks. It is an extraordinary achievement that these tricks have been discovered; all that I don’t argue. But still we do not know two-penn’orth, really, about the total network system. . . . Wisdom I take to be the knowledge of the larger interactive system –that system which, if disturbed, is likely to generate exponential curves of change.
[Consciousness] is organized in terms of purpose. It is a short-cut device to enable you to get quickly at what you want; not to act with maximum wisdom in order to live, but to follow the shortest logical and or causal path to get what you next want, which may be dinner; it may be a Beethoven sonata; it may be sex. Above all, it may be money and power. . . .
Consciousness and purpose have been characteristic of man for at least a million years, and may have been with us a great deal longer than that. I am not prepared to say that dogs and cats are not conscious….
So you may say: ‘Why worry about that?’
But what worries me is the addition of modern technology to the old system. Today the purposes of consciousness are implemented by more and more effective machinery, transportation systems, airplanes, weaponry, medicine, pesticides and so forth. Conscious purpose is not empowered to upset the balances of the body of society and of the biological world around us. A pathology –a loss of balance-- is threatened. . . .
Purposive consciousness pulls out, from the total mind, sequences which do not have the loop-structure which is characteristic of the whole systemic structure. If you follow the ‘commonsense’ dictates of consciousness, you become, effectively, greedy and unwise –again I use ‘wisdom’ as a word for recognition of guidance by a knowledge of the total systemic creature.(pp.40-43)
'If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem . . . '
He then creates a parable to illustrate life devoid of wisdom.
Adam and Eve then became almost drunk with excitement. This was the way to do things. Make a plan, ABC and you get D.
They then began to specialize in doing things the planned way. In effect, they cast out from the Garden the concept of their own total systemic nature and of its total systemic nature.
After they had cast God out of the Garden, they really went to work on this purposive business, and pretty soon the topsoil disappeared. After that, several species of plants became ‘weeds’ and some of the animals became ‘pests’; and Adam found that gardening was much harder work. He had to get his bread by the sweat of his brow and he said, “It’s a vengeful God. I should never have eaten that apple.’ . . .
A parable, of course, is not data about human behavior. It is only an explanatory device. But I have built into it a phenomenon which seems to be almost universal when man commits the error of purposive thinking and disregards the systemic nature of the world with which he must deal This phenomenon is called by the psychologists ‘projection’. The man, after all, has acted according to what he thought was common sense and now he finds himself in a mess. He does not quite know what caused the mess and he feels that what has happened is somehow unfair. He still does not see himself as part of the system in which the mess exists, and he either blames the rest of the system or he blames himself. In my parable Adam combines two sorts of nonsense: the notion “I have sinned’ and the notion ‘God is vengeful’.(pp.44-45)
The illusion of change by replacing Tweedledum for Tweedledee . . .
Finally, Bateson concluded his observations at this international conference in 1967 with a plan of non-purposive action:
But, we are met here not only for diagnosis of some of the world’s ills but also to think about remedies. I have already suggested that no simple remedy to what I called the Romano-Palestinian problem can be achieved by backing the Romans against the Palestinians or vice versa. The problem is systemic and the solution must surely depend upon realizing this fact.
First, there is humility, . . . as an item of a scientific philosophy. In the period of the Industrial Revolution, perhaps the most important disaster was the enormous increase of scientific arrogance. . . .
But that arrogant scientific philosophy is no\w obsolete and in its place there is the discovery that man is only a part of larger systems and that the part can never control the whole. . . .
Therefore he cannot have a simple lineal control. We do not live in the sort of universe in which simple lineal control is possible. Life is not like that. (p.47)
According to Bateson, the quest for wisdom involves releasing the reigns which drive narrowly focused desires and acknowledging that all conscious change necessitates an important prerequisite, namely the understanding of the system of which one is a part and how it works. Often this has been confused with the desire to adapt to the present system, regardless of its failures and the pathological destruction it guarantees, rather than to replace it with a more beneficial system.
The 12 items below offer CEIMSA readers a look at the pragmatics of social change within the architecture of late capitalism. The oppositions and the contradictions within this system are today more apparent than usual, offering us the opportunity for meaningful action (or inaction) which will address our collective need for structural changes if we are to survive as a species.
Item A., from UCSD Professor Fred Lonidier, is an announcement that the American Federation of Teachers will join the campaign against slave labor south of the US border.
Item B., from The National Security Archive is a report on declassified US Documents covering the brutal Brazilian military dictatorship, to be handed over to Brazilian government and released by the Comissao Nacional da Verdade [National Truth Commission].
Item C., from William Blum, is the Anti-Empire Report for 19 December 2014.
Item D., from David Peterson, co-author of The Politics of Genocide, is an article from the Gestapo archives of Nazi Germany on ‘enhanced interrogation’.
Item E., from Jim O’Brien of Historians Against War, is a series of recommended recent articles.
Item F., from Tom Haden, is a copy of the December 18 issue of Democracy Journal, featuring breaking news on Cuba-US relations.
Item G., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Eric Zuesse on US preparations for war with the Russian Federation.
Item H., from Democracy Now!, is a discussion on how to hold the Bush Administration accountable for its Crimes Against Humanity.
Item I., from The Real News Network, is a three-part interview with Lia Tarachansky on the politics of identity and self-destruction in Israel.
Item J., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Martin Hellman on The Göring Doctrine and it’s application in the 21st Century.
Item K., from Richard Greeman, is an article on the capitalist thirst for a new enemy; will it be the Roman Catholics?
Item L., from NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller, founder of News from the Underground, is an article by Kurt Nimmo on the US accusation against North Korea for hacking Sony Inc., plus other selected articles from this week’s world events.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to watch this new BBC five-part documentary series on the first migrations of prehistoric humans, with Dr Alice Roberts :
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Special report: 'They treated us like slaves'
US labor union activist Fred Lonidier organizing transnational actions against slave labor in Mexico
Do you think the UFCW might get on board to pressure food outlets to not buy from Mexican sources which engage in slave-like labor conditions for their farm workers? It could have a big impact especially if we leaflet selected stores around the country. Below is a comments link to the L.A. Times.
The group I work with which does the maquiladora tours, went to an Quitin some years ago and found the same kind of conditions there. Attached is an artwork I did about it.
Solidarity and Happy Holidays,
UC/AFT Local 2034
Imagine a workplace where bosses would strip people of their shoes to prevent them from running away. Or one where workers would be put on a no-pay list if they got sick. And a job site where bosses tied a worker to a tree and then beat him.
Earlier this week, we told you about unbearable conditions for workers at Mexican mega-farms, which now supply a huge portion of the tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and other produce consumed by Americans.
Today, we invite you to read our second installment in the "Product of Mexico" series. Our story offers an inside look at Bioparques, one of Mexico's biggest tomato exporters and a supplier to Wal-Mart.
Financed by the World Bank, Bioparques was honored as a "socially responsible company." But for fieldworkers, whom Bioparques described as the "backbone of all company operations and partners in every success," the company's labor camp was a virtual prison.
Our reporter, Rich Marosi, reports that Bioparques' continued operation speaks to the impunity of Mexican agribusiness.
P.S. Many readers are sharing their opinions of the story. See what they're saying and weigh in with your own thoughts.
The National Security Archive
Brazil Truth Commission Releases Report.
Brazil Truth Commission Releases Report
National Security Archive hails efforts by investigators, victim's families to uncover truth
Obama Administration to Declassify Hundreds of Secret U.S. Records For Report Follow-up
Report released on International Human Rights Day; names hundreds of perpetrators
For more information, contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 202 / 374-7281
Washington, DC, December 11, 2014 -- Almost thirty years after the end of Brazil's military dictatorship, the Comissao Nacional da Verdade [National Truth Commission] today released its long awaited report on human rights violations by the security forces between 1964 and 1985. The report, which took two-and-a-half years to complete and totals over 1000 pages, represents the first formal attempt by Brazil as a nation to record its repressive past and provide a detailed accounting of the system of repression, of the victims of human rights violations, as well as the identities of those who committed those crimes.
In contrast to the U.S. Senate report on torture released yesterday in Washington which redacted even the pseudonyms of CIA personnel who engaged in torture, the Brazilian report actually identifies over 375 perpetrators of human rights crimes by name.
The report contains detailed chapters on the structure and methods of the repression during the military era, including targeted violence against women and children. The commission identified over 400 individuals killed by the military, many of them "disappeared" as the military sought to hide its abuses. During its investigation, the Commission located and identified the remains of 33 of the disappeared; some 200 other victims remain missing.
The report also sheds significant light on Brazil's role in the cross-border regional repression known as Operation Condor. In a chapter titled "International Connections: From Repressive Alliances in the Southern Cone to Operation Condor," the Commission report details Brazil's military ties to the coup in Chile, and support for the Pinochet regime, as well as identifies Argentine citizens captured and killed in Brazil as part of a Condor collaboration between the Southern Cone military regimes.
This report opens a Pandora's box of historical and legal accountability for Brazilians. For now it provides a verdict of history, but eventually the evidence compiled by the commission's investigation could lead to a judicial accounting. "The Truth Commission's final report is a major step for human rights in Brazil," according to Brown University scholar, James Green, "and the pursuit of justice for the victims of the state's terror."
Check out today's posting at the National Security Archive - http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/brazil-truth-commission-releases-report/
Find us on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/NSArchive
Unredacted, the Archive blog - http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.
Anti-Empire Report, December 19, 2014.
Anti-Empire Report, December 19, 2014
( * Friends: The Nazis' true heirs. -- And they can't even recognize it.)
from ‘The Atlantic’
May 29, 2007
The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.
Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. 'Waterboarding" was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The "cold bath" technique - the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo - was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College, pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.
In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether "enhanced interrogation" using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration...
Here's a document from Norway's 1948 war-crimes trials detailing the prosecution of Nazis convicted of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the Second World War. Money quote from the cases of three Germans convicted of war crimes for "enhanced interrogation":
Between 1942 and 1945, Bruns used the method of "verschärfte Vernehmung" on 11 Norwegian citizens. This method involved the use of various implements of torture, cold baths and blows and kicks in the face and all over the body. Most of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the injuries received during those interrogations.
Between 1942 and 1945, Schubert gave 14 Norwegian prisoners "verschärfte Vernehmung," using various instruments of torture and hitting them in the face and over the body. Many of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the effects of injuries they received.
On 1st February, 1945, Clemens shot a second Norwegian prisoner from a distance of 1.5 metres while he was trying to escape. Between 1943 and 1945, Clemens employed the method of " verschäfte Vernehmung " on 23 Norwegian prisoners. He used various instruments of torture and cold baths. Some of the prisoners continued for a considerable time to suffer from injuries received at his hands.
Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end - all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homocide by torture in multiple cases. Notice the classic, universal and simple criterion used to define torture in 1948 (my italics):
In deciding the degree of punishment, the Court found it decisive that the defendants had inflicted serious physical and mental suffering on their victims, and did not find sufficient reason for a mitigation of the punishment in accordance with the provisions laid down in Art. 5 of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945. The Court came to the conclusion that such acts, even though they were committed with the connivance of superiors in rank or even on their orders, must be regarded and punished as serious war crimes.
The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn't wash with the court. Money quote:
As extenuating circumstances, Bruns had pleaded various incidents in which he had helped Norwegians, Schubert had pleaded difficulties at home, and Clemens had pointed to several hundred interrogations during which he had treated prisoners humanely.
The Court did not regard any of the above-mentioned circumstances as a sufficient reason for mitigating the punishment and found it necessary to act with the utmost severity. Each of the defendants was responsible for a series of incidents of torture, every one of which could, according to Art. 3 (a), (c) and (d) of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945, be punished by the death sentence.
So using "enhanced interrogation techniques" against insurgent prisoners out of uniform was punishable by death. Here's the Nazi defense argument:
(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.
This is the Yoo position. It's what Glenn Reynolds calls the "sensible" position on torture. It was the camp slogan at Camp Nama in Iraq: "No Blood, No Foul." Now take the issue of "stress positions", photographed at Abu Ghraib and used at Bagram to murder an innocent detainee. Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:
The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.
This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above. The experience of enduring these stress positions has been described by Rush Limbaugh as no worse than frat-house hazings. Those who have gone through them disagree. They describe:Dreadful pain in the shoulders and wrists were the results of this treatment. Only laboriously the lung could be supplied with the necessary oxygen. The heart worked in a racing speed. From all pores the sweat penetrated.
Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes.
The punishment for them was death.
Historians against War
HAW Notes 12/10/14, including links to recent articles of interest.
To members and friends of Historians Against the War,
Here are a couple of notes, followed by our occasional listing of recent articles of interest.
1. The Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee is continuing to accumulate signatures on its open letter to the head of the Pentagon's official Vietnam War commission. The letter, along with a form for signing and an alphabetized list of the 1,000-plus signers so far, is available here.
2. The Peace Studies Journal is soliciting papers for an issue on "Confronting the Environmental Impacts of War"; information is available from Joel Helfrich at email@example.com.
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
By Adam Hochschild, TomDispatch.com, posted December 9
By William R. Polk, History News Network, posted December 7
The author is a former State Department official who has written widely on the recent history of the Middle East.
By Daniel L. Davis, The American Conservative, posted December 1.
The author is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By Stanley Kutler, History News Network, posted November 26
The author is a professor of history emeritus at the University of Wisconsin; the article concerns the Pentagon's depiction of the history of the Vietnam War.
By Gary Leupp, CounterPunch.org, posted November 26
The author teaches history at Tufts University.
By Tom Hayden, The Nation, posted November 26
On the CIA and the National Student Association
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, posted November 25
By Andrew J. Bacevich, Tom Dispatch.com, posted November 23
The author, retired from teaching history at Boston University, is a fellow at Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs.
By William R. Polk, History News Network, posted November 23
Makes comparison between the Vietnam and Iraq wars
By Nicolas J. S. Davies, AlterNet.org, posted November 20
18 December 2014
HAW Notes 12/18/14: Links to recent articles of interest :
By John Prados, History News Network, posted December 14
The author is a senior fellow of the National Security Archives and director of its CIA Documentation Project.
By Andrew Cockburn, The Independent, posted December 14
By Rebecca Gordon, TomDispatch.com, posted December 14
The author's book Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States was published this year by Oxford University Press.
By Andrew Sullivan, ReaderSupportedNews.org, posted December 13
By James Carroll, TomDispatch.com, posted December 11
By Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston Globe, posted Demember 10
The author, retired from teaching history at Boston University, is a fellow of Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs.
By Kara Breandeisky and Sisi Wei, ProPublica, posted December 9
The above list was edited by Steve Gosch and Jim O'Brien with thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall and Mim Jackson for suggesing articles that are included. Suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Tom Hayden :
Date : 18 December 2014
Subject: Why the US-Cuba Deal Is a Victory.
December 17, 2014
From Information Clearing House :
Date : 17 December 2014
Subject: The Next World War….
For America’s elite, the Cold War never ended, because it was never really about communism versus capitalism.
From Democracy Now ! :
Date : 19 December 2014
Subject: War Crimes in the White House.
Should Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & CIA Officials Be Tried for Torture? War Crimes Case Filed in Germany
From The Real News Network :
Date : 18 December 2014
Subject: The Self-Destruction of the Israeli Nation.
Identity and Collective Denial
From Information Clearing House :
Date : 17 December 2014
Subject: Lessons on War from The Göring Doctrine.
The Göring Doctrine has proved as tempting to democratic leaders as to fascist dictators. Witness these examples drawn from recent American history.
From Richard Greeman :
Date : 19 December 2014
Subject: Catholicism: the New Communism?
Last week, as yet another mega-typhoon laid waste to the Philippines, the leaders of 183 capitalist governments met in Lima, Peru to face the imminent threat of climate catastrophe at a U.N. Climate Conference called COP20. (Yawn.) In case you missed the headlines (they were small), the world leaders agreed to nothing.
Since the fiasco of the Helsinki Summit, it has become obvious that the U.S. and the other governments, all of them dominated by mega-banking and energy corporations, are quite simply unwilling to make actual commitments to reduce carbon emissions. This year at Lima, with the human race spinning at an ever more accelerated rate towards extinction, the U.N. chose to invite Shell and other big energy corporations to participate inside the conference, while keeping protesters (indigenous, climate refugees, peasants, climate justice activists) miles away under military guard in U.S.-style ‘free speech zones.’
Bishops: End Fossil Fuels Now!
The only voice within the Conference that dared to call for an end to the use of fossil fuels was that of Catholic Bishops from every continent. The Bishops also urged nations to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5°C (rather than the proposed 2°C). Moreover, they explicitly pointed to capitalism as the basic cause of impending global catastrophe and called for a new economic order:
The main responsibility for this situation lies with the dominant global economic system, which is a human creation. In viewing objectively the destructive effects of a financial and economic order based on the primacy of the market and profit, which has failed to put the human being and the common good at the heart of the economy, one must recognize the systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial and economic order. 
In other words: “System Change, Not Climate Change!” What more could one ask for? This slogan happens to be the name of the minuscule, far-left, ecosocialist coalition I am active in. The only difference is that the Catholic Church has 1.2 billion members.
Unfortunately, the Bishops’ remarkable declaration was not reported in any major media that I could find. And even Amy Goodman, who broadcasted her progressive ‘War and Peace Report’ www.democracynow.org live from Lima all boring week, failed to note it. However, it is not really a surprise in the context of the rapid changes in Catholic attitudes in the less than two years since the ascension to the Throne of Saint Peter on Feb. 28, 2013, of Pope Francis, of whom more in a moment.
“While this is a first by some markers,” writes Jeff Spross of Climate Progress, “the Bishops’ statement also continues a long tradition of engagement with environmental issues and climate change by the Catholic Church.” Pope Francis himself has made the religious case for combating climate change, warning that “if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!” Francis has also singled out the destruction of the rainforest as a “sin,” and is working on an official papal encyclical tackling the environment and humanity’s relationship to it.”
Catholicism and Communism
These radically anti-capitalist Catholic positions have got me wondering: “Is Catholicism the new Communism?” “Rome the new Moscow?” “The Church the new Comintern???” What a paradox! Growing up as a ‘red diaper baby’ during the Cold War, Catholicism seemed to me synonymous with militant anti-Communism (not to mention militant virginity). New York’s powerful Cardinal Spellman was a virulent McCarthyite, and the martyrdom of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary (persecuted first by both fascist and then communist regimes) made folks forget the complicity of Pope Pius XII with the Nazis – based on their common hatred of Communism.
Then, in 1958, things changed radically with the election of Pope John XXIII. The Vatican Council proclaimed the Christian doctrine of ‘a preferential option for the poor.’ Liberation Theology, which affirmed the right to resist oppression, spread all over Latin America. I was privileged to witness it in action in Nicaragua in 1984 during the U.S.-sponsored Contra war. Indeed, my years of activism in the Latin America solidarity movement had convinced me that Liberation Theology Catholics were consistently more revolutionary than Leftist of all stripes. But sadly by the 80s my comrades among activist priests and nuns were being side-tracked and persecuted by the new dispensation in the Vatican after the election of fervently anti-Communist Polish Pope in 1978.
Reaction and Disgrace
John-Paul II put the Church firmly back on the side of the privileged. Then the 2005 election of former Hitler Youth Josef Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI set the Church on an even more reactionary course, turning back the clock on women and reproductive rights, offending Moslems, trying to cover up major scandals over pedophile priests and Vatican finances, and launching an inquisition of progressive U.S. nuns, accused of feminism and meddling in social issues.
So severe was the disgrace to the Church’s reputation, that Benedict took the unprecedented step of resigning more or less in disgrace in Feb. 2013, but by then even the most loyal Catholics had given up on the rigid, self-protective, seemingly immovable Church hierarchy. ‘New Pope? I’ve Given Up Hope’ headlined Gary Wills in the N.Y. Times. In my own analysis (‘Pope Quits: So What?’) I contrasted the history of popular movements inspired by Christianity’s radical social content and the Church’s vast potential for good with the apparent death-grip of the geriatric, reactionary hierarchy on the institution. But my conclusion was nearly as despairing.
I didn’t dare dream that a mere twenty months later Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, would have called a World Meeting of Popular Movements and invited to the Vatican organizations of the marginalized and excluded of all ethnic and religious origins -- landless campesinos, urban workers from the informal sector, recyclers, struggling native peoples, women demanding their rights, etc. (Oct. 2014) There, in the presence of Bolivia’s radical President Evo Morales, Francis declared that “ solidarity with the poor is the very grounding of the Gospels" and that "Agrarian reform is not only a political need, but also a moral one!" These sound like the words of a popular leader, reaching out to his base.
“It was the direct involvement of Pope Francis that drove the event,” according to Canadian delegate Judith Marshall reporting in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal . Her amazing report is definitely worth reading in full. “As the newly installed head of a major institution of the global establishment, Pope Francis has arguably made the Papacy the most radical and consistent voice in pointing to the profanity of global inequality and exclusion. He has also repeatedly named the inordinate power of multinational corporations and finance capital as key factors in reproducing global poverty and destruction of the planet [...] The meeting was built on the strength of the Pope’s long-standing connections with these key popular movement leaders in Argentina.”
Who is Pope Francis?
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1936. After working briefly as chemical technician and a night club bouncer, he joined the progressive Jesuit order, became a priest during the heyday of Liberation Theology and got involved in social movements.
As a bishop, Bergoglio had already developed an incessant but discreet support for workers and their organizations. The anecdotes are without number: solidarity with persecuted militants, support for campesino organizations, protection for peddlers, promotion of “shanty town priests”, accompanying factor workers who had reopened closed factories and a forthright attitude of struggle against exploitation and exclusion, traffic in persons, drug-trafficking and the consumer culture. All of this, added to his legendary austerity and simple life style, his constant interpolation against the self-satisfied life style of the petty bourgeoisie, postmodern consumerist hedonism and “elite progressivism”, had made him an uncomfortable figure, not only for the reactionary right but also for the liberals of the centre.”
Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope in over 1,000 years. These ‘firsts’ signify a major shift in the power equilibrium within that vast Internationale of the global poor. The Catholic (‘Universal’) Church is the only actually existing organized world-party. Its vast wealth and influence are now in Francis’ hands. Imagine, for example, that this Jesuit remains true to his Order’s mission and devotes some of the billions salted away in the Vatican to promoting Catholic education on a global scale, teaching billions of poor children how to read, write, think for themselves in a world organization that affirms the right to resist oppression. If the Church truly stands for ‘System Change Not Climate Change,’ this it itself would be a revolutionary development, and we have only just seen the beginning.
How Did this ‘Miracle’ Happen?
How did such an openly radical priest manage to get elected? Francis’ absolute authority at the apex of the hierarchy is a major defeat for the old power brokers who would rather see the living Church wither on the vine than compromise, as witness their circling the wagons during the pedophile priest scandals, their adamant refusal to allow priests to marry or to give women a sacerdotal role of some sort in order to keep the parishes alive, and their unwillingness to fund Catholic education -- once the Church’s proud monopoly and major source of its ideological influence. The Catholic hierarchy (like the military, the world of finance, and the Communist nomenklatura) has long functioned as a closed corporation, a state within a state, impenetrable, opaque, a law unto itself, protected by its intimate ties with other corrupt hierarchies in politics, the military, banking, law enforcement and the Mafia.
The Vatican bureaucracy sits on a pot of gold equal to the wealth of many nations, and one can only imaging the silent struggles going on right now behind the closed walls of the Curia over control of that wealth as Francis and his allies conduct their purge of the apparatus. These developments may take time.
Excluding Divine Intervention, what made this revolution within the Church possible? The most obvious answer is that the Church had reached a dead end. The faithful were leaving in droves, the priesthood was dying out with few new recruits, especially among ‘Europeans,’ and the laity were in despair. Another reason is the demographic shift among practicing Catholics. There is also the solid organization and discipline of the international Jesuit Order whose attempts to take over the Church and influence in Latin America go back centuries. (Not for nothing did members of the Communist International think of themselves as ‘red Jesuits.’)
Breaking Through Parish Walls
To these material explanations I would like to add another, less obvious: the Internet and social media. Whereas over the centuries, the hierarchy has had a monopoly of communication, all of it top down. Today, Catholic lay people are no longer isolated, voiceless and passive before immense wealth and influence of the hierarchy. Just as Guttenberg’s movable type helped catalyze the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century by making the Bible accessible to the laity, so the Internet in the 21st century may have catalyzed the unprecedented resignation of arch-conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the Church’s apparent new course under Francis.
As Internet guru Clay Shirky points out, “social tools don’t create collective action, they merely remove the obstacles to it.” Shirky cites the example of the campaign among lay Catholics to end sex-abuse of children by priests. It began in the 90s when victims started coming forward and the scandals were exposed in newspapers like The Boston Globe, but the Church hierarchy, led by Cardinal Law (himself guilty of protecting pedophile priests by rotating them through new, unsuspecting parishes), was able to squash the victims’ movement.
The instigators were denounced via press and pulpit and banned from Church facilities, while lay groups were forbidden to organize outside of their local parish. However ten years later, Cardinal Law was forced to resign in disgrace after Internet tools had enabled victims to aggregate their testimony, post it on line, spread information and organize nationally and internationally. Meanwhile, the revolt against the coddling of pedophile priests has caused the laity to openly question reactionary dogmas like refusing Communion to divorced and LGBT Catholics and maintaining the celibacy of priests.
The Internet did not cause this potentially momentous change, but social media and its world-wide reach enabled the smoldering revolt of the Catholic laity to overcome the institutional barriers that enabled the hierarchy to isolate and dominate the rank-and-file movements for reform and renewal. What is striking in today’s revolution within Roman Catholicism is the intersection of ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ forms o organization. For if horizontal internet networking has given the Catholic laity a chance to come together and express itself, the capture of a powerful vertically-structured Catholic ‘world-party’ by progressive forces opens huge possibilities for human liberation and perhaps a chance for the planet to avoid climate catastrophe.
Let us end this hopeful story with the news, released today, of another victory for the progressive Catholic rank-and-file: a Vatican report reversing Benedict XVI’s crude attempt to stifle the socially-engaged, self-governing orders of U.S. nuns, accused of preaching ‘feminism’ and advocating ‘social justice.’ Catholics across the country had been stunned and outraged by the Vatican’s attempt to threaten the women who have been the backbone of this church for centuries. Thousands of faithful Catholics held more than 50 vigils across the country and more than 57,000 people signed a petition organized by the Nun Justice Project in support of the nuns. With these actions, Catholics made it clear that they stand in solidarity with the sisters and their good works among the poor and marginalized. As of today, they are vindicated.
report concluded by citing Pope Francis’ call “to create still broader
opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church.”
Meanwhile, it also transpired today that Pope Francis brokered the agreement
between Obama and Raul Castro to resume diplomatic relations after more than a
half-century of U.S. sanctions against Cuba, long condemned by the rest of
Latin America. Also, it was the Holy Father’s birthday. Mazeltov,
wishes to all, Richard
Dec. 18, 2014
 I exaggerate. The world leaders formally agreed that each country will prepare its own voluntary goals in preparation for next years Paris Climate Summit. The Lima conference was thus not a ‘failure’, but a success (for the corporate agenda).
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30408022 “Global group of Catholic bishops call for end to fossil fuels,” by Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News, Lima.
 For example they supported the distribution of lands abandoned by émigré landowners, while the Sandinistas refused to give legal titles to poor peasant occupiers, thus undermining their own popularity during the Contra war.
 According to Juan GRABOIS, activist in the Movement of Excluded Workers and as one of the national coordinators of the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers in Argentina, quoted by Marshall, above.
 Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (2008)
North Korea behind the Sony hack? Not likely...
Here are six Important News Items from this week:
Sony Hack Blamed on North Korea Bears Hallmarks of U.S. Intelligence Operation
Obama administration mulling “proportional” response
by Kurt Nimmo
The Obama administration considers Sony’s inability to secure its computer network and allowing unknown hackers access to confidential information to be a serious breach of national security.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest did not say North Korea was responsible for the hack. Instead, the accusation was made Wednesday by an anonymous government official “who is not authorized to comment publicly.”
Earnest said U.S. national security leaders “would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response.” He was vague on what this meant.
As Paul Joseph Watson noted for Infowars.com on Thursday, there is little evidence implicating North Korea, but this has not prevented the government and the corporate media from attributing the hack to the authoritarian regime of Kim Jong-un.
For more on this, see Kim Zetter’s The Evidence That North Korea Hacked Sony Is Flimsy.
U.S. Intelligence More Likely Responsible
As Marc W. Rogers noted on his security news blog on Thursday, it is unlikely North Korea is involved.
“The fact that the code was written on a PC with Korean locale & language actually makes it less likely to be North Korea,” Rogers explains. “Not least because they don’t speak traditional ‘Korean’ in North Korea, they speak their own dialect and traditional Korean is forbidden. This is one of the key things that has made communication with North Korean refugees difficult.”
Additionally, the broken English used “looks deliberately bad and doesn’t exhibit any of the classic comprehension mistakes you actually expect to see in ‘Konglish’. i.e it reads to me like an English speaker pretending to be bad at writing English.”
This would implicate U.S. or British intelligence. U.S. intelligence has, since 9/11, displayed careless and sloppy application when conducting false flag operations. The textbook example of this is the transparently bogus “intelligence” used in the effort to frame Iraq prior to the invasion of that country in 2003.
Another indicator pointing to U.S. intelligence is the familiarity with Sony’s computer network. “It’s clear from the hard-coded paths and passwords in the malware that whoever wrote it had extensive knowledge of Sony’s internal architecture and access to key passwords,” Rogers notes. “While it’s plausible that an attacker could have built up this knowledge over time and then used it to make the malware, Occam’s razor suggests the simpler explanation of an insider.”
The attacker, however, does not necessarily have to be a Sony insider. As Edward Snowden and others have demonstrated, the NSA specializes in gaining access to computer networks and routinely penetrates the firewalls of corporate and foreign government networks.
Rogers writes the attack “suits a number of political agendas to have something that justifies sabre-rattling at North Korea, which is why I’m not that surprised to see politicians starting to point their fingers at the DPRK also.”
It is true the U.S. foreign policy establishment has exploited the largely exaggerated and absurd national security threat supposedly presented by North Korea. However, they do not seriously consider it a threat and instead use it as an excuse to issue warnings to legitimize the national security state. Iran and terrorist entities, many designed by the intelligence apparatus, serve a similar purpose.
More practically, the Sony affair will be used to make the argument that cyber warfare poses an immediate threat to the national security of the United States and this threat demands a continuation and amplification of the surveillance state.
The surveillance state, however, is not turned outward, it is instead turned inward on the American people who are considered by the elite to be the true threat to their rule.
The Sony hack is not the work of an ex-Sony employee, as Rogers assumes. It is the work of the national security state and the NSA. Titillating details about movie stars and celebrities released as a result of the hack — falling on the heels of the celebrity nude photo hack earlier this year — serve the purpose of riveting the attention of the public on the affair while the government builds its case for further encroachments on their liberty.