Wednesday, February 17, 2010

“A few startled shepherds”

In doing some research for a book on neo-conservatism, conservative philanthropy, and Leo Strauss, Rob Levine came across a BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, that he posted in three parts on his blog, The Triumph of Conservative Philanthropy. The documentary is very good, and Spot commends it highly – all three parts of it. It will take you about three hours, but the time is well spent.

Many of you are familiar with the poem Tinker to Evers to Chance about the famous infield of the Chicago Cubs that was so good a turning a double play. The documentary demonstrates how it was neo-conservatism’s “Soviet Union to Bill Clinton to al Qaeda” in shifting from one good and evil morality play to another for consumption by the American public. The morality play is a necessity, according to neo-conservatism; it’s a version of Plato’s noble lie.

The last installment in the series, which is embedded below, describes how “al Qaeda” was really more imagined by the US government than existed, in order to be able to try the defendants in the two 1998 embassy bombing in Africa as conspirators in a menacing international organization. While in reality, there was just a small cadre of men around bin Laden, and certainly not a sophisticated network of “international terror.”

But al Qaeda became bigger in the imaging of it, especially after 9/11, which was, in fact, carried out by a handful of men, most of them Saudis.

But it became convenient as a new “Other” when the previous morality play, the destruction of Bill Clinton, had failed. We must always have an “Other, or “Evil One” in order to have the national purpose that neo-conservatism believes we must have to sustain our moral fiber.

Most of us recall the ascendance of neo-conservative thought in the Bush administration, as words like “evil doers” and “Crusade” crept into its rhetoric.

But as Afghanistan was invaded, and we joined forces with the North Alliance, we were unable to find al Qaeda at Tora Bora or anywhere else. First, we looked, and then the Brits looked, but virtually nothing was found in those famous caves or anywhere else.

If you’re a little pressed for time, fast forward to about 18:00 and watch how the Northern Alliance’s kidnap operation resulted in many of the “worst of the worst” that wound up an Guantanamo and who are now being released, one by one, by an increasingly annoyed and disgusted federal judiciary as it hears habeas corpus petitions.

Hear also about the military operations in Afghanistan that netted a “few startled shepherds” and not al Qaeda. The Q&A with the commanding officer of the British forces is priceless.

A thump of the tail to Rob Levine.

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