Archive for November, 2017

Eating One\'s Young


It is somewhat disconcerting when you try and try and nothing seems to work. People look at you and wonder what’s wrong with you: why can’t you be any less bloody-minded and stop pushing the same rock up the same hill every day? If you think you are right but nothing is working, then someone must be wrong. Is it you, then, or is it the rest of the universe? Or is it just bad luck? And does temporal, worldly success actually matter? After all, a failure is often far more illuminating and instructive than a success, and some people manage to play a perfectly productive role in society by serving as a failure unto others. And any experimentalist will tell you that an experiment that reliably ends in failure is in general far more repeatable than one that ends in success. And showing how something doesn’t work is often a good way of pointing toward something that might. And the process of failing can be perfectly enjoyable—provided you don’t aim to high—because how painful a failure happens to be is mostly a question of scale. Being a failure can even make you popular, because most people are more ready to gloat than to admire, admiration having limited potential if one’s goal is to feel smug, all-knowing and generally superior.

Take me as an example.

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Why Kremlin Trolls Always Win


A most interesting book has recently come out: Phil Butler’s Putin\’s Praetorians: Confessions of the Top Kremlin Trolls. It’s a good book to read for all those who wish to peer behind the crazy funhouse mirror set up by Western media. It includes contributions from people who have been active in opposing the barrage of counterfactual press coverage emanating from “fake news” factories such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN.

The title is a facetious one: the people in question are not trolls, and the trolls in question do not exist. “Kremlin trolls” is a fake meme that is consistently deployed to cover up one’s own failure but play no role in one’s successes.

For example: London’s political establishment successfully manipulated the Scottish independence referendum into failure by a combination of emoluments and scare tactics; therefore, phantom Kremlin trolls played no part in it. But London failed to do so with the Brexit referendum; therefore, out came Kremlin trolls, to be blamed for this unintended, unscripted result.

Another example: Madrid failed in its effort to suppress the Catalan independence referendum; the exercise turned into one of thwarting the exercise of democratic self-determination; there was blood on the streets. So, out come Kremlin trolls, to be blamed. But now that referendum-fatigue has set in and most of the population says they are having second thoughts about independence, the trolls have apparently packed up and gone home.

And then of course there is this one: Hillary Clinton lost her election bid, inexplicably in her own mind and in the minds of her followers, but really by being a very bad candidate who did inexplicably bad things such as referring to half of her electorate as “a basket of deplorables.” So out come Kremlin trolls, again.

And now that the entire “Russian meddling” narrative, relentlessly pursued by the “fake news” media ever since Trump’s election, is heading toward the cul de sac where everyone has to admit that the whole thing was an incompetent fabrication, Washington decides to stage an attack on Russia Today, forcing it, uniquely among foreign news media such as the BBC, Al Jazeera and numerous others, to register as a foreign agent. In essence, by doing so Washington has admitted that its “world order” can be brought down by nothing more than the free exchange of information! If that’s not a position of extreme weakness, what would be?

In short, it is clear that Kremlin trolls spontaneously materialize in the midst of defeat and are automatically handed the laurels of victory. What do the trolls have to do to secure that victory? Why, nothing at all! In fact, they don’t even have to exist! But why waste such a perfectly good opportunity to stand up, do a victory lap, take a bow, accept the laurels and so on—because someone might as well take the credit. If all you have to do to win is make a reasonable claim that you exist, that seems like a very low-risk proposition. And the most deserving people turn out to be those who have consistently opposed the fake anti-Russia narratives emanating from various Western mouthpieces, my good self included.

It is entirely unclear whether Russia at large or Kremlin specifically benefit from any of these putative Kremlin Troll victories, except perhaps in a public relations sense: by making Russia-haters look stupid. But this entire problem stems from the utter incompetence of Western leaders—which can hardly be considered a positive for the West, for Russia, or for the entire world. And here is where Phil Butler’s self-described “Putin’s praetorians,” a.k.a. Kremlin trolls, can and sometimes do play a positive role: by explaining to the rest of us how we are being governed (or should I say “played”) by some choice morons, and how that’s not necessarily a good thing. And so, more power to them, and please buy and read the book. In the meantime, I turn it over to my friend The Saker—a White Russian who abandoned the shibboleths of his ancestral milieu and learned to respect Putin.

How I Became a Kremlin Troll

By birth, experience, and training, I truly had everything needed to hate Putin. I was born in a family of “White Russians” whose anti-Communism was total and visceral.

My childhood was filled with (mostly true) stories about atrocities and massacres committed by the Bolsheviks during the revolution and subsequent civil war. Since my father had left me, I had an exiled Russian Orthodox Archbishop as a spiritual father, and through him, I learned of all the genocidal persecutions the Bolsheviks unleashed against the Orthodox Church.

At the age of 16, I had already read the three volumes of the “Gulag Archipelago” and carefully studied the history of WWII. By 18 I was involved in numerous anti-Soviet activities such as distributing anti-Soviet propaganda in the mailboxes of Soviet diplomats or organizing the illegal importation of banned books into the Soviet Union through the Soviet merchant marine and fishing fleet (mostly at their station in the Canary Islands). I was also working with an undercover group of Orthodox Christians sending help, mainly in the form of money, to the families of jailed dissidents. And since I was fluent in Russian, my military career took me from a basic training in electronic warfare, to a special unit of linguists for the General Staff of the Swiss military, to becoming a military analyst for the strategic intelligence service of Switzerland.

The Soviet authorities had long listed me, and my entire family, as dangerous anti-Soviet activists and I, therefore, could not travel to Russia until the fall of Communism in 1991 when I immediately caught the first available flight and got to Moscow while the barricades built against the GKChP coup were still standing. Truly, by this fateful month of August 1991, I was a perfect anti-Soviet activist and an anti-Communist hardliner. I even took a photo of myself standing next to the collapsed statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky (the founder of the ChK – the first Soviet Secret police) with my boot pressed on his iron throat. That day I felt that my victory was total. It was also short-lived.

Instead of bringing the long-suffering Russian people freedom, peace, and prosperity, the end of Communism in Russia only brought chaos, poverty, violence, and abject exploitation by the worst class of scum the defunct Soviet system had produced. I was horrified. Unlike so many other anti-Soviet activists who were also russophobes, I never conflated my people and the regime which oppressed them. So, while I rejoiced at the end of one horror, I was also appalled to see that another one had taken its place. Even worse, it was undeniable that the West played an active role in every and all forms of anti-Russian activities, from the total protection of Russian mobsters, on to the support of the Wahhabi insurgents in Chechnya, and ending with the financing of a propaganda machine which tried to turn the Russian people into mindless consumers to the presence of Western “advisors” (yeah, right!) in all the key ministries. The oligarchs were plundering Russia and causing immeasurable suffering, and the entire West, the so-called “free world” not only did nothing to help but helped all the enemies of Russia with every resource it had. Soon the NATO forces attacked Serbia, a historical ally of Russia, in total violation of the most sacred principles of international law. East Germany was not only reunified but instantly incorporated into West Germany and NATO pushed as far East as possible. I could not pretend that all this could be explained by some fear of the Soviet military or by a reaction to the Communist theory of world revolution. In truth, it became clear to me that the Western elites did not hate the Soviet system or ideology, but that they hated Russian people themselves and the culture and civilization which they had created.

By the time the war against the Serbian nation in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo broke out, I was in a unique situation: all day long I could read classified UNPROFOR and military reports about what was taking place in that region and, after work, I could read the counterfactual anti-Serbian propaganda the Western corporate Ziomedia was spewing out every day. I was horrified to see that literally everything the media was saying was a total lie. Then came the false flags, first in Sarajevo, but later also in Kosovo. My illusions about “Free World” and the “West” were crumbling. Fast.

Fate brought me to Russia in 1993 when I saw the carnage meted out by the “democratic” Yeltsin regime against thousands of Russians in Moscow (many more than what the official press reported). I also saw the Red Flags and Stalin portraits around the parliament building. My disgust by then was total. And when the Yeltsin regime decided to bring Dudaev’s Chechnya to heel triggering yet another needless bloodbath, that disgust turned into despair. Then came the stolen elections of 1996 and the murder of General Lebed. At that point, I remember thinking “Russia is dead.”

So, when the entourage of Yeltsin suddenly appointed an unknown nobody to acting President of Russia, I was rather dubious, to put it mildly. The new guy was not a drunk or an arrogant oligarch, but he looked rather unimpressive. He was also ex-KGB, which was interesting: on one hand the KGB had been my lifelong enemy, but on the other hand I knew that the part of the KGB which dealt with foreign intelligence was staffed by the best of the brightest and that they had nothing to do with political repression, Gulags and all the rest of the ugly stuff that another Directorate of the KGB (the 5th) was tasked with (that department had been abolished in 1989). Putin came from the First Main Directorate of the KGB, the “PGU KGB.” Still, my sympathies were more with the (far less political) military intelligence service (GRU) than the very political PGU which, I was quite sure by then, had a thick dossier on my family and me.

Then, two crucial things happened in parallel: both the “free world” and Putin showed their true faces: the “free world” as an AngloZionist Empire hell-bent on aggression and oppression, and Vladimir Putin as a real patriot of Russia. In fact, Putin slowly began looking like a hero to me: very gradually, in small incremental steps at first, Putin began to turn Russia around, especially in two crucial matters: he was trying to “re-sovereignize” the country (making it truly sovereign and independent again), and he dared the unthinkable: he openly told the Empire that it was not only wrong, it was illegitimate (just read the transcript of Putin’s amazing 2007 “Munich Speech”).

Putin inspired me to make a dramatic choice: will I stick to my lifelong prejudices or will I let reality prove my lifelong prejudices wrong. The first option was far more comfortable to me, and all my friends would approve. The second one was far trickier, and it would cost me the friendship of many people. But what was the better option for Russia? Could it be that it was the right thing for a “White Russian” to join forces with the ex-KGB officer?

I found the answer here in a photo of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vladimir Putin:

If that old-generation anti-Communist hardliner who, unlike me, had spent time in the Gulag, could shake Putin’s hand, then so could I!

In fact, the answer was obvious all along: while the “White” and the “Red” principles and ideologies were incompatible and mutually exclusive, there is also no doubt that nowadays true patriots of Russia can be found in both the former “Red” and “White” camps. To put it differently, I don’t think that “Whites” and “Reds” will ever agree on the past, but we can, and must, agree on the future. Besides, the Empire does not care whether we are “Red” or “White” – the Empire wants us all either enslaved or dead.

Putin, in the meantime, is still the world’s only leader with enough guts to openly tell the Empire how ugly, stupid and irresponsible it is (read his 2015 UN Speech). And when I listen to him I see that he is neither “White” nor “Red.” He is simply Russian.

So, this is how I became a Kremlin troll and a Putin fanboy.

The Saker

What Doesn\'t Work


Back in the days when I was still trying to do the corporate thing, I regularly found myself in a bit of a tight spot simply by failing to keep my mouth shut. I seem to carry some sort of gene that makes me naturally irrepressible. I can keep my mouth shut for only so long before I have to blurt out what I really think, and in a corporate setting, where thinking isn’t really allowed, this causes no end of trouble. It didn’t matter that I often turned out to be right. It didn’t matter what I thought; it only mattered that I thought.

Of all the thoughts you aren’t allowed to think, perhaps the most offensive one is adequately expressed by a single short phrase: “That’s not gonna work.” Suppose there is a meeting to unveil a great new initiative, with PowerPoint presentations complete with fancy graphics, org charts, timelines, proposed budgets, yadda-yadda, and everything is going great until this curmudgeonly Russian opens his mouth and says “That’s not gonna work.” And when it is patiently explained to him (doing one’s best to hide one’s extreme irritation) that it absolutely has to work because Senior Management would like it to, that furthermore it is his job to make it work and that failure is not an option, he opens his mouth again and says “That’s not gonna work either.” And then it’s time to avoid acting flustered while ignoring him and to think up some face-saving excuse to adjourn the meeting early and regroup.

Continue reading…

The New Subnormal


I just published Stan Goff’s new antiwar novel Smitten Gate. Although it is made of pulp, weighs less than a pound and flies only as fast as you can throw it, its payload is guaranteed to penetrate even the thickest action-hero-wannabe skull. Please order a copy.

After a four-week period which I mostly spent heads-down on getting this book into print I looked up and noticed that the world has changed. The trick of looking away, then looking back is often a good one if you are interested in how situations evolve. And here I looked back at what has been happening in the US, specifically, over the past few weeks, and thought, Which interesting new stage of collapse is this?

And then I thought, I really ought to try to answer this question. After all, I’ve already described the five stages of collapse in a book-length treatment, and apparently people are still finding it useful. For example, the Japanese edition of the book found its readers because my treatment of financial and political collapse dovetailed so neatly with Japan’s headlong rush into infinite debt and its desperate, last-minute fling with militarism. And now that Paris is turning into a tent city bum squat infested with roving gangs of troglodyte migrant youths and the banks of the Seine are becoming encrusted with human feces—ah, that sweet smell of social and cultural collapse!—the French edition is flying off the shelves almost frighteningly quickly for such a specialty subject. (As I’ve warned my readers before, when you notice that my message has gone mainstream, it’s time to grab the duffel bag of spam, gold bullion and shotgun shells, gas up the pickup truck and head for the hills.)

It is heartening to find out that there are still people in the world—descendants of the autochthonous inhabitants of Roman Gaul among them—who possess the intellectual aptitude to understand that their country is heading in the direction of social and cultural collapse and venture to do a bit of research to see what that might look like. But as to what seems to be happening across the Pond in the US, or across la Manche in the UK, there the people seem to be in a stage of collapse all of their own. Now, what is it?

Let’s explore this question through an extended metaphor. In making a medical diagnosis, it is conventional to see how the patient responds to various stimuli, to see whether they fall in the normal range. Pupillary light reflex—produced by shining a light into one eye—assesses brain stem function (or lack thereof). Patellar reflex—produced by lightly tapping the kneecap with a hammer—assesses spinal cord function.

Now, suppose you have a patient who, no matter the stimulus, always responds the same way; for instance, by shouting “The Russians did it!” What if asking questions such as “Why makes you think that the Russians did it?” or “What is it that you think the Russians did?” produces loud but incoherent babbling? What if being accidentally jostled or startled by a loud noise or a flash of light causes her to start ranting about “patriarchy” or “white privilege” or “illegal immigrants” or “sound money and the Federal Reserve”?

Another diagnostic technique involves passively observing the patient’s behavior and drawing conclusions from it. Does the patient seem engaged with the outside world, or does she seem trapped in a world of her own, rocking back and forth, waving fingers at her eyeballs or sucking her thumb? Is she able to maintain normal, healthy sexual relationships or does she avoid personal involvement, masturbate compulsively or act out perverse fantasies? Are her fear responses rational or based on phobias and paranoid delusions?

Now, suppose you are confronted with a group of patients who refuse to make eye contact with those around them but continuously fondle small rectangular electronic devices, constantly taking photographs of themselves, their brain chemistry apparently controlled by the flow of “likes” from others who are similarly stricken, and exhibit extreme distress whenever network connectivity is lost or whenever the battery runs down?­

And suppose that among this group normal heterosexual relationships of the sort that have been known to spontaneously produce viable offspring are becoming something of a rarity while every type of perverse and abnormal sexual behavior is being celebrated, with everyone being coerced to acknowledge it as normal? Suppose that among this group normal sexuality is actually given a negative label (“cis-gender”) while behavior that, whenever it is found among other, nonhuman forms of livestock, results in the animal being culled from the herd, is instead prioritized and incentivized? What, do you suppose, does that do for the viability of the herd? Keep in mind that in the normal scheme of things bulls that self-identify as cows are sent straight to the freezer.

And suppose that this group feels compelled to disregard an entire swarm of problems—financial problems, substance abuse problems, environmental problems, crime, mass shootings, a steady worsening of international relations and an increasing risk of nuclear war, etc.—and instead choose to focus on just one phantom threat: that of sexual harassment. The increase in morbidity or mortality that can be attributed to the unethical procurement of sexual favors within the workplace is quite negligible, but this point is ignored. Instead, there is an orgy of celebrating victimhood and demonizing the perpetrators. In turn, groping a coworker comes to be regarded as a worse crime than having an actual war crime committed in one’s name.

This is definitely some sort of collapse, but what kind is it? Let us give it the provisional name of mental collapse. Unlike the other five stages, which incapacitate some specific set of social functions, this one results in a generalized incapacity to process and respond to reality. What were formerly focal points of social adequacy become breeding grounds for social inadequacy: sober and prudent financial risk assessment is replaced with an unstoppable diarrhea of unrepayable debt; the political process is replaced by blind, powerless rage in the face of brazen corruption; commerce is replaced by addictive consumption and compulsive gambling; society plunges into a self-destructive war of the sexes; culture is replaced by a succession of short-lived, juvenile fads. ­

There is one more diagnostic method: of observing the behavior of other, supposedly normal people and seeing how they react to the patient’s presence and behavior. Is the patient accepted as one of the group and treated with recognition or respect, or is the patient ignored, actively excluded or laughed at? So, how is the patient—in this case, the entirety of the United States—coming to be regarded around the world? (Here, it is helpful to be in a position to observe—by residing outside the US.)

To gauge the international response to America’s mental collapse, it is useful to run through the five stages of collapse.

• Financially, most of the largest trading partners in the world are working diligently to free themselves from their dependence on the US dollar and immunize themselves against American extraterritorial legal claims.

• Politically, many countries, including former allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have realized that the US is no longer a reliable partner who can act as a guarantor of their security and are striking out on their own.

• Commercially, the US no longer makes much of anything. The rest of the world is happy to let Walmart and Amazon suck the remaining financial blood out of the American consumer while American attempts to hold the world at ransom by making it pay for US “intellectual property” have largely failed.

• Socially, the US is no longer a melting pot; the American Dream is now commonly seen as a nightmare of degeneracy, dependency and decay. Few people who have a choice choose to integrate into what remains of American society, which is increasingly divided against itself along political, regional, racial, ethnic and religious lines.

• Culturally, the US still manages to export quite a lot of pop culture by relentlessly appealing to the lowest common denominator. But in many parts of the world the influence of international pop culture on actual local culture, observable in how people relate to each other, is increasingly insignificant. Adults are not particularly easy to corrupt by various American freak shows. Their effect on children, especially through cartoons and movies (and especially the violent ones), pop music and video games, is somewhat more worrisome, but is commonly viewed as more of a distraction than an actual danger.

Understanding the five stages of collapse and their interactions can be quite useful to those who are in a position to arrest the downward slide toward social and cultural collapse at some earlier stage. But doing so is impossible without some reasonable baseline level of mental competence. If what we are witnessing in the US is the early stages of mental collapse, then this robs such efforts of any impetus.

To effect positive change one must be able to become better informed and to alter one’s behavior accordingly. But if a person is fed a steady diet of propaganda pooped out by a semiautomated corporate confabulatron, and if that person’s behavior is determined by a combination of delusions, addictions, compulsions, blind rage and chance, then what opportunities remain to effect positive change? And if there are none, then how should we respond? We certainly should not blame the victims of mental collapse. There is a legal principle that should perhaps see much wider use: the principle of nonimputability. Here is a handy definition:

For a person’s criminal nonimputability to be recognized, it must be established that the person was not aware of the consequences of his or her actions or was unable to control such actions, and that chronic mental illness, temporary disruption of mental activity, feeblemindedness, or some other pathological condition was present. Where at least one of these pathological conditions prevails in combination with the facts of the case, as established by forensic psychiatric testimony, the court recognizes the accused to be not criminally liable. Mandatory medical measures, which do not constitute criminal punishment, may be applied to the accused by court order; such measures include placement in a general or special psychiatric hospital. Similar measures are applied in cases where the accused is criminally imputable at the time of commission of the crime but becomes mentally ill prior to sentencing. [The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. 1970-1979.]

It seems to me that by now much of the population of the US is in a state of mental collapse, rendering it nonimputable. Leaving aside the question of whether they would be even theoretically capable of effecting positive change (most aren’t), the majority of Americans cannot be persuaded of simple facts.

For instance:

• The majority of Americans is unable to process the idea that owning a gun is a prelude to homicide. The majority of gun deaths result from negligence, accident, anger or mistake, not from crime prevention efforts or self-defense, while the presence of guns increases the lethality of crimes. But no matter the evidence, most Americans will tell you that owning a gun makes them “safer.” Quite a few of them can\’t even be disabused of the erroneous notion that they can use small arms to stand up against the tyranny of a government that\’s armed with Predator drones, tanks, mortars, rockets and attack helicopters.

• The majority of Americans is unable to accept the idea that the US is not a democracy and that it doesn’t matter who is president. You can spell it out for them in any number of ways, showing how public preferences have zero correlation with public policy, and yet they will persist in the delusion that they can change something for the better… by voting.

• The majority of Americans is unable to accept the idea that their national defense establishment actually poses a very large threat to national security, from many standpoints. It hastens the approach of national bankruptcy; it emboldens its opponents through its fecklessness in all of the recent conflicts; it creates a class of brutalized, psychologically damaged individuals that go on to terrorize the domestic population; and it may accidentally trigger a nuclear holocaust. But the vast majority of Americans will not listen to such arguments and insist that their bloated yet ineffectual military-industrial complex is “defending” them… from what? From the Canadians?

Numerous similar examples can be found. Given that such people are nonimputable, we can only feel sorry for them and try to treat them humanely. Luckily, a country populated with nonimputable people is mostly a threat only to itself. Still, there is the danger that a nonimputable president surrounded by nonimputable generals might do something ghastly to the world. Here, we can only hope for the best. Not that the best promises to be all that good; in the new subnormal, possibly the best we can hope for is that the situation will remain sublethal.

The Great American Antiwar Novel

Smitten Gate

A few weeks ago an amazing project fell into my lap: an author contacted me to let me know that he is releasing his first novel on Kindle, unedited, having given up on finding a publisher for it. I took a look at his manuscript and discovered that it was a diamond in the rough. The prose was choppy, with major and minor affronts to English grammar, and following no particular style guide at all—but it had plenty of potential! And so I took on the project of transforming it into a polished literary gem and getting it into print.

It is an American antiwar novel. It is written by someone who had a long career in the US military, knows it extremely well and is remarkably able to set the scene and paint the characters. Amazingly for someone who has so far only written nonfiction, he suffers from none of the pathologies that afflict nonfiction authors who foray into fiction. He does not explain or describe—he portrays and he channels. Not only do his dialogues ring true—there was hardly a false note anywhere—but he also reads minds, telepathically inviting the reader into the minds of his characters.

And then there are the characters, who will enter your mind just as you are allowed to enter theirs: you won’t help but fell sympathy for the professional killer family man or his teenage savant daughter who struggles to come to terms with his damaged mind and suffering soul. The thumbnail sketches of the high-ranking officers as well as the grunts are quite memorable too; after reading this book, you will never look at the pompous asses of the Pentagon or the pumped-up Special Forces troops the same way.

In spite of war being a perennial, quintessential American subject, great American antiwar novels are a bit thin on the ground. There is Ernest Hemenway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1948), Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961) Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and perhaps a handful more worth mentioning. Compared to the unholy mob of authors who spew uncritically patriotic rah-rah pablum, the genre of antiwar fiction seems missing in action.

And yet by all rights the situation should be mirror-image: an unruly mob of literary greats decrying America’s endless failures in its wars of choice and two or three Pentagon’s useful idiots to rip into pieces in critical reviews. The root cause of this unwholesome tendency lies somewhere between the terms “mind control” and “failure of imagination.” This book addresses the root cause: it will make your mind uncontrollable and fire your imagination. And it does something that no amount of nonfiction writing, be it newspaper or magazine articles (should any still exist), blog posts or full-length academic treatises, can achieve: it strikes at your heart and your moral core. It may make you think but, even more importantly, it will certainly make you feel.

There is no shortage of Americans who, on a rational level, can see that US militarism is a failure. They can intellectually process the idea that invading and destroying countries that do not pose a threat to the US without a UN Security Council resolution is a war crime. They can also see that antiwar protests, of which there were plenty in the run-up to the Iraq war, served no practical purpose whatsoever. They can think all of these thoughts, and then go on with their lives, paying taxes that are spent on organized, gratuitous murder and mayhem. But what do they feel? Do they feel revulsion at what is being done? Do they feel ashamed—because these shameful things are being done in their name? And do they feel fear—because unjust wars of aggression have a way of eventually destroying the societies that perpetuate them through the damaged and violence-infected souls of those who commit war crimes.

No thinking man can survive without damaging his soul in an environment in which disobeying, or even questioning, an order to commit a war crime or an atrocity is at best regarded as an act of insubordination and, at worst, treason. But thinking has little to do with it. Fully 1/3 of military recruits either dropped out of high school or didn’t even matriculate. Under the newly relaxed standards (the US military is having lots of trouble finding enough recruits who are fit to serve) a history of drug use, suicidal tendencies or a criminal record are no longer an impediment. And then these men are ordered to act out violent macho fantasies by bombing and shooting dark-skinned people in faraway lands. With millions of them cycling through the system, what chance is there of constructing a gender-neutral, colorblind, peaceable society? Why, none at all!

Let us briefly describe the background. If you are already familiar with the relevant facts, then you may skip ahead to the bottom. The United States has been at war for 222 out of its 239 years—more than any other country on Earth, making it the most warlike, least peaceable nation on earth. The vast majority of military conflicts were not wars of survival but wars over tribute: over access to markets and resources; in defense of monetarist policy; in pursuit of a geopolitical strategy of world domination.

And yet the vast majority of the more recent armed conflicts have not ended in victory: not Korea, which was fought to an armistice; certainly not Vietnam. The invasion of Afghanistan has turned it into the world’s predominant supplier of heroin, driving the out of control opioid epidemic in the US while enriching rather than destroying the Taliban. Iraq is now aligned with Iran, and neither is a US ally. Syria is a defeat for the US strategy of arming and training Islamist extremists. Other proxy wars fought by US allies using US-supplied weapons, such as Georgia in 2008 and Yemen right now, are all fiascos.

The United States has an official, publicly disclosed defense budget of over $650 billion—more than the next eight countries combined—while bleeding much more money through various secret programs and through military and weapons-related programs within departments other than Defense. It fights wars on credit, and just the interest payments on the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to amount to over $8 trillion. This is a stunning amount of money that is being continuously drained from the US economy and spent on nonproductive assets and activities; as a result, the civilian infrastructure in many parts of the US has deteriorated to a point where the country as a whole is quickly becoming noncompetitive with other, less warlike nations.

In spending on defense, the US does not get its money’s worth. A system of for-profit defense contractors siphons away extravagant amounts of money that are lavished on technological albatrosses such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program which, at $1 trillion and counting, so far has yielded a multipurpose plane that is not ready for combat duty and is unfit for any of its stated purposes—such as providing close air support, winning in air combat against planes from the 1970s such as the F-16 or reliably landing on an aircraft carrier. Speaking of aircraft carriers, the US still lavishes funds on its carrier fleet in spite of the fact that it can no longer deploy aircraft carriers against any well-armed foe because of the widespread availability of relatively cheap weapons which can be launched from land, sea and underwater and reliably destroy them from a large standoff distance.

In the meantime, Russia has rearmed to a point where the US cannot attack it at all without risking instant annihilation, and several other countries are not far behind it. Furthermore, Russia has succeeded in doing so on what amounts to a shoestring budget, and is now positioning itself as a major purveyor of defensive weaponry around the world, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia—who are supposedly allied with the US—among the interested buyers. And so we now have a situation where the US has a military designed for offense, but offensive action is now too risky. In the meantime, all the major potential adversaries have militaries designed for defense and have no interest in attacking the US militarily, especially since a bit of international financial reform would serve much the same purpose. This combination of factors makes the US military harmful yet useless.

* * * *

There is a lot of writing that attempts to preach to the choir: peaceniks writing for other peaceniks. This book is not of that mold at all. It makes no political claims or pronouncements. Instead, it immerses you in the world of elite soldiering, such as it is. It is written for those who like gritty tales of combat written by those who know it well firsthand. The author spins quite a riveting tale, but he doesn’t lie or exaggerate the everyday realities of that life. It will appeal to those who like the military, feel patriotic about it, but are open-minded enough to read something other than a sugar-coated, sanitized, propagandistic portrayal of heroic action. And it lets them come to their own conclusions.

If you know any such people, then give them this book. This is how you can change the world—one person at a time.

Into the Heart of Darkness


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The October Revolution and You


Today is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917. It caused a lot of death and destruction, which I won’t go into because you can read all about it elsewhere. It also caused a great outpouring of new art, literature, architecture and culture in general, putting the previously somewhat stodgy Russia securely in the world’s avant-garde. It also resulted in a tremendous surge of industrialization, rapidly transforming a previously mostly agrarian, though gradually industrializing nation into a global industrial powerhouse (at great human cost). But perhaps most importantly, the revolution destroyed all of the previously dominant institutions of privilege based on heredity, class and wealth and replaced them with an egalitarian social model centered on the working class.

And it demonstrated (as much through propaganda as by actual example) how this new model was more competitive: while the West wallowed in the Great Depression, the USSR surged ahead both economically and socially. For all of its many failings, the USSR did serve as a shining city on the hill to the downtrodden millions around the world, including in the USA, fomenting rebellion, so that even there the one-percent ownership class eventually had to stop and think. Reluctantly, they decided to stop trying to destroy organized labor movements, introduced state old-age pensions (misnamed “Social Security”) and declared a euphemistic “war on poverty.” And with that a “middle class” was created—so called because it was literally in the middle, having risen out of poverty but still safely walled off from the one-percent ownership class. But as we shall see this effect was temporary.

Eventually the USSR evaporated, as artificial, synthetic political entities often do. The reasons for this disappearing act are too numerous to mention, but one of the main ones was that the Soviet political elite turned itself into a much-hated, privileged caste, and then failed to reproduce, turning into a moribund gerontocracy. When the old cadres finally started dying out, the new generation that came in included plenty of traitors who did their best to destroy the system and grab a piece for themselves. This effect was plain to see, but was it the root cause? When a complex system collapses, every part of it is touched to one extent or another, and it becomes impossible to say which one played the key role in precipitating the collapse.

With the USSR gone, the owners of the USA had no one to compete against and were no longer under any sort of pressure to maintain the illusion of an equitable and egalitarian society. Instead, they concentrated on two projects, one ideological, the other economic. The ideological project involved wrecking what was left of the USSR to the greatest extent possible in order to paint a convincing picture of the horrible consequences of communism or socialism and to herd everyone toward wholeheartedly embracing unfettered capitalism. The economic project involved eviscerating the American middle class—a process that by now has largely run its course.

Since the creation of the middle class was a multigenerational project, so is its destruction. But the effects of this process on society are already plain to see: there is an overhang of still relatively well-off retirees while their children and grandchildren have greatly diminished economic and social prospects. Meanwhile, the hastily erected scaffolding that created the appearance of egalitarianism has been knocked out. Organized labor is all but finished. Borders have been thrown open to foreign labor and cheap imports. Entry into the middle class has been blocked through a variety of measures including the relentless dumbing down of public education, the equally relentless overpricing of higher education, the health care extortion scheme, the rationing of justice based on wealth and privilege, wealth confiscation using a succession of artificial real estate market bubbles and so on. Overall, the former middle class is being whittled down to nothing the same way that the Chinese “coolies” were dealt with once the railroads had been built: don’t feed them much but give them plenty of opium (now being grown in Afghanistan under the watchful eye of Western troops). To sum it up: if you aren’t happy with the way things are going in the US, you have a choice. You can of course blame Russia—for getting rid of the USSR. Or you can blame your owners—your one percent—who have owned you ever since the King of England appointed the Lords Proprietors.

Within Russia itself the commemoration of the October Revolution is no longer a public holiday. But there was a sort of commemoration held on the vast Palace Square in St. Petersburg, which I attended with my five-year-old son on my shoulders. It was his first time in a crowd of 35,000, and he was duly impressed. It was a light-and-sound extravaganza consisting of two shows which played in alternation. On the vast semicircular facade of the General Staff building was broadcast a multimedia retrospective of the October Revolution that included the reading of historical documents (such as the abdication of Nicholas II) and works of poetry. It ended on an upbeat note—yes, many horrible events took place, but Russia is now reborn—with the General Staff’s façade painted in the Russian tricolor.

A different show was presented on the façade of the Winter Palace across the square. Here, multimedia artists from across Europe (including France, Italy, Spain and Poland) used projected light to decorate and transform the palace to music that sung praises to the beauty of St. Petersburg. The audience was invited to use their phones to vote for the best one.

After the show, as we filtered out of the Palace Square and walked home along the Palace Embankment, my five-year-old son asked some good questions that he had formulated while watching the show. “Did a lot of people die?” (Yes.) “But Russia was then and is now?” (Yes, Russia has been around for a 1000 years and will probably be around for 1000 years more.) “Why do people have to die?” (Because otherwise we we would be full-up with useless old people and there wouldn’t be enough room for young people.) And then the obvious follow-up: “Why are we full-up with useless old people anyway?” (???) And finally: “Why do we bury dead people?” (Because they smell really bad.) “Ah…” A rather unsentimental youth, wouldn’t you say? But he was only one of the thousands of quite similar-minded ones who were in attendance that day, riding on their fathers’ shoulders or marching along. Welcome to Russia…

One of the reasons why the USSR failed was because the idiocy of the ideology of Soviet communism became too painful to tolerate. In a sense, this was inevitable. You see, ideology is a product of intellectuals, and intellectuals tend to be idiots, making “intellectual idiocy” something of an oxymoron. We are born equipped with MonkeyBrain 2.0 that can handle abstraction only too well but always fails when attempting to reconcile it with messy physical reality. And so it would be a grave error to think that, just because communist ideology is idiotic, capitalist ideology is any less so. By now most thinking people realize that capitalism has failed just as communism had. We can only hope that one day the US will do with its capitalist legacy what Russia has done with its communist one: turn it into a festive art installation that both children and adults can enjoy.

How not to Write a Bestseller


Would you like to be a bestselling author? I know I would! So would many of you, I surmise.

After all, you are all readers, and if you are even slightly ambitious and read lots and lots of books it seems like a matter of time before you begin to think to yourself: “You know, maybe I could do that too!”

And perhaps you could.