Some Choice Morsels, Past and Present

by Edward S. Herman
March, 2004

  • "We are told that when Jehovah created the world he saw that it was good. What would he say now?" (George Bernard Shaw, "Maxims for Revolutionists," 1903).

  • "I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq " (Paul Wolfowitz, NYT, July 22, 2003 ). Note: These words have inspired the Iraqi resistance in their efforts to oust the "coalition." Wolfowitz of course assumes that the coalition members are not foreigners, as they are U.S. citizens and folks approved by us, therefore possessing a Godfather's right to be at home anywhere within his domains.

  • "He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors" (Colin Powell, State Department Press Release, February 24, 2001 , a pronouncement before the propaganda line was firmed up).

  • "We are able to keep his arms from him [Saddam Hussein]. His military forces have not been rebuilt" (Condoleeza Rice, CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, July 29l 2001, also before the party line hardened).

  • "No one can now doubt the word of America " (George Bush, State of the Union Message, Jan. 20, 2004 -meaning that his team may lie without restraint, and violate our "word" and legal obligation to adhere to international law, but the world does not doubt that the Bushies will carry out threats to commit violence against defenseless targets).

  • "No cause can justify the loss of innocent lives" (Colin Powell, quoted in Le Nouvel Observateur , August 30, 2003 , commenting on innocent lives lost after an Al Qaeda attack, He would no doubt qualify this to take account of "tragic errors.").

  • "According to Livy, the Romans conquered the world in their own defense" (Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XXVI, Part V).

  • "Just because we're Democrats, I don't think we have to come up with an alternative point of view if we think he is right" (Democratic Party Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, December 8, 2002, agreeing with the Bush team's skepticism about the work of the UN weapons inspection team, that was not finding those WMD that Bush and Daschle knew were there and that threatened our national security).

  • "'We haven't given up on the United Nations process,' one administration official said" (anonymous Bush official, NYT, January 20, 2003-"UN process" as used here means getting the UN to do exactly what Bush officials want, which if not successful, and the Bushies are forced to "give up," would mean simply ignoring the UN and UN Charter).

  • "In times of peace, the war party insists on making preparation for war. As soon as prepared for war, it insists on making war. If there is no sufficient reason for war, the war party will make war on one pretext, then invent another, possibly more effective, pretext, after the war is on" (Sen. Bob La Follette, Sr., June 1917, speech reproduced in The Progressive , January 1999).

  • "Lord Robertson said NATO had a 'moral obligation' to support a US-led war on Iraq, adding any decision to take military action against Iraq 'will be taken by [Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein'." ( Financial Times , Dec. 28, 2002 ).

  • "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to do the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country" (Hermann Goering, Hitler's number two man, April 18, 1946, at Nuremberg Prison).

  • "In the light of Operation Northwoods documents, it is clear that deceiving the public and trumping up wars for Americans to fight and die in was standard, approved policy at the highest levels of the Pentagon" (James Bamford, Body of Secrets -Northwoods was an official plan to provoke a war with Cuba by killing U.S. civilians and blaming it on Cuba, and though it was never carried out it "had the support of every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." Bamford's book reproduces p arts of that 1962 National Security Agency plan; a summary is given in Harpers' Magazine , July 1, 2001 )

  • Just before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, senator Alan Simpson, who later called reporter Peter Arnett a "traitor," met with Saddam in Baghdad and told him: 'I enjoy meeting candid and open people...I believe that your problems lie with the Western media and not with the U.S. government [and surely not with any deficiencies in Saddam!]..It is a haughty and pampered press; they all consider themselves geniuses.they are very cynical-what I advise is that you invite them to come here and see for themselves" (UPI, September 1, 1990).

  • "We won the mid-terms; this [the proposed regressive tax cuts] is our due" (Vice-President Dick Cheney in November 2002, answering Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's argument that such tax cuts were not justified ( The Guardian , Jan. 12, 2004). The key word "our" obviously does not refer to the U.S. citizenry in general, but rather to the tiny corporate elite of which Cheney, Rumsfeld and many of the rest of the gang are longstanding members, which funds Bush and benefits disproportionately from his tax cuts and other policies),

  • "Profit the unexcelled protector of the consumer." Government regulation represents "force and fraud" as means of consumer protection. The market system is a "superlatively moral system that the welfare sadists propose to improve by means of preventive law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic goad of fear." (Alan Greenspan, writing in a 1966 book edited by Any Rand, his one-time guru: see my letter on Greenspan's appearance for an award at Penn: )

  • "It has become increasingly difficult for policy-makers who wish to practice, as they put it, a more 'caring' capitalism, to realize the full potential of their economies" (Alan Greenspan, Federal News Service, April 2, 1998).

  • In his congressional testimony of July 1997 Alan Greenspan explained that inflation was not rising despite the lowering unemployment rate because of "a heightened sense of job insecurity," which he described elsewhere as the case of the "traumatized worker," helpful in keeping wages down. He didn't suggest that job insecurity or traumatization of workers was a "goad of fear" or had any negative implications for welfare. (Greenspan Congressional testimony, July 22, 1997.) In his book Contours of Descent, Robert Pollin shows that mainstream economists were very slow to recognize greater job insecurity as a key factor altering the unemployment/inflation relationship, but that when they did recognize it this did not trouble them.

  • Liberal economist Janet Yellen, co-author with Alan Blinder of a book on the 1990s entitled The Fabulous Decade , told the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee in 1996 that "while the labor market is tight, job insecurity is alive and well. Real wage aspirations seem modest, and the bargaining power of workers is surprisingly low." (Quoted in Pollin, Contours of Descent , p. 53.) Pollin notes that Yellen and Blinder didn't let this interfere with their conclusion that the 1990s were "fabulous." Apparently these economists, like Clinton , don't "feel pain" as long as only workers suffer.

  • They are also a throwback to 17 th and 18 th century mercantilist analysts, who argued that "high wages would prove destructive of national well-being because they would reduce England 's competing power by raising production costs. The prevalent doctrine held that wages should be kept at the level of the cost of physical subsistence. Hence the apparent anomaly of the laborer's position: whereas his theoretical social importance was large, his actual economic reward was miserably small....[Under mercantilism] the dominant class will attempt to bind the burdens upon the shoulders of those groups whose political power is too slight to defend them from exploitation and will find justification for its policies in the plea of national necessity" (Edgar S. Furniss, Position of the Laborer in a System of Nationalism , 1920, pp. 201, 203).

  • "In my L'ami des hommes I considered matters from the point of view of humanity. I now consider them more particularly from the perspective of economics [i.e., productivity versus support of peasant proprietors]" (L'Abbe Mirabeau, an 18 th century French economist-intellectual, quoted in Leo Rogin, The Meaning and Validity of Economic Theory, p. 46).

  • "The economy is doing fine, but the people aren't" (Brazilian head-of-state, General Emilio Medici, in 1971).

  • " Chile is an economic miracle..Chile is an even more amazing political miracle. A military regime has supported reforms that sharply reduce the role of the state and replace control from the top with control from the bottom" (Milton Friedman, Newsweek , January 25, 1982-by control from the "bottom" Friedman means control by private companies, not workers or ordinary citizens deprived of a vote, freedom of speech, and freedom of organization in the admirable dictatorship. These latter losses do not compromise the "political miracle" for this freedom-lover.)

  • "Pinochet is tough. He is in charge.He speaks his mind. His aides and ministries, mostly civilian professionals, flinch.Peace. Tranquility. Order. Pinochet has brought Chile those things" (Shirley Christian, Miami Herald , November 16, 1980-Shirley Christian was soon thereafter recruited for New York Times service in covering Chile).

  • Peter Munk, CEO of the Canadian transnational, Horsham Corp., explained that Pinochet "had created a model that.has generated more profit per capita in a Latin American forgotten country than in any other comparable period." As to people in jail, Munk contends that the end justified the means "because it brought wealth to an enormous number of people. I mean in my terms. If you ask somebody who is in jail he'll say no. But that's the wonderful thing about our world: we can have the freedom to disagree" ( Globe & Mail , May 10, 1996).

  • "Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel-these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and, above all, let finance be primarily national..The policy of increased national self-sufficiency is to be considered, not as an ideal in itself, but as directed to the creation of an environment in which other ideals can be safely and conveniently pursued..We all need to be as free as possible from interference from economic changes elsewhere, in order to make our own favorite experiments towards the ideal social republic of the future" (John Maynard Keynes, "National Self-Sufficiency," Yale Review , vol 22, 1933).

  • "Conor Cruise O'Brien's rationale for opposing the academic boycott of South Africa is as weak as Hitchens' defense of Noam Chomsky " (Alan Wolfe, Washington Post , October 23, 1988-perhaps the classic of hit-and-run smears of Chomsky, although the competition is keen).

  • There has been "no serious loss of life" resulting from the Bush bombing of Afghanistan because the administration has followed "an almost pedantic policy of avoiding 'collateral damage'" (Christopher Hitchens, The Nation , Dec. 17, 2001-the loss of life from the bombing easily exceeded that of the 9/11 attack, but these were only Afghans so the loss was not "serious." Hitchens' confidence in the civilian-protective concern of Bush bombing policy comes from faith in the truthfulness of those who may have lied frequently in the past but are now so valiantly fighting Islamic fascism).

  • "They hate us because they're losers and we're winners" (Dan Rather. CNN, Larry King Live, Oct. 18, 2001.).

  • "[Dan] Rather could be seen on the satellite going through the motions of a bombing. He practiced describing how it was not known how many casualties were caused by the bombing" (Rather was caught rehearsing coverage of an Iraq bombing run, including his apologetics for civilian casualties, the rehearsal mistakenly beamed to TV affiliates via satellite, "CBS Mistakenly Sends Bombing Report," AP Online, February 20, 1998).

  • "George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions, and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where" (Dan Rather on the David Letterman Show, September 18, 2001. Rather did line up just where Bush would want him to, as CBS anchor-conduit).

  • "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself "(Joseph Pulitzer, "The College of Journalism," The North American Review, May 1904).

  • " Mexico is a country of a modest, very fucked class, which will never stop being fucked.Television has the obligation to bring diversion to these people and remove them from their sad reality and difficult future" (Emilio Azcarraga, late Mexican media mogul, 1991).

  • "When the imagination is continually led to the brink of vice by a system of terror and denunciations, people fling themselves over the precipice from the mere dread of falling" (William Hazlitt, Characteristics ,1823)
  • "Oh reason! When will they long minority expire?" (William Hazlitt, Literary Remains , 1836)

  • First published in Z Magazine

    Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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