The Revolt Against Reason: Jonathan Freedland’s latest polemic broken down

A response to Ratko Mladic was unlucky. These days most war criminal go free

Notes on Nationalism [see HERE] was a short essay written by George Orwell in 1945. The title might have been a little misleading since the term ‘nationalism’ as it is commonly understood, was not the object of his investigation. His purpose was to explain and analyse a type of mindset which has migrated to and colonized other areas of mental and social life.

He explains:

‘’By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’… But secondly – and this is much more important – I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit placing it beyond good or evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. I am only using the word ‘nationalism’ for lack of a better. Nationalism in the extended sense in which I am using the word, includes inter alia such movements and tendencies as Communism, political Catholicism, Zionism, anti-Semitism, Trotskyism and pacifism.’’

Jonathan Feedland explains his ethical stance

I suppose Freud would have explained this in terms of attachment to a specific love object, be it a nation, race, political or religious belief systems, or even a football team. The phenomenon is ubiquitous, and Reason seems as weak as straw by comparison. But these emotional allegiances can also be very unstable; it is not at all uncommon to see a radical 180-degree shift from one belief system to another. Someone like Christopher Hitchens moving from the Marxism of his early days at Oxford and the Socialist Workers’ Party to an almost neo-con position just prior to his death. This was a copybook repeat of the defection of a group of left-wing American intellectuals to neo-conservatism in the post-1945 period, Irving Kristol being the leader of the cult.

Suffice to say that in recent times we have been subject to a prime example of ‘nationalism’ viz., a media tsunami of what can only be called religious fundamentalism – a trend which seemed triggered by Brexit-Gate and Russia-Gate. Pick up any newspaper, tune in to any news channel, and it’s an even bet that one or both these topics will come up. But these items are not news as such, they are political constructions, or party lines, based upon a fabricated narrative, which in turn is predicated on a specific world-view, a view which I would define as liberal utopianism, with heavy neo-totalitarian overtones.

An archetype of this contrived approach is well illustrated by the reputed ‘journalist’, Jonathan Freedland, Zionist honcho at the Guardian. On 24th November 2017 he wrote an article ‘’Ratko Mladić was unlucky. These days most war criminals go free.’’

The article dealt with the trial of Mladic who was accused of war crimes in Yugoslavia, although this is contested, by prominent figures on the left, including Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali. In these situations, it is always difficult to know who to believe in the in the all-enveloping propaganda fog. But even if Mladic was guilty as Freedland asserts, the diatribe which followed was noticeable by the glaring contextual omission of NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign – an aerial blitzkreig of a defenceless civilian population in Serbia and other parts of Yugoslavia (Kosovo) where Serbs had also been present for generations. Even the New York Times had to admit to at least 500 civilian deaths. Moscow (Yeltsin’s Moscow) put the figures much higher.

In the course of the bombing campaign, NATO launched 2,300 missiles at 990 targets and dropped 14,000 bombs, including depleted uranium bombs and cluster munitions (unexploded cluster bombs continued to pose a threat to people long after the campaign was over.) Over 2,000 civilians were killed, including 88 children, and thousands more were injured. Over 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave their homeland in Kosovo.
source: RT

Suffice it to say that bombing of unarmed civilians and civilian infrastructure is a war crime, as is bombing or invading a country which was not threatening or at war with the United States. Thus, lying by omission and reporting out of context has become the usual method of the propagandist.

He then goes on to say:

‘’No tyrant has the right to kill with impunity, even if it is within his own borders.’’

Unless of course he is ‘our’ tyrant, as was initially the case with Noriega (‘he may be a sonofabitch but he’s our sonofabitch’) and Saddam. Both of these former CIA assets, ‘got whacked’ – to use entirely apposite mafia terminology – when they started getting big ideas, similarly with Gaddafi. In addition, according to Freedland, killing within borders is apparently an unconditional evil worthy of international sanction (which, depending on the context, may or may not be true) but killing outside of our borders – Obama’s drone strikes and the saturation bombing of any number of countries ranging from Yugoslavia to Libya, well that’s ok.

It is indeed very impressive to see this double-think and double-standards at work. One is humbled by its grandeur. Orwell describes this as follows:

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians – which does not change its moral colour, when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

Back to Freedland:

Meanwhile, civilian blood is shed every day in Yemen, by the Saudi-led coalition; and in Syria, at the hands of the Assad regime and what remains of Isis. Who would bet on the perpetrators of those crimes ever standing in a dock?

Yes, the American backed and armed regime in Saudi-Arabia has been actively engaged, albeit not in frontline operations, but its behind the scenes involvement has enabled this merciless outrage possible. Predictably the American involvement is once again omitted. Even Assad gets sucked into the vortex of Freedman’s convoluted mind-set. Mr Freedland might like to note that ‘Blood is being shed in Syria’ since there is a war going on – a war against the jihadis, which Syria is winning, and we should be glad that it is. But at this point the assertions are beginning to sound like a self-righteous rant.

At the same time, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, a small but widely admired NGO similarly engaged in crucial evidence-collection in Syria, has had its US government funding cut off – perhaps as the precursor to a US-Russia deal that allows Assad to get away scot-free having slaughtered hundreds of thousands.

Poor old Assad! ‘Slaughtered hundreds of thousands’ (sic!) Actually, his crime was defending his country against a foreign backed Jihadi invasion. Outrageous, a crime against humanity!

Talking of getting away ‘scot-free’, brings me to the elephant in the room – Israel. Israel is an apartheid, expansionist, racist state. It’s crimes against the people of the middle-east, including most of all the Palestinians are common knowledge, as also are its lobbying activities which have apparently secured the unwavering support of the US. (see The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt)

In terms of being let off ‘scot free’ let us consider one, Menacham Begin, leader of the Irgun paramilitaries and his co-conspirator Yitzhak Shamir ex-Irgun who joined the even more extreme terrorist group the Stern Gang. Both were leading figures in the terrorist campaign in Israel in the late 1940s. Terrorism too strong a word? Well in July 1946, Begin planned the destruction of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where one floor was used by British intelligence, detonating an explosion which killed over 90 people, mostly Arabs. They went one better in April 1948. The inhabitants of the Arab village of Deir Yasin were simply massacred outright: 250 Arabs; men, women and children were summarily murdered. Of course, this is nothing new.

October 14-15, 1953 — Under the command of Ariel Sharon, Israeli squads attacked the unarmed Arab village of Qibya in the demilitarized zone. Where they blew up 42 houses and killed more than sixty residents who were trapped inside. The details were so gruesome that (incredibly) the U.S. joined in a U.N. condemnation of the Israeli action, and for the first and only time, suspended aid to Israel in reprisal.

Then came the Sabra and Shatila Massacres in 1982. At approximately 18:00 on 16 September to 08:00 on 18 September 1982, a widespread massacre was carried out by the Lebanese Phalangist militia virtually under the eyes of their Israeli allies. The Phalanges, allies to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), were ordered by the IDF to clear out Sabra and Shatila from Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters, as part of the IDF manoeuvring into West Beirut. The IDF received reports of some of the Phalanges atrocities in Sabra and Shatila but failed to stop them. Approx. 450 to 3500 Palestinians were murdered – the figures are disputed, and the true figures will probably never be known.

And on and on … things haven’t changed much.

Those responsible for this and subsequent Human Rights outrages were never charged with anything. In fact, they became heroes and rose to the highest positions in the Israeli state. As well as it leaders Israel as a state is of course beyond criticism, as is the United States and its vassals. These are the good guys of course, the indispensable peoples, and have been mandated by a higher power to reconfigure the world in their own image. Thus, Freedland’s list of Human Rights abusers – which of course excludes Israel – is hardly objective, indeed it is a propaganda exercise.

The narrative formulated, imbibed and regurgitated by these apologists of empire requires a particular type of mental dexterity usually consisting of four approaches. 1. The nationalist believes without reservation his own propaganda so there is no question of him ever actually lying. 2. He is aware of the existence of some awkward and compromising facts which might undermine his sacred beliefs and mission, but since this might challenge the authority and nobility of his cause, lying and suppression of counter-narratives becomes acceptable – for the greater good. 3. ‘’ … he not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by this own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.’’ (Orwell op.cit) 4. He is a hack pure and simple and will write anything he gets paid for. Presstitute.

In general terms the nationalist descends to a lower level of mental judgement, both rational and ethical, as soon as his love object is in any way threatened or disparaged. He argues and analyses in a way which he would readily recognise as infantile within the sphere of everyday realities and immediate personal interests. He becomes a primitive again his thinking – if we can call it that – becomes associative and affective. Such is the essence of this psychic aberration. Indeed –

Some nationalists are not far from clinical schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connexion with the physical world.
Orwell, op.cit

We no longer have a media worthy of the name; we have a propaganda machine. A Ministry of Truth stretching from the ‘’soundly conservative to utterly reactionary’’ to use Ralph Miliband’s apt description. A daily scripted fog-horn ramping up the population for war against Russia; and we have been brought to this impasse by a cabal of fanatics ensconced in an ideological bubble – the neo-conservatives – who are frankly deranged. But this group of cranks could never had succeeded if it were not for the sell-out by the one-time guardians of the liberal class and its institutions –e.g., Freedland at the Guardian and Friedman at the New York Times being prime Ideologues – which had traditionally acted as a countervailing power to the dark forces in the CIA, Pentagon and Military Industrial complex. Grim times ahead.

La Trahison des Clercs? You bet!


Originally published: Frank Lee (Off Guardian)

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