Jewbonics has suggested that arguing with someone who holds his readers in such low regard that he will lie about the content of the page they have in front of them (see below) is a waste of time and energy. I understand his opinion, but I disagree. What we have in Al Giordano is a rather more vulgar and blatant version of the thought processes we regularly see dressed up with intellectual polish on the pages of The New Republic or the New York Times.
While he never makes it entirely explicit, the underlying premise of every one of Giordano’s attempts to deny that there are even reasons to suspect US involvement in the Honduran coup is what has been referred to, inter alia, by Noam Chomsky as the “doctrine of ‘change of course’”. The doctrine of “change of course” is essential to the survival of any ideology intended to serve power in that it gives official ideology the elasticity needed to deal with inconvenient facts.
When it becomes impossible to deny the cynicism and atrocities committed by or on behalf of one’s chosen state, the doctrine teaches that one must admit to past crimes (usually euphemised as “mistakes” or the like) while claiming that we need not concern ourselves with what those “mistakes” might tell us about present policy because the state has turned over a new leaf.
In Carter’s day, the self-proclaimed “Human Rights Administration” used its rhetorical (and sometimes not even that) commitment to human rights to declare even recent history irrelevant; this allowed the Human Rights Administration to provide decisive support to such dedicated human rights activists as Anastasio Somoza, Shah Reza Pahlevi, and Augusto Pinochet. Clinton rode into Washington on a similar line (with a little “Place Called Hope” mixed in), and proceeded to orchestrate a positive extravaganza of atrocities in East Timor, Colombia, Iraq, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.
Now, we have Barack “Hope and Change” Obama. One might think, against the historical background just reviewed, that scepticism would be warranted.
Not so, says Giordano, unless, of course, one happens to be a “dishonest” “woefully ignorant” “stupid dinosaur faux-leftist”. These creatures do not argue. They “screech” and have “guns blazing”, they do not propose, suspect, take nuanced positions, or admit to uncertainty. They “[insist] that [their view of the situation is] "THE TRUTH," and the ONLY POSSIBLE TRUTH.”
One might be forgiven for wondering if there isn’t the tiniest bit of projection going on here.
Returning to the real world, Giordano’s beliefs are based almost exclusively on the public statements of government officials, which he takes at face value, and which those who comment on his blog would also do well to take at face value if they don’t enjoy the online equivalent of having excrement thrown at them. I say "almost exclusively" because they are also based on interpreting the relationship between those statements and actual practice in the light most favourable to the Obama Administration.
Thus, the US equivocated for so long about the Honduran coup because Obama, as a former community organiser (see Adolph Reed’s articles from the 1990s on for an examination of that aspect of his career), wanted to let the rest of Latin America take the lead in order to avoid appearing to be a bully. The evidence he offers in support of this interpretation, apart from Obama’s time as a community organiser and his own alleged status as a community organiser, is nil. To interpret the delay any other way, according to Giordano, is “errant” (by which I assume he means “erroneous”), though, again, no argument is needed when defending the Obama Administration.
Indeed, he uses this difference of interpretation (my sceptical interpretation vs. his own credulous one) as an example of my factual claims being “pure fiction”. When the reputation of the Holy State is at stake, interpretation is elevated to the level of empirical fact.
Similarly, in order to avoid being “stupid dinosaur faux-leftists”, we must take at face value State Department statements that they are “still reviewing” whether to formally declare the Honduran coup a coup. Such a determination, as Giordano (accurately, to his credit) states, would render continued aid of any kind to Honduras a violation of federal law (to see how scrupulously federal foreign aid restrictions are followed, see, e.g., Indonesia, Colombia, Chile, Turkey, and the Contra mercenaries under Reagan).
That is to say that the US has been providing military aid to Honduras, is continuing to do so, and is considering whether or not to issue a formal declaration that would require any further such aid to be covert.
This all is adduced as proof that the Obama Administration’s statement – reported yesterday by Democracy Now! – that it did not intend to discontinue military aid to Honduras is “a bold-faced [sic] lie”.
As to the issue of USAID funding to the pro-coup NGO Paz y Democracia, Giordano changes course a bit himself. Instead of providing any kind of source to “refute” this claim, he argues the burden of proof. Since in other cases he at least cites specific sources, it appears that in this case he has none to back up his insinuation that USAID funding abruptly ended on the day of Obama’s inauguration. He then proceeds to argue in the alternative, asserting that an organisation “can have received funds from USAID for one thing and then gone out there and supported a coup even if the US wasn't behind it.”
We then move out of the realm of interpretation and into that of pure nitpicking. I had pointed out that General Romeo Vásquez of Honduras was an “SOA graduate”. Now, the term “graduate” can be used with a number of meanings. One can speak, for example, of a “graduate of San Quentin”, meaning not that that notorious prison provided some kind of diploma, but that the person in question had been incarcerated there. It is true that I did not check to see whether Vásquez received a diploma from the School of the Americas, because it’s irrelevant. My point, rather obviously, was that Vásquez attended the notorious training camp for Latin American torturers and mass murderers. Giordano does not dispute this; indeed, he confirmed it.
“Some of Chavez's military that are loyal to him and overturned the 2002 [coup] were also trained at SOA,” Giordano continues, “Doesn't that make your head explode?” No, not really. That does not change the fact that Vásquez, who uncontroversially attended the School of the Americas, went on to do precisely what a good SOA grad - I'm sorry, former SOA attendee - does: overthrow a government that is showing too much independence and impinging upon US interests.
Once again, Giordano uses “logic” that could also be used to “prove” that the US was not in any way involved in the coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende, the only problem being that 24,000 declassified documents say otherwise. And once again, the issue is not one of fact, but one of interpretation. His quarrel is not with the fact that Vásquez attended the SOA, but with the idea of interpreting it in context. The hallmark of a “stupid dinosaur faux-leftist” would seem to be a willingness to doubt the most innocuous possible interpretation of any given fact.
The point here is not that Al Giordano is a crass apologist for the current administration who resorts to personal insults when short on evidence and argument. The Internet is certainly full of those. The point is that he is an excellent specimen of the sort of ideological acrobats that populate our mainstream press and journals of articulate opinion. His crassness puts in stark relief what is otherwise so subtle as to be virtually undetectable: the operative principle, at all times, is to irrebuttably presume the innocence and good faith of one’s Dear Leader/Party/Holy State, declaring all contrary current and historical facts irrelevant. Even the most damning facts must be interpreted in the most innocuous way possible. Contrary evidence is to be examined in a vacuum, as if each contrary fact were being advanced alone, rather than as one piece of an overall pattern. And, if all else fails, hurl invective and change the subject.
Exhibit A: Giordano’s “Refutation”
Elise - Your claims of "fact" are pure fiction.
1. You claim: "the US dragged its heels on condemning the coup"
I've already explained why that's an errant interpretation, but even if it weren't, it offers zero evidence that the US was behind the coup.
2. You claim: "the US government intends to continue providing military aid to the Honduran army"
That's a bold-faced lie, Elise, and it makes you a dishonest blogger. Issue a correction if you want any credibility left. See today's Miami Herald: SouthCom Chills Ties with Honduran Military. [one wonders whether the chill, unlike previous similar cold fronts, will actually produce a notable change in temperature in Tegus] See also the multiple reports that State Department counsel "is still reviewing" whether to impose the legal classification of "coup," which would [note the operative word "would"] trigger not only the shut off of military aid, but of all other aid, too.
When [i.e. if] they do that, will you admit that your judgment has been clouded by what you want to believe? Or will you just move the goal posts to claim some other definition of what constitutes support for the coup.
As with your claim #1, even if your claims in #2 were accurate (they're not, but I'll play along), it still would not prove US involvement in the coup itself [except, of course, for providing military aid to those who carried it out, which not even Giordano disputes].
3. You claim: "one of the major pro-coup political organisations, Paz y Democracia, receives USAID funds, as well as the fact that the Honduran army is armed and trained by the US and that General Vásquez is a graduate of the School of the Americas."
"Receives" (that's a present-tense verb, Elise USAID funds? Have you any proof of that? Or are did you really mean "received" (past tense). Have you any proof at all that the group received those funds since January 20, 2009? Cough it up, or admit that you're exaggerating and making shit up.
Regarding Vasquez, do your homework. He is not a "graduate" of SOA (SOA Watch will verify that for you), but, rather, he attended the school long ago when it was based in Panama, but he did not graduate it.
Your sloppiness when it comes to these facts only indicates that you haven't done any independent investigation at all. You take claims by others and if you agree with them you presume them to be "fact" when I've just demonstrated that they are not.
And, again, even if your claims were accurate - they're not, I repeat, but playing along with your silly game, I'll say it - neither of those "facts," even if they were true, proves US involvement with the coup [Note that I never claimed that they definitively proved that US involvement, merely that they give cause to suspect it]. Generals can be trained at SOA and then do things on their own. It happens a lot. Some of Chavez's military that are loyal to him and overturned the 2002 were also trained at SOA. Doesn't that make your head explode?
Likewise, a sleazy NGO (and I agree that one is bad news) can have received funds from USAID for one thing and then gone out there and supported a coup even if the US wasn't behind it.
Finally, you say I am "lashing out at anyone who thinks the question is worth asking." That's revisionist history of your posts here. You came in, guns blazing, insisting that it was "THE TRUTH," and the ONLY POSSIBLE TRUTH. Now you're backpedaling because your four "proofs" offered above are less firm than oatmeal [the textbook definition of projection].
Thank you again for proving my point [as with any delusional system, the doctrine of 'change of course' allows all facts, no matter how contrary, to be adduced as proof of whatever point happens to be useful to make]! Let's see if you've got the stuff to post this response onto your blog, too!
My response (suppressed by Giordano):
Finally, you say I am "lashing out at anyone who thinks the question is worth asking." That's revisionist history of your posts here. You came in, guns blazing, insisting that it was "THE TRUTH," and the ONLY POSSIBLE TRUTH. Now you're backpedaling because your four "proofs" offered above are less firm than oatmeal.(emphasis added)
First of all, I never insisted that it was "the TRUTH" that the US was behind the coup. I made it quite clear on more than one occasion that it is entirely possible that it is not. Your claim to the contrary is pure invention, as will be obvious to anyone who bothers to scroll up.
To provide just one quote:
"Does that mean that the US is definitely behind it? No, of course not. There are plenty of other possible explanations for the initial fencesitting (though I have yet to hear anyone propose one). But the suggestion that the Obama Administration, which has explicitly stated that it will continue providing military aid to the Honduran army, might be less than 100% candid, is certainly so absurd as to warrant personal attacks against anyone who raises the question." (emphasis added)
Your "refutation" of the fact that the US has been and currently is providing military aid to the Honduran army is a public statement by an official that the aid to Honduras is being "reviewed". The astute reader will not that that does not even amount to an ultimatum, let alone a statement that aid has been terminated. A similar stratagem was used to assuage public outcry against US material support of Indonesian atrocities in East Timor. Officials announced that aid had been suspended, but it later turned out that the Indonesian generals were completely unaware of the suspension because aid currently in the pipeline continued to flow.
How much weight to assign the claim by US officials that aid to Honduras is under review depends on one's personal judgment of the credibility of the officials and institutions in question. That, in turn, depends on one's view of the relevant historical context, which in the case of Central America shows a consistent line of policy priorities spanning an entire century.
You do not deny this history; instead, you declare it irrelevant, and deride those who would dare examine the wealth of historical context and draw conclusions from it. You have yet to provide any justification for your dismissal of the historical context apart from strident professions of faith in the words of politicians and ad hominem attacks on those who dare raise questions.
It has, in every instance, been you who seeks to shut down any discussion of the subject with insults and personal attacks that range on the bizarre. Indeed, if one eliminates the blatant self-promotion and gratuitous insults from your comments here, they would barely fill a single page.
Your blind spot for any evidence that might suggest that Obama's policies in Latin America are consistent with those of virtually every other president over the past 100 years brings to mind a quote one of your fans posted:
"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." - Flannery O'Connor
The fact that you blatantly misrepresent what I have said on the very page on which it is posted shows just how much contempt you have for your regular readers. One only hopes that they will prove themselves unworthy of it.