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April 5, 2003

Of course, this Bruce Sterling column reads even more like a Bruce Sterling story:
Admiral Poindexter’s PROF interoffice email system (powered by an IBM mainframe) seems pretty backward nowadays, but there was an unmistakable Enron-style genius in routing charity money and Saudi profits through Israeli arms contractors to buy munitions for Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries. John Poindexter, Oliver North, Elliot Abrams, Richard Secord, John Singlaub, Robert MacFarlane, Adnan Khashoggi, Manucher Ghorbanifar: These legendary innovators created something truly new and brilliant—an offshore, autonomous, self-financing, global, anticommunist venture-capital outfit big enough to fight a private war against a sovereign nation. Lieutenant Colonel North liked to call it Project Democracy. It ran loops around Congress the way offshore Internet porn rings dodge the US Customs Service. […]

Considering the audacity of the scheme’s challenge to Constitutional authority, its principals have done surprisingly well in the years since. […] But the real success story is the Contras, or rather their modern successor: al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s crew is a band of government-funded anticommunist counterrevolutionaries who grew up and cut the apron strings. These new-model Contras don’t need state support from Washington, Moscow, or any Accessory of Evil. Like Project Democracy, they’ve got independent financing: oil money, charity money, arms money, and a collection plate wherever a junkie shoots up in an alley. Instead of merely ignoring and subverting governments for a higher cause, as Poindexter did, al Qaeda tries to destroy them outright. Suicide bombers blew the Chechnyan provisional puppet government sky high. Cars packed with explosives nearly leveled the Indian Parliament. We all know what happened to the Pentagon.

The next Iran-Contra is waiting, because the contradictions that created the first have never been resolved. Iran-Contra wasn’t about eager American intelligence networks spreading dirty money in distant lands; it was about the gap between old, legitimate, land-based governments ruled by voters and the new, stateless, globalized predation. The next scandal will erupt when someone as molten, self-righteous, and frustrated as John Poindexter uses stateless power for domestic advantage. That’s the breaking point in American politics: not when you call in the plumbers, but when you turn them loose on the opposition party. Then the Empire roils in a lather of sudden, indignant fury and strikes back against its own.

[10:33 AM]
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Comments on Of course,:

Scott Martens ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2003, 03:57 PM:

Karl Marx said that he expected the state to just whither away. Apparently, he was on to something, but I don't think this is what he meant. A state is an institution that exercises and protects its monopoly on violence, at least acccording to Gellner, and Sterling is right to point to the new free market in violence as scary.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2003, 05:40 PM:

Already known to have happened, in Watergate. Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA, but in the pay of CREP (suitably laundered, of course).

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2003, 06:34 PM:

Well, I understand that John Kerry's campaign computer has already been mysteriously missing?

Obviously, there is an excellent argument that Ronald Reagan's feigned stupidity and ignorance (and George H.W. Bush's REAL stupidity and ignorance) watching over the Iran-Contra gang was every bit as destructive to the national fabric as Watergate.

Thank you for showing us it was probably a hundred times worse. I picked a bad week to give up sniffing glue.

pi ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2003, 07:47 PM:

Re: "John Kerry's campaign computer .. already ... mysteriously missing"

Amazing the things that seem to go wrong to people who pose problems for Karl "clean hands, dirty tricks" Rove.

Re the "breaking point in American politics:" I wonder at Sterling's optimism, which rings a hollow note of determinism to my ear.

I think Watergate is actually the exception here, and the rule lies more along a line that approximates points including Kissinger's overtures to the N Vietnamese before the '72 elections and October Surprises I and II. Sure, the Empire roiled a little over Iran-Contra, but the principals are still cooking.

What might've sufficed in post-Vietnam DC to bring down the government doesn't seem like it would have -- or did -- make the tare in Reagan's America. And so on.

Having the goods on Bush won't help if we haven't got the power to make them stick.

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2003, 08:34 AM:

Can someone post a link to the Kerry computer story?

The Boston Globe (in the person of Tom Oliphant) is after Kerry for the regime change speech:

pi ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2003, 11:41 PM:

Jon M:
Atrios has a copy of the Mar 14 Chronic article in his archive here or try there maybe. Not to worry: "No one suspects any Watergate stuff." No one.