Thursday, January 28, 2016

David Garrett and the peace of the dead

In a short, satirical novel written near the beginning of his career, Don De Lillo described the atomic obsessions of an American college football star. The hero of End Zone liked to relax before big games by imagining the world's cities being destroyed by nuclear missiles. Because they can end human life on an unprecedented scale, De Lillo seemed to be saying, nuclear weapons can be imagined as the agents of a sinister peace. All of the world's contradictions and conflicts could be made irrelevant by a nuclear war.

I thought about De Lillo's satire when I read about former Act MP and right-wing activist David Garrett's latest ideas. Writing on Kiwiblog, the website of National Party pollster David Farrar, Garrett expressed enthusiasm for Donald Trump, and suggested that a Trump administration might like to implement a 'Garrett peace plan for the Middle East':

Turn the entire region into a nuclear wasteland uninhabitable for one hundred years - with plenty of warning...My solution is not so much 'mass murder', it is to make the Middle East uninhabitable - and to make the sacred sites that shared - or not shared - by the various groups who claim exclusive rights to them nothing but radioactive pieces of sand. Maybe some of them would still be stupid enough to fight over those...but then the occupiers would get radiation sickness...

Garrett's proposal would probably make sense to Don De Lillo's nihilistic hero. The Middle East is the size of Australia, and has over four hundred million people. Thousand of nuclear warheads would have to fall on the region, if it were to be rendered uninhabitable. So much radiation would enter the atmosphere that the human species would soon become extinct. The world would be at peace.
David Garrett has for years been an obstreperous opponent of Muslim immigration into the West in general, and New Zealand in particular. He has warned of the dangers of the current outflux of refugees from Iraq and Syria, and used a recent column at Kiwiblog to call for New Zealand to close its borders immediately to migrants from majority Muslim nations, including refugees from Syria. It is something of a surprise, then, to see Garrett urging a policy that aimed to create not a few million but a few hundred million refugees from the Middle East.

Garrett became indignant when several Kiwiblog readers queried his 'peace' plan. He denied that the Middle East was such a big area, insisting that it was not much larger than the North Island of New Zealand. He suggested that his nuclear campaign would be aimed at Arabs and Jews, but not at other ethnic groups in the Middle East, like the Persians of Iran. Garrett defended his plan by saying that the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews had no other possible solution:

Being a political animal, I think about such problems all the time...along with hundreds nay, thousands of political thinkers and statesmen over the last sixty years who have applied their minds to solution has ever eventuated. 

It would be comforting to consider David Garrett an isolated crank, and ignore his ideas. But for a decade now Garrett has had regular access to New Zealand's mass media and to popular right-wing websites. He publishes opinion pieces in the New Zealand Herald, had a column in Ian Wishart's Investigate magazine, and is a fixture at Kiwiblog. Despite leaving parliament in disgrace in 2010, when his enemies inside the Act Party revealed that he had been convicted of stealing a dead child's identity and creating a fraudulent passport, Garrett has maintained a following on the right.

Garrett is not the only activist on the New Zealand right excited by Donald Trump. In America, Trump has split the Republicans by substituting a sort of populist ethnonationalism for the neo-liberal policies preferred by the party's traditional elite (in an important article for The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty has shown how Trump's statist populism can be traced back to the campaigns that Patrick Buchanan ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1992 and 1996). Trump has won support from angry and demoralised white working class voters by promising to use the guns and nukes and tariffs to reverse America's decline in the world.
David Farrar and other figures close to the top of New Zealand's National Party seem to share the distaste of most Republican leaders for Trump. But many of the readers of Kiwiblog and of Cameron Slater's Whale Oil blog seem to admire Trump's attacks on Muslims, Mexicans, and liberals.

David Garrett's advice for Trump might seem extreme, but it is not so different from the eliminationist rhetoric that is becoming common when both the American and the New Zealand right discuss the Middle East. In the aftermath of the failure of George Bush's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, conservatives who once dreamed of remaking the Middle East in the image of America have denounced the region as ungrateful and irredeemably barbarous. Whether because of culture, religion, or blood, the Arabs and other peoples of the Middle East are, an increasing number of right-wingers insist, a permanent danger to the rest of the world. They must be quarantined, or nuked, or both.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

bs alert

10:08 am  
Blogger Tom Barker said...

I loved the way you handed Mr Garrett his arse on a plate on Kiwiblog, after he paraded his knowledge of Tongan history

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DG is by his own admission a) mentally ill and b) an alcoholic.

4:24 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There is also J G Ballard, whose 'Kindness of Women' I just finished. He is or was the poet of the apocalyspse. After his experiences in the war, which were a mix of fascination and horror (he admired the Japanese airforce, in fact he admired 'strength', but he also felt that the atomic bomb had saved him...and much more. The book is a fictionalized account and Ballard is obviously much more complex than that. But he and childhood friend volunteered and trained in the US Air Force so that he at least could be in on the action if a nuclear war came.

His books make fascinating reading as he embraces Apocalypses of various kinds. But I think that, in part, his writing of 'Crash', and his great sci fi magic such as The Drowned World, Drought, and The Crystal World, as well as his exhibition of crashed cars etc were all in a way a kind of 'therapy'

There almost seems to be no solution to the impasse of the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But Arundhati Roy, who these days seems to be involved more in political events more than writing, comments that there is a kind of insularity in the US. In countries such as India, where massacres, various wars, and political murders jailing etc and 'terrorism' (however that is defined) occurs a lot and has for many hundreds of years: there and other 'Third World' countries, there is far less of the kind of neurotic response seen in the US, where they seem to be obsessed with guns, murders of schoolchildren, and general madness. The working class have been convinced, long ago, that unions and collective action is "communist".

So, overall, the "solutions" by the (rich) Right and the corrupted and, in many cases overfed (to literal obesity in many cases): their answers are those of children. Terrified or spoilt children.

Trump and his type are dangerous. We may see the rise of another Hitler, another Nazi Germany. A Third World War.

Of course this has all happened before: in the 60s Goldwater and others wanted to use nuclear weapons on China and Vietnam. Before that the inventor of the hydrogen bomb, Teller, paranoid about the USSR, advocated a pre-emptive nuclear strike about 1949.

But nothing is for sure.

10:10 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Another book I remember was 'On the Beach' by Neville Shute. I read it as a teenager. It was at the height of the cold war (later in the late 60s we thought that it wasn't impossible that the US of China would target the West including NZ by a nuclear attack, as in fact, it was those nations that were actually more under duress than the United Madness as Bertrand Russell pointed out in his anti-War books).

Not all were "bad" in the US though. Even Dr. Spock, who wrote about more enlightened (and mostly kinder) ways of dealing with children, wrote strongly against the barbaric US Wars.

But not all is well in the State of Denmark for sure.

10:15 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

'On the Beach' was very moving as we know that everyone, including the young lovers, are going to die.

More amusing, very funny in fact, was a book set in Australia when some nuclear accident caused a mutation and giant carnivorous rabbits evolved. This meant that only a full scale nuclear war in Aussie could eradicate the threat from the Rabbits (or was it The Trumps?)!

And there was the classic movie 'Doctor Strangelove' which is still worth a look at...

10:19 pm  
Anonymous Nuke 'em green - or not said...

Richard leaves out all the positive possibilities of nuclear weapons, eg

Nuclear weapons have always been given a bad name. Even Einstein who's actions ensured the first atomic bomb was built during World War II had grave doubts about this new weapon.
Einstein was one of the greatest pacifists of the 20th century - He never agreed with wars and weapon development at all but he reluctantly decided that the atomic bomb had to be built by the US before Germany built it. I find it hugely ironic how a German Pacifist came to be helping to build humanities most powerful weapon which at that time looked likely to be used against Germany.
Anyhow, the atomic bomb was built and a few busy decades later we had developed many other nuclear weapons and were stockpiling them, our leaders parading them about to show us how big they were.

Im sure you have heard from the media, of the effects of nuclear weapons and their high level of destruction - of life and structures. Im sure you know, that all the nuclear weapons on this planet could wipe it out many times over. Im also sure that you've heard all the fanatics screaming that the end is nigh and that the world must disarm all its nukes at once - for if they dont we will end up destroying ourselves.

Well that is all very pessimistic stuff. Im sure that many of you will have strong negative feelings about nuclear weapons after hearing that sort of stuff all your lives. But have you ever heard the good side to nukes?

When is a war not a war? When its the cold war.

It might have slipped some peoples minds that the cold war was one of the most amazing events in history. We had two hostile powers eyeing each other up and yet never actually entering full blown conflict. Has that ever happened before?
You see nukes might have the potential to kill us all but so far all they have done is saved millions of lives. If the US and the Soviet Union hadn't possessed arsnals of "evil" nukes you can guarantee that the cold war would have turned into world war III.
All over the globe we now have a moderate peace - Unlike throughout the rest of history we do not fear major wars between large powers. China, Russia, Europe and the US - none of these are likely to declare war on each other in the forseable future. The only countries we fear now are relatively smaller and less developed ones. This is a major shift.

Many people have deluded themselves into thinking that this level of peace is how its always been or that its down to modern age diplomacy and communications. But the truth is that its down to nukes and MADness.

6:47 am  
Blogger Richard said...

'Nuke 'em green - or not said...

"Richard leaves out all the positive possibilities of nuclear weapons "

Well, that wasn't my point, we are talking about an action that is a pre-emptive action (e.g. Teller's plan for a preemtive strike)

In fact, I used to believe very much in just that advantage of nuclear weapons. But nowdays I am not so sure. But so far it seems to work. I don't see a major war with nuclear weapons but there is no knowing.

"Nuclear weapons have always been given a bad name." I see that and see your point but (aside from it's irrelevance to the topic above by Scott), they are indeed perhaps an almost inevitable development once humans begin to know about the atom. Some would argue that thus we are inherently doomed, as we haven't shown much real ability to maintain this planet or to restrain from wars. But indeed there have been no major world wars on the size of WWII etc since the major powers gained nuclear capacity. China was left alone as they had missile capacity in the 60s and were determined to win a nuclear war. A nuclear war doesn't necessarily mean the end of the earth. However, it doesn't bode well for most of us...

"Einstein was one of the greatest pacifists of the 20th century - He never agreed with wars and weapon development at all but he reluctantly decided that the atomic bomb had to be built by the US before Germany built it. I find it hugely ironic how a German Pacifist came to be helping to build humanities most powerful weapon which at that time looked likely to be used against Germany...."

It is a pity that Einstein is always automatically associated with the atomic bomb when in fact it was Leo Szilard who invented and patented the chain reaction. He then persuaded Einstein (who had never considered the war or military use of nuclear power (nor had Rutherford who said:"Moonshine" when asked by Szilard at a lecture if it could ever be used in any useful way (let alone war or weaponry). I read 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' by Richard Rhodes which is a great book, and rightly won the Pulitzer. It is all in there. Then, close to the end, when they realised that neither the Germans nor the Japanese had the atomic bomb, scientists including Szilard tried to petition the President, but by then the US Army wanted to use it. Get a weapon, a big one, and a man, especially a man I think, wants to use it on the perceived "enemy", and they did.

Einstein's linking of mass and energy were important but more so was his status, as it was Oppenheimer who lead the Manhattan project and you could go back to Democritus for the origins of atomic theory. It is sad that Einstein was part of it, but in a sense it is understandable as neither he nor Szilard or others knew what the Germans had. As it was the scientists never (and still dont) know for sure how big a nuclear explosion is going to be, as it is a probabalistic model predicting the resultant explosion.

Ballard was (or his 'character' in 'The Empire of the Sun' and 'Kindness of Women' was fascinated by the bomb and it's final implications.

I think the 'madness' ("Crash","The Drowned World" etc) in some of his books reflects this fascination with termination and ultimate total destruction (potentially)...

10:05 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I don't think that anyone is totally a pasisfist or totally a warmonger. We live in fear of others "out there". The same thing in us that makes us feel fro others seems to be linked to our capacity for absolute cruelty. So fascism, Nazism, "barbarism", nihilism etc are really things inherent in all of us.

"It might have slipped some peoples minds that the cold war was one of the most amazing events in history. We had two hostile powers eyeing each other up and yet never actually entering full blown conflict. Has that ever happened before?"

Slipped there minds? If someone is a historian, that is hardly likely. Most people, understandably, simply would rather not have war. Or wars. The cold war was a phenomena, I lived through it and recall the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were all very frightened.

Was it the fault of the US or the USSR? Well, it takes 2 to Tango. I think that overall the USSR, with all its faults (Krushev, briefly was like a breath of fresh air as was J R Kennedy at the time - Krushev was recalled and Kennedy was assasinated by a madman (or whatever theory you have of it, it was something that didn't surprise us, but again, Kennedy's assassination was like a physical shock to us even here in NZ, I was 15, my oldest sister 18 I think and she said: "It could only happen in America." (Perhaps to sound sophisticated). My father wasn't happy, as although, English, he admired the US in many ways.

So in theory, then, to get back to it: the deterrent value of nuclear weapons is one argument: but this all starts to drift away from responsible use of weapons (or non-use).

If Trump gets into power (if we can use that term, but he does, I think, become the Commander in Chief of the US Military and can order a war or a nuclear strike, in theory, at least): if so, he might, given the kind of paranoia and hysteria of his followers (some might be like the "patriot" Bundy etc who want certain states in the US to rule themselves or something, but certainly they stockpile and carry armed military weapons big time, hence the recent tragedy in Oregon): these kinds of people might form a kind of Nazi type of party, suspend elections and turn the US into a Militay State with Trump and other racists and paranoics in charge. Then the first strike and damn the consequences policy could well happen.

However, it is not possible to know.

10:21 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Pacifist" (lol!) I meant.

10:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of ignorant crap is spread about nuclear war.

If your not a nuclear physisist then you should not talk about the subject.

My cousin is a nuclear physisist and has shared with me.

He says a nuclear war would not be so bad as everyone says.

WW1 was far worse.

If you have to fight war then nuclear is the least bad option.

But better not have wars ay.

11:54 am  
Blogger Richard said...

So if we are not doctors or artists we shouldn't talk about disease, illness (our own or others), or if not artists, we dare not speak about art, or if not mechanics we daren't talk about our car. To speculate that, if our car stops, it may have run out of petrol, would be absolutely naive and stupid, as we are not trained mechanics...

Well that sorts that out! Your brother is a physicist (or is he a Sisyphist?) so all is now revealed. Nuclear wars are, as he says, not so bad. We don't need to worry, we can take an aspirin.

But I think that Scott's point was not about the great benefits or relative good / badness of nuclear war, as the attitude of those who want to immolate the Middle East where the Jews and Wogs are, but only there, so it will only afftect them, the Wogs and Jews etc and, well, the oil installations can be rebuilt by robots. So that's all cleared up!!

Garrett is on to something!! Hoorah for War!! Long live Volkner!!!

Long live the Physicists and the Wonderful Scientists!! Down with Pacifists and those who are not Scientists!!! Hooooraaaaahh!!!!!!!!

4:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, looks like I got another prediction wrong. I wrote back in December that if and when Trump lost, he would claim that the vote was rigged. Incorrect. As it turns out, he ended up claiming that Cruz cheated.

This is the single dumbest thing he’s done since he got into the race, including his decision to skip the Fox debate — which even he thinks might have hurt him.

Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it. That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016

During primetime of the Iowa Caucus, Cruz put out a release that @RealBenCarson was quitting the race, and to caucus (or vote) for Cruz.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016

Many people voted for Cruz over Carson because of this Cruz fraud. Also, Cruz sent out a VOTER VIOLATION certificate to thousands of voters.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016

The Voter Violation certificate gave poor marks to the unsuspecting voter(grade of F) and told them to clear it up by voting for Cruz. Fraud

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016

And finally, Cruz strongly told thousands of caucusgoers (voters) that Trump was strongly in favor of ObamaCare and "choice" – a total lie!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016

Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016

9:59 am  
Blogger Richard said...

It's hard to follow US politics. Who is who is always confusing. Then one can waste a lot of time caught in the politics trap. Better to chill out. It will all work out in the wash. Time cures all.

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