Some Choice Morsels, Past and Present

  • “I think
    all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs
    of Iraq” (Paul Wolfowitz, 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, February 2001,
    before the propaganda line was firm). 

  • “We are
    able to keep his arms from him [Saddam Hussein]. His military
    forces have not been rebuilt” (Condoleeza Rice in April 2001,
    also before the party line hardened). 

  • “No one
    can now doubt the word of America” (George Bush, 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

  • “No cause
    can justify the loss of innocent lives” (Colin Powell in
    August 2003, commenting on innocent lives lost after an Al Qaeda
    attack; he would no doubt qualify this to take account of “tragic

  • “According
    to Livy, the Romans conquered the world in their own defense”
    (Edward Gibbon,

    Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


  • “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, 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” (January 2003—“UN
    process” as used here means getting the UN to do exactly
    what we want, which if not successful, and we 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” (Senator Bob La Follette, Sr., June

  • “Lord Robertson
    said NATO had a ‘moral obligation’ to support a U.S.-led
    war on Iraq, adding any decision to take military action against
    Iraq ‘will be taken by [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein’”

    Financial Times

    , December 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 person). 

  • “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—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…”). 

  • “Shortly
    before Saddam invaded Kuwait, the good senator [Alan Simpson,
    who later called reporter Peter Arnett a “traitor”]
    met the Butcher of 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” (Miron Ruzen). 

  • “We won
    the mid-terms; this [the proposed regressive tax cuts] is our
    due” (Vice President Dick Cheney in November 2002, answering
    O’Neill’s argument that such tax cuts were not justified.
    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
    seeking…is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.”
    Government regulation represents “force and fraud” as
    a means of protecting the consumer. The market system is a “superlatively
    moral system that the welfare statists propose to improve upon
    by means of preventive law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic
    goad of fear” (Alan Greenspan, writing in a 1966 book edited
    by Ayn Rand). 

  • “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, in
    April 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. In his book

    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

    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.” 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 17th and 18th 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,

    of the Laborer in a System of Nationalism

    , 1920).

  • “In my

    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 18th century French economist-intellectual). 

  • “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, January 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

    , Nov. 16, 1980—Shirley
    Christian was soon recruited to cover Chile for the



  • 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, 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, 1988—perhaps the champion 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 Afghans. Hitchens’s confidence in
    the civilian-protective concern of Bush bombing policy comes from
    faith in the truthfulness of those who have lied frequently in
    the past, but are now “valiantly” fighting Islamic fascism). 

  • “They hate
    us because they’re losers and we’re winners” (Dan

  • “[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). 

  • “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,” Sept. 18,
    2001—Rather did line up 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, 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,


S. Herman is an economist, author, and media analyst.