Deep state ambivalence

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Deep state ambivalence. I feel schizoid about the U.S. "deep state," i.e. present and past military and intelligence bosses, in their conflict with President Donald Trump. He recently revoked security clearance for former CIA head John Brennan, who hit back in the New York Times.

They've become the heroes of "left" institutions like CNN, the Times and the Democratic Party, who call them "patriots."

The excellent, pseudonymous blogger, Lambert Strether, says Brennan "organized torture and extraordinary rendition," backed immunity for telcos doing "warrantless surveillance," organized Obama's "kill list" for drone assassinations -- including a U.S. citizen -- without due process, etc.

Since the Second World War, they've served up countless wars across the globe. They got 9/11 wrong and justified attacking Iraq, leading to global chaos and neo-Nazi drift.

Yet these villains stand between Trump and a potential coup. I don't think that's any longer unthinkable and much of Trump's "base" would cheer. But who would help him pull it off -- the losers who chanted "Jews will not replace us" at Charlottesville? He lacks crucial "deep state" military and security support.

Does that make them patriots? They've kept the U.S. in a stew of paranoia and armed overextendedness for nearly a century, thwarting use of resources to build decent universal social programs.

What would real patriots do? Allocate national wealth for their own citizens while not creating enemies everywhere else. As a result, they'd have failed to produce a mass of terrified voters ready to back Trump's thuggery, and wouldn't need deep state thugs to block him.

Uri Avnery. Israel's most prominent, yet ebullient, internal critic died Monday at 94. He'd been a soldier, politician, editor and writer — the latter most consistently. He wrote weekly columns until a stroke three weeks ago. His last began, typically, recounting "a friendly conversation" he once had with Ariel Sharon, his polar political opposite. He talked to everyone, including Yasser Arafat and the PLO, before it was respectable (and sometimes illegal) in Israel.

Israel's biggest daily called him a man of the "hard left." The rest of us should be so hard. He was open till the end, always learning. He'd begun politically in the Irgun, a right wing terror group historically related to the current Netanyahu government's party, Likud. But he moved left.

One admirer has described his life as sprawling. It's true, but like many seminal public figures, it was also circumscribed. He spent his first 10 years in Germany, then after the Nazi rise, moved to Israel in 1933. His concerns were sweeping yet focused on a few key issues.

One was fascism. It determined his life's course. He pondered it undogmatically. He once called it the meeting between a "very special" personality and a comparable situation. Both were needed for it to happen.

Even more central was Israel's role as a Mideast nation. He considered this essential and returned to it in that last column: "Are we looking towards Jewish centres like New York, London, Paris and Berlin, or are we looking towards our neighbours, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo?. We are not temporary tenants in this country … therefore we must become peaceful neighbours in this region."

It's odd that this could even be controversial but it has been a core debate. Theodor Herzl, political Zionism's creator, thought Israel would be a Western outpost, a "mini-Switzerland in the heart of the Middle East," said one writer.

He was the last great dissenting voice of the founding era. They weren't many but they resounded. Scientist Yeshayahu Leibowitz was fierce. He said Israeli soldiers in occupied territory risked becoming "Judeo-Nazis."

Philosopher Martin Buber opposed unrestricted Jewish immigration even in 1942 because it would destroy chances for a just society. He knew he'd be called a "traitor."

Avnery differed in being, as he told Robert Fisk, an "incorrigible optimist." As cause for hope declined, I suppose he relied on future generations who, in the nature of things, aren't known till they emerge.

One positive sign? In Israel at least, if less so beyond it, his death was treated seriously and respectfully, even by Likud members, like president Reuven Rivlin, and far right leader Naftali Bennett, who said he "opposed [Avnery's] positions but we are a democratic country." Grudging respect is the best.

This article was originally published in the Toronto Star

Image: Justin Norman/Flickr

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