The Purpose of War According to George Orwell (1984)

The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process — by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible not to distribute — the machine did raise the living standards of the average humand being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction — indeed, in some sense was the destruction — of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.

To return to the agricultural past, as some thinkers about the beginning of the twentieth century dreamed of doing, was not a practicable solution. It conflicted with the tendency towards mechanization which had become quasi-instinctive throughout almost the whole world, and moreover, any country which remained industrially backward was helpless in a military sense and was bound to be dominated, directly or indirectly, by its more advanced rivals. Nor was it a satisfactory solution to keep the masses in poverty by restricting the output of goods. This happened to a great extent during the final phase of capitalism, roughly between 1920 and 1940. The economy of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of cultivation, capital equipment was not added to, great blocks of the population were prevented from working and kept half alive by State charity. But this, too, entailed military weakness, and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare. The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built.

In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another. By the standards of the early twentieth century, even a member of the Inner Party lives an austere, laborious kind of life. Nevertheless, the few luxuries that he does enjoy his large, well-appointed flat, the better texture of his clothes, the better quality of his food and drink and tobacco, his two or three servants, his private motor-car or helicopter—set him in a different world from a member of the Outer Party, and the members of the Outer Party have a similar advantage in comparison with the submerged masses whom we call ’the proles’. The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.

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Paper details Gonzales’s decade of dishonesty

Alberto Gonzales’s difficult relationship with the truth has led to calls for a special prosecutor to investigate claims that the attorney general perjured himself during Senate testimony. But as the Washington Post points out Monday, Gonzales and honesty have had a shaky relationship stretching back more than a decade.

“Whether Gonzales has deliberately told untruths or is merely hampered by his memory has been the subject of intense debate among members of Congress, legal scholars and others who have watched him over the years,” report the Post’s Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein. “Some regard his verbal difficulties as a strategic ploy on behalf of a president to whom he owes his career; others see a public official overwhelmed by the magnitude of his responsibilities.”

Gonzales’s apparent willingness to dissemble in order to protect himself or President Bush stretches back to at least 1996, when he intervened to prevent then-Gov. Bush from serving jury duty in Texas, the Post notes. Not until its second-to-last paragraph, however, does the Post article remind readers that by not serving jury duty in the drunken driving case Bush was able to keep his own drunken driving conviction a secret for several more years.

“He’s a slippery fellow, and I think so intentionally,” University of Texas public affairs professor Richard L. Schott told the Post. “He’s trying to keep the president’s secrets and to be a team player, even if it means prevaricating or forgetting convenient things.”

Questions about Gonzales willingness to protect Bush in relation to the drunken driving case were first raised last year by Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. If Bush had served on the jury he would have had to reveal his own past conviction, but Gonzales convinced the defense attorney to ask that Bush be kept from the jury on the grounds that he may be called on to pardon the defendant.

The Post outlines Gonzales’s recently disputed testimony regarding the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which has led four senators to request a special prosecutor’s investigation, and his involvement in last year’s dismissal of nine US Attorneys.

Schott told the Post that Gonzales’ “almost subconscious bond of loyalty” to Bush might be behind his dissembling.

“It’s obvious that Gonzales owes Bush his career,” Schott said. “Part of his behavior comes from this gratitude and extreme loyalty to Bush.”

Testifying in April about the US Attorney firings, Gonzales said more than 60 times that he could not remember events or facts related to the dismissals, including a high-level meeting in his office when the firings were approved.

Gonzales has few friends left in the Capitol, on either side of the aisle. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Arlen Specter (PA) and Jeff Sessions (AL) all scolded Gonzales when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

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FBI searches home of Alaska Sen. Stevens

Ted StevensThe FBI and IRS have searched the home of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in a ski resort in Alaska as part of an investigation into his links
with an oil-services company, officials said on Monday.

“The FBI and IRS are conducting a court-authorized search warrant in Girdwood, Alaska,” an FBI spokesman said in Washington, but gave no further details.

The Alaskan politician, the longest-serving Republican in the U.S Senate in history, issued a statement saying: “My attorneys were advised this morning that federal agents wished to search my home in Girdwood in connection with an ongoing investigation.

“I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence the outcome,” the statement said.

Girdwood is about 40 miles south of Anchorage, the state’s largest city.

Stevens is the subject of a grand-jury investigation into his links with managers of VECO Corp., the state’s largest oil-services company, as well as numerous unrelated fisheries matters.

In May, Bill Allen, then the chief executive of VECO, along with a vice president, Rick Smith, pleaded guilty to several federal corruption charges. The two admitted paying over $400,000 to bribe Alaska lawmakers.

Allen had been a financial supporter of Stevens’ campaigns and a partner with him on a race horse. He also oversaw the a project to remodel Stevens’ Girdwood home in 2000, vetting bills and construction work.

The Anchorage Daily News has reported that contractors who worked on the remodeling of Stevens’ home had their records subpoenaed by the federal grand jury.

Stevens is the former chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. During his tenure as chairman of the committee, Stevens developed a reputation of delivering federal funds to public works projects in the state. (Additional reporting by Dai Wakabayashi in Seattle)

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Piehole Comment: He’s building a series of tubes! Just for fun

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Film director Bergman dies at 89

Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema and an artist who changed the way the world perceived the movies, died Monday, local media reported. He was 89 years old.

Bergman died at his home in Faro, Sweden, Swedish news agency TT said, citing his daughter Eva Bergman. A cause of death wasn’t immediately available.

Though he worked almost exclusively in Sweden, Bergman became, through his long directorial career (1946-2003), the prime example of the film director as serious artist. He was a filmmaker who regularly tackled serious subjects and profound themes—love, death, guilt, redemption, psychological and sexual traumas, the relationship of man and God—and an artist who elevated filmmaking to the same lofty plateaus as great literature, music and theater. Though his range was narrower, he was the Shakespeare of his age.

Lauded for his films’ brilliant acting, shocking imagery and beautiful cinematography (the last thanks to his great longtime collaborator, Sven Nykvist), Bergman created numerous classics over his 57-year directorial career (from 1946’s “Crisis” to 2003’s “Saraband.”)

That long list includes “Smiles of a Summer Night” (1955), “The Seventh Seal” (1957), “Wild Strawberries” (1957), “Winter Light” (1963), “Persona” (1966), “Shame” (1968), “Cries and Whispers” (1972), “Scenes from a Marriage” (1973), “The Magic Flute” (1975) and “Fanny and Alexander” (1982).

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Sean Smith: Inside the Surge

Sean smith

Sean Smith in Iraq Inside the surge: the provinces
An exclusive film from Guardian photographer Sean Smith on his time embedded with the US Marines in Iraq’s mountain division in the so-called Triangle of Death.

Sean Smith in Iraq Inside the surge: Baghdad
Sean Smith spent two months embedded with US troops in Baghdad and Anbar province. His harrowing documentary exposes the exhaustion and disillusionment of the soldiers.

A Lebanese woman waits for help after emerging from a shelter in a bombed-out shop during a lull in the fighting in the village of Bint Jbeil. Photograph: Sean Smith Iraq: The Real Story
This film explodes the myth around the claims that the Iraqis are preparing to take control of their own country.

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