Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Man Who Sold the War

In it's continuing quest to stop being the paper of record, the New York Times went ahead and printed this here piece ghost-authored by one General Mark A. Milley. It's the sort of thing that's become the norm among "serious" journalists since the Bush era - falsehoods wrapped in falsehoods and presenting the nagging question of if these people are liars, fools, or some adaptive combination.

Let's start with the falsehood that serves as the premise for the entire article: The US Army is actually good at counter-insurgency warfare. This is the position of General Milley, therefore it is the position of the Times and their stenographer Helene Cooper. No polite American careerist is allowed to dispute anything said by the US military and it's not like the Times actually wants to ask the tough questions anyway, that might hurt their access. Instead, they regurgitate Milley's claim that the Army has been fighting guerillas and terrorists so long, they've forgotten how to wage a conventional war in the classic NATO versus Warsaw Pact scenario.

As anyone who's been following the War on Terror could have told the Times - and Milley - that is the exact opposite of the problem. It took four years of occupying Iraq before brassholes like Milley would even admit to an insurgency and the solution - the much vaunted "Surge" of 2007 - was an exercise in Americans striving to feel good about themselves. Bombings and beheadings went down but not even David "Lost a quarter-million Kalashnikovs" Patraeus would acknowledge that common guerilla doctrine is to go to ground when the enemy is out in force. American patrols spent more time zipping up and down the Baghdad streets in their humvees while the various militias had a nice sit down with some pistachios and shisha as they waited for the big dumb Yankees to finally get bored and go home.

If you still think it was such a strategic success, just look at the abbatoir that is the Sunni Triangle today. The existence of ISIS is due entirely to the US military's failure at counter-insurgency operations. Zoom out to include Libya and Afghanistan, and it becomes all the more certain as one is a failed state and the other is a divided territory with more than half the real estate owned by the Taliban everyone thought was over and done with in 2002.

So that's the heart of Milley's thesis right out the window - but we're not stopping there! No, this general just can't stop being wrong. About everything.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the War on Terror hasn't been a total failure, there's still Milley's argument that the US Army doesn't know how to fight a conventional war. This might at first seem like a legitimate concern, after a decade and a half of counter-insurgency and all the resources flowing into the much vaunted Special Operations. However, this claim is quite simply false as demonstrated by, well, anyone who's been through the Fort Benning School of Infantry in all this time. Or the stated doctrine of the United States Marine Corps. Light infantry craft may not get as much attention in Michael Bay movies but it's still taught, drilled, and drilled again by the two services who would take the brunt of a conventional land war. Even the Rangers, everyone's favorite JSOC skinheads, are first and foremost shock infantry.

Don't take my word for it, take it from former Ranger medic Stan Goff:

The mystique of Special Operations (including the Rangers, who are the Special Operations’ shock infantry component) is useful as a deterrent, but it is not reflective of a reality. The Pentagon and others want you and the rest of the world to believe this mystique, because your fear and the fear of the rest of the world is what maintains the efficacy of a huge bluff. This government wants us to spin out as many scary fantasies as possible, because it serves the dual purpose of either portraying opponents of the military as “conspiracy nuts” or promoting precisely the myth of spooky invincibility that keeps us in line.

Goff was writing on the Pat Tillman fratricide, an event that didn't do much for said mystique of the Rangers or for then Secretary of Defense Rumsfled's claims of "good news" from Afghanistan.

Related to that debacle, the assassination of Osama bin Laden by DEVGRU - a stage-managed affair where some forty to sixty SEALs met no resistance as an ISI officer lead them through the compound to their target. Neither of these cases do much for the mystique of Special Operations but they would hardly lend credence to any claims that US troops have somehow forgotten how to fight a "regular" war.

But let's grant that too, for the sake of argument. The DOD has been so good at fighting terrorism that it's forgotten how to fight a real war and then oh no! The Russians are rolling on Berlin!

Seriously, the Times article presents Russia as the next big threat...

Again assuming for the sake of argument that Putin actually wants to conquer the world rather than just the good beachfront property of Crimea, this does not present a convincing argument for some grand Back To Basics military doctrine because of the one word the Times article refuses to use: Nukes.

America's got 'em, Russia's got 'em, and if you really think a full-on land war in Europe won't see 'em fly, just listen to what a retired Russian general has to say:

The journalist asks again, like just to make sure: "We [the Soviets] would have struck first?" and the General says again, "Of course!"  
And he makes it real clear that he's not just talking about conventional first strikes. The interviewer says, "But [Soviet] Foreign Minister Gromyko said that the USSR would not use nuclear weapons first!"  
I love Burlakov's answer: "He said one thing and we [the Soviet staff] thought another. We are the ones responsible for wars." 

Nothing they teach at Camp Lejeune or Fort Benning can overcome a mushroom cloud, rendering Milley's thesis moot. Even if it wasn't already wrong.

"But what about China!" says anyone trying to look smart. "They're a much more likely opponent in this hypothetical World War III and won't use their own nukes because reasons!"

So let's assume a US versus China war - sans nukes. In that case it would be a naval engagement in the South China Sea, leaving Milley to twiddle his thumbs at CENTCOM.

And it would be a clusterfuck.

Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.

Those are the exact words of the US Naval Institute, admitting that this final scenario is over before it starts. You don't even need a nuke in a ballistic missile - hell, a bunch of rocks would disable the runway of an aircraft carrier, and that would mean no more air power projection. Factor in speedboats firing swarms of cheap missiles and it's Battle of Salamis meets the Keystone Kops.

At every level, the argument that the US Army needs to revitalize it's most bread and butter branch is ridiculously wrong. So why did Milley take his story all the way to a credulous New York Times? Well, there's the usual duplicity of anyone with stars on their shoulders auditioning for a lobbyist job. But look at where Milley is:

In West Africa, Army and Special Operations forces are working with militaries from Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and other countries to try to stem a recent wave of attacks by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has taken to hitting hotels and other tourist sites. 
And in East Africa, American military advisers and trainers are working with regional counterparts to fight the Qaeda-affiliated Shabab... The United States is also working in Africa with former Russian satellite states like Angola...

The US is again following in the footsteps of past empires and delving into Africa. Sure, there's Bokos and Shababs and all but there's also billions of dollars worth of the minerals needed to make the mobile device your reading this on right now. Securing precious resources, whether from reactionary dickweeds or democratically elected governments, has always been the purpose of American military power for the past century.

General Milley is singing an old familiar song, and nobody at the New York Times cares that he sings so badly.

Monday, May 9, 2016

What Innovation?

With Donald Trump poised to campaign as the anti-establishment upstart for the rest of this year, let's take a look at the philosophy underpinning his whole image: that business produces something good.

The connection between capitalism and innovation is more than a cable news talking point, though it contains all the veracity. This assumption has, if not driven decades of legislation and popular opinion, at least served as the purported reasons for aligning more and more of the world towards corporate interests. Letting "entrepreneurs" do as they wilt supposedly fires the imagination of all the John and Sally Galts, sitting in their usually inherited executive suites. This is presented as a good thing for everyone as whatever these rugged individualists can dream up will trickle down to the rest of us who are too busy working to come up with the Next Big Thing.

What is never addressed is how much good said Next Big Thing might actually be. This is an important point to consider, as so much of the "innovative" tech industry is at best a solution looking for a problem. The fact that so many of them don't work is another issue never addressed in polite conversation or TED Talks. This is inevitable though, as the much-vaunted free market begins and ends with products.

When it comes to artistic expression and scientific inquiry - the only meaningful human endeavors - capitalism fails even more thoroughly. You can go see various Hollywood stars wailing on each other in spandex and CGI right now to see what happens when film is a slave to the market, or just go back through half of this blog. As far as the sciences the record is much much worse.

In fact, business interests are actively stymieing scientific research. From outrageous operating costs to rent-seeking patents on knowledge, "free enterprise" is demonstratively neither in the ever more important field of genetics. Worse still, the demand for pseudoscience and quackery rewards charlatans from climate change denialists to that Blood Type Diet moron. Theories that are wrong and outright harmful, but maintained by the vagaries of a market predicated on irrational consumer desires.

And then there's the not so small matter of NASA. Space flight remains the most titanic - and titanically expensive - human achievement but the ultrawealthy United States hasn't been beyond Earth's orbit since 1972. Unless you count unmanned drones and you don't. No one does. As has been pointed out before, there is no profit-motive in travelling to the stars so there has been no "innovation" in forty-four years.

The coddling of the business class does not promote any real innovation or progress. It just sanctifies monomania.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

James Joyce on Yo Mama

In Dubliners, James Joyce examines the condition of women in Irish society most notably through "The Boarding House" and "A Mother." In both stories, a mother seeks to establish her daughter securely in society but must find a subtle, even underhanded means of doing so. Their relative success in this endeavor lays bare the absurd restrictions on women of the time and how such a state contributes to the development of a sly and conniving personality.

"The Boarding House" centers on Mrs. Mooney, the proprietress of the titular house, and her schemes to offload her own daughter Poly onto a husband. Having witnessed her own husband squander her father's meat business on drink, she addresses this problem with an at times brutal pragmatism, allowing her daughter to flirt with the young men who pass through her house. Rather than seek to protect her daughter, as would typically be expected of a mother in a time of such strict norms governing the sexes, she allows her daughter to become involved with one boarder to such a degree that Polly finds herself pregnant.

While such a condition would normally be a crisis for an unwed girl in this time and place, her mother sees an opportunity. Mr. Dornan, Polly's paramour, holds a respectable job with a winery which he cannot afford to lose and comes from a financially stable family, clearly of better means than the proprietress. Considering her daughter's flirtations and the how Joyce elsewhere leaves sexual situations implied but unspoken, it is questionable whether or not Mr. Dornan is indeed the father. However, the mother skillfully manipulates him into entering into marriage with her daughter, ostensibly to soothe her outrage.

Mrs. Kearney of "A Mother" attempts similar, if less scandalous, advancement of her daughter but finds less success. A woman of only middling ability but enough to understand the benefits of propriety, Mrs. Kearney pushes for Kathleen, her musically inclined daughter, to perform at a local community hall. Mrs. Kearney takes the vocation much more seriously than her own daughter, who simply enjoys accompanying the theatrical productions and either out of ignorance or indifference does not press the matter of her contracted pay. Mrs. Kearns presses on her behalf, harrying the old and lame director of the hall who argues for the hall's strained finances as the reason Kathleen cannot receive the full amount. Mrs. Kearney challenges this claim, asserting that were her daughter a man then she would receive the full amount, which instead earns a condescending dressing down by the director. Though Mrs. Kearney made a salient point, and though her daughter was indeed entitled to the contracted amount, she went about claiming the money in a manner considered inappropriate for a woman by society.

Through Mrs. Mooney and Mrs. Kearney, Joyce illustrates how women, though limited by social norms, may still exercise their own agency. However, he also demonstrates how doing so requires cunning and moral flexibility, in the contrast of the success of Mrs. Mooney and the failure of Mrs. Kearney. Such compromise reflects the broader condition of a people under foreign occupation, as the Irish were for so long under the British, where the indigenous population finds traditional means of economic advancement limited and so must connive new, morally questionable methods in order to survive.

Monday, April 18, 2016

On the Inherent Toxicity of Fandom

So I just read the stupidest fucking thing this year. America's bourgeois geeks and dweebs have found a progressive hero in the comic book and film hero who punches people while wearing the Stars and Stripes. He's a totally non-toxic manly-man, except for that whole killing foreigners thing.

That last point never appears in the article of course. Talking about the super leftists creds of a super-soldier only works if you forget the soldier half of the eqaution. You could maybe excuse the World War II escapades of the character, as long as you never look up the opinions of actual GIs, but you've got decades of imperialistic misadventures afterwards. That Chris Evans as Steve Rogers is filmed looking thoughtful and concerned about America building more and more superweapons doesn't change the fact said supwerweapons continue getting built - which only doesn't look supervillian-evil because there are nice two-dimensional alien invaders to worry about.

But that's getting off our main topic and dicking around in the muddy logic of the MCU, which only follows marketing logic anyway. Rather, the article's refusal to engage with the blood-soaked history of American foreign policy is what really makes it objectionable. The closest it ever comes is this swooning over an entirely fictional person:

Steve Rogers isn’t a warrior so much as he is a guardian. His first instinct is to throw himself into harm’s way in order to save others, regardless of whether he’ll survive or not. He quite literally threw himself on a grenade in order to save his unit during basic training. When it became clear that the only way to save the US from the Red Skull’s super-weapon, he rode that sucker into the ground in order to make sure that nobody else would get hurt. In fact, it’s pretty significant that Cap’s’ signature weapon is a shield, an inherently defensive tool... It doesn’t cut, it doesn’t thrust, it doesn’t penetrate, it blocks. It’s there to protect, not to destroy. And that shield is the symbol of Steve’s rejection of violence qua violence.

That all sounds nice and fluffy if you forget it was the exact character interpretation of decorated sociopath and racist Chris Kyle in the utterly forgettable American Sniper. Film-Kyle lacks the crude cruelty of the Kyle in his own autobiography, instead presented as just so concerned with protecting his fellow Americans... from the people whose country they invaded.

The various geek fandoms, whether superhero films or video games or whatever, never engage with these ugly realities. They can't as anything that breaks from the escapist value of the product will alienate potential customers. Not may, but absolutely will. You can't present an honest look at the world without upsetting someone, and that means one less source of revenue.

Geek cultural products may be creative, even inspired in rare cases, but they exist to serve a corporate bottom line. That market logic shapes them root and branch, and further shapes the fandoms surrounding them. An example: The Force Awakens is at best an adequate action movie, trading on nostalgia and the lack of Jar-Jar Binks to appear as something more grand. And also because something grand is what the fandom desperately craved, so anything not objectionably terrible was bound to be celebrated as "recapturing the magic."

That very magic was a fluke born of circumstances but it was a very profitable fluke, meaning many many attempts to do it again but built from a sterile marketing perspective rather than any imagination and soul. The MCU embodies this philosophy, constituted of two or three fun popcorn flicks and half a dozen snoozers - with more and more to come!

This is exactly what the fandom wants. Not just in films but in video games and comic books and the turgidly long fantasy genre that pretends to be real literature. Fandom is nothing more than consumption and brand loyalty, to which all artistic efforts are secondary concerns. Just because Superman isn't still telling you to "Slap a Jap" doesn't make him any less of a corporate pitchman. And just because the current movie incarnation of Captain America isn't bitching and moaning about liberated women doesn't change the fact he stands for the nation of pre-emtpive war and drone assassinations.

The fandom will not engage with this aspect of the character because it would go against the very nature of fandom: finding a safe place to hide from the scary world. That's the really toxic aspect of all these superheroes, the all-encompassing fantasy they promote. It's a reactionary brainwave that the fans crave, no matter how progressive they claim to be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Philosophy in the Bathroom

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and consider the premises driving public life. Especially in America, where no one can ever speak the truth without endangering their ever diminishing career prospects. As I don't have a career to speak of, I can speak any truth that happens across my radar - namely that the current trans-panic over restrooms and other facilities is driven by delusion.

Hands up, all of you who have used a public toilet designated for the opposite sex. And that should be everyone reading this who isn't a Mormon as there is a time honored tradition of practicality trumping propriety in the dive bars of this Great Nation. I know I'm not the only one to skip the line for the Men's room and go into the unoccupied Lady's when I've had a couple beers and you're lying right now if you say you haven't. Or you're really boring.

But that's admittedly a low bar as so many bars don't differentiate their two restrooms that much. Some places just have two identical closets with a single toilet, a sink, and usually a lock on the door. The more economical establishments will have a single head, with men and women using it without any anxiety.

A large public restroom is another issue entirely - or it is if you never ask why that's so. Gentlemen, do you worry a trasman might check out your junk at the urinal? How is that any different from every other time you've taken a piss in public? Maybe I haven't seen every possible layout but in my experience there ain't a whole lot of space between those things.

The same question holds for the women who worry about a transwoman primping in front of the mirror with the rest of them. How is it different from the norm? And how could you tell anyway, check to see who pees standing up? That might say more about you than you're ready to admit...

This fear of boy's in the girl's room and girl's in the men's room loses whatever flimsy rationalization it had once you account for homosexual desire. Getting back to urinals, a dude can easily check out another dude - if he's a creeper - and no state legislatures are fretting over that scenario. If the legislators themselves are any indication, it's already a common occurrence.

Which brings us to the subject of high school locker rooms, and all the Victorian malakas begging us to think of the children. Does a transgirl's right to use her preferred room trump a cis-girl's right to not potentially see a penis? I didn't know teenage girls were in the habit of going commando in front of each other enough for this to be an issue, which is probably why it's phrased much more vaguely. "What if it makes the other kids uncomfortable?" ask people who have clearly forgotten what it's like to be a teenager.

You know what else can make kids uncomfortable in a locker room? Everything! From body image problems to the still socially normative homophobia to just wearing the wrong brand of sneakers, kids will never feel safe around each other. That's a reality every American over the age of fourteen has experienced first-hand, and yet it never enters this conversation.

So what's the solution? You could just not give a flaming toss - that's my view and the view of everyone else with more important things to worry about, like a paycheck or utility bills. A law restricting your access to a toilet by what it says on your birth certificate is less enforceable than SOPA, so go forth and crap freely. And if you're really that invested in the anatomy of the person in the stall next to you, you have problems no state laws could ever fix.

UPDATE (04-16-16)

 Predictably, one of the men responsible for the bathroom bill has been creeping on thirty-four women. Jeremy Durham joins Larry Craig and Mark Foley in the august collection of Republicans who personally need legislation to keep it in their pants.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Unsung Classics: Olivia Manning

White Americans love St. Patrick's day and not just for the happy hour specials. Today is the one day of the year white people are permitted an ethnic identity that isn't tied up in slavery and empire and basically every bad thing of the past three or four hundred years. In fact, since Irish history is full of invasion and oppression, it can give comfortable crackers that much coveted victim status they're always striving for!

But more importantly there's the literature. Irish writers have had an influence on English-language literature far greater than their meager numbers and you've certainly seen all the respectable publications posting lists of classic and newly classic novels from folks with names starting with "O" and "Mac." The lists might even appear novel to the illiterate hoi poloi but if you dig reading, you know all the heavies already. Joyce, Flann O'Brien, whichever Roddy Doyle novel the listicle author likes that isn't The Commitments...

So instead, the good people and gnomes here at VectorPress are gonna learn you about the magnificent Olivia Manning!

Technically Anglo-Irish, her unmoored upbringing was quite typical of those born just before the revolutions of the 1920s. As was her "sense of belonging nowhere" following Irish independence from the British Empire. Elizabeth Bowen wrote from a similar place, though much more bitterly. Manning stands out not just for her output - six novels on World War II alone! - but also for how she manages to convey a crushing normality in the middle of the biggest geo-political restructuring of the 20th Century.

Manning writes what she knows across both The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy. And what she knows is the dull ridiculousness of expat existence, first in Romania and later in Athens and Cairo. The Balkan Trilogy begins just as everyone thinks the Iron Guard ends, though it soon returns as fascism was just so darn popular in Europe prior to 1945. Though across the first two novels, there is only ever one proper battle and it doesn't even get as violent as a Baltimore protest against police brutality. The war is always something just on the horizon, even in The Levant Trilogy once the main characters have washed up in Cairo, injecting an anxiety into the humdrum domestic drama of Guy and Harriet Pringle.

Guy, you see, is an idealist. A strident Marxist, supporting Revolution despite his vocation as literary lecturer for the cruel British Empire's many far-flung posts. He takes this commitment all the way to opening his own home to every tramp and con man - like the charmingly parasitic Yakimov - who should happen to pass through his life. Loved by all and viewed as possessing the highest moral character, all while making his wife Harriet miserable.

Harriet is of course the sympathetic one in this narrative and it serves as more than just an indictment of her shallowly political husband. Rather, Guy's starry-eyed view of the human condition - and by extension the radical leftism of Manning's time - is contrasted with Harriet's very practical concerns of how the two of them are to live and avoid becoming a statistic in a war that doesn't show any sign of stopping. Repeatedly called a reactionary for her indifference to first Greek and later Egyptian poverty, Harriet still comes across as the practical and even-minded of the pair simply because she does not seek to save everyone.

Not that saving anyone is really an option. Manning presents a harshly naturalistic world, where death comes without warning and often without reason. A foreign office functionary is gunned down on the road from Budapest, a sensitive boy is disappeared twice for the crime of being rich more than for being Jewish. And then there's the fate of poor old Yaki...

Really, Yakimov is the star of The Balkan Trilogy. An impoverished White Russian aristocrat, he keeps up a churlish yet endearing Bertie Wooster shuffle from his first appearance in Budapest to his sensless finale in Athens, always with a witticism or a charmingly self-deprecating story or just a petulant pleading for one more round of drinks. He'll pay you back, old sport. Just as soon as his remittance comes through.

Manning's talent is making you feel compassion for dull if not outright contemptible people. When Guy thinks Harriet has died in one of the many impersonal attacks of the war, he regrets taking her for granted and grows just enough as a character to easily snap back to his old habits once she shows up alive. The venal mediocrities who burrow into the good professorships at Alexandria, who are just trying to survive like everyone else. And Guy never pursued his own interest as Harriet encouraged him, trusting in the natural goodness of humanity which the events of his life should have long since disproved.

Then there's the singular experience of Simon Boulderstone in The Levant Trilogy. A British Army officer deployed to the North African theater just as Rommel is starting his famous blitz, he crosses paths with the Pringles while looking for the promiscuous girl his elder brother had claimed as a girlfriend, Edwina. He befriends Harriet mostly because she's there, much as she befriends him, and the young officer's half of the narrative provides a look into the actual fighting. Like the private lives away from the front lines, it's just as mindless as confused. Nearly dying a few times in stupid and preventable ways, Simon still always finds his way back to Cairo and the fantasy of Edwina. Simon's motivations are more than just platonic and the girl might even have taken him up on it had she no better prospects - much as the Romanian gal Sophie flirted with Guy blatantly in front of Harriet in the hopes of getting a British visa through marriage. Again, people just trying to survive while the world loses its marbles.

Harriet remains the one constant throughout all these schemes and hysteria. Not because she can exert any control over her own situation. Far from it - Harriet is buffeted by circumstance and her own self-defeating impulses as much as anyone else but she retains a self-awareness the others lack. Sophie and Edwina truly believe they love their meal tickets, just as Guy truly believes he is helping to uplift the common man against the bourgeoisie by teaching young men poetry and directing the occasional Shakespeare play. Harriet counts her victories much more realistically and humbly, like cajoling an extra bit of meat or cheese out of a shopkeeper already hurting from the wartime rationing.

Control is the one thing all the other characters seek and never really find. It's a notion likely born of Manning's own sense of lacking control as she had such a mixed up - and often plain missing - ethnic identity at a time Europe was destroying itself over which ethnic identity was superior. That sort of atavism is still alive in the world - as ISIS and the "I'm one fifths Irish!" white American demonstrates - making Manning's epic exploration of absurd misery all the more pertinent.

And it's just a cracking good read.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Liberals for Empire

It should come as no surprise a self-proclaimed "Goldwater Girl" thinks the Contras were keen. To paraphrase Ted Rall, Hillary Clinton never met a war she didn't like.

What should come as a surprise is all the card-carrying liberals trumpeting her neocon bullshit as the latest victory over Sanders and his movement for common human decency. Should come as a surprise - probably does for some of you dear-hearts - but really doesn't. As I mentioned last time I commented on this bummer of an election, American liberals love blood and violence when it's their own team pulling the trigger. Hell, I'm guilty of it myself!

And Democrats really do have a history as good imperial managers. Much like the British, who raped everyone and everything they could find below the equator for a century. Just because they're good at it doesn't mean it's not objectively terrible.

But that raw ugliness and evil of global empire is still a foreign concept to Americans of every political persuasion. This is to be expected with the Tea Party and the Trumpers, as their entire raison d'etre is spite and hatred for life. But it's still a bit shocking to see the folks who still kvetch over Bush's wars turn around and advocate for basically more of the same.

Rather, it would be shocking if this hadn't been going on for the past decade. At least.

[T]he real responsibility for the Iraq war lay not with Bush but with the Lettermans, the Wolf Blitzers, the CNNs, the New York Timeses of the world -- the malleable middle of the American political establishment who three years ago made a conscious moral choice to support a military action that even a three year-old could have seen made no fucking sense at all.

A so-funny-it's-sad way of paraphrasing the position of the US media and political class on the Iraq war is "We shoulda invaded on Thursday instead of Tuesday." And that simplistic We're The Good Guys notion is shared by many of the rank-and-file liberals who marched and protested and all turned very silent once a black Democrat was commanding the exact same drone executions as a Texas dipshit.

This goes back decades, well before Reagan but let's start in the '80s anyway because it was the worst era ever. Also because Sanders is getting flak for not disavowing the Sandinistas, who are now the Bad Guys for the liberal press because reasons. Reagan's financing of the Contra death squads who targeted the FSLN gets most of the attention but it was really just SOP for the US at the time in every sovereign nation south of the border. Like El Salvador:

When she heard the screams, Rufina, who together with her children had been sitting on a bench with her back to the front wall of the house -- the wall facing the church -- climbed up on the bench so that she could look out a small window high up in that wall. Through the window she saw soldiers leading groups of men from the little whitewashed church -- blindfolded men whose hands were bound behind them. Each pair of soldiers led five or six men past the house of Alfredo Márquez and took them out of the hamlet in various directions. After a time, she saw her husband in one group, and as she watched, along with young Cristino, who had climbed up next to her, eager to see what was happening, they both saw him -- Domingo Claros, twenty-nine-year-old woodcutter, husband of Rufina and father of Cristino, María Dolores, Marta Lilián, and María Isabel -- bolt forward, together with another man, in a desperate effort to escape the soldiers. But there was nowhere to run. The men of the Atlacatl levelled their M16s and brought both men down with short bursts of fire. Then the soldiers strode forward to where the men lay gasping on the ground, and, unsheathing their machetes, they bent over them, grasped their hair, jerked their heads back sharply, and beheaded them with strong blows to the backs of their necks.

The El Mozote massacre was conducted against suspected Marxists, just like hundreds of others. All with the tacit approval if not active support of US intelligence and special operations. Stan Goff provides some excellent snapshots - including the bumbling alcoholics from the State Department overseeing all this horror - in Full Spectrum Disorder. But to see how things really don't change, you have to read his first and arguably better book, Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti. It recounts his time with 3rd Special Forces ODA 354 in the first Clinton era, trying to do an invasion and occupation humanely so as to relieve his old and battered conscience - and just how doomed his efforts proved to be:

Are you anti-FRAPH?
They're a death squad network.
According to the task force command, they're to be treated as the legitimate political opposition.
They're still death squads. Were we ordered to work with them, too?
No, you weren't ordered to work with them, but it sounds like you harassed them.

There's more in the book of that bureaucratic double-think. So much more, but it's not what got Goff brought up on charges that "were either silly or pure bullshit, but a couple of them were true..." It was his own team, his comrades-in-arms who were just as indoctrinated to the American fantasy of Good vs. Evil as Salon knobs like Amanda Marcotte. Not one of them would ever self-identify as liberal - a few were anticipating race war in the bucolic Clinton years and are likely strident Trump supporters today - just like no Hillary Men or bourgeois feminists consider themselves on the side of death squads. Except maybe this guy.

The liberal interventionists have just as much blood on their hands as the neocons. They used to try and hide it but with Sanders showing he can win, they've all lost their marbles and wouldn't even blink at a Clinton-Kissinger ticket come November. 'Cause there are bad guys to kill, dontcha know.