I first asked myself this question in January, 2013, when I read this story:
Secrecy of Memo on Drone Killing Is UpheldThe judge's predicament is straight out of the novel:
"I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret,” she wrote.
“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” Judge McMahon wrote, adding that she was operating in a legal environment that amounted to “a veritable Catch-22.”
-NY Times on Drone killing of US citizens
"Catch-22 states that agents enforcing Catch-22 need not prove that Catch-22 actually contains whatever provision the accused violator is accused of violating."Come below the Orange-flavored cotton for more sur-reality.
- Joseph Heller, Catch 22
The US intelligence complex's version of Catch-22 is: every time a terrorist incident proves that we already have too big a data haystack to locate the needle that actually WAS in it, we need to make the haystack bigger; and we need to take away more of your rights.
Bruce Schneier, a security expert, argues, terrorism is a needle-in-a-haystack problem, and dumping more hay on the stack isn’t going to solve it. In fact, it can make the problem harder.But (and it is a great, big "but"), Big Data is a very profitable placebo for the private contractors (like Booz, Allen, Hamilton) to whom "we" have outsourced government intelligence operations.
Did Big Data help anticipate the subprime crisis? No. It didn’t, because more data doesn’t make you smarter or more prescient...No volume of data will generate the right question...In fact, the opposite is true: big data is a counter-terrorism placebo.
- Forbes magazine The practical case against Big Data
And this is where America really starts to feel like Catch-22; because when Joseph Heller wrote about Milo Minderbinder and his private, for-profit "syndicate" operated with US (and German) airplanes, it was over-the-top satire. Now it is reality.
The Milo Minderbinder character becomes a central pillar of the non-stop satire that is Catch-22. In a signature incident, Milo hires German pilots (who, of course, are members of his trans-national "Syndicate") to bomb his own US airbase:
This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes...Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made. He could reimburse the government for all the people and property he had destroyed...And the sweetest part of the whole deal was that there really was no need to reimburse the government at all.Was Donald Rumsfeld channeling Milo (and laughing up his sleeve) when he said:
"In a democracy, the government is the people", Milo said. "We're the people aren't we? So we might as well just keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I 'd like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry. If we pay the government everything we owe it, we'll only be encouraging goverment control and discouraging other individuals from bombing their own men and planes. We'll be taking away their incentive."
It is clearly cost-effective to have contractors for a variety of things that military people need not do, and that, for whatever reason, other civilians, government people, cannot be deployed to do...No mention by Rumsfeld of heavily-armed Blackwater mercenaries operating under no code of conduct at all - and making gigantic profits for killing people. But Heller was way ahead of the curve on this topic.
But I personally am of the view that there are a lot of things that can be done on a short-time basis by contractors that advantage the United States and advantage other countries who also hire contractors. And that any idea that we shouldn't have them, I think, would be unwise.
- D. Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld's Speech on the Future of Iraq (2005)
This predicament indicates a tension between traditional motives for violence and the modern economic machine, which seems to generate violence simply as another means to profit, quite independent of geographical or ideological constraints.Meanwhile, post 9-11, all of us civilians were supposed to wave flags and support Bush-Cheney in their fraudulent international gangsterism. We were supposed to humiliate ourselves on a regular basis at airports, where the restrictions became increasingly absurd. It is all just so Catch-22:
- Wikipedia, Catch-22
Almost overnight, the Glorious Loyalty Oath Campaign was in full flower...All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around, there was another loyalty oath to be signed.One last Catch-22-ism that really rankles is the displacement of real business investment by crooked financial game-playing. The wholesale corruption of Wall St and the regulatory agencies under Clinton, Bush, and Obama cannot be less absurd than this typical conversation with Milo:
Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated and bullied by the administrators appointed to serve them...When they voiced objection, the captain replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to.
Yossarian: I don't understand why you buy eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell them for five cents.21st century crooks, I mean edge fund traders and stock arbitragers, have nothing on Milo.
Milo: I do it to make a profit
Y: But...you lose two cents an egg.
M: I make a profit of 3 cents an egg by selling them for 4 cents to the people in Malta that I buy them from for 7 cents an egg. Of course, I don't make the profit. The Syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.
Y: And the people you sell the eggs to at 4 cents apiece make a profit of 3 cents apiece when they sell them back to you at 7 cents apiece. Why don't you sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from?
M: Because I'm the people I buy them from. I make a profit of 3 cents apiece when I sell them to me and a profit of 3 cents apiece when I buy them back from me.
At the end of today in America, we are face-to-face with Catch-22:
Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."Such as:
- Install GW Bush by a SCOTUS coup.
- Destroy a century of campaign finance laws
- Let any lunatic, anywhere buy as many guns as he wants
- and protect vigilantes with SYG laws when they murder people.
- Destroy the VRA.
- Rehabilitate black racism.
- Turn women back into non-voting baby factories.
- Frack the entire country with a free pass from the EPA.
- Ignore the climate change that is roaring down on us like an express train.
That's only what we can't stop today. In closing, I can only offer the following counterpoint.
Both America today and Catch-22 have a minor character named Snowden, who serves only to illuminate the central truth of the predicament. Both have volunteered to put themselves in harm's way, and both suffer the consequences. The Snowden of Catch 22 reveals to Yossarian that war is murderous butchery of innocents. The Edward Snowden of today's NSA reveals to America that it has become an eternal warfare state, a militarized police state.
The correct analysis of America, based on Edward Snowden's testimony, is best put in an epic rant by Chris Floyd:
Fuck Off And Die.And, there is so much more in this epic rant and necessary antidote to the "billows of (Catch-22) bullshit" that envelop us.
This is the lodestar guiding leaders of every political stripe across the breadth of western civilization. If you want to make your way through their billows of bullshit, hold fast to this phrase. It’s what they’re really saying to you...
To put it plainly, the elites don’t need us anymore -- or not many of us, anyway. And thanks to runaway population growth -- and the greasy mobility of global capital -- those few of us they do still need to keep the machinery going can be easily replaced, at any moment, by some other desperate chump trying to avoid destitution. So there is no longer any reason for elites to concern themselves with the wearisome creatures out there beyond the mansion gates and the penthouse glass. No need to worry about workers’ rights: if they get out of line, sack them, or even better, send the whole operation overseas, where sweatshop fodder is thick on the ground and comes dirt cheap. No need to worry about communities, the personal, social, economic and physical structures that gave a richer embodiment to ordinary life: just strip them, gut them and leave them to die -- and when the rot gets bad enough, as in Detroit, send in an unelected “manager” to pick the carcass clean.