Marc Estrin : Pea of the Month

Image from OB Rag.


“Keep your eye on the pea.” “What pea? Where?” “The one under the shell, this shell, here. Got it?” “Yeah.” “OK. Now watch carefully.”

By Marc Estrin / The Rag Blog / April 5, 2011

First The Holy Trinity spoke only of imposing a no-fly zone. That — and “all necessary measures” — code for military action — to protect innocent civilians against Gaddafi’s forces.

It’s widely understood that “a no-fly zone” is most often the first step towards broader military engagement, and adding the UN license for unlimited military escalation was crucial to getting the U.S. on board. The “all necessary measures” language also appears to be the primary reason five Security Council members abstained. For Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil, that phrase meant giving the Pentagon and NATO a blank check backed by UN legitimacy.

Some supporters of the resolution insisted on explicitly excluding a “foreign occupation force.” But any U.S., British, or French troops arriving in Libya could easily be disguised as an “assistance team” or “training mission” or any diplomatic pseudonym.

After getting support from international bodies on that understanding the Trinity immediately began to wage war against Libyan military forces, and whoever was nearby, a level of direct U.S., British, French, NATO and other international military intervention which went far beyond the “no-fly zone but no foreign intervention” that the rebels wanted, escalating the militarization of the entire region and internationalizing the military battle.

In yet another breach of international law, the president announced an “Obama doctrine” — an approach to situations where U.S. action is not imperative but desirable, in concert with the international community.

Then, to smear the blame, he shifted command of the no fly zone over to NATO — a front for U.S. military control — itself commanded by U.S. admiral James Stavridis.

The claim is that UN Resolution 1973 “allows everything except boots on the ground.”

So why are twenty-two hundred Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune preparing to deploy off the coast of Libya? And who in Libya is gathering intelligence to call in all the air strikes? Those CIA trainers on the ground probably wear boots.

And who are the rebels we are supporting at the current cost of $100 million/day? It seems that the newly denominated rebel leader, Khalifa Hifter, has spent the last 20 years living just outside Washington, ten minutes from Langley, and with no clear means of support.

NATO, BTW, may order ground forces into Libya, Adm. James Stavridis admits. He recently told Congress that “while allied forces were not yet considering the deployment of troops on the ground in Libya, it was a possibility.”

Some have termed this mission creep. To me, it seems more like mission bait and switch.

The great American pastime

If one follows the money flow, the great American game is surely no longer baseball, but rather Bait ‘n Switch. Americans, for all their smarts around sports, are mindless suckers for various shell and pea games, in which they are always the victims.

Some peas begin with P’s — protect, preserve; others don’t — terrorism and defense, for example. Oh, here’s a good one: petroleum. When a P-word is mentioned, we seem to shift instantly from cognitive to limbic thinking.

Jon Stewart, though of somewhat suspicious politics, ran a segment which hilariously captures this behavior. His P-word is “squirrel.” (Begin at 4.00 minutes, and watch to the end — another 4 min).

What is one face of squirrel for us? The immediate equating of intervention with military intervention. We’ve got the biggest, most expensive hammer, so why diddle around? The UN resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire, for negotiations to reduce rather than escalate the level of bloodshed,– all sidelined or ignored as soon as direct military engagement was on the table. And for us, it would have to be on the table before we’d agree to play. “All necessary measures.” And now, of course, it’s too late.

Bait ‘n switch

I thought you might like to see it in action. A quite cool piece of street con. Here it is in its pure form. You might want to turn the sound off to better concentrate.

Slick, huh? What’s at play here is pure technique, leaving out the most obvious dimension of baiting. Here it is in street context:

You’ll notice the strong possibility that there is more than one perp. Given the particular surroundings, there may even be more. The TOSSER challenges the PLAYER to bet, say $20 on guessing which shell the pea is under. The first to volunteer is the SHILL — and by God, he wins, and the TOSSER actually pays up, saying that one was too easy, and he will make the next one harder.

“Harder?” an interested sucker in the audience thinks. “Maybe I should hold off to see what harder is.” So he does, giving SHILL #2 a chance to bet. And he also finds the pea, and now the sucker PLAYER (who had guessed right, too), goes for it — maybe is allowed to win one — and the psychology cascades from there. The dream team may also include a LOOKOUT, depending on the place.

Want to see how the trick is done? I thought so:

The President’s version

The above is not simply infotainment, but will serve as an angle for analysis.

As the tosser does not invite people to be stung, the first thing Obama does not do is say “I am taking the country into yet another war.” No, we are not at war. The Obama administration prefers the term “kinetic military action.” Bait ‘n switch: No war? Sure, let’s go. Protect the People from a dictator’s terrorism.

Our goal is not “regime change,” but on the other hand, we wouldn’t be unhappy to see Ghadaffi go (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).


To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

Damn. Left out the mushroom cloud. But still, “Squirrel!” enough.

This from the Great Moral Leader who every day murders civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, and now Libya, but who turns a blind eye when “the great democracy in the Middle East,” Israel, murders ever more Palestinians and our sonsa bitches exercise population control in Algeria, Tunisia, the Emirates, and above all, Saudi Arabia.

Operation Odyssey Dawn, the current name of the game in this Culture of Deception and the Stragegy of Imposture. Obama the TOSSER; NATO, and arm-twisted countries of the Security Council; The European Union, the endorsing SHILLS; the mainstream media, the LOOKOUT. What an all-star cast for a heavy-duty con game.

What would a clear eye connected to a sense of history discern?

That the deadly goal of this charade is to assert Western control over the Arab rebellions, to slow them down, channel them, co-opt them, confiscating their spontaneity, preventing these popular movements from changing the basic political realities in the middle east, and in the best case, restoring the statue quo ante.

If George W looked too scary, we’ll give you the more user-friendly Obama to pursue and escalate the same goals. If another mideastern war seems too scary, let’s identify another Hitler (cf. Saddam) and begin a kinetic military action, not to replace him, of course, but to protect the innocent uprising of democracy.

Operation (sterile, precise) Odessey (heroic, adventurous, sexy) Dawn (America brings you morning around the world!).

Who wants to bet $20?

[Marc Estrin is a writer, activist, and cellist, living in Burlington, Vermont. His novels, Insect Dreams, The Half Life of Gregor Samsa, The Education of Arnold Hitler, Golem Song, and The Lamentations of Julius Marantz have won critical acclaim. His memoir, Rehearsing With Gods: Photographs and Essays on the Bread & Puppet Theater (with Ron Simon, photographer) won a 2004 theater book of the year award. He is currently working on a novel about the dead Tchaikovsky.]

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