June 22, 2017

The Torturable Class Opens a Twitter Account

Cyber spies at the tip of the spear

John McCain tweeted “Dear Vlad, The Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you.” Apparently a free man’s words more than sticks and stones rattle the Putin throne. Vladimir Putin reacted like a backstage diva reading bad reviews, calling McCain “nuts” and blaming his tweet on suffering for years in “a pit” as a tortured prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain might not have been the greatest presidential candidate but he makes a helluva spokesperson for the torturable class, as Graham Greene describes it inĀ Our Man in Havana.

“Did you torture him?”

Captain Segura laughed. “No. He doesn’t belong to the torturable class.”

“I didn’t know there were class-distinctions in torture.”

“Dear Mr. Wormold, surely you realize there are people who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea. Once never tortures except by a kind of mutual agreement.”

The torturable class wants a table at the Wonder Bar with Mr. Wormold, Graham Greene’s vacuum cleaner salesman and MI6’s “our man in Havana.”

The spooks are getting nervous. The high tech battlefield multiplies the enemy in the paranoid mind. Hillary criticizes the Russian election and Putin accuses her of sending a coded message to her network of spies to activate. The new battlefield is in the mind of every civilian and soldier. Cyber spies have become the tip of the spear. Wormold’s Atomic Pile Cleaner vacuum has gone online, vacuuming the Web for digital dead drops, industrial espionage, and monitoring of political dissidence. Every game plays with unimportant pieces that are valuable in their own right, explains Wormold’s inquisitor.

The Great Game has gone high tech, recruiting engineers and computer scientists for technical espionage. Where the nerds go, the spooks are not far behind. Alas, there’s no honor among the thieves. Putin has competition from China for the loot. “What has been happening over the course of the last five years is that China- let’s call it for what it is- has been hacking its way into every corporation it can find listed in Dun & Bradstreet,” cyber security expert Richard Clarke says. China’s extensive spy ring, code name Byzantine Foothold, has been targeting corporations large and small, automakers to Silicon Valley.

“You kill a man- that is so easy,” explains Dr. Hasselbacher to Wormold in Our Man in Havana. “It needs no skill. You can be certain of what you’ve done, you can judge death, but to save a man…”

The torturable class can agree with that statement.

Jon Huntsman referred to George Kennan in the Republican debate last night. Political commentators joked on Twitter about the mention. Chuck Todd tweeted “I had Gingrich being the first one to mention George Kennan.” Howard Fineman tweeted “why Jon Huntsman has no chance: he mentions George Kennan, as though anyone knew who George Kennan was.”

John McCain isn’t from the George Kennan school of American diplomacy that puts an aristocratic and educated sheen on everything. Hillary seems to be coming around to McCain’s perspective. When you spend years in the “pit” in Vietnam, you have plenty of time to think and educate yourself to the true nature of power. An expert on the Soviet Union, Kennan wrote the Long Telegram in 1946 that was published in Foreign Affairs in 1947, signed by Kennan as the famous X. His commentary opens with “The political personality of Soviet power as we know it today is the product of ideology and circumstances.” The rest of the document is filled with insight that comes straight from a brilliant diplomat educated in a privileged academic environment. Kennan writes with both a clinical and poetic analysis about Russian history, the Russian mind, Lenin and Stalin and the capacity for self-delusion, capitalism versus communism, Marx, Edward Gibbbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and German novelist Thomas Mann.

The Long Telegram is extraordinary except for one flaw. Kennan neglects to include the blood of the tortured class, something the McCain School of Government can’t forget so easily. Reading through the Long Telegram, you can get the sense that Kennan still views the Lenin and Stalins of the world as one of them- the ruling elites in the diplomatic club. Brutal, paranoid, and all that. But in the end, the Lenins and Stalins fought their way to the top and should be written about in a way that would get a passing grade at Harvard or Georgetown.

Stalin was a gangster mastermind. Here’s a picture of a young Stalin:

And here’s the cover of George Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle:

A rather strong resemblance.

The stocky man explains to Jackie Brown:

“I was in Sunday School when I was a kid and this nun says to me, stick out your hand, and the first few times I did it she whacks me right across the knuckles with a steel-edged ruler. It was just like that. So one day I says, when she tells me ‘Put out your hand,’ I say, ‘No.’ And she whaps me right across the face with that ruler.”

Stalin studied to become a priest. He didn’t make it. The nuns are not as diplomatic.

What would Eddie Coyle tweet about Vladimir Putin? Maybe don’t be so tight as a popcorn fart.

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