Standard disclaimer: I am not a national security lawyer, always seek professional advice***
Please consider the huge significance to the future of science and scientific inquiry in America when you read the latest headlines:
Pompeo says ‘we don’t know when, we don’t know where’ Soleimani had planned ‘imminent attacks’
This is what radical “end is neigh” evangelical thinking looks like when shoe-horned into modern concepts of self-defense that usually require leaders to accept scientific realities like clock and compass.
I mean any garden-variety dictionary would tell you “imminent” means “happening soon…menacingly near”.
Normally that means we would be talking about soon and near events as detailed and measurable concepts (given centuries if not millennium of technology)…yet the White House claims they “don’t know” how to predict either.
Let me now philosophically break such a faith-based statement from the White House into the three logical parts:
1) “We don’t know when”
The science of measuring time is called horology, which refers to timekeeping and advances in related technology (e.g. clocks and watches).
Saying we know something is “imminent” and yet don’t know when it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.
More specifically, physicists are prone to argue things like “time is an arrow” and say deep things like this about looking forward:
We remember the past but we don’t remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet into an egg.
A natural scientist of course would laugh at the example and simply say if a snake or lizard eats an omelet it can lay an egg, thus easily proving how and when an omelet turns into an egg. They probably could even tell you when a new egg is considered imminent after eating an omelet.
It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail when something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?
2) “We don’t know where”
Speaking of arrows…
The science of measuring space is called cartography, which refers to spacial scale making and advances in related technology (e.g. maps and geographic information systems).
Saying something is “imminent” and yet don’t know where it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.
More specifically, I think you can see where I’m going with this…
It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail where something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?
3) “Imminent attacks”
Pompeo allegedly welcomes “end-times” Evangelical faith as a strategy. When is the end of end-times? It is famously considered by faith-based groups to be “imminent” while also very importantly…unknown when and where.
Conlusion: White House is Waging a War Against Science
More than 30 states introduced legislation to require GE labeling in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine…
Imagine that, Americans were using science in governance to make it a requirement they know when and where something harmful might come their way.
In response, Pompeo said he wanted people to not use science or know when or where harms would come and instead have faith in the word from on high. To be fair, DARK literally said this:
Preempts any state or local requirement respecting a bioengineered organism intended for a food use or application, or food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism. Sets forth standards for any food label that contains claims that bioengineering was or was not used in the production of the food. Preempts any state and local labeling requirements with respect to bioengineered food. Requires the Secretary to issue regulations setting standards for a natural claim on food labels. Preempts any state or local regulations that are not identical to the requirements of this Act.
Pompeo sponsored America going DARK to make science difficult for harm predictions. You can see he required state and local thought to be identical to what the federal secretary opaquely thought about harms, regardless of science.
People may joke about Communism being dead. Yet it is Pompeo’s brand of un-American top-down centrally-planned dictation of knowledge that reminds me most of a 1980s meme “In Soviet Russia…”.
Today the ad would be more like “in Pompeo America, party imminently knows when and where you are”!
I deserve no credit for pointing this out
In honor of scientific method having citations I am far from being the first to notice a war against science going on with the White House, let alone wider political party attempts.
There are many who deserve credit. Here are only a few examples:
- White House Ramps Up Its War on Science
- War on Science
- War on Science…muzzles experts
- War on Science Borrows From Tobacco Industry Playbook
- Shadow War on…Science
- Draining White House of Science
- …at War with Science and Knowledge
- War on Knowledge
- Inside War on Science
- Survey of…Assault on Science
- Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo belong to a doomsday cult — and may be trying to bring on the apocalypse
- Pompeo says God may have [interfered in the 2016 Presidential election because] Iran
I’m just applying this kind of ongoing reporting to an important area of security like the ethics of self-defense and targeted assassination of foreign state leaders.
The US could have shown deference to scientific thought or methods and gone with a Robert Baer (CIA Middle East field officer) “we assassinate*** because…these reasons” document in the open. Then it would have worked with other states to lay out logical/moral justification claims within inherited (internationally accepted) systems of ethics, and submitted for peer-review.
That could even open up the archives and dialog on the controversial death of the 1961 UN Secretary General, or the controversial death of the 1969 FRELIMO leader (a professor of Syracuse University, New York).
Instead it has Pompeo standing alone and naked in the streets making a god-whistle while wrapped only in the isolationist trope of destroying science because “national security” is declared a higher order than a public’s right to know. As Foreign Policy wrote, probably without meaning any irony, it is the voices of locals that need to be heard on these issues if bad leadership is meant to be ended:
Mistaken support for a terrible political leader is hardly unique to the Middle East.
Terrible political leadership? The concept of “imminence” is before our very eyes being diluted into a religious war cry by a faith-based group in a so called “ok to prey if you pay” system. It is the Evangelical state of being both always and never in danger.
It is the knowledge that His coming is soon that puts a little bit of immediacy into our step and determination into our service.
Or as the New Yorker famously put it…
This tragically diminishes global respect for America as it shockingly improves perception and appeal of faith-based rule by an Ayatollah.
Why would any American willingly do that (again)? The anti-science tactics fundamentally (pun not intended) encourage corrupt over-centralized belief-based systems, which used to be considered the exact opposite of successful public American foreign policy let alone domestic.
The answer to my question may surprise you.
My assessment of science denialists has changed a lot since I started writing my dissertation on anti-science propaganda 5 years ago. I used to think they were stupid and culpable. My position has changed 180 degrees. I now believe these people are victims of sophisticated and well-funded manipulation campaigns that prey on social trust and our necessary reliance on others for knowledge.
And since we’re now obviously talking here about denialists running a war-machine after an assassination of foreign state leader, I’m also reminded of WWI. The current administration has many same hallmarks of “the Kaiser in 1914…who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered” due to German leadership faith-based mystical belief in “Der Tag”
*** Per my disclaimer at the top, lawyers have recommended listening to Episode 106 of the ABA National Security Today Podcast from yesterday:
The first speaker, Bellinger, makes the point that use of terms like assassination and reprisals are to describe illegal acts. Pompeo (if he cares to abide by law) thus has to frame his doctrine as “targeted killing” of a leader of a state that was to prevent some imminent terrorist act (because there is no declaration of war).
Bellinger also brings up a lot of interesting detail on the lack of legal authorization for targeted killing and lack of necessary communication with Congress. At one point he says the American people should be told the exact reason for immediacy. References:
- Executive Order 13382 and Executive Order 13224
- War Powers Resolution of 1973
Even against such legal podcast terminology, my point hopefully remains clear. Pompeo is engaging in a particular type of contradictory rhetoric, consistent with other attempts to destroy science, by saying he both does not know and does know something to be true.
To put it simply, the term where means a place has been targeted for a terrorist act and the term when means soon enough to require immediate action. If Pompeo says he didn’t know where or when then in what possible way will an imminent terror attack be proven to be real instead of being faith-based?