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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Monday, June 16, 2003


LI remembers reading about Willi M�nzenberg long ago, in his teen years, when LI was an ardent student of the National Review, absorbing its manichean conservative politics, its columns from old European tacticians of dubious ancestry, its wonderful, at that time, cultural pages -- Hugh Kenner, D.Keith Mano -- and generally getting an education. The National Review is still around, but it has become a trashy travesty of what it used to be. Today's teen would be better advised to go to National Enquirer for an education than Buckley's mag. Alas.

In any case, M�nzenberg's name often came up among the knowing Anti-Commy Euro set. He was, supposedly, the great genius of propaganda -- Stalin's right hand man -- friend to Gide and Yagoda, or was it Beria? -- and maker of fine, cynical phrases about the Western Intellectuals that he lassoed into making Oh-ing and Aw-ing sounds about the Great Soviet Experiment. Stephen Koch has written his biography in the high manner of the Right -- that is, with a rather unbalanced choice of adjectives (borrowed, it would seem, from the strained vocabulary of 1900 era adventure stories) gradually skewing the very possibility of exposition. Like a novel or a poem, a history can mean more than its style -- but not too much more. There's an essay by Koch about his biographical subject at the online archive of the New Criterion . Here's a typical passage, as ripe as Limburger cheese:

"Among Lenin�s men, the bond that held Dzerzhinsky, Radek, and Stalin together is an affiliation of the very greatest interest. Taken in their ensemble, they represent three of the essential strands that bind the knot of the terror state. Dzerzhinsky was the true believer, the sanctified fanatic of absolute state power. Stalin on the other hand was its ultimate politician, its grand tactician and bureaucrat. Radek was the new state�s propagandist and apologist, the creator of its intellectual rationale, the man who fabricated its �human face,� and much of its lie."

Now, in the context of his essay, Koch is only in 1915, with Lenin in Switzerland, showing Trotsky introducing the budding evil genius, Munzenberg, to the satanically bearded one; the evil trio are, very properly, nowhere in sight. This is because the terror state only exists as a glimmer in the eye -- Czarist Russia, at the moment, was doing its best to live up to the standards of the incompetent authoritarian state by facilitating the slaughter of a couple million of its peasants in its war against Germany. But prolepsis, in mannerist history, is fate; and context is some whimpy liberal thing made up by fellow travelers. So Radek, whose affiliation with Stalin is arguable; and Dzerzhinsky, who died before Stalin took power, are thrown together as partners merely because they fulfill Koch's need for dramatic functionaries. Incidentally, Koch displays another of the traits of the right wing Anti-Commie by attributing to his villains such amazing powers that it is a wonder that we won the Cold War without some real life equivalent of Spider Man fighting on our side -- or was Ronald Reagan secretly half arachnoid? According to Koch, the young Munzenberg had already formed several networks and penetrated the Vatican. Amazing. What these networks, in 1915, were doing, who they reported to, remain pesky questions for Koch, but ones unlikely to find speech bubbles in the heads of his convinced readers.

Willi M�nzenberg is in our thoughts this morning because one of his great inventions, supposedly, was the "trip to the future." He would arrange, or one of his multiple organs would arrange, a trip to the Soviet Union by some bigwig Western intellectual -- H.G. Wells, Lincoln Steffens. It was after such trips that the Oh-ing and Aw-ing would commence -- the comparison of the Soviet's Shining Heights to Capitalisms gloomy depths. If Munzenberg were alive today, he would be startled by how much easier things are today, propaganda-wise. Today's Bush-ite has no need to go to Iraq -- has no need to consult journalists who are in Iraq -- has no need to even dispute stories, or pay attention to stories, about Iraq. So the story of the missing WMD are explained away as being, after all, an unimportant part of the Bush rationale for getting us into Iraq; the official cessation of hostilities, announced by Bush with great pomp and fanfare in the first week of May, and undermined since by an increasing casualty rate and daily attacks on US troops, warrants not a thought; and the spike in military operations (in combination with Bremer's increasingly weird announcements, for all the world as if Iraqi was some small satellite of the U.S. instead of a liberated country) hum away in the distant background.

Saturday, Knight Ridder journalists Tom Lasseter and Drew Brown penned a nice piece summing up the last week. Here's the first three intro grafs:

"RAWAH, Iraq - Hassan Ibrahim walked the narrow space between the fresh graves and shook his head. There were 78, some of them packed with more than one body, with rocks as markers. The air stank of death. The names of the dead were written on paper and folded into soda bottles stuck in the ground.`

`This town was safe before the Americans came here and made a lot of blood,'' said Ibrahim. ``Is this the democracy they were talking about?''

The graves were all that remained after U.S. forces struck a suspected terrorist training camp 5 1/2 miles from town Thursday, raking the earth with missiles and machine-gun fire."

So it goes. In this country, by the fine stroke of declaring the War over, Bush seems to have silenced any discussion of the on-going War. Certainly you hear nothing from the Dems. They are, supposedly, riven by conflicts over whether to examine the reality, or lack of it, of the WMD threat. Seriously, LI doesn't care that much. We care that Bremer is heading the US committment in Iraq in a fatally wrong direction. We care that no Dem is questioning a strategy that has taken a turn towards sporadic, heavily lethal repression -- a strategy that we believe is sowing the seeds of disaster for Americans in Iraq. There are still options, still ways of avoiding the drift into becoming the third party and target in the country. Unfortunately, Dems would just as soon forget that the War happened, making them complicit in the War that is happening. The NYT ran an interview Saturday with Adnan Pachachi, one of those Iraqi elder statesmen who has not been rubbing shoulders with Chalabi. The Bush people are aggressively deaf to Pachachi; they shouldn't be. Here are two grafs from the interview:

"Mr. Pachachi said that military sweeps through civilian areas with mass arrests, interrogations and gun battles, intended to suppress the remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and military command, were inflaming sentiments against the American and British occupation.

He predicted that if such sweeps continued, they would be "exploited by the Baathists," and he added, "It would be much better if we didn't have these operations.'"

Now this is not just an issue for Dems -- it is an early warning that the vampiric drip drip of American blood is going to turn into a daily, Vietnam like thing if Bremer and his kind aren't stopped in their ambition to "reform" Iraq. It is needless to say that we were against the war; but since the fall of Baghdad, we've been impressed with the degree of goodwill shown towards America by Iraqis; this goodwill stems from the collapse of Saddam's machinery of repression. This is all the more impressive in the face of the massive casualties incurred by the Iraqis during the hostilities. But the bungling of Smilin' Jay Garner, and the petty tyranny of Bremer, are obviously dissipating that good will, as we re-install our own version of repression. The question is: to what end? We believe that the Bush people want to institute their version of "free enterprise" in Iraq, which is why we are the sole principalities and powers in the place right now. This is unworthy of one drop of blood, Iraqi or American. Meanwhile, the Peace Movement is on a wild goose chase after the WMD lies. Resentment does not make for good politics -- defeated in the effort to prevent the war, the Anti-War people understandably want a recount. But actually, this will simply further obscure what is happening in Iraq right now.

Not that we really expect serious consideration to be given to the more salient problems in Iraq right now by anybody on either side. These are simply our woodnotes wild, pipings at the gates of despair.

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