“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

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

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Bollettino

Since I am working on a novel, I am reading novels. Novelist sum, ergo I steal. For some reason, I've decided to give myself a dose of Conrad, since my novel is about politics and murder. But I've also been treating myself to Raymond Queneau's Le Chiendent. This was translated as "The Barking Tree" a long time ago. Recently, NYRB re-issued it as witchgrass -- since that variety of plant is what Chiendent literally means. Barbara Wright's intro to the book is here.

Here, according to Wright, is how the book germinated:
He [Queneau] has described how, on his voyage to Greece: "I had taken Descartes'
Discourse on Method with me, so I decided to translate it into spoken French. With this idea in mind I began to write something which later became a novel called
Le Chiendent. You will find a good deal of popular language in it, but also a
few efforts in the philosophical sense, I seem to remember."

That seem to remember is good. When Sartre, in La Nausee, writes about a tree trunk, he is treading in R.Q.'s footsteps, except that Sartre cannot find his trees and things in general funny. Queneau is one of the great comic writers. Those people, and there are all too many of them, who think that French literature has no sense of humor have never read Le Chiendent. They probably wouldn't make sense of it anyway.

How does Descartes work, as a platform for the novel? The famous idea that existence can be deduced from thought -- since thought presumes thinking, thinking presumes a thinker, a thinker presumes a quelconque -- becomes a sort of science fiction in R.Q. Etienne Marcel is your regular on the subway train -- into work at seven, out of work at six. In R.Q.'s vision, he is merely one of a world of shadows, until one day he stands in front of a shop window.

"Already in this first book there is much that in retrospect can be seen as typical Queneau; the accident which is to transform Etienne's life is not something noble, magnificent, transcendental: it is merely the ridiculous sight of two little rubber ducks swimming in a shop window-in a hat. To prove that the hat is waterproof.
This, and particularly the fact that he discovers that the little ducks have been there for two years without his noticing them, is enough to start Etienne off on a metaphysical journey and a new life-in which outwardly, however, nothing is changed.

The effect of the little ducks is reinforced by something equally banal, but which this time has consequences not so much in the domain of mind as in that of matter. From his commuter's train, Etienne notices in the desolate suburbs north of Paris a hut which has CHIPS (i.e. , French fries) written up on it in large letters. When he decides to visit this forlorn place, for no reason, he there meets several people who are to have a vital importance in his life. The other objects that Queneau chooses to set Etienne off on his meditations on appearance and reality, and on the further train of reflections in which he becomes so passionately involved, are also no more world-shattering than an ordinary potato peeler and a hard-boiled egg cutter."

The "no reason" underlined by Wright is an allusion, probably clearer at the time than now, to Gide. And in fact Gide's best novel, Les Caves du Vatican, has just this kind of plot. A blank in life -- the gratuitous act, the non-reason -- is an invitation to reasons and highly motivated acts. Society abhors a vacuum. More than that -- give society a vacuum, and it will give you back a vacuum cleaner. The sovereignty of non-sense, which Bataille, Queneau's friend, found so glorious, comes down to earth in R.Q. with a crash.

Wright has another essay that profiles Queneau's entire life and work in Context.

Finally, for those who are unafraid to risk the sometimes recondite corners of the French dictionary, there's a remininscence of Queneau during the resistance in Magazine-litteraire.

It's by Jean Lescure, who published a magazine, the Messenger, during the occupation. It's in that Magazine that some of the first Exercises de style appeared. Or is it the Batons chiffres poems? Ourselves, we think the fey, pataphysical side of Queneau has been overdone by his readers. He was far more than an amateur of the kind of things you get sick of reading Carroll's Sylvia and Bruno. But here's an interesting graf:

"Ces mots et ce qu'ils pouvaient faire de la po�sie (tout autant que ce que la po�sie pouvait en faire) occupaient nos conversations - bien plus que les � id�es � que Bataille agitait tous les mardis soirs chez lui, dans le Coll�ge de sociologie qu'il avait plus ou moins r�veill� et qui r�unissait donc Queneau, Leiris, Blanchot, Fardoulis-Lagrange, Ubac, Fr�naud et moi. C'�tait le temps o� Georges lisait obstin�ment Nietzsche, et nous administrait hebdomadairement les �blouissantes r�flections de ses lectures (� quoi nous cessions de comprendre quoi que ce soit au bout d'une demi-heure, mais qu'il suffisait � Blanchot de reprendre, du fond de son fauteuil, pour qu'en trois minutes tout redevienne lumineux, riche et nous autorise � un d�part repu)."

"These words (of a poem quoted in the above graf-R.) and what they could do to poetry (or what poetry could do to them) occupied our conversations -- much more than the 'ideas" that Bataille agitated every Tuesday at his (RQ'S) office, in the College of Sociology that he had more or less re-animated and which united Queneau, Leiris, Blanchot, Fardoulis-Lagrange, Ubac, Frenaud and myself. At this time Georges was obstinately reading through Nietzsche, and he administered a weekly dose of the spendiferous reflections resulting from his reading (which we ceased to understand period at the end of a half hour, but which were sufficient for Blanchot to reconstitute them, from the bottom of his drawer, in three minutes in order that they become luminous, rich, and left us feeling justly satiated."

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Bollettino

Dis.sense is a German site. This month, they are emphasizing doing nothing -- Nicht-tun. And as part of that theme, someone translated Kasimir Malevich's legendary essay on laziness into German. Well, yours truly has translated the first part of it into English. Enjoy.


Laziness as the actual Truth of Mankind
Work as an instrument to reach truth
Philosophy of the socialistic Idea
It has always made a strange impression on me to hear or read some family member or bureaucrat making a contemptuous remark about laziness. �Laziness is the mother of all vices� � which is how the collective wisdom of humanity and all peoples has branded this particular style of human activity. But for myself, I�ve always been of the opinion that this condemnation of laziness is unfair. Why is work so great? Why is it elevated to the throne of praise and fame, while laziness is forced to sit in the pillory and all the lazy are shamed and have to wear the burden of viciousness; meanwhile the laborious are covered with fame, given presents and feasted? To me, it has always seemed like this is the exact opposite of what should happen. Work has to be cursed, as it has come down to us from the legend of Paradise, and laziness should be that towards which all humanity has to strive. Somehow, this has developed quite otherwise in real life. It�s this �otherwise� I want to concentrate on. And since every clarification must employ marks and occasions and every decision and logical conclusion rests on these marks, in this essay I will go over them and illuminate their connection to one another in order to reach the goal that is truly hidden in the word �laziness.�

With many words, the truth is hidden, and can�t be dug up. It seems to me that man rarely handles the truth and that when he does, he�s like a cook, who cooks many different things in many different pots. Now, it is certainly true that every pot has its own proper lid, yet out of pure distraction the cook bangs around pots and covers them with random lids until he finally forgets what is contained in each pot. I think that something like this has happened with laziness � many words and truths are covered with lids until nobody knows what is found under the lids. On one lid it stands written, �laziness is the mother of vice.� Now, they take that lid and they cover up some random pot and think that they�ve captured scandal and vice in it. Of course, it is self-evident that the word �Faulheit (laziness, from Faul, foul � R.),� if it implies some human circumstance, is very dangerous, but what is there that is dangerous for humans throughout the world? One has to think that laziness implies the death of �being� �i.e. of men, whose exclusive salvation resides in production and labor. If man is no longer active, whole countries will die, death will threaten whole peoples. It�s clear that this circumstance, as the circumstance of corruption, will have to be prosecuted. So, in order to escape death, man has brilliantly come up with a lifeform in which all must work and no one is allowed to be a bum. That�s the reason that the socialistic system that leads to communism, struggling against all previous systems, brings all of humanity into the single way of labor, and leaves behind all bums. This is the meaning of the most pitiless of all laws in the most humane of all systems: he who doesn�t work, doesn�t eat. This is also why the communist system prosecutes capitalism, because the capitalist encourages the bum and because the ruble definitely leads to laziness. So in the socialist system God�s curse, i.e. labor, receives the highest blessing. Under the blessing of communism, everyone gets to work, otherwise they starve. But even this point is hidden in the system of laboriousness. The point is that man in all other systems would never feel the nearness of this all-encompassing death, and would never see, that in production lies not only the general, but also the particular good. In the collective labor system, however, death stands before each, and each has only one task; through labor, and the products of labor, to save himself. Otherwise, as said, the threat of hunger. This socialistic system of labor aims, in its natural, unconscious processes at bringing all of mankind to work, in order to improve productivity and preserve security and strengthen humanity and through the increased level of productivity to assure human existence. Naturally this system, that bothers not just about the particular individual, but about all of humanity, is absolutely right. Exactly as the capitalist system guarantees the right and the freedom to work, bringing about the increase of money in the bank, in order to secure laziness in the vague future. That presumes that the ruble is one of those signs that that seduces us because it promises that which everyone dreams of: the happiness of laziness. In fact, that is the meaning of the ruble, the ruble is in itself nothing other than a little piece of laziness. He who collects the most little pieces will luxuriate longer in laziness. The ideologues who worry about all the people imagined this cause and effect in their consciousness and were therefore always unanimous that laziness is the mother of all vices. But in their unconsciousness, the Other exists: the wish to make all equal in labor, or otherwise said, the wish for all to be equally lazy. So what cannot be achieved in the capitalist system can be achieved in the communist system. Yet the capitalist and the communist are both bothered by the same thing: achieving the only truly human state, which is laziness. In the deep unconscious of the system is hidden exactly this truth. But for some reason, this truth has never really been grasped. There has never been a labor system that announces the solution to mankind�s problem thusly: �the truth of your striving is the way to laziness.� Instead, we find everywhere those dreary reminders of the virtue of labor, and the implication that labor is unavoidable, and it is impossible to lay it aside, and in fact this goal is what the socialist system has in mind to reach through labor, taking the burden of vice, hour by laborious hour, off the shoulders of all humanity. The more people who work, however, the less hours of work there will be. And so more time will remain left over for idleness.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Bollettino

The best account of Saddam's boys brief and one hopes brutish life in the ruins of the country they beset like Biblical locusts is by Patrick Cockburn, in the New Zealand Herald.


"Neither Uday nor Qusay, the sons of Saddam Hussein, were cut out to be resistance leaders. They were brought up in luxury. While other Iraqis were living in poverty in the 1990s Uday still employed two pastry cooks as part of his personal staff. Not surprisingly, if American claims about their deaths are correct, they were discovered in a large mansion in Mosul.

"In so far as Saddam Hussein ever trusted anybody he trusted his two sons, Uday, a sadistic playboy, and Qusay, more studious but equally violent. Both were entirely dependent on their father. They never contradicted him, restrained him or had any ideas of their own."

And here's an item typical Uday's beastliness:

"Uday, in particular, was even more loathed by Iraqis than Saddam himself. Uday was always physically the most striking of the two brothers. His enormous staring brown eyes dominated his face and he usually had five days' growth of beard. In a photograph taken in 1977, when he was 13, he wears a loud striped jacket and an enormous black bow tie. The impression is of somebody trying to assert his personality against almost overwhelming odds. Although he seldom turned up for lessons, Uday learned fluent English. Before the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 he even had ambitions to study nuclear physics in the United States. But he also told school friends that his father took him to attend torture sessions "to prepare him for the tasks ahead". Uday's first serious political role was as head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which replaced the Ministry of Youth. Housed inside a building which, with machine-gun turrets guarding its walls, resembled a fortress. It even had its own jail. He swiftly showed that he had a uniquely brutal approach to Iraqi sportsmen who failed him. They were jailed, beaten on the feet and spectators could tell who had been punished because the player-prisoners had their heads shaved."

Alas, the American press is treating their deaths as though this was the next to last lap in the War. Saddam's death is to follow, according to the press, and then the attacks on Americans will stop. We think this is an interesting turn about from a mere two weeks ago, when the attacks were non-coordinated epiphenomena, much like the images a man gets in his head just before falling to sleep.

We doubt, however, that such headlines as the one in the LA Times (usually much better about reporting the news)
"Sons' Deaths a Turning Point in Campaign:
U.S. assault is likely to weaken motivation and perhaps coordination of Iraqi resistance as well as change the subject in Washington, or the NYT's

With Hussein's Heirs Gone, Hopes Rise for End to Attacks

By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER

are going to look very good two week's from now.

That the news is being cast as being happy for the Republicans and unhappy for the Democrats is very bad news for the Dems, and it is surprising that they don't know that. We can all raise our Khalashnikov's in the air and shoot to celebrate the butchering of these men. Although LI does believe that there is something suspect in celebrating the agony visited against any human being, let's face it: Uday and Qusai never deserved celebration in life so much as they do in being done to death.

On the ground, however, in Iraq, we doubt this is going to make the massive amount of firepower in the hands of individuals pissed, to say the least, at Americans seem less like firing. Because the American media is addicted to dualisms, it has cast the resistance in Iraq as a struggle between Saddam and his old foe, Uncle Sam. But of course the resistance in Iraq has numerous motives and numerous backers, many of whom have explicitly disavowed the loser of Baghdad.

As if to underline this, two Americans were killed today, according to the BBC, and seven were injured. This makes the heaviest cluster of American deaths since the War itself.

...
It is an interesting question. How do you celebrate the death of evil men? In the Book of Kings, Jezebel operates much like Uday did, stealing Naboth's vineyard, killing the good, partying with the wicked and such. The word of the Lord comes to who the word of the Lord usually comes to -- the insane beggars on the street corners -- and they proclaim that Jezebel will be eaten by dogs. This is how her end came, according to 2 Kings 9

"9:30 And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard [of it]; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. 9:31 And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, [Had] Zimri peace, who slew his master? 9:32 And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who [is] on my side? who? And there looked out to him two [or] three eunuchs. 9:33 And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and [some] of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. 9:34 And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed [woman], and bury her: for she [is] a king's daughter. 9:35 And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of [her] hands. 9:36 Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This [is] the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: 9:37 And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; [so] that they shall not say, This [is] Jezebel."

Now that is a pretty thorough desecration. We especially like the palms of the hand thing. The Lord was working in his metaphysical poet mode, obviously.

When Plutarch is comparing the deaths of Marcellus, a Roman Consul and Pelopidas, a tyrant, he writes:
"I cannot commend the death of either of these great men; the suddenness and strangeness of their ends gives me a feeling rather of pain and distress."

Marcellus was the commander of the forces who took Syracuse and killed Archimedes. He was finally brought down by Hannibal, who ambushed him:

Upon signs received from him, the men that were placed in ambush stirred not till Marcellus came near; and then all starting up in an instant, and encompassing him from all sides, attacked him with darts, struck about and wounded the backs of those that fled, and pressed upon those who resisted. These were the forty Fregellans. For though the Etruscans fled in the very beginning of the fight, the Fregellans formed themselves into a ring, bravely defending the consuls, till Crispinus, struck with two darts, turned his horse to fly away; and Marcellus's side was run through with a lance with a broad head.

As for Pelopidas, tyrant of Thebes, I believe, he was slain in battle with Alexander, challenging him on the field even as he was pierced with darts and arrows.

Perhaps, after Jezebel, the most iconic death was suffered by Heliogabalus.

Heliogabalus was an Uday kind of guy. Here's his idea of a great party, according to his biographer Lampidus:

"He had the custom, moreover, of asking to a dinner eight bald men, or else eight one-eyed men, or eight men who suffered from gout, or eight deaf men, or eight men of dark complexion, or eight tall men, or, again, eight fat men, his purpose being, in the case of these last, since they could not be accommodated on one couch, to call forth general laughter. He would present to his guests all the silver-plate that he had in the banqueting-room and all the supply of goblets, and he did it very often too. He was the first Roman emperor to serve at a public banquet fish-pickle [Garum was a preparation made from the entrails of fish, particularly the mackerel, which were salted down and allowed to ferment. The liquid thus formed was called garum. -- DM] mixed with water, for previously this had been only a soldier's dish -- a usage which later was promptly restored by Alexander. He would propose to his guests, furthermore, by way of a feat, that they should invent new sauces for giving flavour to the food, and he would offer a very large prize for the man whose invention should please him, even presenting him with a silk garment -- then regarded as a rarity and a mark of honour. On the other hand, if the sauce did not please him, the inventor was ordered to continue eating it until he invented a better one. Of course he always sat among flowers or perfumes of great value, and he loved to hear the prices of the food served at his table exaggerated, asserting it was an appetizer for the banquet."

And this is how Lampidus describes his end:

The prophecy had been made to him by some Syrian priests that he would die a violent death. And so he had prepared cords entwined with purple and scarlet silk, in order that, if need arose, he could put an end to his life by the noose. He had gold swords, too, in readiness, with which to stab himself, should any violence impend. He also had poisons ready, in ceraunites and sapphires and emeralds, with which to kill himself if destruction threatened. And he also built a very high tower from which to throw himself down, constructed of boards gilded and jeweled in his own presence, for even his death, he declared, should be costly and marked by luxury, in order that it might be said that no one had ever died in this fashion. But all these preparations availed him nothing, for, as we have said, he was slain by common soldiers, dragged through the streets, contemptuously thrust into sewers, and finally cast into the Tiber.

Sic semper tyrannis, what?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Bollettino

Good news from Iraq about the death of the meat machine�s brats, Uday and Qsay. They were killed in a firefight, the radio is reporting. Patrick Cockburn, in Out of the Ashes, has a wonderful account of the attempted assassination by two Iraqi students of the miserable Uday � the man who played the part of Iraq�s subdeb Beria.

There�s a story in the WP about the revivification of the Peace movement. It is coalescing around, natch, the Bush lies. We are happy about the dogging of Bush; we are unhappy that the peace party wants to jump into the past with both of its boots on, however. The real problem right now is the War in Iraq, and how to extract the U.S. from its occupation of same. We think it is a big mistake to show no concern a., for the American troops that have been essentially shanghaied there, and b., to let the Bush agenda there get a simple pass. We�ve reached a moment in which pressure can make a difference: the administration is starting, vaguely, to look for an exit strategy � although of course the purebloods still want to invade Syria and Iran, privatize Iraq, and make the place into a sort of Chili on the Tigris. Still, no way the troop overstretch, plus the huge costs of this operation, can be ignored much longer. Which means the Bushies have a real interest in turning to the U.N. And a real interest in making the Governing council, which is admittedly as Governing as the three stooges at this point, into a real administrative body. That is all to the good � Chalabi has been essentially blocked as the Wolfowitz cat�s paw in the country, the mainstream Shi�ite establishment, at least if the reports in the Western press are even half right, is amenable to a secular government, and the mistake of dissolving the army and, as a corollary, Bremer�s laughable plan to replace it with a force of 40,000 soldiers is slowly dawning on the brilliant minds in D.C.

Of course, probabilities are that we are set for disaster, given the past records of the Pentagon people who have been running the show. They seem to think this is all about securing concord between an expansionist Israel and a free enterprise powered group of reconstructed nations � Syria, Iraq and Iran. That plan is ridiculous, and its pursuit is certainly dubious from the standpoint of American interests.

Still, the dogging of Bush is an essential part of injecting a heady breath of reality into the councils of an administration that is peculiarly insulated from it.

Oh, and by the way -- check out Juan Cole's blog. Cole is a history professor who actually knows something about the Middle East. His blog reports the latest casualties, and the latest gossip, from Iraq. Very interesting stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Bollettino

LI was off line for a bit there, kids. The power company switched off the juice. We have many and sundry comments to make about that, but none of them are interesting.

On to the Whirlwind Wolfowitz tour.

We've eagerly soaked up news of Wolfowitz touring his domain, liberated Iraq, this weekend. It is a topic loaded with satiric possibilities that cry out for an Evelyn Waugh, or at the very least, a Joseph Heller. Major Major Major among the Marsh Arabs for the photo op ... this is life imitated art with a vengeance. Enjoy it: after all, we are spending 4 billion dollars a month for the ticket.

In coordination with his boss, Wolf was on topic about the nasty Syrians and Iranians -- wars that look increasingly like the last presents in Santa's bag. Here is the semantically clueless graf from MSNBC about our man's latest bromide:

"MOSUL, Iraq, July 21 � U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz warned foreigners on Monday not to interfere in Iraq, in remarks aimed at Iraq's neighbours and suspected foreign fighters who may have arrived in the country."

Imagine that -- foreigners in Iraq! Like, for instance, the 150,000 Americans that seem less than native to our Mesopotamian Singapore? No, we're aiming our guns at Iran and Syria, with their serious threat to America, their weapons of mass destruction, their aiding of the 9/11 hijackers -- oops, that was last spring's speech. Still a good one, though.

Just the day before our man was in Baghdad, visiting the notorious Abu Ghraib prison (which one group of foreigners in Iraq, the Americans, have reopened for another round of penitentiary business). Here he is in the midst of the pot shot deaths of soldiers who, in March, in testimony before Congress, he was saying would be significantly thinned out by now -- remember the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz claim that the Joint Chiefs of Staff General was full of it about how many soldiers would be required to occupy Iraq?

Baghdad, Iraq - On a day when two more American soldiers died in Iraqi attacks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz visited the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and urged U.S. officials to get their language straight about the conflict.

Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the U.S. invasion, insists that Iraqis attacking U.S. troops do not represent "resistance," but rather "forces of reaction" whose sole aim is to restore Saddam Hussein and thus regain positions of privilege and power they once enjoyed."

Wolfowitz apparently went about correcting people who were using 'resistance" by substituting his politically correct formula, "the forces of reaction." No wonder he is considered a wunderkind! Now, that should ease the injured and bind up the wounds of the Americans soldiers suffering, as Wolfowitz has never had to suffer, on the field of guerilla war battle -- which is in the street, guarding a bank, driving down a road, or buying a cassette. How groovy to be blown up by the forces of reaction! While being blown up by the resistance is a definite bummer.

In the meantime, the real quagmire in Iraq seems to be the past. A short term memory administration, plus a short termed memory press, plus the D.C. warrior set, seemed to be stuck in a pre-war moment, re-writing their reasons for getting us into Iraq in the first place. In this war, the pentagon papers have replaced the war itself with warp speed.

For us, this is really only of importance insofar as it gets us out of Iraq. The WP published an interesting little analysis of the Bush administration's release of intelligence reports that indicate that the CIA was worried less about the Al qaeda-Saddam link before the war (like LI, the CIA thought that Saddam was frankly too scared of the U.S. to back a man planning to attack us on our own ground) than about Saddam linking with Al qaeda after the war -- handing over the trophies of his brilliants weapons programs to stray Peshawar jihadists.

Personally, we don't buy that scenario. In fact, we are one of the doubters about Saddam's continued biological existence. We wouldn't be suprised if the Saddam heart rate was null over null. Not that it matters too much -- surely there are Saddam pretenders out there. But we do find Bush's intelligence and the misprision given to it by the administration and its vocal press cohort to be of interest. The WP article cites Bush -- a practice that the president likes to call revisionist history, since his belief is, if he can't remember saying something, why should other people bring it up? This is a very popular belief among alcoholics -- but say no more. We trust that Bush is on the wagon.

"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," President Bush said in Cincinnati on Oct. 7. "Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

Here's the killer following graf:

"But declassified portions of a still-secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released Friday by the White House show that at the time of the president's speech the U.S. intelligence community judged that possibility to be unlikely. In fact, the NIE, which began circulating Oct. 2, shows the intelligence services were much more worried that Hussein might give weapons to al Qaeda terrorists if he were facing death or capture and his government was collapsing after a military attack by the United States."Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al Qaeda, . . . already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States, could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct," one key judgment of the estimate said. It went on to say that Hussein might decide to take the "extreme step" of assisting al Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States if it "would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."