In 1921, H.L. Mencken wrote an essay entitled "On Being an American" that begins: "Apparently there are those who begin to find it disagreeable -- nay, impossible. Their anguish fills the Liberal weeklies and every ship that puts out from New York carries a groaning cargo of them..." Mencken then pithily catalogues his own judgment of the poltroonish, goose-stepping American and his faux culture, including this passing swipe at American foreign policy: it is "hypocritical, disngenous, knavish and dishonorable." But he ratchets up the complaints only to say why he would live nowhere else: "here, more than anywhere else that I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly -- the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and theroat slittings, of theological buffoneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries... is so inordinately gross and proposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with the petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night."
LI agrees with old H.L. The third-worldization of the American empire has reached a new stage with the electorate's vote of confidence in the cretinous commander in chief and his krewe of subvillains, unworthy for the most part of even threatening Gotham City (although we have heard it reported that Cheney, in his private life, does sprout tentacles). We want to watch the cracks running up the columns, we want to watch the erasing of evolution and history from the textbooks, we want to watch Americans try to populate, with native stock, the engineering departments as the foreign students turn to other venues, we want to watch the Republicans pile up ever more debt and pay for it by shooting the dollar through the heart, much to the bemusement of Asia's Central Banks. Bloody mindedness and frivolity, torture and Imelda Marcos' shoe collection, go together, somehow. It is one of the mysterious poetic laws of history. And that law is earning overtime in D.C. as we write.
Speaking of bloodymindedness, we have tried hard not to pay attention to the latest episode of Chechnya-lite being implemented in the ruins of Fallujah at the moment. Liberation is such hard work, especially when you have to blow up the bodies of the liberated in such numbers. But what ordinance! No doubt, the same undertakers that designed such neat mass graves for Saddam H. are now on the American/Allawi payroll. Surely they are disposing of the gutted corpses in, perhaps, the same trenches. Such, of course, is the joy of "secularism", to use Hitchens' term.
Ourselves, we are searching for analogies, which is the blogic approach to war. Is Bush 2 channeling the drunken spirit of Yeltsin, 95, or the genocidal spirit of Putin, 99, in the American attempt to give Grozny a sister city in Iraq? On the one hand, the supposed 1,200 "insurgent" corpses, plus the turning away of the Red Cross (who proved a weak sister by actually protesting the Sunday tortures in Abu Ghraib, as well as the selected murders). We doubt that the stink of Iraqi civilian dead will be so easily hidden from the populace of Baghdad, even if the populace of the Red States is warmly reminded of lynchings past by the discrete bits they are made privy to by the cheerleading media. On the other hand, the comedy of an insufficient force prepared to win "battles" as the guerilla war spreads across Iraq; the comedy of watching the Americans restore pre-sanction levels of electricity by destroying the customers for it (how many occupied cities have we bombed so far); the comedy of the complete confidence with which Rumsfeld and co. pursue last months and the month before's mistakes, while the "mission accomplished" casualties of American GIs mount to pre-mission accomplished numbers, is something to hoot at.
In any case, LI's stance, at the moment, is that of a spectator at a cannibal's picnic: as one bloody awful thing after another comes out of the basket, we can't pull our eyes away. The next four years require a Goya like spirit to get through it all.