war for the fans

The month began with great, obsequious stories in the NYT about how the war is now over (except for getting the native guards armed and trained) in Iraq. It ends with more than twice the number of Americans killed than were killed in March, with the latest being the four that went down in a single engine plane – bizarrely, the U.S. has apparently decided to outfit the Iraqi airforce with planes that you can also rent for birthdays and holiday travel. Must mean, according to the wondrous pretzel logic of the Pentagon, that we are winning. This logic has two sides. When casualties go down, it is obvious that we are winning. And when casualties go up, it is obvious the other side is desperate.

This logic is also used by six year olds to explain why they don’t want to eat the vegetables.

In fact, this has penetrated the Times enough that they are starting to question their own ludicrous headlines of last week. Remember that 40,000 Iraqi troops were supposed to be sweeping Baghdad this week. A week later, the wakeup is setting in – hey, they don’t have 40, 000 troops. Well, gee, that was hard to figure out.

In other post Memorial military news – there is a fascinating story in the Globe about Col. David Hackworth. He’s being buried at Arlington. One of the most decorated American soldiers, and one of the most hated by the Pentagon. He’s the guy who appeared on Dick Cavett in 1971, in full dress uniform, and said, hey, we should get out of Vietnam. We’ve lost. He’s also the guy who pulled the plug on the wearing of fake medals by chief of naval operations, Admiral Jeremy M. ''Mike" Boorda. Boorda committed suicide over the charge, showing – to put it delicately – that this was not a man one wanted in command of a unit that could come under fire.

“He earned a a chestful of medals, including two Distinguished Service Medals, 10 Silver Stars, eight Bronze Stars, and eight Purple Hearts. His adversary became the US military bureaucracy, which he railed against for 30 years on grounds that it failed to put the troops first. He also opposed military action in Bosnia, Kosovo, and especially Iraq.But while the military leadership may be absent from the funeral, hundreds -- and probably thousands -- are expected to attend. The numbers would be larger, except that many who consider him a hero aren't in Washington. Hackworth became a touchstone for soldiers in the Middle East who questioned the Pentagon but didn't feel comfortable raising complaints with superiors.''He had an incredible communication line to the barracks and the trenches," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, Hackworth's organization, which has a website that averages about 1 million hits a day.

''He answered all the e-mails."

Soldiers for Truth is an interesting site. It is written in that Military Speech so popular in paperback romances about Navy Seals and such –yes, there is a whole genre out there. And, of course, it bristles with conservative biases. But it is also informative. This article about deserters, for instance, is well worth reading. The author can’t understand why the army and marines aren’t going after deserters. LI can. This is an unpopular war already. Its continuation is built on what might be called the Memento premise. Assuming that America is subject to short term memory loss, the Bush agenda is to exploit the diminishing attenting span for maximum gain. Thus, the planned program of non-sacrifice – as long as the American population can be insulated enough to neither feel nor think about Iraq, it will begrudge the Neocon adventure. That means no draft, and no going after deserters in such a way that it would make the news. It means no pictures of coffins or the wounded. The whole point of the Bush administration is to coddle its constituency, which will ultimately be the victim of Bush policies, by moving the impact of those policies forward into the future. The IOUs for the tax giveaway to the rich and the abuse of the national and state guard are products of a unified political logic. In a sense, the Bush administration wants to make the war like a specialized cable channel – an ESPN war. In America, the war is only supposed to be for its fans.


Deleted said…
Prior to the election last year, I speculated that one Kerry's strengths from the party perspective was that he's a stiff and therefore bound to lose. To feckless weasels like the Democrats, four more years of the Chimp should make Hillary a shoe in. The internets personalites are ready to welcome her. They might even want to throw another election in 2008 just to make sure.

The Democrats show no aversion to a hand wringing spilling of rivers of blood if it means they get a chance to play in the oval office.
roger said…
Harry, over the course of the history of the two parties, either is liable to cycle into belligerance. The era of the New Deal wars -- from 1941 to 1968 -- was the Dem cycle. War, among other things, is a great way of getting rid of things in a society you don't want. I think the agony of, say Johnson about Vietnam was genuine, but the idea that the dems were forced by anti-communist GOPers into that war is bogus.

Now the cycle of belligerance is Republican. Perhas it has been since 68. Naturally, the more pacifistic element migrates into the other party.

I think where we disagree is that, just as I don't think one should morally idealize some party in the U.S. -- like the GOP or the Dems -- I don't think one should morally trash em, either. I think the antiwar groups are foolish to misprision a temporary alliance with the Dems as meaning that the Dems are the peace party -- they aren't -- but it would be just as foolish not to try to pressure the Dems to work to end the war. The same is true, especially with this war, with the Republicans.
roger said…
I don't pick on Bush because I think he is morally below Hilary, but because this is his war, and these are his disastrous macro policies. I actually think Bush believes his democracy talk. That is because it is the pattern that all presidents end up talking when they take the country to war. The real reasons for the war diverged, in my opinion, in the Bush admin. -- with, on one end, Cheney's straightforward grab the gas idea, to Wolfowitz, on the other end, playing Metternich -- when, of course, his competence was more in adding one footnote to the literature on Metternich's idiot nephew.

There is an interesting dialectical irony about the democracy thing. The U.S. is the greatest military power, and thus the greatest imperialist power. But the founding myth, here, is of an anti-colonial uprising. Insurgency, if you will.

This produces both a good and a bad thing.
On the one hand, it acts as an internal brake on imperialist adventures. The U.S. doesn't do traditional colonies -- that is, it doesn't settle Americans in a place for generations, change the laws, put in viceroys, etc. Sure, we did the Philippines, but mostly that kind of thing goes against the myth. And it is frankly very hard to make the case that some peoples had an election and invited us to invade them. So we don't have that horrible English trait -- go into India, say, steal whatever isn't nailed down, then invest in the place and milk the profits, etc., etc.

On the other hand, we do invade places, and we created half assed colonies. This is the bad side of the democratic idea -- Americans are the most irresponsible of imperial powers. Whatever we touch -- Guatamala, Haiti, the Philippines, Nicarauga, Panama -- turns to shit. That is because the colonial ventures are halfway, thus creating native governing classes that are halfway dependent on us. It is a golden method for destroying a country's spirit, especially as we laden the American final say so with the assurance that, hey, we just want to liberate the spirit of the peoples of X.

Bush is just a parody example of this, a reductio ad Texan of the whole business.
Deleted said…
Roger, I view the cycling into war as matter of choice and the party ideologies very similar at root. Hillary Clinton exhibits the same fundamental disdain for democracy as Bush. They may believe what they're pushing is recognizable as such, but I attach little value to sincerity and willful ignorance. Manifest Destiny covered in genuine caramel substitute is still a murderous deal. I don't see how I can avoid morally trashing them.

It may not be politically smart to trash them, and in so doing I may be undermining any chance for stopping them. I could make an argument for that myself. But in these circumstances I think I can make more out of a "plague on both their houses appeal" than anything else. It has the virtue of coming from conviction and I can, if pressed, back it up with a paper trail.
Anonymous said…
Regarding the article about the late Colonel David Hackworth, I must correct an error that was made. Colonel Hackworth won TWO DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSSES, NOT two Distinguished Service Medals. The Distinguished Service Cross is the U.S. Army's second highest award for heroism in combat. The DSC is equivalent to the Navy Cross and the Air Force cross.