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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bush/Ubu

In an essay on Peron’s dictatorship, Borges claimed that recent argentinian history happened on two levels: one, a sordid theatrical farce, and the other, a literature for washerwomen – the paperback romance.
The Bush culture, more straightforwardly, takes its cues from Ubu Roi. Thus the latest sequence from Iraq. In one way, it is heartening. As readers of this blog know, the Iraq that emerged from the election was a theocracy in formation, with the Sunnis operating as the appalled but powerless spectators and the Kurds maneuvering to save their autonomy even at the risk of planting the seeds of a monster to the South. The Kurdish leadership, remember, found it convenient, at one point in the now forgotten civil war between warlords that occurred in 1996, to call in Saddam Hussein. This is the same leadership routinely praised, nowadays, for its commitment to democracy.
The defenders of the war, and even its opponents, have the disturbing habit of ignoring Iraqi reality when it doesn’t fit American rhetoric. For the belligerents, the Iraqi government we are defending is committed to democracy and human rights. Only the jihadists want to create an Islamic state. Of course, this turn away from reality has been occasionally pierced by the media, which, in fits of absent mindedness, sometimes reports on the inconvenient reality settling down in, say, Southern Iraq. This is a part of the country where the insurgents are replaced by the Sadr and Sciri paramilitaries, the lion lies down with the lamb, and coed college gatherings can result in attack, assault and murder at the hands of the guardians of the New Iraq. The neo-cons, who would have delighted Jarry, think that they have lit the fire of freedom in the middle east; they have, of course, acted unconsciously to spread the doctrine of Khomeini.
That being said, there is a certain schizophrenia on the pro-war side that has its counterpart on the anti-war side. On the one hand, the insurgency is in the last throes, or it is confined to merely three provinces, or it is simply something like the unruliness of the Nazis in occupied Germany. On the other hands, the insurgency is so powerful that American withdrawal would lead to Iraq falling into the hands of Zarquawi. Alan Philps, writing a surprisingly pessimistic column in the pro-war Telegraph, plays this tune:
“ feeling is growing in the West that it is time to remove troops from Iraq. Foreign troops, it is argued, are the problem, not the solution. The generals, anxiously watching the opinion polls, want nothing more than an excuse to start reducing troop numbers. So why not now? It is undeniable that the casualties are appalling and that every week Iraq produces more and more insurgents trained and bloodied in battle. The anti-war camp argues rightly that these jihadists did not exist in Iraq before the invasion. But they exist now. If they win, they will spread out to fight Arab regimes and no doubt try to bloody America as well.
So many mistakes have been made that success - the installation of a functioning secular democracy - is out of the question. But we owe it to the Iraqis not to hand them over to the new crop of warlords. What we started we must try to finish. “
The new crop of warlords, contra Philps, is precisely who we are fighting for. On the other hand, there is no reason to think that the Iraqi government would have less of a chance to suppress the insurgency than any other Middle Eastern government at this point.
The question that fascinates us Jarry-philes is how the neo-cons will turn on this dime. The defense of the rightful place of Islam in deciding petty things, like whether women receive an education or not, is going to be interesting. I’d suggest these useful lines of dialogue as a guide. Mere Ubu is trying to persuade Pere Ubu to kill the king of Poland and take his place:
Pere Ubu:
Eh vraiment! et puis après? N'ai-je pas un cul comme les autres?

MERE UBU
A ta place, ce cul, je voudrais l'installer sur un trône. Tu pourrais augmenter indéfiniment tes richesses, manger fort souvent de l'andouille et rouler carrosse par les rues.

PERE UBU
Si j'étais roi, je me ferais construire une grande capeline comme celle que j'avais en Aragon et que ces gredins d'Espagnols m'ont impudemment volée.

MERE UBU
Tu pourrais aussi te procurer un parapluie et un grand caban qui te tomberait sur les talons.

PERE UBU
Ah! je cède à la tentation. Bougre de merdre Ah! je cède à la tentation. Bougre de merdre, merdre de bougre, si jamais je le rencontre au coin d'un bois, il passera un mauvais quart d'heure.

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