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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

if the blind lead the blind...

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the
blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” – Matthew, 15:14.

The phrase comes out of a society and historic period in which the sight of the sighted leading the blind must have been no uncommon thing, just as glaucoma, the effect of parasites, the wear and tear of age, and the clinamen of the genetic arc must have sprinkled the blind and nearsighted over the landscape pretty abundantly. Jesus’ saying has a characteristic starkness – it is in the decisiveness of his inversions and metaphors that one feels the messianic impulse, the making of the first last and the last first. Brueghel’s painting, which multiplies the number of the blind into a small band, much like the bands of beggars one would encounter in the war ravaged low country during the long Dutch revolt against the Spanish, thrusts upon the observer the utter violence of Jesus' phrase. Yet the observer is himself in a peculiar position: he is at the point where, in effect, he is catching the stumbling leader of the pack -- putting him, the observer, the one outside the picture, in the ditch.

But here's what Jesus didn't imagine. Jesus didn’t imagine was that the blind would demand to be lead by the blind, and only the blind. This is an American refinement on stupidity. LI is its prophet.

For an entertaining glimpse into the blind demanding blind leaders and deeper ditches, LI suggests reading the WAPO Q and A with Thomas Ricks, the author of two WAPO articles criticizing the American military strategy in Iraq for being… oh, I suppose the term is disastrous. The articles are derived from Ricks’ book, Fiasco. Here’s the first question:

“Scottsdale, Ariz.: I have not yet read your book. However, just from the titles of your articles, the tone is negative, negative, negative. What has the US and its military done RIGHT..not just tactical activities but strategic decisions and events? In the profession of journalism today, can a journalist be positive and not be viewed by their peers as a cheerleader, or must all critical reviews be critical?”

That is indeed what we need to know. We need more blindness, deeper darkness, another level of hell. And Ricks is well aware of this. Far be it from him to act the part of the sighted. He rushes here, as throughout the Q and A session, to assure all and sundry that far from being gifted with 20/20 vision, he is loyally, absolutely stone blind, blinder than most:

Tom Ricks: “To turn to the first question, from Scottsdale. I think this is a good way to start. Why write a book called "FIASCO" about Iraq.
The short answer is: because I want to win in Iraq. I don't know a lot of officers who think the current posture is sustainable, especially as the chaos continues in Baghdad. But I still think it is possible to win in Iraq, if we get better at recognizing mistakes and adjust better and faster.”
Of course. He wants to win. Win win win. America is about winning. We’re winning all the time. Not losing. Not a debt ridden, addled empire with a load of half educated barbarians, led by a corrupt oil man and his crony, a perpetually adolescent ignoramus who is in it for the superman suit (or the Mission Accomplished suit) that he always imagines himself wearing.
So Ricks wants us to win. So reassuring. Except … questioner no. 2, you are on line:
“Washington, D.C.: Your first answer (..because I want to win in Iraq) illustrates the problem that has plaqued this war from the outset, i.e. what constitutes "winning", and how has whatever was originally intended as constituting winning, changed over time?
Tom Ricks: Thanks. You put your finger on an important question.
I think we could win in the sense of prevailing. But it would not look like victories in some other wars. In this war, for example, it would be a victory if, say, a leading insurgent agreed to put down his weapon and become, say, minister of agriculture.”
So that is what winning is about. It isn’t winning, it is prevailing. And it isn’t prevailing, it is about getting an insurgent to become, say, minister of agriculture. So, uh, what is the cost of this marvelous victory that we must achieve, come hell or high water?
“Salina, Kan.: You did a great job on "Meet the Press." In your opinion, how much longer will our troops be in Iraq?
Tom Ricks: I would bet a loooong time. Maybe 10 to 15 years.”
So, our amazing victory, our win win proposition here, is that we spend between 2 to 3 trillion dollars and lose around 20,000 soldiers, and (sorry to even mention it, it is so unimportant) participate in killing around 300,000 Iraqis so that we can get an insurgent to put down his gun to become, say, minister of agriculture.
Is this wonderful news or what? Ricks is right, this wouldn’t look like victories in other wars – it would look exactly like the worst defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Even worse than Vietnam, being a magnitude more senseless. In fact, the win win policy and the lose everything policy pleasingly converge in one policy – the policy of feeding the War Culture. Thus, the governing class moves from triumph to triumph, or ditch to ditch if you will, each ditch getting bloodier and more expensive, as the jerkwater crowd out there, Bush’s base (a word that, translated into Arabic, comes out – al qaeda) lynches those who can see, rooting them out wherever they are. Remember though – their kids, the children of WAPO writers, their think tank and lobbyist cronies, all the meritocratic idiots, will go to great colleges and get the great jobs they so richly deserve, whereas your kids – well, sorry about that, but if they are patriots they will throw themselves headfirst in the meat grinder. So that we can win!
But what I think is that sometimes, when the blind form an occupying army in, say, D.C., with blind paramilitaries in the hinterlands, that it is alright to resist them. For I come not to bring peace, but the sword – as somebody once said. These people will not be voted out, for these people are on both sides, Blind party one vs. Blind party two. It is other decisions at the grassroots level – talking to friends about Iraq, pointing out the uselessness of fighting there, supporting anti-recruitment efforts, seeing if there are anti-recruiters in your town, etc., etc. – that will knock the block of this vile contingent.

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