Saturday, August 05, 2006

robert kaplan - stooge

The phrase ‘war profiteer’ causes noses to wrinkle among the conventional wisdom set. It is so… angry. And fringe. Not at all the kind of bloodless bloody talk preferred at Georgetown lunches, or Raytheon sponsored golfing trips for congressmen.

However, LI is so damn fringe that we spontaneously generate tie dyed shirts (it is a horrible FX, not suitable for children under 16 not accompanied by parent). And so we think that there are indeed war profiteers, and that wars are fought more often for stuff than for principles (which, actually, has turned out to be a good thing – stuff is limiting) and that the combination of fighting for stuff and claiming to be fighting for principles is the worst of both worlds. We think that there is a subculture, dominant in the U.S., that fattens on spilling human blood. We also think that the flaks of war are immensely important to keep the whole corrupt system going. It is these people that make mass murder exciting. Hip. And oh so serious – strategy rather than butchery. Which reminds us a bit of a parable John Selden, the English antiquarian and friend of Ben Johnson, jotted down in his strange little book, Table Talk:

“Boccaline has this passage of Souldiers, They came to Apollo to have their profession made the Eighth Liberal Science, which he granted. As soon as it was nois’d up and down, it come to the Butchers, and they desir’d their Profession might be made the Ninth: For say they, the Souldiers have this Honour for the killing of Men; now we kill as well as they; but we kill Beasts for the preserving of Men, and why should not we have Honour likewise done to us? Apollo could not Answer their Reasons, so he revers’d his Sentence, and made the Souldiers Trade a Mystery, as the Butchers is.”

This is, of course, obsolete in the age of Robert Kaplan, where all Mysteries have been bureaucratized into security clearances. Kaplan is an important flak who has “promoted/ the third world war” – like the guy in the Highway 61 song, Kaplan believes it can be “easily done.” He is writing in belligeranti mode in his article, Hunting the Taliban in Las Vegas, in this month’s Atlantic. Kaplan does Tom Wolfe like paens to military hardware, but it is like Wolfe with half a brain (unfortunately, that is what Wolfe, too, sounds like as a novelist).

It begins by framing the issue nicely. First we get the decadent civilians, whacking off:

“To embed on some of the niftiest air missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, I had to fly to Las Vegas. 1 drove out of town past the MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and Caesar's Palace and checked in at a low-end hotel-casino complex in Las Vegas for $59 a night. It was crowded with obese people in sweat suits and seniors driving motorized wheelchairs, yanking one-armed bandits in a masturbatory frenzy, and smelling of whiskey, cigarettes, and popcorn. Ten minutes away, at Nellis Air Force Base, I found a cluster of camouflaged trailers.”

Such nice distinctions between worlds. Oh, the nasties in their masturbatory frenzy. Oh, how they just don’t understand the price of Freedom! And oh, on the other side, the hardbody military, the world’s greatest fuckers – so beyond the primitives in 120 Days of Sodom. Sade’s fuckers, with their elaborate sodomies choreographed in cathedrals and vaults, their pitiful excesses of sperm and candle wax, can’t compete with the fucking of cyborg war, where the torture and death can be vicariously enjoyed by fuckers at home – such as Kaplan – dressed, no doubt, in camo. Although the logic remains the same – get to the to the Sadean vanishing point – that moment when pleasure and pain are indistinguishable. So, put on your helmets and enjoy the seared human sweetmeats with the drones!

“The Predator is the most famous of several dozen UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) that the military operates. It was first deployed in the 1990s in the Balkans, but made its bones in November 2002 in Yemen, when a Predator fired ACM-114P armor-piercing Hellfire missile incinerated a car in which an al-Qaeda leader, Abu Ali al-Harithi, was traveling with five others through the desert. And a Predator tracked Iraqi insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during the last days of his life.”

al-Zarqawi is a perfect example of the antiquated Sadean fucker – orgasming over chopping off the heads of civilians. No wonder such as Kaplan despise him – oh, how much better to chuckle and grunt over incineration via OUR UAVS – such a great toy, much better than those masturbatory one armed bandits:

“I've been traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan for a quarter century, and yet some of the most illuminating moments I've experienced in those countries occurred here in Las Vegas. Each day began with a pilots' briefing, no different from those I've attended with Air Force pilots elsewhere,with a similar nervous edge to it. To wit, the brief began with "Motherhood"—that is, the idiot-proof basics. Then came an intelligence backgrounder, followed by a detailed weather report (for Iraq and Afghanistan, not Nevada), and concluding with the "Brevity," or code words for the day. The wall clocks focused on three time zones: Iraq's, Afghanistan's, and Zulu. (Zulu Time, or Z Time, is Greenwich Mean Time not adjusted to daylight saving time; the U.S. military uses
Z Time worldwide to prevent confusion.)

"Those who '"fly" Predators are indeed pilots, not operators, even though they don't have to leave the ground. They wear flight suits. Each is a veteran of an A-10, an F-15, a B-1 bomber, a B-52, or any of a host of other aerial platforms. The scrappy, lumbering, low-tech A-10 Warthog may give pilots the best preparation for flying the high-tech Pred. Both Warthogs and Predators are about hitting small targets and gunning down individuals in confined spaces. "If you want to pull the trigger and take out bad guys, you fly a Predator," one Pred pilot told me.”

Doing his hopped up clancyite routine is why Kaplan is just the cutest little reporter the neo-cons ever saw. Of course, the replacement of the face to face encounter by the kindergarten role play encounter of men wearing flight suits as costumes ‘taking out’ bad guys is exactly the reason the U.S. was gunning for military disaster from the moment they set foot in Iraq. Reporters who want to play the people who play the soldiers who kill the bad guys are the reason that, for so long, this obvious fact never emerged in any of the reporting on Iraq. Embedded reporters? Nope. The word is stooge. And Kaplan is the very model of a stooge. Really, he should get into the interactive war game market and compete with the Clance himself.


new york pervert said...

Well, good stuff as usual, but you will NOT take 'Bonfire of the Vanities' away from me any more than I could turn you against Oprah BEFORE she had her mini-breakdown and tearful umbrage episode with the bad writer of institutional misreprentation. I didn't read 'A Man in Full', but some of Wolfe's fragments are better than most of what his beastly critics Updike and Mailer wrote. I especially hate the later Updike's endless diarrheas like 'Brazil' and 'In the Beauty of the Lilies.' However, I love Mailer's terrible book about Marilyn Monroe--it's filthily alive. But neither one of them invented 'social x-rays' and that itself is worthy of the National Book Award, what with Brooke Astor living in Park Avenue squalor at telling what will happening to poor Kitty Carlisle...

roger said...

Well, Mr. NYP, I've been commissioned to write a profile of Mailer -- he's coming to Austin for a ceremony at U.T. -- and since I love Mailer, and even forgive him for the large, large faults --the screwy ancient Egyptian butt fucks, the longeurs after longeurs in Harlot's Ghost - forgive him for Marilyn, for parts of American Dream, Barbary Coast, and Deer Park, and for the great great rush of the journalism - what can I say? As for Updike, well, I feel I should try to know Updike better. Its true, though, that his going out of business sale fiction over the past decade hasn't been ... enticing.

And was Kitty Carlisle a real person? This I do want to hear about...

new york pervert said...,%20Kitty

Still adorable at 95...she was great with the Marx Brothers in 'A Night at the opera' and then sang 'Die Fliedermaus' at the Met in late 60's. Born in New Orleans and has been divine social x-ray with NYState Council on the Arts and other such institutions for many years, including dotty shows about King Tut. She was rude to a friend of mine who was pretending to just be asking her directions at a museum some years back, but really knew that she was Kitty Carlisle, and Ms. Carlisle knew this, so let her know it in no uncertain terms. This ex-friend was always trying to drag celebs down to her own level, including the ones that didn't deserve it.

I like Mailer in many ways too, he's a great writer and a real son-of-a-bitch character, too. I hope you're going to make your profile's whereabouts known to us when you do it, that's a good job you've got there. I still think y'all are all mean about Mistah Wolfe, and Tom Hanks was just so shitty in the movie. But Mistah Wolfe has great ear for dialogue and dialect. I'll excuse all sorts of misbehaviour when people can do that.

roger said...

That movie was perhaps one of the worst movies ever. You can't judge a book, however, by the cocaine addled movie concocted out of some illiterate's summary of it for a producer - on this I think we can all agree.

So Kitty Carlisle acted with the Marx Bros! I am bowled over. I have childhood memories of her on quiz shows, but like all quiz show personalities in the sixties, you never quite knew where these people came from. Rather like the faces on Teen People now.

I like Wolfe, I admit, much better for his sixties and seventies journalism. And he didn't help his case by writing that manifesto about novel writing and how he was going to rescue it by going back to Balzac, a writer of whose work he was obviously widely and copiously ignorant. But far be it from me to put Wolfe down here -- in this post, I was complimenting him re the Vietnam piece he did about bomber pilots which, although bloodthirsty to a degree, actually rocked.

new yorkpervert said...

It's true that nothing was quite so poetic as 'The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,' but there were sections in 'Bonfire of the Vanities' that were much of what Capote would have written about the East Side if he hadn't been so blocked and unwell. Agree about movie, they thought it was a wonderful idea to make it as horrible as possible.

Miss Carlisle was on 'To Tell the Truth' which 'also starred', as one writer of the day put it, 'beauteous Betsy Palmer.' Ms. Carlisle was for that show what glamour-drenched, bejeweled and smoky-voiced Arlene Francis was for 'What's My Line.' They always let Arlene cheat.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I just saw (and met) Kitty Carlisle Hart over the weekend in North Hollywood. Nearly 96, she's still a class act with plenty of wonderful stories (I've posted a "review" on my blog at

roger said...

I admit, I am powerfully tempted to trash all of this insignificant political/cultural schmatter schmatter schmatter I usually do and devote myself exclusively to Kitty C. -- the aura, the legend, the reality. From the tyke to the matron, from Hollywood noblesse oblige to her secret life under the pen name "Malcolm Lowry".

However, I am going to go get a drink and think about it all. This is a serious step.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!