“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, October 21, 2006

mission party redux - Bush and the endless boner

Having been paid by a paper (hurray for me!) yesterday, LI had the spondulees to go out and see a movie and have a drink with a friend. Over the drinkipoo (not a Mexican martini, since we did not want the headache – oh, we have gotten old, we have gotten old, we will wear the bottoms of our trousers rolled) the friend reminded us of kind things we’d said about John McCain. Say what?

Now, it is true that LI, like Saint Paul, does try to be all things to all people. Sometimes, we try to be moderate, and sometimes simply liberal, but most people who have the patience to endure our company for any length of time come away with the impression that we are a far leftist type. And, as readers of this blog know, in reality we are simply insane, or to give the standard blogspeak version of that, batshit insane (although, in reality, we are more the flyeating variety – like Renfield in Dracula. And driven to this condition by a too long residence in Dracula’s castle, aka the U.S., circa 2001 –2006. And like Renfield, our insane condition has made us supersensitive to the peregrinations of evil itself – in the shape of the war culture. Here’s the spot in the parenthesis where we mention that the U.S. spent a trillion dollars on “defense” last year. Then we gobble down some flies). But could we have been saying kind things about John McCain? Perhaps it was after he made noises about the fact that Global warming is real, and even might be of interest to the Federal Government at some far distant point. And it is also true that we take Paul’s advice to be fundamentally about method acting: get into a part, become the part, see what is in the part. Become a Republican, a warmonger, a business mantra citing freak, a motherfucker, a nice guy, a secretary, a loser, a bum, a lecher, a leech – whatever. We are, and remain, a figure-flinger, as Naude puts it – one of the cunning women.

Getting us to the wonderfully oblivious President’s latest speech. We mentioned, long ago, that our Rebel in Chief gets a particular boner from certain words and stances, with his favorite, the one that is on the very top, being “mission”:

“President Bush met today with his top advisers and military commanders on Iraq, but he offered no indication of change in strategy in his weekly radio address where he vowed not to pull U.S. troops out until "the mission is complete" and said one of the causes of the increased violence in Iraq is the enemy's desire to break America's resolve.

"The terrorists are trying to divide America and break our will, and we must not allow them to succeed . . . ," Bush said.

"Retreating from Iraq would allow the terrorists to gain a new safe haven from which to launch new attacks on America. Retreating from Iraq would dishonor the men and women who have given their lives in that country, and mean their sacrifice has been in vain. And retreating from Iraq would embolden the terrorists, and make our country, our friends, and our allies more vulnerable to new attacks."

I guess the new safe haven comes on top of the one they have in Pakistan, that the U.S. pays 6 billion per year to keep clean and neat.

All of which moves us to recycle a post from this March. Here it is:

Friday, March 10, 2006
the mission party, 03 -- a kegger!
We’ve spent three years watching a comatose anti-war movement spend its time begging Democrats to “lead an opposition.” This shows a fundamental misconception about the war.

[divertimento time]

Many think that the war is a foreign policy issue. Those people are always worried about the purpose of the war. Well, we long ago figured out that this was not a foreign policy issue, and we know the purpose of the war.

To explain this, some background.

When Bush was coming up through the sons-of-millionaire ranks, he landed, lucratively, on a sports franchise. But he wouldn’t be a Texas trust funder if he wasn’t aware that as he was making baby bucks with his franchise, his peers were bringing home double and triple that, leaving him, status wise, in the dust. Well, Bush took the higher road, of public sacrifice and shit, but it still burned a little bit, these CEOs and their money and perks.

So when Bush was elevated to the CC’s chair, he did what a CEO president does, and he amply rewarded the investor class. And just like a CEO – for instance, Dennis Kozlowski, after a busy couple of years making spurious profits, demands a little perk for himself, so did Bush. Kozlowski threw himself a two million dollar bash. Or actually, because he is a good, kind caring type, he threw it for one of his wives. And it was Roman themed, because Kozlowski, though an owner of an off shore company, had hung around NYC enough to meet uptown chicks who told him he had a roman profile and such, as he was stuffing hundreds in their panties. Actually, he has a classic fascist profile, but what is the diff?

Bush wanted his party, which is where Iraq came in. That was the party. And a great party it was. Everybody liked it.

Now, just as Kozlowski cast himself as a roman, Bush has a secret soldier side to him that is sort of cute. The purpose of the party was revealed on May 2, 2003. The purpose was so that Bush could say, Mission accomplished,.

Our CEO president loves to say mission. We won’t speculate overmuch about his love life, but let’s just say that we bet mission impossible has a place in it.

Everything was groovy. And the investors got another taste of sweetness, another huge theft of public resources in the form of a tax cut. The party was officially for the Iraqis, and this is where the trouble started. As Bremer has pointed out, Bush was pretty p.o.-ed that the people he threw his party for were not thanking him. And that was just the beginning of it. The natives are supposed to love parties – I mean, what else are they doing, herding sheep and shit? Bartending pays way more. But the Iraqis started getting in the way of the guests, started wolfing down the canapés and, frankly, setting fire to the tablecloths and shit.

This is where the Dems come in. Like any swank party, you have to have a pliable police force. That force is supposed to stifle calls from irate neighbors. The dems were perfect. Oh sure, like all cops, they made faces and rolled their eyes, especially when some of the guests poured white phosphorus on a major city, attacked its hospital, and scattered its people, all 200,000 of them, across the desert, and generally shot up the place, killing thousands. However, the cops were none too thrilled with the people in that city anyway.

Actually, this is why Murtha was a big deal – as you will have noticed, he looks like a cop. He’s the weary, about to retire cop, and he says, enough is enough. This party has to end, and we have to go to Kuwait and only send out our planes on special occasions to drop bombs on wedding parties and shit. And everybody is like, Murtha is the chief but he’s getting old.

However, the good time is wearing down. Just as with Kozlowski, Bush must notice that his peers are suddenly, eerily silent. Not only that, but there are all these spitballs from respected conservative figures. Drop the ideological label – I think the last conservative in the U.S. died in 1948. But these guys are innovators, little lures cast out by the investing class. And as the investing class pulls the plug on the party, the tom toms beating in the press for what a great party it is, and how we have to do it for the next ten years or so, are going to go silent.

All of which means that if – if Bush really does have to stop his party in Iraq – the Mission party, man, you can just hear him moaning. I deserved that party! … well, if he has to wrap it up, first sign will be Rumsfeld resigning. And here is the prediction from our fearless party planning consultant –watch for the M word. That will come out of Bush’s mouth as he speechifies his undying gratitude to Rumsfeld for sure.

[back to our sponsor time]

Oh, here's our ps. Bush might feel bad about like nobody liking his party. But the upside is, he has raised the bar on parties. That is so for sure. Hilary, who is a status sniffer if there ever was one, is sure to throw herself a party if she gets elected. Not in Iran – she’s not nuts – but some little place where we can go in, liberate, kill a couple thousand and get out. Maybe Bolivia – a total party opportunity, and I believe we own their army!”

end of self quote, back to self:

I’m feeling kindlier about H.C. lately – I actually think the wreck of Iraq is diminishing even the hyperaggressive American appetite for killing thousands of foreigners in order to keep America a safe haven for – Americans who want to go out and kill thousands of foreigners. Surely her antennae have picked this up.

Friday, October 20, 2006

iraqi bloggers respond to the lancet report

LI has been intrigued by the reaction, among the English writing Iraqi bloggers, to the Lancet report. Apparently it was trashed by Iraq the Model – a famous site among the pro-war crowd, that supplies a consistently pro-Bush line. This was too much for a blogger who goes by Konfused Kid (see our links), and he contacted other Iraqi bloggers. In the back and forth, a lot of fascinating, and very, very depressing stories fell out. Instead of listing all these blogs, go to this post at Treasure of Baghdad and read the informal survey he took.

LI’s position has been, consistently, that peace would consist of two parts: American withdrawal, and peace with Iran – since I don’t believe Iraq can be at peace, for one thing, without the latter condition. But because the American occupation has been such a crime against humanity, I recognize the one slimy truth in the stay the course option – American withdrawal might increase the violence. Practically, that means some of the voices surveyed by Baghdad treasure could be murdered. If you go through the Iraqi blogs, murder prowls the posts. And the question is: wouldn’t an American withdrawal be equivalent to the disbanding of the army and security services accomplished by the Americans – the one leading cause of the violence, without any doubt?

The problem with that argument is that it ignores what the Americans are doing. While keeping a rough and ready order, it is in the service of a larger disorder. The Americans will never allow the things that have to be done in Iraq – the negotion between all parties without any conditions; the possibility of universal amnesty; the serious discussion of disarming the militias, which can only come about if one of those militias isn’t favored (at the moment, the U.S. is favoring the Badr Brigades, by the way). In our analogy between American withdrawal and the disbanding of the Iraqi army, we should add this likeness – the American army, officially headed by the Bush administration, is like the Iraqi army still being headed by Saddam Hussein. Discussions about what the Americans do, or their humanitarian function in Iraq, are pointless if the discussion doesn’t include that the American forces are headed by a petty, incompetent and irresponsible tyrant. This is what happens when a volunteer army is used for mercenary purposes. The double aspect of ownership is, here, a fraud – they are “American” forces, insofar as they are paid for by American money, but they are “Bush’s paramilitary”, insofar as the executive, illegally, has so far extended his executive power as to fling them into Iraq, and refused any feedback from Congress as to what they are doing there. The victims of Bush’s vanity war are the Iraqis. They die. The Americans pay. The Bush white house gets redder and redder with Iraqi blood.

Reading the Iraqi blogs brings this home. These are like voices from inside some disaster that we caused. They are still alive, and God willing, will survive the American criminal regime. But, in fact, these people will die if American policy isn’t changed radically, and soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

marie antoinette's finest moment

En fait, on sait bien que ce qui a mis à sec les finances de la France, c’est la guerre d’Indépendance américaine, et pas les chaussures de Marie-Antoinette. Mais avec les femmes au pouvoir, on en vient toujours aux paires de chaussures. – Chantal Thomas


A recent LCC post got us interested in the new Coppola movie about Marie Antoinette – an obvious lure for people who have invested a lot of time in studying French culture. At the same time, I don’t have high hopes for it – Lost in Translation merely made me sorry that Bill Murray was lost in Lost in Translation, and everything I have read about the Marie Antoinette movie seems to indicate – take the Paris Hilton set, put big gowns and wigs on them, and voila, the decadent Frogs! A rather pitiful comparison. The French aristocracy might have been many things, but they were not the untutored ignoramuses of our current governing class.

Probably we will have to wait until video – we are rather crawling on the economic floor this week, and repeating our mantra: never become a freelance writer! Better strangle your child in the cradle. If they show any inclination to write down their feelings, or compose poems, or such crapola – send them immediately to military school! So we aren’t about to spring for the tickets to S.C.’s fun filled frolic at the moment, when that is certainly equivalent to a burger and fries.

Good films about the French revolution are hard to make. (We have heard wonderful think about Peter Watson’s film of the French Commune – but it is not out on DVD, so these are just rumors to us). However, we do remember back, what, twenty years, the awful film by Wadja that tried to make out that the French Revolution was Stalinism with the trimmings, with some rancid scenes about Robespierre that completely made him out to be a puritanical little Beria. Wadja really is a cunt, and he revived an old reactionary trope that is adored by the right, which likes to contrast the American Revolution (which preserved slavery and was premised on the westward march of Indian killing) as good and enlightened, whereas the bad Frenchies were sending butchers out to drown the Vendee in blood and such. It always amazes me how much sheer blindness goes into these things, but I guess I exist in a constant state of amazement. I, on the other hand, support (isn’t that a lovely word, support? It is often brandished in comments and blogs, and it has such faux gravity, as if one were stepping to a podium before a cheering crowd. This, my friends, my brothers, my mokes and geezers, is what pomposity is all about!) the Atlantic revolutions – the U.S., France, Haiti. Good thing I do, too! Otherwise there’d be the devil to pay.

Poor Marie A. was not her mother’s daughter until the end – I wonder if they show that in the movie? I don’t have a soft spot for many royals – for instance, I think Lenin did the right thing in ordering the execution of the Romanovs, save for the kids – but I think Paine was completely right about sparing Louis and his wife – a step that plunged France into the wars that eventually led to Napoleon. Anyway, Antoinette has been a great object for feminist historians in the last twenty years. In her time, Marie Antoinette was the anti-heroine of many a pornographic tract. Lynn Hunt, in the Family Romance of the French Revolution, and Chantal Thomas, in the groundbreaking La Reine Scelerante, have done some immense work in the archives, bringing to light these pamphlets and caricatures. Thomas, in her interview with Humanite, cites Madame De Stael:

“After having written that essay on the queen in the pamphlets (La reine scelerante), and chiefly in picking up once again the witness of Madame de Staël, I was intrigued that someone who was so politically opposite to the queen would take up the pen so courageously to defend her in saying that all women are humiliated by the way Marie Antoinette is treated.” Referring of course to the trial. Marie Antoinette’s boy was taken away, and given to a shoemaker named Simon, who caught him, one day, masturbating, and coaxed the eight year old into saying that his mother and her sister taught him. Hebert, prosecuting Marie, said this about the charge:

“There is reason to believe that this criminal enjoyment was not at all dictated by pleasure, but rather by the political hope of enervating the physical health of this child, who theycontinued to believe would occupy a throne, and on whom they wished, by this maneuver, to assure themselves of the right of ruling afterward over his morals.”

Now, Hébert is not just anybody. Actually, he is an influence on this very blog – I throw in words like cunt, fuck, and shit partly because Hébert used obscenity in Pere Duchesne, his newspaper. It was after reading Pere Duchesne that I decided, fuck, I’m gonna do that. Hebert had the genius to marry the language of the street to the language of revolutionary politics. He helped create the modern demagogic style. To make him Marie Antoinette’s accuser would be like appointing Larry Flynt Foley’s accuser.

In any case, the Queen was not going to put up with this confusion between reality and the stroke story. Her reply … is unfortunately untranslateable. A popular biography has her saying, I appeal to all the mothers in this room. “I appeal” is, technically, correct, but doesn’t have the electric force of Marie Antoinette’s speech, which is like the speech of one of Racine’s heroines. Here’s an excerpt from the Goncourt Brothers biography:

‘A juror arose: Citoyen président, je vous invite de vouloir bien observer à l’accusée qu’elle n’a pas repondu sur le fait dont à parlé le citoyen Hébert, à l’égard de ce qui s’est passé entre elle et son fils.”

“Si je n’ai pas repondu, dit la Reine, c’est que la nature se refuse à repondre à une pareille question faite à une mere; et se tournant vers les mères qui remplissent les tribunes: J’en appelle à toutes celles qui peuvent se trouver ici.

I love this moment. I absolutely love this moment.

ps - proof that our own court society, compared to Louis XVI's, is as pasteboard to diamonds, is provided by Sally Quinn, the Washington Post's most enjoyable doyenne, today. Quinn has always treated D.C. as though it were her private high school - after all, we all learn about court society in prom, don't we? - and is probably still rather miffed that, after all the introducing around she did for Chalabi, the man still wasn't elevated to the rank of proconsul in Iraq. Some greasy other Arab was (and I use greasy advisedly - her column about Chalabi and other Iraqi leaders made a point of how relatively non-greasy Chalabi was. As well as obviously having table manners - none of that barbarous scooping up the rice with your bare hands for OUR Iraqi leader.) Her column about Rumsfeld as a scapegoat today is riotously funny - Quinn seems to have the kind of fine mind that separates actions (especially actions about peons and peasants - I mean, my God, these are figures made by God to move about a chessboard, and we are supposed to worry that they bleed a little? Well, boo hoo) from high D.C. symbolism. So Rumsfeld is a scapegoat - I guess in the same way that Manson is a scapegoat in the murder of Sharon Tate. Charlie wasn't actually there, right?

But High School has its privileges, unto the grave. So my fave doyenne graf was this one:

"I suspect that he has already told the president and Cheney that he will leave after the midterm elections, saying that the country needs new leadership to wind down the war. And he will resign to take a job in some sort of humanitarian venture, thereby creating the perception that he is a caring person who left of his own accord to devote the rest of his life to good works."

Operator, get me a charity! "The perception that he is a caring person" - to parse that phrase completely, from the way in which perception is detached from subject and launched as a free floating variable, docking with various ectoplasmic communities, to the choice of 'person' - not man, not caring butcher of Fallujah, but 'person' - well, it would be to plunge into the maelstrom. The ride down would be fun, but much, much too long for a simple post.

journey through your mind to liberation past - and feel the patriotism!

The deadenders seem to be stirring in liberated Iraq this month. Puzzlingly, ten American soldiers were killed yesterday – puzzling in that Iraq, by all accounts, is well on its way to being a model for the world of freedom and free enterprise.

Stunned by the headlines, which seem to imply a few glitches in our Rebel in Chief’s masterwork in the Middle East, LI plunged into the very recent past to see where it all went right – where faith in freedom rescued the country from savage socialist minded Ba’athism and set it on the path of peace and prosperity. We were also a bit motivated by the rather strange Q and A in the Washington Post with the producer of the frontline about America's first year in Iraq. The man answered questions as though he were a prisoner of war -- and indeed, he did seem to know that offering unsolicited, socialist criticisms of the president would only be a trick to elect the Democrats. So he remained as nonpartisan as oatmeal.

We went to May 27, 2003 – you’ll remember that date. It lives in history. That was when the American liberators pretty much took care of the dead ender problem. Paul Bremer, an icy eyed executive used to getting things done (although, in private, associates say, he relaxes with his family, and joins his wonderful baritone to the voices around the dinner table as Rock of Ages, a family favorite, is being sung), announced the end of phase one of the liberation, and the beginning of phase two: the economy!

"A free economy and a free people go hand in hand," said Bremer, who arrived two weeks ago to run the occupation authority. "History tells us that substantial and broadly held resources, protected by private property, private rights, are the best protection of political freedom. Building such prosperity in Iraq will be a key measure of our success here."

Bremer spoke four days after the U.N. Security Council lifted economic sanctions imposed on Iraq more than 12 years ago after the Persian Gulf War. U.S. officials had complained that the sanctions, which they once favored as a way to force Hussein to comply with U.N. arms inspections and perhaps foment an uprising against him, had become a severe hindrance to postwar recovery.

But dismantling Iraq's state-managed system holds big risks for the occupation authority at a time when most Iraqis are struggling to get by. During Hussein's 24 years as president, he and his Baath Party drew on Iraq's oil wealth to subsidize the cost of basic items, creating something like a welfare state, and people came to expect these low prices. Many free-market advocates contend that subsidies distort economic incentives, retarding growth and ultimately harming consumers.

Before its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqi government spent close to $20 billion a year to import almost everything from staples to delicacies that it sold to merchants at bargain prices, lowering the cost to consumers. Once sanctions were imposed, Hussein used the U.N. oil-for-food program to establish a highly popular food-distribution network relied upon by 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. He doubled rations before the recent war in an effort to build popular resistance to the U.S. invasion.

"This place was probably affected less by the forces of supply and demand than any place I have ever seen," said Peter McPherson, who is on leave as president of Michigan State University to serve as the senior U.S. adviser to Iraq's Finance Ministry. "This was an integrated economy -- pathological, but integrated. You can't really take one piece out, fix it, and put it back. It will have to be taken all apart, and you will have to allow the forces of supply and demand to function."

It will have to be taken all apart – ah, a mantra for our time! And so it was – all of it. Can’t have any of that former Iraqi stuff, that integrated economy (what kinda thing is that!) hanging around. Taking it all apart is what the occupation graced that liberated land with. Taking apart security. Taking apart the economy. Taking apart the ministries one by one. And now, for a final flourish, the U.S. is supporting the federalization of Iraq – taking apart Iraq itself! Certainly there have been doubters on the way, but really, who among us can doubt, as history writes the books, that this humane, intelligent, charitable and – dare I say it in this time of liberal secular terrorism – well, gosh, this God fearing administration will go down as one of the peaks of our march back to the virtues of 16th century Spain.

LI wondered whatever happened to unsung hero Peter Macpherson. So we dug a little. Well, he didn’t go completely unsung! In 2004, The office of Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., issued the following press release:

“Reps. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, and Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, along with fellow members of the Michigan congressional delegation honored MSU President Peter McPherson, saying that his five months leading the financial reconstruction of Iraq make all of Michigan proud.

"Peter McPherson was able to use his financial experience to lay the groundwork for rebuilding the economic structure of an entire country," Hoekstra said, citing McPherson's work as a deputy secretary of treasury, bank vice president and head of the $6 billion Agency for International Development. "He did a phenomenal job in a relatively short period of time, and all of the pieces he put in place are beginning to show progress."

Hoekstra and Rogers joined their peers from Michigan in presenting McPherson with a ceremonial copy of a resolution introduced in the House that honors him for his accomplishments. McPherson officially served as the Coalition Provisional Authority's director of economic policy following the liberation of the country.”

"President McPherson is very deserving of being recognized for his tremendous contribution to reconstructing Iraq's economy," Rogers said. "He made a significant impact on the lives of an Iraqi people in the process of rebuilding their country. In doing so, he made all of Michigan and all of America proud.”

Rebuilding, hmm. I don’t think Rogers got the memo: taking apart, dude! Or for you business types: creative destruction.

Now, you might wonder how Bush, the Great Helmsman, plucked this burning brand from obscurity. Well, McPherson was not so obscure with the Bush al Qaeda! As we know, nothing is more important than preventing abortion, and McPherson happened to play a sterling role when, under Reagan, he cut off funding to the U.N.’s family planning programs to undermine that filthy practice. This was in 1985, which was just in time to stop the spread of rubbers in Africa, with the healthful results that we have seen since. When I say God fearing, I do mean God fearing. There is something so… well, right about a man who has participated in some of the great pages of American history. Obscure yes, but it is men like McPherson that have made American foreign policy what it is today.

As for the headlines – more badmouthing by the MSM? Puh-leeeze. Surveys have pretty much definitively shown that 90 percent of journalists voted for Osama bin Laden as their favorite superstar on that American Idol episode, no. 84. Enough said.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

the fun of the war

Continuing from my last post...

There is actually something else to say about Geras. Not so much to make a political point, but to make a psychological one.

Geras’ attitude, as you will remember, is that now, looking back, he can’t see that the war in Iraq he supported was supportable. On the other hand, looking back, he can’t see opposing the war, which he identifies with supporting the Ba’athist regime.

For a person active in politics, this is a rather appalling stand. After all, with or without his support, his state is engaging in a war that he thinks is wrong – or went wrong. So what kind of reason is it to not oppose that war because you identify opposition solely with supporting the Ba’athist regime?

However, stripping this idea of its political references for a second - this attitude is actually at the base of great English comedy. It is the moment when judgment – moral or aesthetic – shifts to the register of competition. To judge that a thing is bad is a philosophical task, but in the novel of real life, we more often judge that a person is bad. We more often think, that is, about how we don’t want to be or function like X, and create a negative figure out of that moment of negative choice. Those are the figures, in essence, that we compete with. And often, the badness of the figure becomes stronger than the reasons we hold an act or a function to be bad. Out of this comes snobbery and wounded dignity. The latter emerges from the moment in which we are squeezed between the figure that represents ‘how we don’t want to be’ and something that upsets our judgment about how we don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a liberal academic, or a poser, or a fan of country music, or a supporter of George Bush, etc., etc. translates into a satisfying comparison with liberal academics, posers, fans of country music, supporters of George Bush, etc. At least I am not X: This is the moral stance of the contemporary hero.

Sketching out this aspect of moral life, it points to a problem in the way sociologists mapping out our positive identifications as primary. That’s an idealistic stance. Dis-identification is just as important.

It might seem like the logical endpoint of “how we don’t want to be” is enmity. But the origin of the enemy is in combat, and there is always something mortal about enemies. You wish your enemies dead. Your enemies wish you dead. Whereas dis-identification is more about edging away from people, and the horror that it wishes to avoid most is: being surrounded by. Being surrounded by Republicans. Being surrounded by anti-war types. Being surrounded by lefties, righties, pinkos, rednecks, yahoos, jerkoffs, feminazis, dittoheads. Whatever. To be surrounded by cuts off the ability to edge away. Terrifyingly, to an outsider, one can be identified with the crowd of ‘how we don’t want to be.’

This is where English comic writers come in – where in French literature, the thousand meannesses of everyday life are treated as though they have a certain grandeur – think of Lisbeth’s revenge in Cousine Bette – since the French have a genius for enmity, in English writers, those meannesses are filtered through the comedy of wounded dignity or snobbery, since the English genius is for edging away. Dickens, of course, is the first writer who comes to mind. I have lately been reading one of E.F. Benson’s Mapp novels, about the town of Tilling, and here meanness, hypocrisy, invidious comparison and snobbery are very foundations of village life and the source of the thousand and one differences between a general mask of amiability and a sudden and brutal dislike lurking just below the surface, and most apt to emerge during a game of bridge. Tilling is a town of retirees, mostly, on limited incomes, but with high social standing. And of course it is picturesque, a tourist spot, and the perfect place to make the most of a limited income. Benson’s invention works by itself, in a way – everything follows the ridiculousness of Tilling. And Miss Mapp’s world is truly funny.

This is a typical Mapp moment:

“Miss Mapp set off with her basket to do her shopping. She carried in it the weekly books, which she would leave, with payment but not without argument, at the tradesmen's shops. There was an item for suet which she intended to resist to the last breath in her body, though her butcher would probably surrender long before that. There was an item for eggs at the dairy which she might have to pay, though it was a monstrous overcharge. She had made up her mind about the laundry, she intended to pay that bill with an icy countenance and say "Good morning for ever," or words to that effect, unless the proprietor instantly produced the--the article of clothing which had been lost in the wash (like King John's treasures), or refunded an ample sum for the replacing of it. All these quarrelsome errands were meat and drink to Miss Mapp: Tuesday morning, the day on which she paid and disputed her weekly bills, was as enjoyable as Sunday mornings when, sitting close under the pulpit, she noted the glaring inconsistencies and grammatical errors in the discourse. After the bills were paid and business was done, there was pleasure to follow, for there was a fitting-on at the dressmaker's, the fitting-on of a tea-gown, to be worn at winter-evening bridge-parties, which, unless Miss Mapp was sadly mistaken, would astound and agonize by its magnificence all who set eyes on it. She had found the description of it, as worn by Mrs. Titus W. Trout, in an American fashion paper; it was of what was described as kingfisher blue, and had lumps and wedges of lace round the edge of the skirt, and orange chiffon round the neck. As she set off with her basket full of tradesmen's books, she pictured to herself with watering mouth the fury, the jealousy, the madness of envy which it would raise in all properly-constituted breasts.”

Mapp, suitably folded, spindled and mutilated, is Geras.

The idea that, to put it bluntly, pouting is an honorable and moral political position, vis a vis a war, is very much a Tilling idea. It is consistent with the odd frivolity that hangs about some of the war’s biggest boosters. While celebrating loudly the struggle of good and evil, the battle of civilizations, and the liberation of Iraq, the details of said liberation have always been left entirely and a little blurrily to the discretion of the liberation caterers, while one noted “the glaring inconsistencies and grammatical errors” of the war’s opponents, Ba’athist supporters every one, which was of course the real fun of the thing.


PS – oh, I have to shoehorn this in here somehow. A fun fact to know and tell! This is from Murtha’s op ed piece in the WashPo, 10/13:
“Some of my Democratic colleagues questioned whether Iraq posed an immediate threat to our national security; some were not convinced that Iraq was accelerating the development of nuclear weapons and had an active chemical and biological weapons program; and almost all believed that Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They turned out to be right on all three counts. Nevertheless, since our forces deployed to Iraq, Democratic support for the troops has never wavered.
In the past nine months alone, $962 billion has been appropriated for the Defense Department, $190 billion for the war effort. A vast majority of Democrats voted for the funding. Democrats also identified shortfalls in body armor, armored vehicles and electronic jammers to defeat roadside bombs. Democrats uncovered problems with the military readiness of our ground forces in the United States and fought for measures to restore it. That's hardly defeatist.”

Nine months=1 trillion dollars = total insanity. As in, we live in a country that spends a trillion dollars on war in 9 months. 9 months. A trillion dollars. On war. 9 months. War. A trillion dollars. Hmm, how can I gild this giant, comet sized, planet sized, astronomical, megalo-mutant piece of shit! Which, you should note, you Americans reading this, you eat every day! If you compared this amount of shit to all the shits excreted by all the Joint Chiefs of Staffs since George Washington’s day, the budget piece of shit is still 10 to the power of 10 feces higher than their shits. That is enough shit to reach to the nearest planet outside our solar system that whirls around the star, XXXBEINART1.

Monday, October 16, 2006

norman geras puts his fingers in his ears and goes na na na na na

Back in the heady days after the purple revolution, when every belligeranti worth his salt had dyed his own forefinger purple in solidarity, there was an article in the Sunday Times of London (2/6/05) entitled “Stormin' Marxist is toast of the neocons”.

It began like this:

“AN OBSCURE Marxist professor who has spent his entire academic life in Manchester has become the darling of the Washington right wing for his outspoken support of the war in Iraq.

Despite his leanings Norman Geras, who writes a blog diary on the internet, has praised President George WBush and says the invasion of Iraq was necessary to oust the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein.

His daily jottings have brought him the nickname of "Stormin' Norm" from the title of his diary, Normblog. The Wall Street Journal has reprinted one of his articles in its online edition and American pundits often cite his words.

Most mornings Geras, 61, the author of such obscure books as Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard Rorty, sits in the upstairs study of his Edwardian semi in Manchester to type his latest entry.

Last week he gave thanks to Bush, quoting an Iraqi who wants to build a statue to the American president as "the symbol of freedom".

He also lambasted "all those conflicted folk who would like to remain true to their values and be pleased about the Iraqi election, but don't want George Bush to be able to take any credit for it". He picked Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent newspaper, for special mention.”

Ah, credit. The other side of credit is, I believe, blame. Times have gotten tough for the pro-war side, due to the terrorist coddling media reporting only the bad news from Iraq. The statue of Bush has, sadly, been put on hold. And what a symbol it would have been! Something for all Iraqis to see. Their liberator, their hero, the man who has cared enough for them that he even extended the blessing of the flat tax to them – making a thousand flowers bloom. Poems about the Rebel in Chief, on the model of Pushkin’s the Bronze Horseman, could be written. He’s like Lawrence of Arabia, but more butch.

Geras is quoted in the Stormin’ Norm article saying:

"Everybody and his brother has had a go at me. But I started the blog because I was fed up with the prevailing left and liberal consensus that the war in Iraq was wrong.

"If those people who marched against the war had been successful they would have prolonged a brutal regime responsible for 300,000 deaths. They could have chosen not to support the war, but they chose to oppose it.”

The rather mystifying suggestion that we in the West live in such authoritarian regimes that our choice is to either support the war or exist in interior exile, pretty much allowing the powers that be to exercise their will without restraint or opposition, has now become Geras’ own position. This weekend he withdrew his support for the war – and presumably is no longer going to contribute to that statue of George Bush:

“Still, there have been too many deaths; there has been too much other suffering. It has lately become clear to me - and this predates publication of the second Lancet report - that, whatever should now happen in Iraq, the war that I've supported has failed according to one benchmark of which I'm in a position to be completely certain.

That is, had I been able to foresee, in January and February 2003, that the war would have the results it has actually had in the numbers of Iraqis killed and the numbers now daily dying, with the country (more than three years down the line) on the very threshold of civil war if not already across that threshold, I would not have felt able to support the war and I would not have supported it. Measured, in other words, against the hopes of what it might lead to and the likelihoods as I assessed them, the war has failed. Had I foreseen a failure of this magnitude, I would have withheld my support. Even then, I would not have been able to bring myself to oppose the war. As I have said two or three times before, nothing on earth could have induced me to march or otherwise campaign for a course of action that would have saved the Baathist regime. But I would have stood aside.”

The interior exile position is a little strange. What I guess this means is that, three years ago, he would have stuck his fingers in his ears and sung na na na na na instead of supporting or opposing the invasion. And he would have kept his fingers in his ears for the duration.

Who knows? LI thinks that might well have been the right course for Geras, but for those who opposed the invasion and opposed Saddam the Meatman, it just won’t do. In actuality, American interest and a certain justice would have been better served by dropping, after 9/11, the double cordon sanitaire around Iraq and Iran. American interest, served by waging a war in Afghanistan that did not have a forty year goal, but a two year one (breaking with the liberal "nationbuilding" idea, that imperialism of good intentions - this time, we aren't here to plunder but to help you become just like Californians!) plus a thaw on relations with Iran, would have provided a framework in which America could actually lower its profile in the Middle East to accord with its real influence in the Middle East. American hegemony was bound to take a hit after the end of the Cold War. The question about Saddam wasn’t if he was going to fall, but when, as the belligeranti in their cups sometimes like to point out – Hitchens being a great one for the idea that, save the invasion, the failed state would have spiraled into something horrible. Like, uh, I don’t know, a state in which it is an everyday occurrence for militia from the Ministry of the Interior to use drills in torturing and killing ordinary Iraqis. Something like that.

The belligeranti served one purpose only in 2002 – to throw up a smokescreen. We aren’t going to revisit the numerous posts we made at the time, pointing out that their arguments were for a war that wasn’t ever going to be waged. Geras’ na na na na na option is clueless, but at least it is a start. However, those who oppose the war and oppose the occupation should certainly not be mislead into following that option. The current D.C. fantasy of splitting Iraq into tasty bits so that we can bed down with our buddy Shiites in the South and those great Kurds in the north is not only not going to work, but will, very obviously, lead to the worst case scenario of continuing, high levels of conflict in Iraq driven by American interest. Although splitting up Iraq has been the favored rightwing Israeli fantasy since the war began, the SCIRI state it has now become U.S. policy to kill Iraqis for will work out even worse for our proud little buddy in the Middle East – a Shiite, hezbollah lovin’ state in South Iraq is not going to be the Chalabi-land of Richard Perle’s erotic dreams. Israel truly is on the verge – if it continues to follow every Perle-ish dream for regional domination, it is signing its own death warrant.

Now – back to building that statue of the Liberator. Let’s paint it a blood red, shall we?