“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

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

in the american grain

When the news reached London of General Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga in 1778, Lord Chatham made a speech in the House of Commons, the like of which will never be made by any of the senatorial scum who currently prod the American Republic down the slope to hell. Here’s part of what he said:

“No man thinks more highly than I of the virtue and valour of British troops; I know they can achieve anything except impossibilities; and the conquest of English America is an impossibility… You cannot conquer America… You may swell every expense and every effort still more extravagantly… traffic and barter with every pitiful Geram prince that sells his subjects to the shambles of a foreign power; your efforts are forever vain and impotent, doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely, for it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies… If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I would never lay down my arms, never – never – never!”

A good jumping off point for discussing the recent Blackwater massacre in Baghdad, and the American response. It is hard to respond when you are either brain dead or in deep freeze, so the American response has been, of course, a big lukewarm zilch. We can’t disturb the drift as we float ever closer to the Niagara, no matter how much faith we have put in short term memory loss and attention deficit disorder – this country’s favorite hobbies – to get us through the dark night of our Britneyized soul, another possum superpower hoping to avoid the broken mirror’s curse that comes from massacring the innocents. And there’s always Christmas. .

That America will never conquer Iraq, and seems intent on destroying the supports that all power must rely on – the intangible and presumptive threat of efficient force, rationally directed – has been a given at LI since 2003. We’ve ceased to write much about it – for who, among the lobotomized zombies of the electorate, the tranquilized slugs of the opposition, with the miles of bacon fat wrapped around the moral indignation or any morality whatsoever, who cares? So watching these ghouls maintain, at one and the same time, that we have to attack Iran and that we also don’t have one thousand American soldiers to replace a security force with the mores and moves of your average prison gang – I mean Blackwater – is a matter for House of Usher comedy, pedaled B movie laughter, the big fuck you in the closing moments as the hero takes out his cock and wiggles it. I can feel, every day, the corruption and filthiness of the chords that bind me, in thousands of ways, to this sickened country and its toxic momentum, but these chords are like those that bound Doctor Jekyll to Mr. Hyde – you can’t dissolve them without dissolving the motherfucking whole. Still, occasionally a mockingbird will whistle and jeer just for the pleasure of cussing, and LI will kick out with the spasmodic motion of a hanged man, crap running down our legs. So here’s the windup and here’s the pitch…

Way back when we started this blog, we wrote several posts about Angola – the alliance between the Marxist president of Angola and the Bush administration which led to the gunning down of Reagan’s favorite freedom fighter, Jonas Savimbi, struck us as an almost perfect post-Cold War fable… oh the synergies… On the one side, the always disgusting and corrupt ‘Marxist’ left, historically on the side of the slave traders, but with piped in neo-folk music. On the other side, the paymaster right, which of course the Marxy crowd could appreciate – after all, wasn’t profit and loss the be-all and end all of the dialectic? and thus both parties happily thriving on blood diamonds, blood oil, and blood ballots. A marriage truly made in hell, and to put a corpse on top of the wedding cake, apartheid South Africa’s old friend ambushed by ‘Angolan’ forces. Two excerpts from posts we made about this back on June 17 and June 21, 2002:

“A scandal identi-kit.

It works like this. The detective parks his car across the street from the warehouse, he gets out his camera, he takes pictures of men carrying briefcases meeting and exchanging them. The detective follows cars, he takes pictures of meetings in parks and under bridges.

We've seen this, right? The pictures, the movie, the implied plot. So here are a few pictures.

One would show Jacques Chirac meeting with George Bush on December 18, 2000 in Washington, DC at the French Embassy. One would show a former US supported "Freedom fighter," Jonas Savimbi, with fifteen bullets in him, gripping a gun. One would show Eduardo Dos Santos, the president of Angola and former hardline Marxist foe of Savimbo, being feted at a White House dinner shortly after Savimbo's assassination. And one would show an arms dealer named Pierre Falcone (whose wife Sonia, a former Miss Bolivia, is Laura Bush's friend) getting together $20,.000 to contribute to Bush's presidential campaign through his wife's beauty products corporation, Essante. In all, $100,000 was contributed during the campaign, and then, in 2001, returned when Falcone went to jail.

Falcone is not unknown to Chirac -- or to his old rival, Mitterand. In fact, he is one of the central figures in one of those simmering French scandals that would destroy the regime in another country: the arms trafficing scandal that involved Mitterand's son, Jean-Christophe, and huge, unaccounted for sums, as well as a mafioso style Russian arms dealer, Arkadi Gaydamak.

This isn't a story we've seen covered in the NYT. It runs through Angola and traces the surprising fault lines of the New World Order. How new worldish it is can be gauged by what happened to Jonas Savimba.

In the old days -- the eighties -- Savimbi was a right wing hero. Probably the only black man Jesse Helms ever willingly ate with, he was praised by Reagan as a George Washington type figure. His UNITA guerrillas were fed with American money, trained (as far as they had any training) by the CIA, and armed by the CIA, too.

But when the Soviet threat dissolved, Savimbi was undone by the economic facts on the ground. Those facts were about oil. The suddenly capitalistic dos Santos could deliver the oil. Savimbi, the loser of the first post-communist election, could only deliver his mad dog personality. And suddenly that personality wasn't in demand. The invites to the Helms house were on permanent hold. Savimbi retires with his guys to the bocage, of course, and forays out to attack airliners, murder villagers, rape women, and do all the stuff that made him George Washington in the first place. Well, how inconvenient. So he is tracked down -- perhaps with American help -- and killed:

"Fifteen bullets in all -- one in the neck, two in the head, the others in the chest, legs and arms -- finally overcame the boss of UNITA, who is dead at 67 years of age, Friday at 3 p.m. on the banks of the Luvuie River at Moxico." So read the announcement of his unhappy death this February. Another old cold warrior bites the dust, gangster style."

The way American intelligence agencies leave their assets around -- Savimbi in Angola, bin Laden in Afghanistan -- it is like some drunk Texas trucker throwing beer cans out the cab. Human litter, but somebody has to pick it up.

However, never let it be said that Savimbi's less glorious years had no function or meaning. With UNITA threatening him, dos Santos, backed by various American petro-chemical companies, such as Dick Cheney's Haliburton, needed arms. The desire for arms and drugs is the only unlimited desire known to mankind. Luckily, in this world, an embattled dictator can always find somebody to sell him a few hundred million dollars worth of weaponry; this is where Falcone, with his buddy Gaydamak, and his connections with Chirac and his faithful friend, Jean-Christophe Mitterand, fits in. As does ( scumbags of the world display the most touching solidarity) Clinton's good friend, Marc Rich, the on the run moneybags whose company, Glencore, deals in oil.”

Angola (part 2)

I know the names of those responsible for the slaughter
I know the names of those responsible for the slaughters
I know the names of the summit that manipulated
I know the names of those who ran
I know the names of the powerful group who
I know the names of those who, between on mass and the next, made provision and guaranteed political protection
I know the names of the important and serious figures behind who are behind the ridiculous figures who
I know the names of the important and serious figures behind the tragic kids who
I know all these names and all the acts (the slaughters, the attacks on institutions) they have been guilty of
- Pier Paolo Pasolini

This passage, from one of Pasolini's hallucinatory articles in the early seventies - the articles that possibly led to him being lured to a beach and murdered - is quoted in Peter Robb's excellent Midnight in Sicily, to which we have previously referred in our post on Sciascia. Pasolini, Robb says, went on to explain that he knew, but he didn't have proof. He knew, however, because "I am a writer and an intellectual who tries to follow what goes on, to imagine what is known and what is kept quiet, who pieces together the disorganized fragments of a whole and coherent political picture, who restores logic where arbitrariness, mystery and madness seem to prevail."

The American writer, burdened with a less active imagination, and a set of cliches that tend either to Hollywood or to the pisspoor identity kit politics that has narcotized academia for the past ten years, usually pieces together nothing but a homemade prejudice, a narcissistic grievance.

And LI is an American writer, all right? So don't ask me to rise to the heights.

Still, the quote seems appropriate as LI pulls back, these days,. Have you been getting the full heady rush of the world of blowback in your nostrils, your skin, your nerves, your blood, reader? …

Yes, that's the basic gripe, the root of the anti-corporate movement: the fear that the globalizing world is returning us to the calm regard of the beast. We would no longer ask how it works -- just as we accept any of the improbable crap we see in typical Hollywood action flicks. The discontinuity, the shallowness, or non-existence, of character, the one note motives. Those films, the malls, the traffic, the talk radio -- all of it is about culture sinking to its lowest, dumbest level. It is the debauched image of the romantic ideal, life without questions, except for the unfortunate few -- okay, the vast majority -- who have been left outside of the all the golden gated communities.

For instance, we think that the story of what happened, and has been happening, in Angola, has something ghoulishly exemplary about it. The events that flow into and out of the death of Jonas Savimbi, madman and murder that he was, the George Washington of dirty diamonds, the strong right arm of evangelical Christians (2)(some of whose leaders, like Pat Robertson (3), have strong and secret ties in this region of the world with diamond dealers, arms merchants, and some of the bloodiest tyrants of recent history), show that once again, Africa is where the white man lets down his pants, as Celine once wrote, and takes a dump. It seems to have been little remarked that Cheney is the first Vice President ever to have hired a mercenary army in a foreign land. Is this the Oliver North syndrome or what? Yes, as head of Haliburton, which includes the giant engineering firm, Brown and Root, Cheney was involved, no doubt at a distance, with a South African company named Executive Outcomes. Executive Outcomes -- which has dissolved, and reformed under a different name, last year -- was a PMC -- a private military company. Oh, it wasn't anything as tawdry as a group of hired killers. There's a rather laudatory article about EO in the magazine of the College of the Army, Parameters. Here's a list of such PMCs:

"A 1997 study by the private Center for Defense Information lists dozens of such organizations with international operations. South Africa has been the leading home of international security companies, including Executive Outcomes, Combat Force, Investments Surveys, Honey Badger Arms and Ammunition, Shield Security, Kas Enterprises, Saracen International, and Longreach Security. International military firms based in other parts of the world include Alpha Five, Corporate Trading International, Omega Support Ltd., Parasec Strategic Concept, Jardine Securicor Gurkha Services (Hong Kong), Gurkha Security Guards (Isle of Man, UK), Special Project Service Ltd. (UK), Defence Systems Ltd. (UK), Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Vinnell Corporation (US), and Military Professional Resources Inc. (US). Executive Outcomes (South Africa) has been described as "the world's first fully equipped corporate army."

Isn't that something? a fully equipped corporate army. Press on the pedals, bring out the irony. Savimbi's UNITA army was undone by dos Santos by these guys, with Heritage Oil being, apparently, the middleman. The EO guys once fought for UNITA -- back in the days when dos Santos was a Marxist threat. Now, of course, dos Santos is merely a highly corrupt billionaire, and EO is happy to do the dirty in his employ. Heritage Oil meanwhile maintains its own little connections with the Bush family. There's an article in the Observatoire de Afrique Centrale this week that fingers Tony Buckingham, a Canadian diamond merchant and soldier of fortune, as the man behind Heritage's African explorations in petrowealth. Heritage also holds stock in one of the PMC's that murdered protestors at a mine in Papua New Guinea in 1997. Cheney's associates, in other words, happen to have a little blood on their cuffs, but that's all right. Who's going to ask any questions about it? It 's a matter of keeping the natives under control, and lately isn't the mood changing? Isn't imperialism the new new thing?

I know the names. We all know the names. But do we really give a fuck?”

Since 2002, innocent days, the milk not even dry in our mouths, we have learned a lot. For instance, we know that the fix is in re the thugs. We know that they are keepers – the House likes them, the ever in the background House, by which I mean the owners of the casino, the Bosses. Just as their great great grandfathers loved the thugs

One should remember the anti-union police of the turn of the century, and their police friends, for these are the spiritual ancestors of Blackwater. The same mix of sadism and righteousness went into these para-militaries: the ones that were hired by Republic Steel to break strikes in the 1930s, the Baldwin-Felts detective force, made famous in Sayers film, Matewan. This is from Robert Michael Smith’s From Blackjacks to Briefcases: A history of commercialized strikebreaking:

One of the largest mine operators in this part of the state [of West Virginia], Justus Collins, first turned to this agency for guards to protect his property in 1893. Less than ten years later, he utilized these same men to break a UMWA-sponsored strike. After joining his fellow operators, who agreed to enfoce a thirty-day lockout, in June of 1902 he broke ranks by bringin in one hundred and fifty scab workers. Protected by forty Baldwin-Felts men, who guarded the iron gates to themine and manned searchlights and a machine gun mounted upon the coal tipple, he reaped a fortune…

Found in nearly every mining community in the sounthern part of West Virginia by 1930, Baldwin-Felts guards provided the mine owners with a feudal like control over their workers. Under the order of the mine operators these men policed the remote mining camps, guarded the payroll, collected rents, and often determined access to company towns… Once able to move freely around the state – after 1907 – Baldwin Felts thugs harassed union organizers from the time they stepped off the train until they left.”

As with Blackwater and Co. in Iraq, the Baldwin Felts people signaled their dominance and contempt for the miners and people of West Virginia, by drive by shootings. In a congressional inquiry, … senators heard that one night in early February 1913 the local sheriff, a coal operator, and fourteen guards machine gunned a striker’s tent colony at Holly Grove from an armored train known as the Bull Moose Special.”

That long and twisty authoritarian American character, the scab and the strikebreaking cop - just as the twenties returned everywhere in the nineties, so too did the characters from the twenties. The return of the repressed has been formidable, and the repressed characters only got more grotesque and psychotic from their stays in the underworld - hence, a bug like Cheney. And hence the industry cops and their media mouthpieces - among whom, of course, is Ted Koppel, well known for his copcrush on Blackwater. Koppel's op ed piece was pointed to, in 2006, as a kind of unconscious satire. But it is a deadly one. This is how the establishment thinks:

"There is something terribly seductive about the notion of a mercenary army. Perhaps it is the inevitable response of a market economy to a host of seemingly intractable public policy and security problems.

Consider only a partial list of factors that would make a force of latter-day Hessians seem attractive. Among them are these:

• Growing public disenchantment with the war in Iraq;

• The prospect of an endless campaign against global terrorism;

• An over-extended military backed by an exhausted, even depleted force of reservists and National Guardsmen;

• The unwillingness or inability of the United Nations or other multinational organizations to dispatch adequate forces to deal quickly with hideous, large-scale atrocities (see Darfur and Congo);

• The expansion of American corporations into more remote, fractious and potentially hostile settings.

Just as the all-volunteer military relieved the government of much of the political pressure that had accompanied the draft, so a rent-a-force, harnessing the privilege of every putative warrior to hire himself out for more than he could ever make in the direct service of Uncle Sam, might relieve us of an array of current political pressures."

Here's the genuine voice of D.C., the consensus of the policymakers centered around the likes of George Bush and Hilary Clinton. Here's the voice of William Tyndale, four hundred years ago, explaining God's punishment on the wicked:

"… as soon as the word is once openly preached, and testified or witnessed, unto the world, and when he hath given them a season to repent, is ready at once to take vengeance of his enemies, and shooteth arrows with heads dipt in deadly poison at them; and poureth his plague from heaven down upon them; and sendeth the murrain and pestilence among them; and sinketh the cities of them; and maketh the earth swallow them, and compasseth them in their wiles, and taketh them in their own traps and snares, and casteth them into the pits which they digged for other men; and sendeth them a dazing in the head; and utterly destroyeth them with their own subtle counsel."

Which, saving the deity, is pretty much my conviction as to what will happen to a country that turns its prison system into a 'solution' to the political pressures coming from the collapse of Jim Crow - apartheid by Jena-like jury - that sends violent psychopaths into other countries to mow down the innocent, and that elects the crookedest and the stupidest of tyrants.

Another quote, and I'm done here:

he good book says that he that lives by the sword shall perish by the sword, said the black.

The judge smiled, his face shining with grease. What right man would have it any other way? he said.

The good book does indeed count war an evil, said Irving. Yet there's many a bloody tale of war inside it.

It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way. - Blood Meridian


northanger said...

Youssef Chahine: 11''09'01

i never ever get tired of watching Desk Set. what's a floating island anyway? oh, oeufs à la neige. yummy. anyway, "Curfew Shall Not Ring To-Night" was written by Rose Hartwick Thorpe who also wrote "a cluster of christmas selections for holiday times" called The Yule Log. what's this? pyrrhic substitution?

[+] Mr Fry spends rather a long (it’s necessary) time introducing a chap to good old iambic pentameter (notes on technical terms for those unfamiliar with them, at bottom of page), that workhorse and fiery steed of English prosody. He then demands that you write sixteen lines in iambic pentameter using enjambement, trochaic substitution, pyrrhic substitution, and weak endings (like I said, bottom of page) as often as possible, just to get the hang of how hard you can slam iambic pentameter around before it gives up and collapses into prose.

Mr Fry says. YOU HAVE ALREADY achieved the English-language poet's most important goal: you can read, write and speak English well enough to understand this sentence...

[+] "Private Slovik was killed by the United States for the crime of refusing to serve the United States with a rifle and a bayonet, for desertion to avoid the hazardous duty of close combat; and..the only American to be executed for such an offense."

roger said...

pyrrhic substitution - North, you've hit on it! The dream we all dream of...

northanger said...

(o my god. some things are neither timeless or ageless). well then. let's get to jammin. let's flip who gets the pyrrhic substitution post. wait! let me nummify...

northanger said...


Handbook of Literary Rhetoric: A Foundation for Literary Study, Heinrich Lausberg

AQ 457 = PYRRHIC SUBSTITUTION (AQ-108 {2} CHOREE=DIBRACH, 113, 137, 139, 142, 143, 146, 152, 160, 165, 182, 188, 197 {2} COUVRE FEU=CURFEW BELL, 201, 211, 214, 215, 218, 220, 227 {2} DOUBLE RHYME=OEUFS À LA NEIGE, 229, 234, 245, 253, 261, 266, 269, 272 {2} FORMAL POETRY=SCHNEENOCKERLN, 274, 287, 289, 292, 298, 313, 333, 335, 336, 341, 350, 369, 382, 384, 394 {2} ROSE HARTWICK THORPE=UNSTRESSED SYLLABLE, 405, 412, 432, 446, 453, 555, 716, 776, 858, 861, 926, 1165, 1629, 1917, 2344, 2577) = A CONSISTENT MATERIALISM (AQ-454 EMPIRICAL GEOPHILOSOPHY) = AFRICAN SELF-DETERMINATION = COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER = SEARCH FOR STEVE FOSSETT = THE EVERLASTING COVENANT = THE URBAN GUERILLA CONCEPT = THE VALVE - A LITERARY ORGAN.

northanger said...

Roger my lad, looks like you have pyrrhic substitution (hands down!). since i can't post greek in this here box, i'll post the greek at my little place.

amie said...

pyrrhic substitution:

Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes

- wilfred owen

roger said...

Wow, I can't keep up with all these comments. I'm still back there with Prince! And trembling at the lese majeste of your remark, North, that he is at all ... uh, antiquatedly eighties-ish. Surely he's a man of the ages!

All I know about pyrrhic substitution at the moment is that I am almost finished doing it, i.e., translating this German document into English (talk about putting my mind in a daze). It is the most direct instance I know of - since you just overwrite the German sentences on your computer with English ones. English sentence, delete German sentence, English sentence, all the way through until you are finished and your brain looks like the cartoon bug in an insecticide commercial. Pyrrhic victories all the way around!

Hey, Amie, did you check out the Stephanies Id link from yesterday's post? I want to spread the news about this group, which I notice has only gotten about five hundred hits for their fantabulous video, as compared to about four million for Britney's Las Vegas spectaculo-festuche. This isn't fair!

northanger said...

is PYRRHICHIUS spelt: pi upsilon rho rho eta iota chi iota upsilon stigma?

the hair Roger, the hair. (even though Mr John & Mr You Can Me Prince Again aren't translating too well to the Internets).

Amie. priceless

northanger said...

Mychal Bell is out of jail. Amen.

roger said...

Out on fucking bail, though, for an offense for which he should have had to spend his weekends, for a month, picking up garbage in the park as part of a community service detail. Until they take their claws out of that teenager, he isn't safe.

I hope he gets out of Louisiana and goes to a civilized state, which I do not think would extradite him. California?

northanger said...

if you're a black man in this country those claws never go away. California? ain't perfect, but there's more to work with here. make sure to check out P6.

northanger said...

Blood Meridian. good, Roger. i think there's more going on in Iraq than we're hearing about. In the Valley of Elah touches on that.

amie said...

LI, I do love Stephanie's voice, that can wail, do things.
Do wish I could follow the lyrics better, that's not a complaint as much as an admission of my limitations with english, damn it! But hey, that should mean, if I love the voice without quite getting what it is saying, I should listen to it again and again, the strangeness, the foreign tongue, at the limit of comprehension - a voice!

roger said...

I sometimes have the same prob with Vive le Fete - although V.F. simplifies things by singing pretty simple lyrics

northanger said...

Cold Cold

amie said...

North, thanks! some lyrics those, ouch.

LI, Vive la Fête! Je dis oui - the Greeks and the Jews and the Arabs and the Devil knows who else...and yes I said yes I will Yes.
Ah, mais, M. Le President, où est mon argent?
Voici, la fête of the Conqueror Worm triumphant! Je m'en fous.

P.M.Lawrence said...

Actually, there is one grim trick that the British could have used to conquer the American rebels, and which the USA still can use to conquer the Iraqi freedom fighters - time, wealth, strength and freedom from outside distractions permitting (as they did not for the British, thankfully before we descended to this expedient). It consists in redefining conquest to include Calgacus' remark "solitudinem faciunt et pacem apellant", discarding any Clausewitzian need to bend the enemy's will through the simple expedient of discarding the enemy. If we do not remain aware of the ease of slipping into this through, say, not striving to keep alive, why - soon enough we shall have a new Iraqi people, the old discarded. As Buchan remarked of Ireland in his life of Cromwell, no doubt in the light of his ancestry and his own experience in South Africa, "Any scheme of government based solely on the interests of the resident alien is doomed in the long run to failure, unless [emphasis added] by massacre and banishment such aliens are made the bulk of the population."