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.

Friday, August 04, 2006

realism about iran

At a seminar in Toronto around the start of the war, historian Bernard Lewis, who was instrumental in advising Vice President Dick Cheney and other top U.S. officials on the Iraq invasion, said: "The Iranian regime won't last very long after an overthrow of the regime in Iraq, and many other regimes in the region will feel threatened." – WSJ, Ancient Rift: Rising Academic Sees Sectarian Split Inflaming Mideast --- Vali Nasr Says 'Shiite Revival' Is Met by Sunni Backlash; Resurgent Iran Leads Way --- Can Mullahs be Moderated? By Peter Waldman

LI advises our readers to check out the Wall Street Journal story on Vali Nasr, a Teheran born academic who advocates pretty much what LI has been advocating – getting real about Iran. That is, recognizing Iran, establishing relations with the nation, “managing” its entrance into Middle Eastern affairs rather than wishing it would go away, or targeting it.

“Mr. Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., calls this a historic "Shiite revival" and has gone further than most in identifying it as a central force in Mideast politics. He also frames a possible U.S. response: Engage Iran, especially over the issue of reducing violence in Iraq, and try to manage Tehran's rise as a regional power rather than isolating it.

"The issues are more than academic for the 46-year-old professor. He was raised in Tehran and hails from a prominent intellectual and literary family in Iran that traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad. His father was once president of Iran's top science university and chief of staff for the shah's wife.

"In 1979, after the Iranian revolution, the Nasrs "started from zero" in the U.S., says Mr. Nasr. He received a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing his thesis on the political dimensions of radical Islam, while his father, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, became a renowned professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University.”

The WSJ editorial board is in the death grip of the neo-con pod people – but the newspaper survives by exploiting a much bigger niche in the general business community, which could care less about the cancerous Weltanschauung of Cheney. When the business community turned against the Vietnam war, the political establishment began its long, bloody disengagement from Vietnam.

I’ve been wondering when Iraq would tip. As the Bush policy seems to call for endless and ever more pointless wars, creating a New Middle East of universal hatred for America, the business community, sated by the tax cuts that poured money into the upper wealth brackets, is beginning to come out of its stupor and object.

“For the U.S., the Sunni-Shiite divide is fraught with challenges --and opportunities. By creating in Iraq the first Shiite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam (Iran is mostly ethnic Persian), the U.S. ignited aspirations among some 150 million Shiites in the region, Mr. Nasr says. Many live under Sunni rule, such as in Saudi Arabia, where they have long been persecuted. Yet U.S. foreign policy still operates under the "old paradigm" of Sunni dominance, he contends.

"Take the current crisis in Lebanon. The U.S. has long relied on its traditional Sunni Arab allies -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict in check. But now the Sunni axis is failing, says Mr. Nasr, because these nations are incapable of containing a resurgent Iran and its radical clients on the front lines against Israel -- Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

"To adapt, the U.S. must "recalibrate" its diplomacy and re-establish contacts with Iran, he says. That would require disavowing any interest in "regime change" in Tehran -- an unrealistic aim anyway, Mr. Nasr argues -- but would offer the best hope of moderating Iran's growing influence.

"The Iranian genie isn't going back in the bottle," he says. "If we deny these changes have happened -- that Cairo, Amman and Riyadh have lost control of the region -- and we continue to exclude Iran, we'd better be prepared to spend a lot of money on troops in the region for a long time," Mr. Nasr says.”

You can tell that Nasr’s argument is being taken seriously when it is dressed in ‘opportunity’ talk, which is that nexus where bad taste metamorphizes into a war crime. However, given the slim pickings in D.C., where the moronic inferno has been whirling for five years without stint, I am going to overlook the gastliness of the vocabulary and find Nasr’s prominence a good sign. He's actually running a line that Hoagland, one of the WAPO superhawks and Chalabi's spokesperson in America, ran in 2003. It is a sign of how bad things are that this is now a progressive view.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

under the harrow - Blair and Uriah Heep

There is something about Tony Blair that arouses the instinct to find some literary counterpart to explain him. How can a man so utterly mealy mouthed, so vacuous, so soft-soapy, an endlessly servile tool to the the Bush clique, an endlessly arrogant tyro to the powers under him, have attained his position? One almost instinctively looks to Dickens, and most of all, to Uriah Heep, to find a key to this rather loathsome soul. This is from the chapter on Uriah’s unmasking in David Copperfield:

“I had not seen Uriah Heep since the time of the blow [David Copperfield had struck Heep in an argument]. Our visit astonished him, evidently; not the less, I dare say, because it astonished ourselves. He did not gather his eyebrows together, for he had none worth mentioning; but he frowned to that degree that he almost closed his small eyes, while the hurried raising of his grisly hand to his chin betrayed some trepidation or surprise. This was only when we were in the act of entering his room, and when I caught a glance at him over my aunt's shoulder. A moment afterwards, he was as fawning and as humble as ever.

'Well, I am sure,' he said. 'This is indeed an unexpected pleasure! To have, as I may say, all friends round St. Paul's at once, is a treat unlooked for! Mr. Copperfield, I hope I see you well, and - if I may umbly express myself so - friendly towards them as is ever your friends, whether or not. Mrs. Copperfield, sir, I hope she's getting on. We have been made quite uneasy by the poor accounts we have had of her state, lately, I do assure you.'

In today’s Murdochworld – encompassing Australian papers, the Weekly Standard, and Fox – there is the usual contingent of the bloodyminded, whose blind belief that Israel is winning in Lebanon and that Israel is on the forefront of all things good is released in the media system like a toxin, to be washed through the Washington Post, the D.C. think tanks, CNN, finally achieving an extra-abstract form in an American made exploding bomb and its result (the wrenched off limb of an infant, the usual Lebanese carcass, the oil that covers the beaches of Lebanon). Among them is Blair, bleating at great length about what this is – this war, this green and pleasant war, this opportunity, this Sabbat, of which he is one of the umble enablers. First of course comes the pat on the back. Others, others could take the easy way. Not the crusaders. Theirs is the way of sacrifice – the stock options, tax cuts, and bribed Lords that mark the lonely monk’s path:

“The root causes of the crisis are supremely indicative of this. Ever since September 11, the US has embarked on a policy of intervention to protect its and our future security. Hence Afghanistan. Hence Iraq. Hence the broader Middle East initiative in support of moves towards democracy in the Arab world.
The purpose of the terrorism in Iraq is absolutely simple: carnage, causing sectarian hatred, leading to civil war.

The point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. The banner was not actually "regime change", it was "values change".

The reason I say this is that we could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values.””

O, Churchillians all! We rally to those values – the preemptive invasions, the curtailing of domestic liberties, the massive, continuous criminal incompetence of those who put their own poltical future, and the wellbeing of their billionaire cronies, well before the national interest!

“Uriah fell back, as if he had been struck or stung. Looking slowly
round upon us with the darkest and wickedest expression that his face could wear, he said, in a lower voice:

'Oho! This is a conspiracy! You have met here by appointment! You are playing Booty with my clerk, are you, Copperfield? Now, take
care. You'll make nothing of this. We understand each other,you and me. There's no love between us. You were always a puppy with a proud stomach,from your first coming here; and you envy me my rise, do you? None of your plots against me; I'll counterplot you!Micawber, you be off. I'll talk to you presently.'

“So the opportunity passed to reactionary Islam and they seized it: first in Gaza, then in Lebanon. They knew what would happen. Their terrorism would provoke massive retaliation by Israel. Within days, the world would forget the original provocation and be shocked by the retaliation. They want to trap the moderates between support for America and an Arab street furious at what they see nightly on their television. This is what has happened.

So the struggle is finely poised. The question is: how do we empower the moderates to defeat the extremists?”

Much port was undoubtedly spilt on many very fine and expensive laps as the crowd leaps to its feet to here this almost completely fictitious account of recent events, complete with that grand euphemism about what the Arab Street is seeing on their tvs. A neat stroke, that, since to say what they are seeing on their televisions rather gives the game away, doesn't it? Israel, which for forty some years has, in defiance of the UN, and with the financing of the US, made every effort to settle people on stolen territory, is being provoked – good, honest Israel! Provoked by, uh, an election. But elections are not, as Blair wisely knows, the essence of democracy – they are ploys and plays, with the higher thing – the imperialism of the those umble clear through to the gizzards in the pursuit of values –that is what we are all about, we who only want the best for Lebanon, for the Middle East, for all the world. We well intentioned few, we CEOs of oil companies and media, we seekers after cheap energy, we believers in the wind of freedom!

'Mr. Micawber,' said I,'there is a sudden change in this fellow
in more respects than the extraordinary one of his speaking the
truth in one particular, which assures me that he is brought to
bay. Deal with him as he deserves!'

'You are a precious set of people, ain't you?' said Uriah, in the
same low voice, and breaking out into a clammy heat, which he wiped
from his forehead, with his long lean hand, 'to buy over my clerk,
who is the very scum of society, - as you yourself were, Copper-field, you know it, before anyone had charity on you, - to defame me with his lies? Miss Trotwood, you had better stop this; or I'll stop your husband shorter than will be pleasant to you. I won't know your story professionally, for nothing, old lady! Miss Wick-field, if you have any love for your father, you had better not
join that gang. I'll ruin him, if you do. Now, come! I have got
some of you under the harrow. Think twice, before it goes over
you. Think twice, you, Micawber, if you don't want to be crushed.
I recommend you to take yourself off, and be talked to presently,
you fool! while there's time to retreat.”

“Our values . . . represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them.

No wonder Blair is as popular as a case of piles in his own nation. And no wonder, in Murdochworld, he is everybody’s favorite toady.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

one ray of light, at least

The news is so bad from Lebanon that LI has barely had time to celebrate Fidel Castro’s upcoming embalming. It is funny how communist parties in the final state of their decay leap over the French revolution and begin imitating Louis XIV. The failure to root themselves in anything but the bureaucracies they create is, perhaps, one reason for this, since family is the last trustworthy precinct in the morass of misrule. We do regret that Castro wasn’t either blown to smithereens by an anarchist bomb or otherwise deposed 35 years ago. Even for his sake -- at least that would have been an aesthetically pleasing terminus. Probably have done something good for the left in Latin America, too. Instead, like an island Franco, he reduced Cuba to a nullity, a welfare spot, a whorehouse for progressive tourists. That malign presence will now pass into the hall of fame of Latin American dictators: Duvalier, Pinochet, Vargas, Somoza, Castro.

Anyway, we can only hope that Raol, that old rotten homophobe, takes a dive into the pit too. Prying the corpse’s hands from the body of Cuba is going to take a long time, however. I hope Reinaldo Arenas is up in heaven, laughing.

the wapo editorial board - operation endless stupidity

“DESPITE THE terrible bloodshed in New York City on the eleventh, including the tragic death of scores of people in the World Trade Center, the United States, Al Qaeda and the Taliban continue to seek the same outcome to the war.”

This is only a slight parody of the truly demented editorial put out by the Washington Post today. It actually said – it actually said – “DESPITE THE terrible bloodshed in Lebanon and Israel over the weekend, including the tragic death of scores of women and children in the village of Qana, the United States, Israel and the Lebanese government continue to seek the same outcome to the war.”

We are becoming a real fan of the new, Fruit Loops style of WAPO punditry, in which black is no longer just white. No, black is a dozen shades of white. Black is oyster white, cream white, lily white. Keeping up its support for the American downward spiral in the Middle East, the editorial board does us all a favor by reminding us: it is the entire culture of D.C., not just Bush, that is diseased. Hubris, the inability to imagine the Middle East from any perspective except that acceptable at Sally Quinn’s cocktail parties, or your average Heritage/Brookings foundation blowfest, and the disconnect from America’s interests are the heads of this condition. The underlying cause is one familiar from previous dying empires – the Soviets, the Habsburg – which is that the political class has finally structured itself internally to so eradicate any consciousness of reality that it can only reach, externally, for the ultimate weapon: war. So, the story line is of unending U.S. power, in the epoch of the unending squandering of U.S. power. The story line elevates a solutions approach to problems it totally misconstrues, problems that, in fact, have no solutions. It casts things in terms of the Cold War and the War Culture just at a time when that metaphor has become unaffordable – when, literally, the Pentagon is eating away at the very foundation of America’s middle class life styles. You can’t continue to waste a trillion dollars every two years indefinitely. But of course, our blind warriors in D.C., who have decided – it would be funny if this wasn’t so painful – that the country Israel is bombing, Lebanon, is aligned with Israel – have gone into some black hole, in which everything happens backwards, logic is abolished, and there is no “then” – there are only the play of principles in the oxygenated air: Freedom! Terror! Principles have the advantage of shucking all “thens”, all actual events.

Unfortunately, the people of Quana have just suffered from an irrevocable ‘then’, and it would surprise the Lebanese to know that they are aligned, right now, in solidarity with Israel. Surely, if only the kids with the smashed skulls and extruded eyes could be given just a little bit of breath, surely they would be going, yeah Israel. Surely the guys in the vans crushed by Israeli missiles would be going, I do like that neighbor to the South. Say, isn’t it a fine thing that the missile that burned off my skin came from the U.S. – fighting for my freedom? The dialogue of the dead, as the WAPO editorialists must imagine it, is a monument to patriotism – American patriotism. The only kind, after all, that is legitimate in the world.

The bottom line, as always, is that our rulers are thieves, liars, and bullshitters. They are pulling the structures down around their own heads, and it would be fun to sit back and watch this, except that I have some sympathy for the human product of their experiments, which does have a tendency to die horribly.

But shucks – it is just another day in Heat Death America.

Thank you, Senator Hagel

Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one," Hagel said. "But it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice."

"How do we realistically believe," Hagel said, "that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon, is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?"

He called the showdown in Lebanon between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrillas "sickening slaughter on both sides."

"President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire," Hagel said. "This madness must stop." - Dow Jones News Service.

One should note that the media approved word about the Middle East is 'solution'. An old, conservative tradition says: there are no solutions in human affairs. LI doesn't think that is completely right, but certainly one should use the word with caution. There is no solution in the Middle East. There are better and worse states of affairs, there. The worst was the eighties. Bush, in his insanity, presumption and ignorance is doing all he can to top that bloody decade.

I am still opposed to impeaching the man -- I want him scorched into the memory of this country, this representative of the low and the cretinous. I want Bush branded on Uncle Sam's behind. But I am beginning to think, hmm, maybe the world can't afford two more years of Bush. Maybe he will have to be impeached, for gross incompetence.

Monday, July 31, 2006

LI's adventures in the world

The writers LI admires most are scourgers of mankind – Swift, Marx in his political mode, Nietzsche, Kraus, etc., etc. Alas, though we nourish misanthropy in our bosom, hoping to become like them, when we are released into a crowd situation we become as unselectively friendly as a beagle.

So, I went and moderated this panel last night at the Bob Bullock museum. The crowd was sparse, unfortunately. But I loved it that anybody came out at all.

It has been a while since I addressed a number of people, and I was a little nervous. That soon passed. I will not bore you with the play by play of the three panelists and me. One of the panelists, Jim Haley, the historian, is an acquaintance.

The unexpected part of the whole thing, for me, was Ms. Denise McVea. She’s written a controversial book (if you are a Texan) about Emily West de Zavala. E.W.d.Z was the wife of the first vice president of the Texas Republic. Her slave, according to legend, amorously dallied with Santa Ana on the morning of the battle of San Jacinto, thus giving our Texas boys a fatal advantage as we routed the Mex. Our Delilah. McVea’s thesis is that this story is an distorted version of a suppressed fact – that Mrs Zavala was herself black, and possibly had been employed, before she met de Zavala, as a courtisan. This thesis has created a small storm – the Republic of Texas still has a space in the hearts of some of the men and women throughout the state who have never taken kindly to miscegenation, integration, and uppityness. I wish to God that I was caricaturing. I’m not. Denise turned out to be such an absolute doll, and in the Q and A she displayed no countering scorn for her detractors, who are the type to sling all kinds of your usual blog comment insults. Instead, she was the height of … well, dignity is an insufficient word. There is a sort of solemnity that accrues around a person who has a scholarly object that has absorbed her world, and when that solemnity is exposed to the light of the public response, it has a disarmed smile. It is a smile that continues even as the response to one’s researches seem, for mysterious reasons, to have provoked every jerkwater idiot within reach of a keypad to pen some dull and insulting opinion that goes straight for the genitalia or skin color. The serenity of the smile of reason in the storm of unreason stands out, like some broken marble column from a better age, around which spreads the ragged ass tents of a barbarian encampment. So Denise said that she found the response … interesting. Shockingly interesting. Such perfect poise – I was blown away.

Then it was out with a friend to get a couple of drinks on sixth street. Apparently, some convention of largeheaded bald men was happening in the city. A bouncer convention or something, since men with huge shaven heads were parading up and down the street. It looked like a loopy MTV video. And so, as Pepys would say, with some margaritas swimming in my belly, to bed.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


LI is such a putz sometimes. We meant to put this in post form yesterday. We want to give a big shout out of thanks to the Anonymous donor who helped us pay the electric bill. This is a bottom of our heart thank you. You don't know how hair thin our escapes have been this summer.

And so... onward towards the Writers' Braggin' panel tonight! Wish me luck.

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...