Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cursing our rebel in chief

LI read the NYT article about the planned surge, and we have mixed feelings. On the one hand, we want the troops out now. On the other hand, deepening the military failure in Iraq and crippling American power for the next decade, which is what the Bush plan will result in, does have some advantages over the long term. To use a phrase right wing commentators apply to Arabic governments, D.C. only really understands humiliation. On the one hand, the increase in American troops is really an increase in targets and shooters, and will lead to pointless violence in the service of an impossible end. There is no pro-American force left in Iraq – save quasi-independent North Iraq. That North Iraq is pro-American and hosts no American troops is not a coincidence – if American troops are deployed there, soon enough the cracks in the Kurdish system, papered over after the 96 civil war, will reappear.

The Bush plan calls, ultimately, for 20,000 more troops. News reports indicate that there are only 9,000 more troops to send at the moment. Having inflicted a generational wound on the officer caste, the administration does seem determined to recycle volunteers until they are stressed beyond use.

It is an interesting strategy. At the moment, the U.S. has pretty much left Afghanistan to the mercies of the ad hoc NATO forces. Our ally, Pakistan, has given al Qaeda the kind of territory within which to train whatever paramilitary troops it needs – and al Qaeda is good at taking advantage of these respites. It took advantage of the Sudan sojourn to design the embassy hits, of the shelter provided by the Taliban to target the WTC, and now, under the benign Musharref and with the blind eye given by this administration, who knows what wonders will emerge from the deeps? Neglecting the terrorists so that they can make attacks is pretty much priority number one in the long long long long war – otherwise, its absolute ridiculousness is pretty quickly exposed. It would be a short short short war, and where is the power and profit in that?

So, just as the Sunnis realize that they are targeted for annihilation by the Iraqi government – the clear message sent by the manner in which Saddam H. was murdered – Bush is proposing an escalation that, inevitably, will rush from one place to another, shredding people along the way, and operating as a reserve force of executioners manipulated by the peculiarly airless circle of Shiite Islamicists who are in charge in Iraq. As the last act of their sanglante orgy, this might cover Bush’s ass until he is squeezed out of office. One can only hope that the perpetual revulsion of all the nations, including the U.S., who have been victimized by his Neronian vanity dogs him in his retirement to his dying day.

occupations - the Sorrow and the Pity

A few years ago, there was a deal of noise around the reissue of the Battle of Algiers – Pentagon honchos had a special showing, policy wonks and pundits got to review the film (showing why they shouldn’t review the film) and, in fact, there were things in the Battle of Algiers that have happened in Iraq – although there is nothing quite like the Battle of Baghdad that we are seeing now, with ethnic cleansing going on inside the city while outside, the Sunni insurgency is turning the screws inch by inch to turn off the city’s services. The more valid comparison might be to the Paris Commune.

However, a film that is just as relevant to the occupation in Iraq is the Sorrow and the Pity. I know that now, because I watched the Sorrow and the Pity for the first time two days ago.

The German occupation of France was spread out over 3 years – much like the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The first occupation was covered by a collaborationist government – much like the second. The first occupation involved resistance to the occupiers, which was labeled terrorism by the occupiers – much like the second (there is a fascinating interview with a former German soldier who tells the story of a German troop, passing by a group of peasants, who – as soon as the troop goes by – unsheathes weapons and kills fourteen of the Germans. And he says, these peasants wore no uniforms. They had no stripes on their sleeves. They were terrorists, and how do you deal with people like that – shades of Americanspeak in Iraq! Shades, actually, of the discourse put about by Israeli officials last summer about Hezbollah. Invading forces are always aggrieved that they have to institute a policy of slaughtering civilians – so much simpler to once and for all devastate a uniformed army. If the occupied aren’t going to cooperate, what are you going to do?). The first occupation also involved a boom in the capital city – while the Germans were stealing as much of the French economy as possible, there was sufficient spending in Paris that the upper middle class had a blast. The race track opened, theater tickets were selling at a premium, there were fashionable dresses on the backs of fashionable gals. Similarly, the second occupation involved a two fold economic fact – mass and stark unemployment, on the one hand, and a boom in consumer goods in Baghdad, on the other hand. Fleeing into Jordan, a middle class Baghdadi family can now take with them quite a few electronic gadgets they could never have purchased under Saddam, or at least under the sanction regime.

It was also interesting to see how the curve of resistance inevitably goes upward. The odd American notion that the occupiers will be resisted less each year comes out of some woozy notion of occupying Germany in 1945. Actually, most occupations have a pretty predictable schedule – the occupation becomes more and more unpopular the longer it goes on. To quench that unpopularity, the occupiers have to become harsher and harsher – they have to engage, at the very least, in discrete ethnic cleansing. A one hundred or two hundred year occupation – say, the occupation of India by the British – requires periodic repressions, plus – in the Indian case – the fragmentation of the former powers, and terror famines.

The two most fascinating characters in The Sorrow and the Pity are the former French nazi, Christian de La Mazière, who is one of those plausible French fascists, and the two peasant resisters, Louis Grave and his brother, Alexis. Both were socialists, of course. The movie was shot within a memory frame close enough to the actual events so that the nonsense about the Communists really not being the backbone of the resistance hadn’t been spread about by the inheritors of the bourgeois indifference or collaboration in France. The notion that the Communists were fighting for the Soviet Union is as laughable as the idea that the British were fighting to make America a hyper-power – but, of course, the reactionary crap spewed out first by the ‘New Philosophers’ and then by a generation of ‘moderates’ has engulfed the period in a very fake revisionism.

France, we are often told, horribly betrayed the Jews who had fled to the country. This is very true. What is elided, here, is that they fled to France partly because the Communist dominated Popular Front initiated the most wide open refugee policy in Europe in the thirties – vastly more wide open than the U.S., which virtuously made it as hard as possible for fleeing Jews to gain entrance, and of course gave no refuge to fleeing Spanish Republicans, etc., etc. So there were, numerically, vastly more Jewish refugees caught in France when the country fell to Hitler. Britain, which could easily have accommodated them in the thirties, of course refused them entrance as much as they could. Varian Fry, the American who, as France fell, saved as many Jews as he could, sending them to the U.S., was reproached by his American superiors at the time and persecuted by the McCarthyites in the early fifties. The U.S. simply grudges refuge to the persecuted – at the present time, for instance, doing all it can to keep out Iraqis who have been stupid enough to trust Americans, and who are fleeing the dental drills of Bush’s friend Hakim’s Badr Brigade. Other countries – Jordan, Thailand, Kenya – scattered throughout the third world have, in the past fifty years, had to set up huger refugee camps and, out of their few resources, support them – but the vastly wealthier Americans never do things like that.

Friday, January 05, 2007

the actor and the hangman

We have been wrestling with a fact we stumbled over a few days ago. We were researching Tom Paine’s years in revolutionary Paris, and his friendships with the group known as the Gironde. And we came across the famous day, in the National Assembly, when the motion was made to grant Jews full civil rights. This moment has been treated as an important symbol, and it is an important symbol. It marked the end of Christendom, for instance – the rotten structure finally collapsing completely. It marked the beginning of modernity – with an appropriate ironic chaser, since the legislation came on the heels of a pogram in Alsace. But we had not realized that the legislation came as a sort of afterthought that day. The topic of extending civil status was brought up by Clermont Tonnerre, but the original objects of that extension were: the hangman and the actor.

Gaston Maugras’ Les comediens hors la lois has the full story:

At the opening of the session, Clermont-Tonnerre climbed to the podium to defend his project: “Professions,” he said, “are obnoxious (nuisibles) or not. If they are, it is a habitual crime that justice must reprimand. If they aren’t, the law must be adapted to justice, which is the source of the law. It must reach out to correct the abuse, and not to chop down the tree it is necessary to prop up or correct.”

Then, speaking of the two professions (of hangman [executioner - bourreau] and actor) “that the law puts on the same level, but that are not uninjured by their rapprochment, “he asks for the simultaneous rehabilitation of the hangman and the actor: “for the hangman,” he says, “ it is simply a matter of combating prejudice… All that the law ordains is god: it ordains the death of a crimina, the executioner does nothing more than obey the law. It is absurd that the law says to a man: “do this, and if you do it, you will be guilty of a crime.”

Passing to actors, he demonstrated that, in their regard, the prejudice is established on what they are under the dependence of public opinion. “This dependence makes our glory and it flays them,” he cries. “Honest citizens can represent on the stage the chef-d’oeuvres of the human spirit, works filled with the healthy philosophy that, thus put in a position where every human can appreciate it, has prepared, successfully, the revolution that is now in operation, and you tell them: you are Comediens du Roi, you occupy the national theater, and you are criminal (infame)! The law must not let this crime subsist.”

This sounds like an old and done story, but the issues, here, continue to provoke us – drug dealers and prostitutes, for instance, bear the burden of the crime law even though it isn’t clear that these professions are anything more than wretchednesses made wretched by the law itself. Using the law as a means of showing moral disabrobation is, again, something that was never resolved in the Revolution, and is stilltje unresolved now. However, the historic question for me is how it happened that the hangman, the actor, and the Jew ended up as figures of a certain boundary – the figures that, given civil status, liquidated the Christian state. The Jew as other is now a bit of a philosophical cliché, but the actor and the executioner…

Interestingly, arguing passionately against the removal of the taint against the actor that day was a priest. And the issue moved into Rousseau’s Letter to D’alambert, and the notion that actors bring corruption. About which, more later.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

As faithful readers of LI know, we are stout conspiracy theorists. No, we don’t think the CIA took down the World Trade Center by implanting JFK’s assassin shattered brain in a comatose Mohammed Atta. Our theory, much simpler, has been that in December, 2006, somewhere in the U.S. government, the decision was made to allow Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora. We referenced Army Times reporter Sean Naylor’s account of the battle in this post. Recycling ourself (oh, the egotism!):

Anyway, the American force that approached Tora Bora at the end of November, 2001 was extremely small, and depended on Afghan allies that were busy feuding with each other. According to Naylor, as the siege proceeded, the Air Force flew over the twenty mile passage between Tora Bora and Pakistan and recorded “hot spots” on their heat sensing equipment. Now, CENTCOM, unbelievably, had never considered the possibility that Al Qaeda’s forces could escape from Tora Bora – thus, there were no guards on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the hot spot data did provoke some consultation:

“The Generals in Kuwait recommend[ed] bombing the positions as soon as possible. But Franks [who, you will recall, bravely lead our heroic troops from a boat in Florida] and his staff did not see it like that. “They might be shepherds,” was Control Command’s attitude, according to two officers who sat in on the video-teleconferences in which the matter was discussed. At CFLCC that theory didn’t wash. The idea that scores of shepherds were tending to their flocks at 10,000 feet in the middle of winter was implausible.’

We bring this up because, thanks to the Tiny Revolution site , we went to an article in the Christmas Time Magazine and had one of those moments, you know, like when a Warner Bros. cartoon Tom Cat sees a shapely femme cat – all eyes bugging out, wowowowoweeee! For amidst the confab of the heavy hitting journalists Time had gathered to ruminate over what went wrong in Iraq, we read this, from Lawrence Wright, the (Austin) author of The Looming Tower:

“TIME: Did the failure to capture Osama bin Laden play a role in the decision to go to war?
GORDON: I was at Tora Bora at that point, in December '01. The desire to have a war plan for Iraq has already been telegraphed to [General] Tommy Franks at Centcom. Franks is actually struggling with Tora Bora, with his unhappiness with the results in Afghanistan, just as he is on the eve of returning for a very important meeting at Crawford with the President. I think they made a very quick decision that in principle Iraq was next on the agenda.
WRIGHT: Al-Qaeda essentially was dead after December 2001. The war on terror, you know, had succeeded. [If we had] captured the leaders, I think people would've felt a sense of finality and might not have had that impulse to roll into Iraq. I'm not sure [the Administration] would have had the public support.”

Of course, like paranoiacs, conspiracy theorists are aces at reading silence. Silence is a multiply intentioned text, and you can lose yourself in it and wind up on a drip in the State nuthouse quicker than you might think. Myself, I saw the Q and A shift from Wright’s comment with amazing quickness.

As I’ve said before, the Tora Bora conspiracy is almost perfect. The left pretends that Al Qaeda wasn’t even dangerous – it was merely a version of high spiritied Boy Scout Jamboree, with a harsher handbook. The right, of course, is hell bent on excuses to break into Iraq and shed some real blood – the little Keegan under the pants gets hard at the very thought of all that wondrous raghead blood being spilled by our F/X. Osama was always an excuse for them. As for the moderate to moderate liberal, why, conspiracy is out of the picture. No, society is one big SAT test, and though some of the players might cheat – those are the ones that have to go to jail again and again, and my, isn’t it just a coincidence that they are mostly black males, who have, by coincidence, been the subject to rancid and consistent bigotry in this country for four hundred years – the test is sound, the teacher is honest, and as for the guys who run the SAT – you couldn’t meet a sweeter bunch of guys. Honestly, listening to President Bush, a man who can really make you laugh (he owns a marvelous ranch, too, and the nicknames he thinks up! reminds me of my roommate back at UMass – some of those frat parties were really a lot of fun!) and not some broad who might be getting into a “catfight” (1) – well, you just don’t suspect people like that of letting slip the leader of the first attack on the continental U.S. since Pancho Villa took Columbus, N.M.

So it was a perfect crime. Nobody wanted to believe it was happening. And it was victimless - or the equivalent, since the victims were only the volunteers that have been sent to Iraq over the last three years, plus the Iraqis - dead that are, to be frank, culled from the Low Use population.

(1) As per the Washington Post today:

Sewickley, Pa.: Hello, and thank you for taking questions. Is it really appropriate to refer to a disagreement between two powerful women in Congress [Pelosi and Harman] as a "catfight"? I came of age in the business world during the 1970s when women were routinely told during interviews for career track jobs that "we don't hire girls for those positions" the reason being that girls are temperamentally unsuited to positions of authority. Do you see a time--perhaps in my lifetime-- when a disagreement between powerful women will be characterized as something other than a "catfight"? Welcome to The Post political chats.

Lois Romano: Thank you for writing. We were just having a little fun."

Only dour, sour feminists would consider the 'catfighting' term to be unfun. And we can't have them in the club! Only fun girls in the club. God, the peasants out there!

how I know I am a poet

Sometimes, LI is sure he is a poet.

Today, for instance. Today, we were walking down a street in downtown Austin, looking for the office of a friend. We went in and out of buildings on Brazos street, and finally found the office. Soit. So, we are walking down sixth street and we pass by two men who are talking to each other, each having the same height, each sporting a white Ho Chi Minh beard. White guys. And just ahead of us, crossing the street, is another white guy, same height, also sporting a white Ho Chi Minh beard.

Now, things like this happen a lot. We are a strange attractor, or rather, an attractor of the strange. Our predecessors in this field are Baudelaire and Rilke. In fact, if we were going to name these moments – moments of the configuration of some eerie and pointless coincidence – we’d call it the seven old men effect, from Baudelaire’s poem about seeing an bent, rather disgusting old man stumbling along like he was crunching the bones of corpses, and then seeing emerge from the fog another old man just like him, and another, until he saw seven:

A quel complot infâme étais-je donc en butte,
Ou quel méchant hasard ainsi m'humiliait ?
Car je comptai sept fois, de minute en minute,
Ce sinistre vieillard qui se multipliait !

This is plain fact for a strange attractor. I am always running into six shaven headed very fat men wearing UT t shirts, or crossing paths with a bent old black woman who wears a strange sort of old fashioned headdress, Salvation army clothes, clutches a basket to her side, and gives me the same glance I give her – you again? – while she hurries to do something every day, even though I have never seen her arrive anywhere - whose territory, on Sixth street, overlaps mine. Or the man with the nervous tick of going into coffee shops and rearranging the newspapers, left by customers and tossed into a bin, neatly back into their original form: A section, B section, C section. He has his rounds.

“Die wissen, daß ich eigentlich zu ihnen gehöre, daß ich nur ein bißchen Komödie spiele.”

Rilke, of course, was haunted by similar people. The eerie part is –who is really the poet? Me, or the woman with the headdress, or the newspaper organizer? I’m aware that I haunt them as much as they haunt me. We are supremely aware of our territory – we make it out of our routines. And that the civilians around us are not. They are just renters, here. Normals. No obsessions bind them to these paths. They could move tomorrow, and they'd forget it all the day after. Myself, I still remember San Francisco Street in Santa Fe in Spring of 1993, sitting on the passenger side, watching Dave park the van so we could make a brownie delivery, I remember Mansfield Street in New Haven on a peculiarly bruised, Seasonal Disorder Day in the winter of 1995. At the autopsy, if they extract the brain from my head, they will find inside it a ball of very fine lines all tangled up – all those streets that I’ve been on – rather like the strychnine hairs on a peyote button.

LI is either a pisspants poet or a ghost.

in other news: John Keegan goes bonkers

It isn’t just a surge – it is a lebensraum policy! John Keegan gets very excited and almost jumps out of his moustache thinking of the Einsatzgruppe, er, American military, clearing the Judische scum from Warsaw, er, I mean the Sadr militia from Baghdad, in this very very exciting version of shooting wogs in a barrel:

The object of the surge deployment should be to overwhelm the insurgents with a sudden concentration, both of numbers, armoured vehicles and firepower with the intention to inflict severe losses and heavy shock. The Mahdi Army in Sadr City should prove vulnerable to such tactics, which would of course be supported by helicopters and fixed-wing aviation.

Hitherto most military activity by coalition forces has been reactive rather than unilateral. Typically, units have become involved in fire fights while on patrol or on convoy protection duties. During the surge, the additional troops would take the fight to the enemy with the intention of doing him harm, destabilising him and his leaders and damaging or destroying the bases from which he operates.

The cost of such tactics is likely to be high but not unbearable if enough armoured vehicles are used to protect the attacking troops. The advantage of committing recently arrived troops to such operations is that they will come to operations fresh and enthusiastic. Though there is the disadvantage that they may not be familiar with local conditions or topography, this need not be a disqualification since the purpose of a surge strike would be to create a shock effect, not to alter local conditions by informal action.

After mission is accomplished, we can move white, Christian people into Baghdad, find some beautiful day for a Memorial celebration, and distribute some of the surviving Untermenschen around for work on plantations and such. It could be one of those great public-private kinds of deals. Tony Blair could dedicate the whole thing – how about calling it George Bush Freedom Now Acres.

It is liberation plus! And they say that the Right has run out of ideas in Iraq…

PS Sadly, in other news: it was reported that Keegan, overexcited from the exertion of composing his Telegraph article, donned his explorer outfit (with the jodhpurs), took up his elephant gun, and started chasing his maid around the bungalow, shouting: "General Dyer, sir! Reporting for duty, sir! I'm going to plug this cheeky monkey, sir! How dare she show disrespect to a redblooded, white skinned Englishman, damn her dusky hide!" The police were called, and restrained the well respected military historian. Doctors have prescribed a strict non-Kipling diet.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

take away George Bush's joystick? Never!

By May 2006, uneasy officials at the State Department and the National Security Council argued for a review of Iraq strategy. A meeting was convened at Camp David to consider those approaches, according to participants in the session, but Mr. Bush left early for a secret visit to Baghdad, where he reviewed the war plans with General Casey and Mr. Maliki, and met with the American pilot whose plane’s missiles killed Iraq’s Al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He returned to Washington in a buoyant mood.

The visit meant that the reconsideration of strategy was not as thorough as some officials hoped.

“… and met with the American pilot whose plane’s missiles killed Iraq’s Al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.” By this point, our cup overflows with the evidence that President Bush is an incurable juvenile, a composite portrait of the video war game generation, a man who has mistaken the joy stick for his dick, and his dick for the golden key to “victory”. John Burns story in the NYT is, obviously, a special plea for the surge strategy – Burns being an incurable hawk. It builds the case for the increase in troops by using that odd Bush era strategy of referring to the gross and criminal mistakes of the krewe running the country to justify … a new twist in the way the krewe wants to run the country. Thus, the article, obviously written with info channeled from a lot of White House insiders, concedes that frankly, 2006 was a bad year. We all fucked up. Rumsfeld was a fuckup. General Casey was a fuckup. Nobody actually understood Iraq. And… so, let’s increase our commitment to the place!

Apparently, the Rebel in Chief is concerned not that American soldiers are dying needlessly, nor that the ungrateful Iraqis are dying by the tens of thousands, but that General Casey didn’t use the word “victory” enough when explaining what he was doing. We gotta get us some of that “victory”:

“Mr. Bush came to worry that it was not just his critics and Democrats in Congress who were looking for what he dismissed last month as a strategy of “graceful exit.” Visiting the Pentagon a few weeks ago for a classified briefing on Iraq with his generals, Mr. Bush made it clear that he was not interested in any ideas that would simply allow American forces to stabilize the violence. Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine commandant, later told marines about the president’s message.
“What I want to hear from you is how we’re going to win,” he quoted the president as warning his commanders, “not how we’re going to leave.””


“Mr. Bush still insists on talking about victory, even if his own advisers differ about how to define it. “It’s a word the American people understand,” he told members of the Iraq Study Group who came to see him at the White House in November, according to two commission members who attended. “And if I start to change it, it will look like I’m beginning to change my policy.””

To which, let me add LI’s own outraged voice. My fucking God! We don’t want it to look like he’s beginning to change his policy! Why, he racked up a score of 700 and got a win sign just the other day on his favorite machine! They want to take away his joystick, his specially ordered “I am the champ” “George Bush” “President” nameplate, and his Decider stationary. Has this great nation ever been so threatened? No wonder so many of our best minds have already concluded that, from the perspective of the long long long long war, the Islamofascists are much more dangerous than the communists ever were.

I am tempted to make this into some trendy feature article. I need some hook to make some desperately needed bread lately. Something along the lines of The Culture of Shallow: How Shallow became Hip! Just right for Slate - pure pablum and babyshit, allowing for some pic of a cleavage happy blonde, one of the indistinguishable many that slide across the glossy covers, with just that right touch of ... snark and contrarianism ... to float the thing. Oh, I can see it now, a completely useless braindrain - just what the editor ordered.

demo letdown

Oh, bitterness. I get to the bridge where the demonstration is scheduled at around 6. It is a relatively frosty evening for Austin. I’d supplied myself with two candles and a box of matches. Somehow, I had the delusion that – though it was a day off – though the evening was nippy – though the demonstration itself was the result of a floating announcement – that somehow others would be as shocked by the symbolism of three thousand soldiers dead as I was. As spurred on. Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Rather, crammed up on the ramp leading to the pedestrian bridge over lake Austin was a handful of people – at most, 150. And coming up to them, I received, once again, that familiar progressive demonstration feeling. Small demonstrations for good causes generate an air much like an after church service get together. Except not after, say, a Southern Baptist Church service. Baptist get togethers are full of meaty, red faced men in florescent blue suits bouncing around with the juice of life and the holy ghost running in their veins, and their wives, all sweetness and life and chuckles and the flesh around the chin catching the kids and absentmindedly stroking their hair, and the sons with the high school football player shoulders, and holy connecting, business connecting, sexual connecting being all wound up with each other in the great suburban ball of yarn. Demonstrations, on the other hand, resemble the get together after a Quaker service. Nobody is meaty, the goodness of life is a set of good causes, and nobody wears a florescent blue suit. Let’s put it this way: if the call had gone out in Austin, Texas, for everyone who despises barbecue to meet on a cold bridge in January, much the same group would have assembled. Good people all, God bless them. But not the army to stop the war.

Oh well. The news people interviewed a few people. I hoped the cameras didn’t take any long shots – the contrast between the claim, made by all the interviewees, that the people are rising up against this war and the paucity of people gathered to rise up against the war would be too killing. There were crosses to hold, and it turned out I didn’t need my own candle, and eventually the crowd gathered around a guitar player and sang this little light of mine and This land is your land – believe me, this was an after services get together. We were all pretty old, and lovely as it is that the guitarist was there – and he is always there, he always puts in his time – I felt that the sing along format jarred with the occasion. If he had sung, say, I want to fuck you like an animal, no doubt this would have disturbed the semi-sanctuary air of the demo, but it would have been more about what this war is all about.

This little light of mine seemed singularly inappropriate.

The demo spoke of political paralysis. It foretold another 3,000 dead. And no doubt there will be – 3,000 more, that is, in American uniforms. I held a candle, said this land was made for you and me, thought like hell, blew it out and walked back down to the path around the lake and looked back. You couldn’t really see candlelight up there on the bridge.

I know these people are the core. They are my side. But I wish we could get us some fucking Baptists.

Monday, January 01, 2007

While Chalabi lounges in London, the 3,000th American soldier is killed

First things first: to find the location of a vigil near you for the 3000th American soldier killed in Iraq, go to the American Friends site.

Now, to get out the knives.

Anne Applebaum’s typically braindead obit for Hussein – a little like Hitler, a little like Stalin, throw on olive oil and bake in the pundit oven for three minutes, blah blah blah – was enlivened by the inevitable nod to Kanan Makiya, Republic of Fear. The mention of Makiya started another train of thought, however, in LI’s mind. While Hussein was the bloody dictator Applebaum describes, one thing he didn’t do – he didn’t flee Iraq. He had the means to. He could have surely gone, as his family did, to Jordan. He could have found a way to get to Libya. But he stayed in Iraq, and was captured, and was hung.

Kanan Makiya, on the other hand, helped to generate the American invasion. He was one of those who suggested the disastrous extreme de-Baathification program, the dissolution of the army, etc. He was at all the conferences. He was a regular hero of moral integrity for the neo-cons. But, inexplicably, after helping liberate Iraq, he didn’t move there. In fact, apparently he lives in the States, and he pulls down lucrative fees from his association with Benador Associates, a whack job agency dedicated to promoting blood in their mouths Middle East hawks – need someone to recommend bombing Iran for your next chamber of commerce meeting? Call Benador.

Similarly, Ahmed Chalabi is now residing in London.

And, of course, we recently witnessed the escape from prison of an Iraqi official charged with peculation, who simply used mercenaries to break him out of the Green Zone. He will no doubt be flying back to Chicago.

Now, LI has just the tiniest peckerwood rage that the devisors of a war in which 3,000 American soldiers have been killed so far – this hardy band of Iraqi patriots – aren’t patriotic to go back to Iraq. So here’s a proposal: why not prod this band back to the country they so love and cherish? If Iraqis in the U.S. could vote in the last Iraqi election, surely they can be punished under the system of Iraqi law. If the Iraqi exiles that allied with the scummiest members of the permanent War Party in D.C. can play a role in sending kids from Nebraska to Iraq to operate as decoys in Anbar province, perhaps those same Iraqi exiles could test the waters in the new, ultra-liberated Baghdad?

Iraq – if Saddam Hussein could stay there after the fall of Baghdad, perhaps Kanan Makiya should try it. Or shut the fuck up.

PS – while it is simply cruel and unusual punishment to inflict comments about Christopher Hitchens on my poor readers, I had to smile about his latest war tourist piece in Slate:

“I flew to Baghdad from the northern city of Erbil, by the ordinary means of buying a local Iraqi Airlines ticket, boarding a plane that made a stop in Sulaymaniyah, and landing at the former Saddam Hussein International Airport. The whole exercise was almost weirdly normal. The plane was full of ordinary citizens carrying plastic hold-alls, with cheerful, unveiled hostesses handing out snacks and drinks. The terminal was quiet, and the airport road (which used to be known as "Route Irish" and was the scene of incessant mayhem) is these days considered fairly safe and has been stabilized by the Iraqi army. I stopped to be photographed with a unit of this force, a group of cheerful and professional young men.”

The photo op at the end of this Scoop-like passage is the gorgeous bit that just topples the creaky bogus tone into that something extra - it is that sweet moment of ridiculousness that transcends the mere booming egotism of the Hitchens persona, and becomes true self-parody. Isn’t this just like Bertie Wooster after the testosterone patch? Hitchens punishment for having taken on the role of a warmongering zombie is that he now writes like one, 24/7. The punishment fits the crime.

tomorrow - protest the 3,000th american soldier murdered by this administration

STANDING CALL when 3,000th US Troops Have Died

The Austin Center for Peace and Justice is calling for a vigil on the day following the death of the 3,000 U.S. soldier in Iraq,* on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge at 6:30pm. Bring candles and paper plates or cups to catch wax (bring extra to share!).

LI is not a demo groupie, but this time, we are going to get some candles and be there. ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

asini mysteria

Nuccio Ordino, in Giordano Bruno and the Philosophy of the Ass, riffs as follows about asses:

“Indeed, Silenus, Marsyas and Midas

– three asinine spirits whose adventures are associated with water-purification rites – join the ass in the cycle of Dionysian myths. The ass of Hindu myth, apart from being a great seducer, is the guardian of the waters and of riches. The ass’s relation to fecundity is legitimated also by fables and myths that associate it with feminine deities; it is sacred to Vesta, mother and nurse; to the Phrygian goddess Cybele; and to the powerful Isis. In this regard, apart from asses having sexual relations with women, there is no shortage of references to cosmetic and pharmacological uses for certain of the ass’s organs as aids to many of the functions involved in childbirth and breastfeeding.

The reverse of the coin also reveals man examples in which the ass appears linked to death and the demonic. In his tale of Psyche’s descent into Hades, Apuleius only mentions the presence of an ass and its driver. Aelianus recounts tht the ass is the only animal able to resist the dissolving action of the waters of the Styx. Indeed, tradition has it that the devil is powerless against those who take an ass with them to Hell.”

In a comment on my Tom Paine posts below, faithful reader Amie has pointed to the relative philosophical neglect of birth, as opposed to the industry around death. Now, it is our opinion that LI is – however deficient in actual, concrete offspring – a big birth man. We are all for birth. And, being all for birth, we have been thinking that for this new year – the year that will spring, full grown, out of the travail of the wristwatch tonight – we wanted to dedicate the year, our year, to the ass: that fecundator, and the defier of the devil. In fact, 2006 has been building, sweet and sour post after post, to a grander vision of, well, something or other. And this is the year we propose to contemplate it – the divine earthly comedy. The anima mundi. The soul of the world. Yes, in this decade of war and planetary wear – it seems like a good time to go back to a notion that excited Giordano Bruno, and that – shrunk to Sedona, Arizona measures and become a New Age plaything – still manages, under the guise of Gaia, to crawl into the mumbles of the spiritual consumer set.

Here’s a quote from Bruno’s Ash Wednesday Supper about the soul of the world. This is more prescient than Bruno ever knew. The “Nolan”, here, is Bruno – Nundinio is John Underhill, an Oxford professor – and the dinner party is set at the house of Fulke Grenville, where it might really have happened. Finally, Pru is Prudenzio, a pedant, and Theo is Theophil, a philosopher :

“Everything is caused by the sufficient interior principle by which it is naturally stirred, and not by an external principle, as we observe occurring to those things which are moved contrary to or outside their own nature. Thus the earth and the other stars move according to the peculiar local differences of their intrinsic principle, which is their own sould. “Do you think,” asked Nundinio, “that this soul is sensitive?” “Not only sensitive,” answered the Nolan, “but also intellective, and not only intellective as our souls, but even more so.” At this point Nundinio kept quiet and did not laugh.

Pru: It seems to me that the earth, being animated, must be displeased when we dig caves and grottoes in its back, just as we feel pain and displeasure when our teeth are extracted or our flesh is pierced.

Teo: Nundinio did not have enough Prudence to think this argument worthy of being advanced, although it had occurred to him. In fact, he was not so ignorant a philosopher that he couldn’t understand that, even if the earth has sensibility, it is not a sensibility similar to ours; if it has limbs, they are not similar to ours; if it has flesh, blood, bones nad veins, they are not like ours; it it has a heart, it is not similar to ours; and so on for all the other parts which are equivalent to the parts of all others which we call animals and usually consider to the be the only animals.”

Who knew that digging enough of those caves into the earth could hurt the gigantic son of a bitch? Only the jackasses.

I’ll burn incense to the flayed spirits of Silenus, Marsyas and Midas tonight. Happy New Years!


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