Touché !!

February 20, 2008

I am an intellectual!

The Republican “intelligentsia” likes to see itself as the “party of ideas.” Their “public intelllectuals”, the type I refer to as swaydos, (pseudos, if you’re not in the know), are much lauded. William F. Buckley, whom I’ve yet to hear construct an argument that isn’t based on innuendo, snide insult, and dogmatic assertion of troglodyte opinion is the father figure to these wannabee “scholar-statesmen.” William Kristol, now on probationary assignment as water carrier for the conservative cause on the opinion pages of the New York Times, a paper he described as treasonous not long ago, is another star in this cerebral firmament – or is it penumbra?

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who do know a thing or two who can get a good letter published in the Times. I reproduce in full the wonderful response of Todd Gitlin to Kristol’s latest mental drivelling. He correctly cites a prime technique of the right-wing fustigators (love that word, got it from Carlyle!), i.e., attacking “the left,” “liberals,” “academics,” and so on for expressing opinions they deplore without giving a single example:

To the Editor:

In order to impugn “the quality of thought of the Democrats’ academic and media supporters,” none of whom he names or quotes, William Kristol drafts George Orwell, who wrote in 1942 that “a permanent and pensioned opposition” suffers a deterioration in “the quality of its thought.”

By Mr. Kristol’s reasoning, the belligerent right that was out of power from 1932 into the 1970s should have been terminally shriveled by the time it came to power with Ronald Reagan in 1981. Perhaps its long exile explains the ruinous fatuousness of such manifestoes as the declaration on Sept. 20, 2001, that failure to invade Iraq “will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism” — a declaration by William Kristol and fellow conservatives.

Todd Gitlin
New York, Feb. 18, 2008

The writer, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, is the author of several books about politics.


Master of Stupid

December 5, 2007

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Thomas Friedman, the idiot savant is at it again.  Today, in the New York Times, in a column called “Intercepting Iran’s Take on America,” he has written a “satirical” column on what the leaders of Iran must be thinking about us, including:

First, 9/11 has made America afraid and therefore stupid.

It is, I believe, at least the second time he has voiced regret over the 9/11 induced “stupidity” of America’s body politic.  Hmmm…interesting.  As I recall, he was one of those who was rooting for the war in Iraq, saying we had to act “a little bit crazy,” etc. to root out the terrorists.  When it comes to stupidity, he should speak for himself only.  I won’t say he’s as bad as David Brooks who frequently sounds as if he just arrived from Mars, but he is remarkably shallow and glib.  Basically a journalistic shill for the powers that be…for the moment.


Victory Strategy Anyone?

September 12, 2007


There is a lot of talk about how W has no “exit strategy” for Iraq, and, of course, how he had no strategy at all when he invaded. On the other had, supporters of the war, like McCain, say we must not “lose Iraq,” or did he mean China?…ooops, he’s not that old! Others say we are on track for successs, for victory, i.e., Victory! Just give the ‘strategy’ a chance to succeed.

I have to wonder, what is the Victory Strategy? That is, how will we know when we have won, and what will we do then? Do the supporters of the war honestly think, if they have their way, that we will win and leave the country a stable parliamentary democracy, in one piece, that will be friendly to the US and hostile to our enemies, and won’t require the presence of tens of thousands of American troops funded by billions of dollars a year? Is that the Victory Scenario? It was six years ago, but now?

Or do they imagine that after another three or four years like this one, and untold piles of cash, Iraq will have a nominal central government that appears to keep the lid on secessionist fighting, and that has reduced sectarian atrocities to an “acceptable” level, mostly because various regions have been “cleansed” so that they are ethnically homogeneous? And that we will continue to pour money into the place and maintain large numbers of troops there so it doesn’t blow apart or get swallowed by Iran or Turkey? This seems to be the best that they can hope for.

And if this best-case Victory comes about, what is our “strategy?” What do we do with this victory, this ally, this burden? I guess we just maintain our presence there indefinitely, like in Korea. This is what some call “projecting American power.” Others call it Imperialism, but whatever you call it, the return on investment seems rather paltry.

General Pyrrhus, shown in the picture, knew about this bind. And he usually won his battles! He is said to have remarked after one of them, “Another such victory, and I shall be ruined.”


GWB Down the Memory Hole…Again

August 22, 2007


Greetings from the Ministry of Truth!

Here’s one from the memory hole: George Bush speaking today at a VFW post about his “policy” in Iraq. He drew a parallel between the consequences of the American withdrawal from Vietnam and what he claims will happen if we leave off fighting in Iraq. Here is one piece of evidence he presented:

“In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation, torture, or execution.

Just for the record, it was several millions of Cambodians who died under the insane regime of Pol Pot, but who’s counting? Not GWB, for sure. More important, it was the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia that put a stop to the Pol Pot regime’s murder, not that they (ancient enemies of the Khmer) were totally altruistic in their aims in removing him from power. Quite a stretch to claim that it was the Vietnamese Communists that caused the atrocities in Cambodia. Of course, it did happen after we left, but isn’t that a co-inky-dink? Most historians agree that it was America’s involvement in Vietnam that caused, one way or another, the destruction of Cambodia.


Whose Mission Accomplished?

November 19, 2006


Having just finished reading Lawrence Wright’s excellent book, The Looming Tower, I have to ask, whose mission was accomplished when we invaded Iraq? From what that book tells of bin Laden’s murderous and somewhat delusional ‘plans’, it would seem that his mission was accomplished!

Bin Laden’s plan was to strike America with mass-murderous blows so as to provoke a violent response, This would, he believed, involve us in a ruinous conflict overseas that would bleed us dry and destroy our society, leading to the complete collapse of the USA and its dissolution into fifty separate, anarchic states. This is the level of Al Quaeda’s political thinking – pure fanatical gibberish. Once they get past the mass murder part, they’re on pretty shaky ground. Bin Laden thought that getting the USA involved in a guerilla war somewhere, oh, Iraq will do, would ruin us the way that Afghanistan had ruined the USSR. It’s clear that he knew little about the USA or the USSR, and is not capable of making informed judgements about them. Unlike many of his terrorist cohorts, he had never even visited the States even when he was wealthy and could move about freely.

On the other hand, although his utimate goal is clearly not within reach – Iraq is not going to shake the USA to pieces – he has met some of his objectives. He provoked a violent response that has whipped up more fanatical anti-American fury. He has gotten a tyrannical-secular-mass murderer opponent, Saddam Hussein, knocked off. He has seen Iraq turned into a possible seed-bed of a some sort of Islamist state. Oh, and American troops have left Saudi Arabia, one of his principle goals. Not too bad for a guy in a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan. Smashing his supporters, the Taliban, was a severe blow to his organization. Loosing our heads and invading Iraq played right into his hands.


Ground Zero from My Window

July 27, 2006

I work next door, so to speak, to the World Trade Center site, and I pass through the PATH station there twice each day. Fortunately, I was not working here on the day the WTC was destroyed – I saw it on TV along with most everyone else. I did pass by the smoking pile of ruins several times in the weeks and months after the disaster, however. This is the view from my window now. Ground Zero – isn’t that what they used to call the point of impact of nuclear missiles? To me, the culture that has grown up around the WTC site seems a bit ghoulish, and self-pitying.

I tend to think that Americans are rather childish when we contemplate national violence, by and against us. We are the most powerful nation in the world, but we are puzzled that we cannot get people to behave as we would like. We want to control the situation, but we haven’t the will to impose ourselves as an imperial power. We think we can do it cheaply, and nicely, because we are so good. We are courageous, evil people are cowards. The terrorists who destroyed the WTC must have been weak and cowardly, because we are the opposite. Instead, they did their dastardly deed, and gave us the Ground Zero of our bewildered pain. What happened? How could this happen to us?

The Brits lost 40,000 people in the London Blitz, when Hitler poured V-1′s and V-2 rockets onto the city. There were smoking piles of ruins everywhere. What happened at the WTC was a horrific atrocity, and I was stupefied by it for weeks (the images of people jumping stay with me even now) but in comparison, it was small. The emotion that it has generated here is a measure of the scale of achievement of the terrorists – they have scared us silly. We’re supposed to be safe from all that.

We have a prez who has dragged us into the fiasco of Iraq because we were too rattled to think cooly and clearly about how to respond to the attack. Okay, knocking off the Taliban made sense – they were in Afghanistan, they did it, they would do it again. But Iraq?!! Now we have an ‘expanded war on terror.’ We wish we were fighting a war, instead of a grinding, bloody ‘police action’. So do the Israelis, today, I guess.

Now people throng to the WTC site. (Does anyone ever comment on the black humour of 9/11 and call 911 for emergency? No, too tasteless.) They pose in front of the fence around the pit where construction work proceeds in a desultory manner. They read the timeline of 9/11 that has been posted. Why? “At 8:04 the pilots’ throats were cut…At 8:24 our valiant commander turned a page and continued to read to the 1st grade class…” This is common knowledge – we should have a proper memorial for people to visit, and where they can reflect, not a gimcrack Powerpoint presentation that is nothing so much as an invitation to wallow in gruesome reflections about “how awful it was.”

Oh yes, we are building a Freedom Tower. FREEDOM Tower?!! What is THAT? In Europe you can see columns erected to commemorate the end of the Plague – too bad they didn’t call them Plague Towers. Do we have to be so obvious, so crude? It sounds like something from 1984 – what does a towering skyscraper, which is totally unnecessary for the area, have to do with freedom? Empty symbolism to counter the devastatingly effective symbolism of the original murder and destruction.


War Without End?

January 26, 2006

When will we declare victory in the “War on Terror?” How will we know if we have won? When there have been no terrorist attacks for a month, a year, a decade…100 years? Is this really a war?I think that we are in a struggle with a nefarious, cruel, cunning, daring, and brutal enemy that wishes to do us great harm, but that is not quite a war. No state, no army, no battles, just a series of atrocities and crimes. John Kerry was ridiculed for saying that we should strive to get terrorism to the point where we deal with it through police actions – how the Europeans look at it – and he is right. Here in the USA, we hardly know what war is, and perhaps the Europeans still remember it for what it is.

No, we declare a war on terror so we can have war fever, wave flags, feel that we are fighting back, doing something! We slip easily into that sort of logic, it seems so natural. The response to September 11th was fear and shock, and then a boiling patriotic desire to hit back. Well, we hit back against the Taliban, and rightly so. The perpetrators were there, they would do it again, it was their base – simply self-defense, but not much of a war. We needed a real war to keep the war-talk going, so we invaded Iraq.

I’m not saying that our government cynically decided to do these things because it wanted to whip up war fever, no, not the way the Argentine junta did it by invading the Falklands to divert attention from their parlous failure with the economy and their murder of thousands of Argentine citizens. No, I’m saying that our government slipped easily into the war mode because it’s so easy to, because it served their purposes, because our leaders have no imagination…and a host of other bad reasons that get used again and again throughout history.

Problem is, war justifies everything – secrecy, wire tapping, sloppy budgets, accusations that your critics are traitors – and it makes it very hard to see your enemy for what he is. I know we have had some success against Al Quaeda, but Iraq is a huge diversion, and we’ve muddied the waters so much, I despair of a sensible approach to protecting ourselves in the future.

Can’t stop thinking of 1984…the war was always on, only the enemy kept changing from time to time. It was hard to remember whom we were fighting, and who were our allies. It didn’t matter – the war went on.


Steady On, Now Lads!

November 21, 2005

Yea, it looks pretty grim, it does! No matter, let’s keep piling on the bodies. Worked for our granddads in the Great War, WWI. We weren’t making progress – loosing hundreds of thousands of men in the space of a few hours to gather up a few yards of mud onto our winning side, but we kept on. Some fellow wrote a sentimental poem, “In Flanders Fields,” seemed like a tribute to the poor grunts in the trenches, but it was really a call to arms against those who wanted to try and negotiate a peace, so we kept on, lost a few million men, and probably made things worse in the long-run. And what was the argument? “We owe it to the dead.” Do the dead care? Do the dead, crowding up the Elysian fields really need the company of more soldier corpses? Same argument came up during the last great conflict, the point of which our army had forgotten, Vietnam. Can’t pull out, can’t show weakness, it will embolden our enemies, we’re fightin’ for our lives, can’t let down those who have died. Now the USSR is gone, China is going capitalistic, and the South Vietnamese, bless ‘em, want nothing more than to be our good buddies and trading partners. But, we should have kept on…

So today, when a decorated veteran (no, not Kerry!) calls for a pullout, cites the grievous mis-handling of the war, the false intelligence, the fact that our presence makes us a target that inflames the situation. When he points out that we are accomplishing NOTHING positive, when he asks, “Does our administration HAVE a strategy?” we are given rejoinders such as: “We owe it to those who have sacrificed (no, not Cheney!) to keep on [dying]“. “We will not cut and run.” No, we will stay and die for no good reason, much more sensible. Well, I’m asking for volunteers from the administration to be the last man, or woman (c’mon Condi!) to die for a mistake.


Seasons Greetings, Morons!

December 21, 2004

Well, another year almost gone. You humans constantly amaze me. Has it been a good year?

I guess I can’t complain – you managed to avoid the ultimate disaster.

We had a little bit of this…

…and way too much of this.

I guess I’ll just have to hang around and see what happens next.


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