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

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

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

Saturday, March 22, 2003


Peter Dixon, 34, photographer, lives in London: "Just because war has started doesn't mean that my opinion has changed. The war is still illegal. Marching today is even more important than before. What else can we do?"
--Guardian, Anti-war protesters take to the streets.

LI has been revolving Peter Dixon's question in our little pointy head since participating in the last Austin Anti-war rally Thursday. And we have been sharpening our big idea, which is that the antiwar campaign must either doom itself to irrelevance by playing the game of the politics of expression (hey, we are trying to get into punditspeak, where pronunciations are always from on high, and use the modals of necessity -- must and should, as if we were all Nemesis, Jrs. down here) or turn into a movement against the upcoming occupation.

We went to the Stop the War coalition website, which is the Net hq for the people that organized the huge demonstrations on February 15. Unfortunately, our feeling is that the SW people have only one campaign strategy, which is to repeat February 15. That might work in the UK, but it certainly won't work in the U.S.

Why shouldn't the focus be on stopping the war, you ask? Because this war is moving with extraordinary rapidity, and will stop itself -- at least the first phase -- pretty soon. If you simply want the war stopped, it will soon be stopped.

No, what we don't want is what is forecast in Nicholas Hoffman's column in the New York Observer, which turns the jaded eye of some Joseph Conrad character upon the probable effects of the war. Oddly enough, the horror and nightmare Hoffman evokes is synonymous with Robert Kaplan's idea of sweetness and light, as adumbrated in this month's Atlantic. Robert Kaplan is one of the intellectual architects of the war, and he cuts through the facade of propaganda about the war thrown up by figures of fun like the ineffable Hitchens. We are going to do a post on that Kaplan article -- it is so deliciously open about Bush's foreign policy, which is a sort of Sadism as dreamt up by a backwoods evangelical.


To stop the occupation, the antiwar movement, at least that bit of it that shows itself in Austin, Texas (which we assume is a sample of the larger, national movement) is going to have to stop concentrating exclusively on the same demographic Fox comedy shows are aired at: the young and the restless. The speakers at the rally we went to referred repeatedly to their students. They are recruited from academia; they are wholly honorable in their sentiments; but just because they occupy a niche in this country where radicalism can be comfortable, they are limited by their vocabulary and attitudes to what they are used to. So, for instance, the broadcast to the wrong niche. The youth of America might be important consumers of CDs and blue jeans, but they are no longer the chosen vehicle of the kind of efficient political movement that can actually stop the occupation. Polls show that, just as in the Vietnam war and the Korean war, the demographic with the strongest aversion to this war is the Retirement set --- that's right, people above 55. Some of them made it to the rally Thursday, but they were not at all enlisted by the speakers.

This is from a WP poll published on March 4th:

"The poll also found that some of the strongest doubts about a war with Iraq are coming from a seemingly unexpected source: older Americans, who were far less likely to support taking military action than young adults -- a dramatic illustration of how President Bush's policies have reopened divisions in the electorate that were largely absent immediately before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan 17 months ago. At the same time, large majorities of Democrats and minorities expressed opposition to taking military action against Iraq."

From those constituencies, the older group and the minorities were dramatically under-represented in the march, while the young constituted easily 65 percent of the marchers. I suppose that the older segment was well represented on the platform -- there were gray haired musicians playing Dylan songs from 1962. And that is good. But there was no Spanish-language music, there was no rap, there was nothing to appeal to the East side of Austin. And there were no Rotarians up there. There should be.

This is a delicate moment, and it requires coalitions between libertarians and leftists, conservatives and liberals. And the art of making those coalitions is, alas, untaught among grassroots organizers, who more and more come from a narrow segment of this society: academia.

However, we have to appeal to the Business Week reader. Especially as we move into the occupation phase, the cost of the enterprise will start to wake up the businessman type. But they will be thrown back by their instincts into the prowar camp if they believe being anti-occupation is not serious. If, that is, they believe that it is the equivalent of being cool in a coffee house, or being indignant as a form of emotional refreshment. No, the indignation we need is to the death, in the bone -- one willing to give up being right and righteous, always a nice hierarchizing move, for being efficient.

Friday, March 21, 2003


-- Well, to see what LI has been thinking about Iraq, I went back in time -- difficult to do, since my archive is in horrible shape -- to September, 2001. LI was on the case about Iraq at that time -- erroneously, it seems, since LI's assumption was that 9/11 was connected to the Iraqis. But we made a few remarks we still hold to. And we believe the logic of our previous positions fits neatly with our position now, which is that the anti-war movement, if it is going to do anything, better turn into an anti-occupation movement. War is now the fact in the case, whether you support it or not. Occupation isn't, however. And that is the next big struggle. But it will be lost before it has begun if the antiwar movement doesn't show some flexibility.
Anyway, this is from a post made on 9/26/01, and the next post is dated. The firstg post was an extended commentary on a Michael Kelley column about the wickedness of the left. I extract this paragraph:

"I've already had my say about this in earlier posts, but to reiterate: the era since the Cold and the Gulf War ended has not been a glorious one for American foreign policy. The dual containment of Iran and Iraq ignored the reality of change in Iran, and enforced a horrendously immoral -- let's even use Kelly's word, evil -- policy in Iraq, to wit, the refusal to aid or countenance a democratically oriented overthrow of Saddam Hussein for fear that such an overthrow would destroy the country and expand the sphere of Iranian influence, and the consequent turn to the compromise of sanctions, which was premised on the insane proposition that an unarmed populace could be prodded into overthrowing a heavily armed, violent dictator by being systematically starved. With, of course, the codicil that even if the population, by some miracle, was able to successfully bring some tyrannicide to fruition, that it would allow the political fruit of its courage to be wrenched away from it, leaving the structure of the regime alone. Exchanging, in other words, one tyranny for another, in a nightmarish succession of Ba'athist strongmen.
Yeah, let's see, what were the terms Kelly used? "Foolish arrogance and greedy imperialism, racism, colonialism"? I think I could throw a few more insults on that pile, but that will do for starters.


[9/19/2001 10:55:08 AM | roger gathman]

One result of the present Crisis is that I've had to read books I never wanted to read. Just thinking about the Middle East gets me depressed. But manfully I assumed the weblogger's burden, and last night read John Cooley's book, Payback, about the US vs Iran vs Israel vs Syria conflicts of the 80s. Today I've been reading Out of the Ashes, Patrick and Andrew Cockburn's book about the ressurection of Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Let's talk about the Cockburn book a bit, since Cooley's book, although a swift bit of reporting, is really history.

The American view of the endurance of Saddam Hussein is a curious case of the public swallowing anything in order to preserve its inertia. The story is, the Gulf war was stopped because of the immemorial respect that the US bears for UN resolutions -- and since the UN resolution said that we were intent on freeing Kuwait, we simply freed Kuwait. If the Republican guard, Hussein's finest troops, escaped, and during the weeks in which our troops were on the ground literally cut the rebellion against Hussein into bloody bits, well, mark it down to America's respect for the law.

Since, however, America was, at the same time, making up the rules as it went along regarding economic sanctions, and since the fine hand of American power has never been noticeably stayed by the palsied body of UN resolutions before, even American apologists shove the law abiding excuse aside after a sheepish wink, and readily come up with the real excuse: that we have to consider the feelings of our allies.

For a condensed, classic version of this theme, see this article by Wallace Thies from three years ago - in the midst of Clinton's sudden attention to S. Hussein' s weapons of mass destruction (attention that curiously coincided with the deliberations of the House on the question of impeaching him). There are two grafs that I spied with my little eye. Let's bore in upon them:

"... the United States labors under two constraints that limit the steps that it can take against Iraq. On one hand, if Saddam is ousted and/or killed, how well would Iraq hold together in the aftermath? The United States' goal is to oust Saddam, but not to cause Iraq to break up. The latter could trigger a new round of warfare as Iraq's neighbors fought over the pieces.

"On the other hand, even if the U.S. intelligence community knew precisely the location of Iraq's weapons stockpile, would it be prudent to target the weapons themselves, at the risk of releasing their contents into the atmosphere? Saddam Hussein may not care much about the lives of his fellow Iraqis, but democracies must adhere to a higher standard. "

Anybody who reads Cockburn's book will discern a high degree of hilarity in the last paragraph. From the poison gas used indiscriminately by Hussein against Kurds (which we never protested) to the use of gas and bio agents against the Iranian armies (which we covertly condoned) to the double whammy of placing economic sanctions around Iraq until Saddam Hussein was deposed, while at the same time refusing to aid any movement to depose him, and even warning allies against aiding said movements, the US has adhered to the same tender standards regarding Iraqui lives as King Leopold once displayed for his Congolese subjects.

But let's disregard history and just try to make those two paragraphs consistent, shall we? For they represent the Officialspeak of American foreign policy re Iraq. The tender concern for Iraq's nationhood, you will notice, trumps concern for, well, democracy. Since if Iraq fell apart without a dictatorship, hmm, perhaps it is being imposed, even shall we say imposed bloodily, on an unwilling population? And so perhaps we can translate the higher US standard as something like this: although we do want to strip you of your basic human rights and keep you in an unresisting position, land's sakes, we don't want you to die of anthrax! How do you think that would look on tv!

As I said before, I didn't want to delve into these topics, since they make me so violently ill.


So where are those weapons of mass destruction, anyway?

Well, like a rich man ordering up the fine wine, Saddam Hussein apparently serves only his special guests his rich, toxic brews. He's saving them for when he's really in trouble, you see.

Iraq is collapsing like a puff pastry in the path of a bull dozer. The cheerleading from the press is also on schedule, including yesterday's ridiculous craze for asking various and sundry people whether that was really Saddam Hussein on tv, including an archivist at the Richard Nixon library -- as if all these people were Saddam's friends. NPR had a great time with that one. At one point they annouced that Saddam Hussein's mistress, apparently given shelter within the friendly walls of the Pentagon, had put her thumbs down on the video: no, that was not her sweetie.

No question is ever asked, no heresy is ever contemplated, that would disturb this seemless flow of misinformation from their mouths to your ears. When a government feels no pain for its lies, it will spin ever more elaborate ones. We have reached that Pavlovian strata towards which, all winter, we have been traveling, as though in a ship driven by a drunken Captain Nemo: we have a naked government, a junta, that responds solely to pain or pleasure, to galvanic shock or tax cuts. All human things -- in the lines of Yeats' poem,

"Beautiful lofty things; O'Leary's noble head;
My father upon the Abbey stage, before him a raging crowd.
"This Land of Saints", and then as the applause died out,
"Of plaster Saints"; his beautiful mischievous head thrown back."

are dissolved into mere current at this level. The voltaic replaces hard, tensile thought and, as Yeats said in another poem, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world; in the shape, this time, of a creature slouching first towards Basra, then towards Baghdad.

So yesterday yours truly went downtown to the demonstration, to get my fair share of depression. The demonstration built over an hour, but it attracted, in the end, a crowd that looked like what would happen if you took a college area coffee shop at rush hour and tipped it on its side. There were few solid suburban types, and the people speaking made no attempt to appeal to them, anyway. There were some old hippies playing old hippie anti-war songs, the well spoken UT professor, Bob Jensen, and another UT professor who thought that it was now high time to denounce capitalism. In other words, one felt like the choice was between playing in a sandbox or joining the ever more compliant booboisie at their tv sets, complaining that the war had interrupted their favorite reality tv show. One felt, in other words, once again that the real weapon of the powerful is their ability to define what is and what is not serious. We, the demonstrators, bore the curse of non-seriousness on our very foreheads.

Nevertheless, I moved with the masses, such as they were, down Congress. I lay in the intersection of Congress and 6th street, a die-in moment, then got up, dusted myself off, moved with the masses again (a damned helicopter on the horizon, spotting us -- which affirmed the insanity of the moment, since we were being taken seriously, apparently, by somebody, some uniformed somebody. I should also take a moment to point out that, on my way downtown, three busses for the police stood ready on 5th street), and made it to the bridge. There a bunch of 19 year old college students, ardent with antiwar feelings -- and with the breath of high school still on them -- formed a circle and sat down and chanted. It is one of the ironies of demonstrations that they attract the kind of people who have never learned to chant at pep rallies or football games. The anti-cheerleader type. And yet, what do we all do? We chant.

Someone, after a while, suggested that we take the bridge.
So I pondered whether I could afford to go to jail. I haven't yet paid all my rent for the month. I am on the brink, every day, of having that awful, foodless moment, when zero settles on your bank account and you have to live on that food substitute, coffee. And of course various of my jobs -- my scribblings for the press -- have not been paid for, one of them now going on three months. So no, I decided, I could not afford to go to jail. Because I didn't know if I could get out.
I'm not sure if I pussied out, thinking back on it. But there's a bleakness in my heart this morning.

Thursday, March 20, 2003


Our friend H. sent us this answer to our question (stolen, of course, from Lenin), what is to be done?

"Since you asked, some short, swift campaign to get the bastards in syria,
jordan and iran to open their fucking borders and let the refugees in and
house them and treat them with dignity."

A friend of ours in Memphis reports on the debilitated intelligence that is driving public opinion:

"I bought a crazed tabloid "newspaper" (Weekly World News) at the supermarket (a first time for every purchase) with the headline "CIA's shocking revelation: Saddam Plans Move to France! . . .he'll be made French ambassador to the US!" I thought this was so brilliantly funny that I was laughing as I came to the register to check out. The cashier looked curiously at me so I explained, holding up the cover. "Well, is he?" said said cashier."

Our friend T. in NYC wrote a literary detective's account of the belligerant's excuses in a letter on St. Pat's day:

"Well, hell, I did have a discontinuous thought re war this weekend. It was a thought as I recalled that Zizek gave an account of a film about a CIA agent sent to get a code breaking gadget from the Eastern Block, a gadget that will allow the West to decipher KGB codes. Arriving in the East, the agent finds everything going wrong; the KGB are onto him. What went wrong, was there a mole? No and no: the mission was a ploy. The CIA already had the gadget, and the agent was sent to make the KGB think that they do not possess it, so that the KGB will continue to use the gadgets.Thus: the "International Community" writ US-UK-Spain asserts that Iraq has gadgets and that anything contrary to that is a ploy. Further asserted by this version of the IC is that until we wage war, Iraq will continue to use such gadgets, and if they are not used, well, this is a further ploy on the part of Saddam; i.e. so long as we think that they have them, they will continue to not use them. There is also an always-already to all this as well: ah ha! Sadaam might not have these gadgets because they are always-already sold to terrorists."

The World Weekly News, by the way, will be crucial to the way we survive this war. Reading the World Weekly News, and then reading the New York Times, has a strange effect -- because so much of the NYT really does read like the World Weekly News. Is that a mere coincidence? Hmm. For instance, read this list of ways you can tell if your neighbor is a time traveller, and then read this report from Baghdad by NYT reporter John Burns about how eager Iraqis are to be liberated by the ever so friendly American missiles raining down on Satan's city. The surrealists recommended automatic writing to free up the poet's soul -- LI recommends the WWN.

"-Lack of body hair -- Modern humans are less hairy than cavemen and evolution experts predict people of the future will be even less hairy.

-Great stock tips -- While time travelers may conceal their wealth and pose as ordinary middle-class suburbanites, their ability to "guess" which stocks are will go through the roof may strike you as uncanny.

-Missing pinky toe -- Scientists say that as man continues to evolve, our pinky toes will gradually disappear over the next thousand years.

-Slips of the tongue -- May refer to current events or people in the past tense, for example, saying, "Boy, George Clooney sure was a great actor."

-Pet dog belongs to an unknown "mystery" breed -- Your neighbor will probably counter that the unusual-looking pooch is "just a mutt."

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


...and of no avail, O my master, is a twice told tale!

So the inspection period is over, and we can see it for what it is: a tale out of the Arabian Nights.

Yesterday we leafed through Robert Irwin's Companion to the Arabian Nights. A.S. Byatt refers to Irwin's book as gripping, which it is, indeed. Byatt's essay on the Mille et Une Nuits, by the way, begins like this:

"The best story ever told? Perhaps the story of the two brothers, both kings, who found that their wives were unfaithful, took bloody vengeance, and set out into the world to travel until they found someone less fortunate than they were. They encountered a demon who kept a woman in a glass chest with four locks; she came out while he slept and showed them 98 rings she had collected from chance lovers and insisted on having sex with the princes to make it a round 100. The princes decided that the demon was more unfortunate than they were and returned to their kingdoms. There the elder brother, Shahrayar, still angry over his wife's betrayal, instituted a reign of terror, marrying a virgin each day and handing her to his vizier for execution at dawn. The vizier's daughter Shahrazad, a woman both wise and learned, beseeched her father to give her to the king. On the wedding night, the bride asked that her younger sister, Dinarzad, might sleep under the bed, so that when the king had "finished with Shahrazad," the younger girl, as the sisters had agreed, might ask Shahrazad to tell a story to while away the time until dawn. When dawn came, the story was not finished, and the curious king stayed execution for a night. Shahrazad continued to tell tales, which gave rise to other tales, all of which were unfinished at dawn. The king's narrative curiosity kept Shahrazad alive, day after day. She narrated a stay of execution, a space in which she bore three children. And in the end, the king removed the sentence of death, and they lived happily ever after. "

Byatt, wonderfully, makes the following comment: "... storytelling is intrinsic to biological time, which we cannot escape. Life, Pascal said, is like living in a prison from which every day fellow prisoners are taken away to be executed. We are all, like Scheherazade, under sentence of death, and we all think of our lives as narratives, with beginnings, middles and ends."

One of the wonders of the Net is the hypertext Burton's Arabian Nights. It isn't quite finished yet. It can be found here.
It includes Burton's footnotes, which are one of the bizarries of literature.

Irwin, in his chapter on the translators of the Nights, records the origin of Burton's project. He was originally a friend and informant of Payne. John Payne's translation was intended to replace Lane's, which was much beloved by the Victorians. Lane bowdlerized the text. He was also, apparently, a pretty eccentric guy -- the Arabian Nights, to Lane, were a mere supplement to his great work, the Arabic-English lexicon. According to Irwin, "Lane became so steeped in this great work that he used to complain that reading English writing hurt his eyes." In any case, Payne's translation was stuffed with copious ethnological notes. Burton, deciding that he, too, would have his notes, made them even wilder than Payne's. They included his racial theories, autobiographical reflections, and much, much comment about sex. For instance, here is the part in the framing story where the wife of the shah lewdly disports herself, so to speak:

"Thereupon Shah Zaman drew back from the window, but he kept the bevy in sight espying them from a place whence he could not be espied. They walked under the very lattice and advanced a little way into the garden till they came to a jetting fountain amiddlemost a great basin of water; then they stripped off their clothes and behold, ten of them were women, concubines of the King, and the other ten were white slaves. Then they all paired off, each with each: but the Queen, who was left alone, presently cried out in a loud voice, "Here to me, O my lord Saeed!" and then sprang with a drop leap from one of the trees a big slobbering blackamoor with rolling eyes which showed the whites, a truly hideous sight."

As Irwin points out, nothing in the Arabic justifies the big slobbering blackamoor with rolling eyes remark. But Burton isn't done yet. There is a footnote for this slobbering blackamoor. It reads:

"Debauched women prefer negroes on account of the size of their parts. I measured one man in Somali-land who, when quiescent, numbered nearly six inches. This is a characteristic of the negro race and of African animals; e.g. the horse; whereas the pure Arab, man and beast, is below the average of Europe; one of the best proofs by the by, that the Egyptian is not an Asiatic, but a negro partially white-washed. Moreover, these imposing parts do not increase proportionally during erection; consequently, the "deed of kind" takes a much longer time and adds greatly to the woman's enjoyment. In my time no honest Hindi Moslem would take his women-folk to Zanzibar on account of the huge attractions and enormous temptations there and thereby offered to them. Upon the subject of Ims�k = retention of semen and "prolongation of pleasure," I shall find it necessary to say more."

He does find it necessary to say as much as possible.

Irwin, to my sorrow, points out that some of the great tales (Ali Babba and the forty thieves, Aladdin and his lamp) were probably created out of thin air by the French translator, Galland -- himself worthy of a post. He also points out that the second French translator was a friend of Proust's, Joseph Charles Mardrus. Mardrus's wife, apparently, "presided over a coterie of literary lesbians." Her salon was frequented by Marcel. There is a French critic who has pointed out that A la recherche... takes two texts as models -- Saint-Simon's journals, and the Mille et une nuits. Indeed, the idea of the insomniac tale, the tale that emerges in some interval of wakefulness and is told in lieu of sleep -- a dream substitute -- with a dreamlike branching of other tales, is one of Proust's leit-motifs.

Now, how would Sheherazade have told the tale of this war? I imagine something like this, taking its cue from the cruel morality of the barber's brothers tales:

The tale is about a powerful wicked king and a less powerful wicked king, who had once been allies. The powerful wicked king desired to depose the less powerful. However, he desired an excuse. So he made it his excuse that the less powerful king had arms. Indeed, the more powerful king knew of these arms, since his kingdom had sold them to the less powerful king. Ignoring this past history -- for are not the deeds of the powerful memorable only as the powerful would have us remember them? -- the more powerful king claimed that the less powerful king's weapons were a menace to peace. To show he was reasonable, the more powerful king suggested that a simpleton find the less powerful king's weapons and destroy them. And so, it was thought by the more powerful king's courtiers and flatterers, the less powerful king would be trapped, and war -- upon which king's fasten, as flies fasten on dying animals -- would be the result. But alas, man proposes and God disposes! For the simpleton, whose name, Blix, was like the movement of the eyelid, a thing so minute and quick that it is ignored by all men -- as indeed was Blix himself -- he began to succeed in finding and destroying the lesser king's weapons. The more powerful king was wroth at this, and so were his courtiers and flatterers. And so he thrust aside the simpleton, invaded the lesser king's kingdom, slew him and looted it of all its goods. For the justice of powerful kings consists only in this, that the evil in their hearts find a path through the world of men.

What is to be done?

The first stage of the antiwar movement is clearly over. We receive emails that urge us to demonstrate on the first day of the war, and we have to ask: what kind of gesture is that? It�s an oddly ineffectual and resigned move � surely the emails should have been pouring in to have us demonstrate during the last three days, or the last week.

In any case, we expect that the conventional wisdom is right, and that the fighting against Saddam H. will be a matter of the demonstration of overwhelming American power and the quick collapse of his forces. If the conventional wisdom isn�t right, then Americans will have a very hard time justifying this war over the course of the next two weeks � for the only reason I can think of that would explain the prolonged resistance of a country that has been at war, or under sanctions, since 1979, to an invading force of the size and quality of the Americans is that the resistance is popular.

My friend, Alan, at his Gadfly site, has posted a comment that the only thing left to do is pray. Well, we�ve heard that comment from others, and we have to say�. What are we praying for, exactly? Peace? A swift end to the disorder? Big, happy oil contracts for Haliburton?

I�m anti-prayer, myself. This site, at least, thinks that the next stage is to oppose American pillaging of Iraq; to oppose the dissolution of the current governmental structures in Northern Iraq; to oppose the appointment of an American head of Iraq after Saddam is defeated; and to support an accelerated withdrawal of American troops from Iraq so that they are not in the country for two years is also a goal. Make that six months, max.

In the last Gulf War the protests were in some disconnect with the real inhumanity of the American assault on the Iraqi army and population, which suffered much greater casualties than we knew at the time. The protests, in other words, went mushy from lack of info. So the short range goal seems to me to be to use the internet to get around corporate media�s willingness to obscure the real nature of the war in order not to shock prayerful Americans out of their various private raptures. This is where antiwar blogs can be of some service. So we will try to plug into and link to as much uncensored information as possible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003


This just in ... it is hilarious!

As we've pointed out, there is a gap of about 120 billion dollars between what the U.S. wants to do in Iraq and the way it says it wants to pay for it. Now, Bush, having floated himself through the nineties in Texas via cigarette money (a strategy that has collapsed, now, as Texas faces about a nine billion dollar shortfall) has obviously decided to paper over his problems in the same way. Thus, the surprise announcement by the Justice Department today:

"U.S. Seeks $289 Billion in Cigarette Makers' Profits


WASHINGTON, March 17 � The Justice Department is demanding that the nation's biggest cigarette makers be ordered to forfeit $289 billion in profits derived from a half-century of "fraudulent" and dangerous marketing practices.Citing new evidence, the Justice Department asserts in more than 1,400 pages of court documents that the major cigarette companies are running what amounts to a criminal enterprise by manipulating nicotine levels, lying to their customers about the dangers of tobacco and directing their multibillion-dollar advertising campaigns at children."

Just when you think the Bush administration has pushed the limits of fraudulence, they try a trick like this. The same administration, mind you, that has made a crusade out of cutting back liability and jury awarded settlements for job injuries.

The foulness that emanates from this White House is becoming a Ripley's believe it or not item. LI believes that Bush has now set the piece in place for his second line defense of the tax-cuts-plus-war budget. Watch this thing play out.

As I've said before in a previous post, I can only retain my sanity in these maddening times by using second hearing -- which is rather like second sight, except that it goes backwards. I've been hearing the War through Burke -- but Bush's address last night overwhelmed the rather ornate and beautiful structures of Burke's thought. One needs something more scabrous. I looked up a piece Swift wrote, on the art of political lying.

In that Swiftian way, he begins by admiring the devil for inventing the lie, but then registers an objection: the devil's lies, as is often the case with the initial run of a product, were full of glitches. Luckily, man has added an infinite amount of features to the devil's machine, making it much more useful for all ocassions And among the most useful of those occasions is the government of man, herds of which can be entranced by very simple lies, sworn to vehemently by a bunch of cut-throats who are otherwise known as "men of peace," "presidents," "undersecretaries of defense," "editiorial writers" and such others (known, since school days, to be lackies, taletellers, cheats, braggarts and snobs) who are attracted to power but who lack the courage to assault the innocent in the street by night; and so, to the temproary applause of the cowed populace, devise mass murders in their offices by day. About the political lie Swift has this to say:

"But the same genealogy cannot always be admitted for political lying; I shall therefore desire to refine upon it, by adding some circumstances of its birth and parents. A political lie is sometimes born out of a discarded statesman's head, and thence delivered to be nursed and dandled by a rabble. Sometimes it is pronounced a monster, and licked into shape: at other times it comes into the world completely formed, and is spoiled in the licking. It is often born an infant in the regular way, and requires time to mature it; and often it sees the light in its full growth, but dwindles away by degrees. Sometimes it is of noble birth, and sometimes the spawn of a stock-jobber. Here it screams aloud at the opening of the womb, and there it is delivered with a whisper. I know a lie that now disturbs half the kingdom with its noise, which, although too proud and great at present to own its parents, I can remember its whisperhood. To conclude the nativity of this monster; when it comes into the world without a sting it is stillborn; and whenever it loses its sting it dies.

No wonder if an infant so miraculous in its birth should be destined for great adventures; and accordingly we see it has been the guardian spirit of a prevailing party[2] for almost 20 years. It can conquer kingdoms without fighting, and sometimes with the loss of battle. It gives and resumes employments; can sink a mountain to a mole-hill, and raise a mole-hill to a mountain: has presided for many years at committees of elections; can make a saint of an atheist, and a patriot of a profligate; can furnish foreign ministers with intelligence, and raise or let fall the credit of the nation. This goddess flies with a huge looking-glass in her hands, to dazzle the crowd, and make them see, according as she turns it, their ruin in their interest, and their interest in their ruin. In this glass you will behold your best friends, clad in coats powdered with fleurs de Us and triple crowns; their girdles hung round with chains, and beads, and wooden shoes; and your worst enemies adorned with the ensigns of liberty, property, indulgence, moderation, and a cornucopia in their hands. Her large wings, like those of a flying-fish, are of no use but while they were moist; she therefore dips them in mud, and, soaring aloft, scatters it in the eyes of the multitude, flying with great swiftness; but at every turn is forced to stoop in dirty ways for new supplies."

But what am I doing? This is not satire, but pure fact, and as such surely seditious in the best traditions of our wondrous attorney general.

Storm, clouds, and crack your cheeks.

Monday, March 17, 2003


The WP headline reads: Baghdad Panicky as War Seems Imminent and the first graf reads:

"People cleared stores of bottled water and canned food, converted sacks of Iraqi currency into dollars and waited in long queues for gasoline. Merchants fearful of looting emptied their stores of electronics and designer clothing, while soldiers intensified work on trenches and removed sensitive files from government buildings. Cars stuffed with people and household possessions drove out of the city."

Surely there must be a mistake. Isn't it the Washington Post that has insisted for over a year that Iraqis will greet American soldiers with flowers? I imagine they are simply stocking up on those essential items now, before their streets, buildings, florist shops, kids and pets are flattened by liberating American bombs. It is so hard, climbing through the rubble, to find good orchids.

This weekend we listened to a call in show -- yes, we are going crazy -- about the war. A woman called in and commented that she supported it. She remarked that the government needs to keep us secure from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. She said that 9/11 proved this.

She seemed like a reasonable American citizen. She wasn't bloodthirsty. There is a standard comment that floats around about this time to the effect that no one wants war. Of course that is nonsense. The Bush administration has wanted war since early 2002. But this woman didn't strike me as the warmongering type. The host of the show was resolutely anti-war. But, as is the case with so many anti-war people, he asked her questions about the morality of killing people. He asked her, in other words, about justifying the war morally. This, we think, is merely doing the devil's work for him. The case against the war doesn't begin with the morality of war in general. It begins with looking at the justification of this war in particular. Remarks like this woman's are simply passed off as unobvious. This P.O.V. has been released into the American system for a year by the media and the government, to devastating effect. The goal of propaganda is to make you believe what you are told instead of what you see. Here is what we have seen. We have seen two giant structures, two skyscrapers, collapse. We have seen around 3 000 people killed. And we have seen the Weapon of mass destruction that did it. It was two jet airliners. And we have discovered how they did it -- they were hijacked by men bearing boxcutters. We have seen this, and we have decided not to believe it. We have decided, instead, to believe we are threatened by secret weapons stockpiled in secret places that only the U.S. seems to know about. We have decided that Saddam Hussein is not only our enemy, but a threat that requires the deployment of 200,000 troops, the shock and awe of 3,000 missiles, and a conflict that will, according to all accounts, be extended to a two year occupation of Iraq.

The 19 hijackers cost around 1 million dollars, to wine, dine, and train. If our new doctrine is that American security over-rides international law, let's forget the Weapons of Mass Destruction excuse. Any country that is both hostile to the United States and can cough up 1 million dollars is, according to this doctrine, justifiably a target.

This is madness. It is blindness. This war will not end when the press expects it to end, will be paid for out of the skin of the Iraqi people, will destroy the few shoots of civil society that exist in Northern Iraq, will entail an occupation that can only be a temptation, an overwhelming temptation, to the periodic staging of guerilla attacks, and, no doubt, the politiicization of those attacks as the Republicans try to jingo their way to re-election in 2004. The war is a crime, the excuses a sham, the warmongers a junta bound together by bad intents, and led by a man of outstanding ignorance. This is, I think, the beginning of a very bad cycle.

"It may easily be observed," wrote David Hume, "that, though free governments have been commonly the most happy for those who partake of their freedom; yet are they the most ruinous and oppressive to their provinces: And this observation may, I believe, be fixed as a maxim of the kind we are here speaking of. When a monarch extends his dominions by conquest, he soon learns to consider his old and his new subjects as on the same footing; because, in reality, all his subjects are to him the same, except the few friends and favourites, with whom he is personally acquainted. He does not, therefore, make any distinction between them in his general laws; and, at the same time, is careful to prevent all particular acts of oppression on the one as well as on the other. But a free state necessarily makes a great distinction, and must always do so, till men learn to love their neighbours as well as themselves."

Goodnight David. Goodnight ladies. Goodnight sweet ladies. Good night.