June 27, 2006

is it just lazy rain

Jim Melchert, Feathers of the Phoenix (Red), 2004

* Is Iraq Vietnam in reverse? excerpt:

"In Vietnam, the United States entered a divided country with a simmering civil war and left behind a nasty tyranny. In Iraq, the US has unseated a nasty tyranny but may leave behind a simmering civil war that could lead to a divided country. In Vietnam, fearing a nuclear clash with the Soviet Union or a confrontation with China, the US slid in slowly: first sending technical advisers, then undertaking search and destroy missions, and ultimately engaging in a full-throttle war. In Iraq, the US began full throttle, switched to search and destroy, and is now seriously debating whether to begin sliding out. In Vietnam, America was fighting to uproot communism. Now, it's fighting to plant democracy.

"By this logic, the situation in Iraq today should be compared to the winter of 1966, when the US was about a year into major troop deployments in Vietnam. In 1966, America had a bit more than 150,000 troops engaged; now the US has just under that number. In both cases, about 2,500 soldiers had already died in action. This week, the Senate has held its first major hearings on the war since serious fighting began. The same thing happened regarding Vietnam in February of 1966. And it is these 1966 hearings-in particular the testimony of George F. Kennan, the framer of America's Cold War 'containment' policy-which offer vital insight into the current situation in Mesopotamia.
"So perhaps it's no coincidence that the Iraq War looks like Vietnam in reverse-it may have to do with where the two conflicts fell in this peculiarly American cycle of idealism and realism. The realists were still powerful when the Vietnam War began, but were absent when the country invaded Iraq. Now, though, voices of caution are starting to reassert themselves, and the idealists are losing sway, as people recognize the costs of the current war."

* The New Yorker on the new Timothy Leary biography. excerpt:

"But the seeds of destruction were already planted. Leary had been arrested in 1965, in Laredo, Texas, on federal marijuana charges. At the trial, he asserted his First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, an argument that the judge, Ben Connally, the brother of John Connally, the governor of Texas, undoubtedly took into account in handing down a thirty-year sentence. Still, the trial was good for publicity. Greenfield says that in the hundred and eight days after the verdict the Times ran eighty-one articles about LSD.

"Leary remained free on appeal, but, meanwhile, the activities at Millbrook had attracted the attention of local law enforcement. Leary’s chief nemesis there was the assistant district attorney for Dutchess County, G. Gordon Liddy, who staged a raid on the house, and had Leary arrested on marijuana-possession charges. Then, in 1968, Leary was pulled over while driving through Laguna Beach and, along with his wife and children, arrested again after drugs were found in the car. Leary’s son, Jack, was so stoned that he took off his clothes in the booking room and started masturbating. When he was shown what his son was doing, Leary laughed. Rosemary was sentenced to six months, Jack was ordered to undergo psychiatric observation, and Leary got one to ten for possession of marijuana.

"He was sent to the California Men’s Colony Prison in San Luis Obispo, and this is where the story turns completely Alice in Wonderland. Assisted by the Weathermen, Leary escapes from prison and is taken to a safe house, where he meets with the kingpins of the radical underground—Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd. With their help, he and Rosemary (in violation of her probation) are smuggled out of the country and flown to Algiers, where Leary is the house guest of Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panthers’ minister of defense. Cleaver would seem to be Leary’s type, since his book 'Soul on Ice' contains such sentences as 'The quest for the Apocalyptic Fusion will find optimal conditions only in a Classless Society, the absence of classes being the sine qua non for the existence of a Unitary Society in which the Unitary Sexual Image can be achieved' and (to explain why white women want black men) 'What wets the Ultrafeminine’s juice is that she is allured and tortured by the secret, intuitive knowledge that he, her psychic bridegroom, can blaze through the wall of her ice, plumb her psychic depths, test of the oil of her soul, melt the iceberg of her brain, touch her inner sanctum, detonate the bomb of her orgasm, and bring her sweet release.' But, alas, the visionaries do not get along.

"Though the Panthers hold a press conference in New York to announce that Leary, formerly contemptuous of politics, has joined the revolution—Leary’s new slogan: 'Shoot to Live / Aim for Life'—Cleaver is eager to get him out of Algeria, an Islamic country not exactly soft on drugs. He begins to harass Leary and his wife, and they manage to get to Switzerland. There Leary meets a high-flying international arms dealer named Michel Hauchard, who agrees to protect him in exchange for thirty per cent of the royalties from books that Leary agrees to write, and then has Leary arrested, on the theory that he is more likely to produce the books in jail, where there is less to distract him. Thanks to his wife’s exertions, Leary is released after a month in solitary, but she leaves him. He takes up with a Swiss girl, and begins using heroin, then meets a jet-setter named Joanna Harcourt-Smith Tamabacopoulos D’Amecourt, who becomes his new consort.

"Leary’s visa is expiring, so he and Joanna seek refuge in Austria, where Leary issues a statement that Austria 'for us personally and I think for the world at large exists as a beacon of compassion and freedom.' (Half of all Nazi concentration-camp guards were from Austria.) It is not clear that Austria feels equally warmly about Leary, and, after Leary’s son-in-law shows up, a plan is hatched to go to Afghanistan, where there are friends among the hashish suppliers. Leary flies to Kabul—it is now January, 1973—and is immediately busted. The son-in-law, it turns out, had set him up. Leary is flown to Los Angeles in the custody of an agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and remanded to Folsom Prison, where he is put in the cell next to Charles Manson’s. King Kong meets Godzilla.

"The rest is bathos. The United States Supreme Court had thrown out the Laredo conviction, but Leary clearly faced major jail time. He met the problem head on: he coöperated fully with the authorities and informed on all his old associates, including his lawyers and his former wife Rosemary, who had gone underground. Leary also wrote articles for National Review, William F. Buckley’s magazine, in which he attacked John Lennon and Bob Dylan ('plastic protest songs to a barbiturate beat'), in order to demonstrate that he was rehabilitated. When he was released, in 1976, he was placed in the Witness Protection Program. He eventually made his way to Los Angeles, where he thrived in a B-list Hollywood social scene. Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, was a friend, and Leary became a regular contributor to the magazine. He was also a welcome guest at the Playboy Mansion, and he went on the road “debating” his former adversary Gordon Liddy. His new promotion was space migration. He fell out of touch with his son; his daughter committed suicide, in 1990. He died, of prostate cancer, in 1996."

* "When the punk thing came along and I heard my friends saying, I hate these people with the pins in their ears. I said, Thank God, something got their attention." -- Neil Young


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