March 5, 2007

I heard so much about London
I decided to check it out

Clarence John Laughlin, A Strange Situation, 1938

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"3. The Bush Administration

"Seymour Hersh, the man who wrote the piece in the New Yorker exposing Abu Ghraib, which I excerpted above, dropped another huge bombshell last week. He revealed that the Bush administration has been 'pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight' into the hands of 'three Sunni jihadist groups.' Why? Because these groups are aligning themselves against Hezbollah and are opposed to the spread of Shiite influence in the Middle East.

"Just one problem: these Sunni groups are also connected to Al Qaeda. That's right - according to Hersh, 'We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.'

"It seems that the Bush administration believes that these Sunni extremists will cause significant damage to the Iranian regime, and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Makes sense - if we just fund the right terrorists then everything will work out fine. After all, it worked really well when we funded the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets, right? That didn't cause any problems later on.

"So, yeah, the Bush administration is bypassing Congress in order to hand American tax dollars to radical Sunni groups that are connected to Al Qaeda.

"But never mind that. Haven't you heard? 'Anna Nicole Smith once urinated in a pet litter tray, her friend has revealed.'"

* The War on Terror and the terror of war. excerpt:

"The world it is at war: an open ended 'War on terrorism'. Leaders across the world have repeated the declaration ad nauseam. We have been told just as many times that it is a 'war like no other'. The stakes are high. If Usama Bin Laden is to be believed it is the 'Third World War'; for George W. Bush the war is nothing less than a 'fight for civilization'. As to whether the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 were in fact an act of war demanding a military response, or a criminal act demanding a legal and justice based response is open to question and debate. Secretary of State Colin Powell's initial response suggests that he regarded it more in terms of a crime than an act of war: 'you can be sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice', he is reputed to have said. But President Bush had other ideas, later telling journalist Bob Woodward that his immediate reaction was: 'They had declared war on us, and I made up my mind at that moment that we were going to war'. And thus, we are at war.

"The casting of the war on terrorism as a war fought on behalf of or for Civilization against some less-than-civilized Other--terrorists and their cohorts--is a significant point that cannot be allowed to pass unexamined. The image being generated and marketed here is one of a war between the civilized defenders of everything that Civilization represents and the barbarous terrorists who oppose it and want to tear it down. Right or wrong this image is not exactly new, and thus the war on terror is not exactly a war like no other. Rather, history and precedents have a lot to tell us about the present and the conducting of this war on terror."
"It seems that what is really going on here is that in response to atrocities or acts of savagery by an uncivilized foe--the first being September 11 and then Madrid and Bali and London, and then Bali again and on the ground in Iraq everyday--the West, in the name of Civilization and the battle of good over evil, is seeking to justify a turn to any means necessary, including more brutal means of warfare. A war against such an evil and unscrupulous barbarous enemy cannot be won by conventional means; rather we must fight fire with fire--so the argument goes. Or at least this is what we try to convince ourselves. But perhaps it is more the case that those more base instincts and uncivilized means have been at our disposal and employed by us--the West--all along. History seems to suggest as much. All too regularly we dehumanize our enemy--the uncivilized savage who lacks virtue, chivalry, is beyond the pale materially and morally--in order to justify to ourselves the recourse to the more brutal means we claim to abhor and claim to be antithetical to our very ideal of Civilization. The dichotomy between the civilized, uniformed, chivalrous combatant and the opportunistic, treacherous barbarian is a false one. Perhaps there is something in the argument that all people, fundamentally 'good' people included, are capable of doing bad or evil acts given certain circumstances. Just as 'bad' people are capable of random acts of kindness.

"As Immanuel Kant reminds us in Perpetual Peace, 'even some philosophers have praised it [war] as an ennoblement of humanity, forgetting the pronouncement of the Greek who said, "War is an evil inasmuch as it produces more wicked men than it takes away"'. We would also do well to take note of Walter Benjamin's poignantly made point that 'there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism'. As with every other war that has been or will ever be fought, no belligerent has a monopoly on the barbarism and terror of war. The war on terror is no exception."

* "I often wonder if I am suffering from some mental dysfunction because of how weird and baffling my poetry seems to so many people and sometimes to me too." -- John Ashbery, 1983


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