Of Course They Knew

Everyone knew. We just didn’t care. Also, not sure that this really is the kind of source where you go, “oh, really?! sry kthankbai” I knew there were no WMD and who was I?

Fresh evidence is revealed today about how MI6 and the CIA were told through secret channels by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction.

Pope Francis And The Need For American Truth & Reconciliation

The Joshua Tree ends with a song entitled “The Mothers of the Disappeared” named after the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of women whose children had been “disappeared” by the Argentinean and Chilean dictatorships. It is a haunting, soulful elegy to the “sons and daughters, cut down taken from us” and we are told to, “Hear their heartbeat.”

I wonder if the new Pope hears their heartbeat.

…the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio [Pope Francis I], [then] the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate.

[UPDATE: This allegation has been retracted by The Guardian. So, I’m taking the Pope out of this mix, but my point remains: America needs hearings on the Fear & Fraud Decade]

Among the disappeared was a French nun. Less than 10 years ago, Argentina finally passed a law allowing for all of those responsible for crimes against humanity to be tried. Chile, too, has had a long but slow path towards reconciliation and has recently allowed a trial for the murder of singer Victor Jara to proceed, almost 30 years after the fact.

Will we have to wait that long? Maybe. Maybe we will never grapple with the last decade directly, but if we don’t it will continue to poison our souls, just as this will further poison the soul of the Catholic Church.

The Fear Years — One Last Time

Would the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden shortly after 9/11 have made it impossible for the Bush administration to concoct a rationale for invading Iraq?

All answers to “what if” history questions are speculative nonsense; however, it is clear  even ten years later that bin Laden’s death has created a catharsis. It was evident in the impromptu celebrations in New York and DC, in the random dude waving an American flag on a bridge spanning the freeway in my current city, and, as a resident of New Jersey who was down wind from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and can still recall the faint rotten milk stench of the plume as the jet stream carried it over my home, in my own guts, heart and sinew.

I once strongly suspected that the Bush administration aggressively-passively allowed bin Laden to escape in Tora Bora because his capture would have ended 9/11; the open wound would be bandaged and there would be no more fear and angst to misdirect to Iraq. Now, I think it’s more likely that they did want to capture bin Laden, but they outsourced the job to flimsy tribal allies in a typical bout of near-hilarious incompetence.

As bad as the Bush Administration was at actually doing things, they were great at selling them. That day in August in which a Bush lackey explained that the Administration was ginning up a war with Iraq in September of 2002 because “you don’t market a new product in August” was the day that any worthy unity from 9/11 died and instead it became proof that IT can happen here. Your kind neighbors can have their fear and anger stoked, forged and fluxed into incoherent hateful nonsense. Today, more than ever, just what the hell was Iraq War II for? Bin Laden is dead in Pakistan, organic revolutions are lurching at least parts of the Muslim world towards more democratic governance, gas is $4 a gallon. Why Iraq in 2002? It makes no sense.

Who knows, maybe the triumphalism of killing bin Laden would have allowed the Bushites to roll into Iraq and into Syria or some other disaster at the same time. Maybe the disaster of the Bush Years was always fated somehow, like a Greek Tragedy. For the only time in my life, I am glad that someone is dead, but I’m dumbfounded and aghast at what bin Laden gave the opening for Bush to exploit all over again. Yes bin Laden’s dead and something great will be built at the World Trade Center site one day. But the wreckage of the Bush administration is all around us.

Avatar

Spoiler alert! I’m about to spoil the whole movie; so if you care stop reading.

In the early 1960s Rod Serling observed that, in his teleplays, he could have aliens say things that Democrat and Republican characters could not. From that observation sprang “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” and “Eye of the Beholder,” two rapier sharp and thoroughly mainstream denunciations of McCarthyism as goosed by the Twilight Zone.

Similarly, once public opinion turned squarely against Generalissimo Bush’s Iraq War II in 2007, Hollywood responded with harsh, realistic films like “Stop Loss” and “In the Valley of Elah” that attempted to demonstrate the difficult sensations of that quagmire. While the films had no problem stating their political purpose they failed to resonate financially and intellectually with the polity. Like Serling, James Cameron has found surrealism to be a simpler path to an effective political polemic. Avatar is an over-the-top unapologetic left-wing hook — a parting swipe at the miserable Bush Aughts.

The plot to Avatar is simple and predictable: think “Dances with Wolves” meets the Endor battle scene in “Return of the Jedi”, with a generous pinch of “Dune” flavoring the whole stew. Time and again, the surrealism of the  venture rescues its tougher political points. The vaguely Afro-Polynesian-Native American dandruff-shampoo-blue hued Na’vi are almost too precious in their literal oneness with their planet — they embody the simplistic deification of indigenous people that a dreadlocked freshman white dude might trumpet in between bong hits in his dorm room at an obscure small liberal arts college in southern California. As glorious as the cultures of obscure tribes in the Amazon may be, would this dreadlocked Strawman give up his sedan, dorm room and zip locked narcotics to become a Tree Person? Of course not. Unlike Amazonian tribes, however, the Na’Vi are not human. Using the biological UBC cord in the Na’vi’s ponytail to mindmeld with the local fauna happens to be the logical way to get by on this imaginary world. Here the 3D aspect of the flick is also vital, as it creates an otherworldly sensation of size, scope and gravity. The texture of the 3D surrealism allows the Na’Vi’s actions to be a demonstration of how to live on their planet, rather than being a neo-luddite scold about how humans should live on Earth. This allows the truth of the films’ strongest rhetorical punches — “there is no green left there”; “they destroyed their planet” — to land without being undermined by their facile moralizing.

Far more interesting than the Na’Vi are the “villains”. I use the worry quotes because Avatar does nothing to Otherize the human inobtanium Colonizers of Pandora and the Na’Vi . The Oppressors in this case are a private mining company replete with a military wing. The fact that they are almost all white and speak with an American (not British!) accent is surely no mistake. Lets face it, there have been lots of white American colonizers in the scope of human history. At no point does the leader of this venture disobey orders from high command and go too far in his inobtanium conquest, thereby showing himself to be a rogue amongst otherwise noble people. None of the bad guys commit any sort of destruction or rape or act of private unconscionable immorality that reveals their evil souls. In the climax of the movie, when the Colonizers destroy a precious tree to get at the inobtanium underneath to the dismay of the Na’Vi, they appear distressed by what they have done. The leader is a smart corporate project manager type that does not appear far removed from a protagonist  in a contemporary TV procedural drama. The military leader is the sort of square-jawed mix of violence and cunning that is the star stuff of a million action movie heroes. When he hollers “we will fight terror with terror” and the Colonizers do just that he is simply revealing the complicity that all of us not bad Americans share in Iraq War II, whether we thought it was a good idea at the time or not. Avatar does not let the average American off the hook in the way that most entertainments do.

Some have argued that there is a racist element to the white marine avatared Na’Vi leading the Afro-Polynesian-Native American real Na’Vi in their fight against the Colonizers because this shows that “indigenous peoples” were not up to this task themselves. The other jaw of the “white savior” trope is that it allows the oppressors to redeem themselves by becoming one with the Natives; this is the soft way that “Dances With Wolves” Otherized the white Union Army but forgave the crowd that was busy sympathizing with Kevin Costner’s character. Here the surrealism of the movie distills its politics. Our hero doesn’t join the Na’Vi’s culture; he literally becomes one of them. In so doing he acts, in the final battle scene, as a missing link to a more “natural” state of being rather than an industrial one. In Avatar, humans cannot meld cultures with the Natives, or simply find the capacity to treat them right and be down with them as we all are now, of course. You either are one, or a rare select friend, or you are not.

The final scene of the movie is a Trail-of-Tears-like procession of not quite villainous white Americans being frog stomped back into their spaceship and off Pandora. Like the whole movie it is very predictable, but one only realizes how unusual such a scene is when one sees it.

Avatar is painted with a broad brush and is over the top and unapologetic in its moralizing. In it’s audacity, and beneath its pyrotechnics and holy moly 3D, it offers a mule kick in the solarplexis about the kind of violence and imperialism that most Americans know about but rarely pause to consider.

Bravo Mr. Cameron! Bravo!

"There is No Decent Place to Stand in a Massacre"

The title of this post is taken from a Leonard Cohen song. Even out of context, only a poet can distill these eight diabolical and embarrassing years. A massacre. A massacre, literally, for the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and brave “Coalition” soldiers needless killed in Iraq. A massacre, truly, for the swollen and dead in New Orleans. A massacre, figuratively, for the millions jobless or struggling, or otherwise victims of the Great Economic Collapse. The list of agonies flows on like a forever dropping jaw.

Others have certainly cataloged the cavalcade of Conservatron chicanery of the last eight years with precision. I am more concerned with where the rest of us stood in the massacre.

Remember, remember we must remember fellow Americans the Fear Years. That awful epoch between 9/11/01 and early 2004 when Generalissimo Bush turned any sense of humanity stemming from 9/11 and twisted it into Iraq War II. Disagreement was deemed betrayal. Our real enemies were allowed to skitter away and regroup. The reign of Generalissimo Bush is now almost universally recognized as a mammoth failure. But Bush was no more and no less of a failure in the Fear Years than he is now. He was no more or less of a venal demon then as he is now. The falsity and surrealism of the Iraq venture was evident then with as much critical thinking as it takes to decipher the nutrition label on a cereal box. The only thing that has changed is us. If America had a Parliamentary system then Generalissimo Bush would have been bounced from the White House long ago. Yet, stuck with him as we are, his power has been largely drained by his unpopularity. We proved we could cauterize the wound. Yes Bush deserves the brunt of the blame for the massacre. But we all let it happen.

What more could we have done? I myself argued the evil and stupidity of the Iraq War and Generalissimo Bush in general, often to barking, furious rejoinders from my countrymen. Others marched, which I thought would be ineffectual. I voted the right way. Horror at how Generalissimo Bush was mutating America (and the ineffectual response to it from Democrats) was an impetus for this blog. These are all well and good gestures on the “I told you so” level, but the massacre still happened. Not enough of us made a large enough effort to prevent it.

We all share the culpability of our America’s comprehensive failure during the Fear Years. All we can do now is learn from our errors. Know then, America, that “it” did happen here and “it” can happen here again. The kind minds of your friends and neighbors can be forged and fluxed by anger and anxiety into cheering the violence and delusions of a man of fear and hate. The words of our Constitution and laws are only words. They are nothing if their letter is usurped and ignored. The American experiment is fragile and can be aborted into a bizarre kind of fascism if we let it.

Remember America! Remember the Fear Years! Remember America’s fascist moment! Remember the massacre!

Correct Strategy on Funding

Bill Scher has it.

Contrary to McCain’s suggestion, setting the timetable will increase odds of success since so much of the insurgency is based on resisting permanent occupation.

Plus, McCain’s “second year Westpoint” student comment about setting withdrawal dates… I wonder what other by the book suggestions Westpoint students would have about this fucked up war!

I'd put it this way.

Alterman:

David Brooks puts it this way: “Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the surge, he supports it, even if it’s going to be unpopular. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such guts.” Here ($).

I’d have put it this way: “Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the escalation, he supports it, even if it’s going continue to kill thousands of people, including our soldiers, for no good reason except to excite further hatred of this country and our citizens as his policies have done so far. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such delusions.”

Me: Say what you will about President Bush, when his advisers convince him a policy is right, like the escalation, he supports it, even if it’s going to be unpopular and kill thousands of people and serve no benefit to the U.S. Democratic leaders, accustomed to the responsibility of opposing his imperiousness and being defeated, cannot even corral their own members to support a token withdrawal pledge, and continue to tolerate the egomaniacal shenanigans of Joe Liebermann.

It's the George W. Bush Family Comedy Hour

As worked up as I might get over all of this, I just find it ridiculous these days.

Even talking-in-tongues psycho Senator Brownback opposes this escalation, as does “maverick” senator Hagel. It’s pretty clear America is rejecting this, with only about 30% supporting escalation (probably to scratch their Vietnam itch) and 11% approving of Bush’s speech last night.

Neil Conan of NPR asked someone yesterday, “what about the notion of giving the President another chance?” A year ago or more, my head would have exploded. I just laughed. Another chance? How many does he get?

Another comedic bit here: Bush is on the verge of handing the Democrats a governing 2/3s majority in Congress on some issues. Could it be that unity on Iraq might engender a Congressional bipartisan era, where they govern with little or no input from the President?

Probably not, but he’s got a veto proof minimum wage bill headed straight for him, and if he thought he was going to sink the Kennedy bill last night, he failed.

It’s all just hilarious.