WASHINGTON, May 5, 2004 – In a dramatic late-night appearance in the White House press room, President George W. Bush announced that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been found in a secret stronghold near the Syrian border.
The excuse for the War on Terror is gone; will the War on Terror now come to an end? The bipartisan high and mighty rushed to insist that it most certainly will not. Obama, Bush, Kerry, McCain, Boehner, Schumer -- all the great and good were quick to say that "the fight is not over," the "threat is still there" -- the profitable wars and fearmongering will go on. And on. And on. (Besides, who needs bin Laden when we've got Gadafy back as the demon du jour? In any case, Great Satans are always thick on the ground when the War Machine needs greasing.)I suppose there is a chance, however -- a chance -- that the elimination of this emblem might finally stir a few more people to oppose, or at least begin to question, the continuation of the wars that were supposedly launched in response to 9/11. Perhaps a few more people will look around and say, "Why is our nation going bankrupt fighting all these wars? Didn't they kill ole bin Laden already? Wasn't that what it was all about?"Of course, that never was "what it is was all about." But as the elites push forward with their wars, perhaps we'll see a bit more pushback. A wan hope, perhaps -- or rather, certainly. By and large, the American people seem to have accepted permanent war as a natural state, just the way things are and will always be. But perhaps the removal of this all-obscuring symbol from the public consciousness will let a few more chinks of light into a few more minds.
It was one of those horrific juxtapositions that an imperial state breeds in abundance: the emperor joking at a luxurious banquet with fawning courtiers, while his agents are killing innocent children on a distant frontier.Such was the scene this weekend, as President Barack Obama enjoyed his star turn at the White House Correspondents Dinner, that sick-making orgy of cuddly collusion between the media and political elites. In recent years, the sycophantic shindig has turned into a veritable Oscars Night for the political set. (And increasingly the Hollywood set as well; one of the major stories of the big night was that Dinner guests Sean Penn and Scarlett Johansson were seen holding hands as they left one of the many glittering "after-parties" attached with the event! I mean, OMG! No wonder it got screaming headlines at HuffPo -- that bastion of hard-hitting progressive journalism.)Obama delivered the usual professionally scripted zingers to appreciative howls of laughter from the savvy Beltway crowd. (The same kind of laughter that the same crowd gave in the same craven way to Dubya Bush when he was the bossman.) These paeans of praise later rippled out across the progressive blogosphere, where stalwarts like Digby rushed to post up video clips of Obama's "very funny speech" at the Dinner. The progressosphere was absolutely aglow with giddy, giggly pride at the sight of Obama shooting fat dead fish in a barrel -- i.e., making fun of Donald Trump.This was real...
O how wonderful it is to live in such an enlightened age! Just think: not long ago, the U.S. government was seen as little more than a vast war machine -- brutal, murderous, inhumane, bent on global domination. Yet now, by some marvelous, miraculous twist of fate, that same government is being led by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate! It's as if Lyndon Johnson had been turfed out of office back in the day and replaced by Martin Luther King Jr.!So what the modern-day MLK up to today? In what way was the Laureate in the White House advancing the vision and practice of peace? Why, he was murdering children in a "targeted assassination," of course! He was escalating an increasingly savage "regime change" operation in blatant contradiction to the UN mandate supposedly governing the latest of his escalations and surges around the world.Yes, on Saturday -- just days after the Peace Laureate's administration announced it was sending unmanned drone bombers into the Libyan civil war, the residence of Libyan leader Moamar Gadafy was torn apart by a precision missile attack. The attack on a residential area of Tripoli missed Gadafy, but killed his youngest son, Saif al-Arab, and three of the leader's grandchildren.With this great act of peace, Obama surpassed one of his favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, who only managed to kill a single infant adopted daughter of Gadafy back when he was bombing Libya. The Laureate now has four Gadafy family members -- and blood members, too! -- notched...
More confirmation of imperial perfidy is on tap today from the trove of classified files originally obtained by WikiLeaks on the U.S. concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay. Most of the information released so far was already known -- to the very, very few who cared to find out -- having emerged in dribs and drabs and fragments in various places over the years. But to see it gathered together, in raw form, in the words of the perpetrators and accomplices of this vast, still-ongoing crime, is a powerful, and sickening, experience.
Back in the heady, heated days before the invasion of Iraq, one of the quickest ways to be relegated to the margins of the debate was to claim that the financial interests of politically connected oil companies played any role in the considerations of the great statesmen of the West as they confronted the global menace of Saddam Hussein.
Dear Good Concerned Engaged Enlightened Rule-of-Law Liberal Progressives: Is it clear enough for you now? Does he have to spell it out for you, slowly, using short and simple words, and maybe some cartoons to make it clear? Your noble Nobel Peace Laureate – bringer of hope and change, restorer of the rule of law, world-historical paradigm-shifter, etc., etc. – has just publicly (not to mention arbitrarily) committed the nation to “the supreme international crime”: aggressive war.He has pledged the blood and treasure of the United States to "regime change" in Libya: that is to say, an act of military aggression designed to overthrow the government of a sovereign nation which has not attacked your own country nor posed the slightest threat to it. This is, of course, precisely the same blatantly illegal posture taken by that great monstrous bogey-man of all good concerned engaged enlightened rule-of-law liberal progressives everywhere, George W. Bush, in his invasion of Iraq.On Friday, Barack Obama scribbled his name at the bottom of a newspaper article written by hired minions of the leaders of Britain and France, pledging to keep killing people in Libya until Moamar Gadafy is driven from power. Nothing short of "regime change" will satisfy these towering colossi of world statesmanship; as the Guardian reports, they utterly reject any calls "for an immediate ceasefire, or a negotiated exit for the Libyan dictator."Peace? Pah! No, it will be war, war, and more war until...
One side lies about money; the other side does the same. The only sure thing in this sinister kabuki is that the rich will make out like the bandits they are, and the weakest will go to the wall. You can waste your time trying to parse every little twist and turn of the "policies" of these murderous poltroons, as they set about gutting the carcass of their own country and bombing the hell out of several others; you can pretend their words have meaning, that they aren't the howls and grunts of brutal degenerates given over, sad wretches, to evil ... But me, I'm off to read Machado, to hear himSing of the ordinary oak,the branch cut off by the axe,and the flower that no one looks at.Let the damned bury the damned in those vast marble tombs along the Potomac. I'm going to wash away their stench with a cool breeze from the blue hills of the Guadarrama. His words -- sharp, etched, subtle, true -- will take me there.
After Lear, walking unfamiliar streets in search of a pub, we found that we had circled back behind the theatre. There was a crowd bunching in a passageway, gathered around a small, white-haired man in a trim blue blazer; he was smiling politely, responding affably, signing programs proffered mostly by aged hands.Not twenty minutes before, we had seen him die on the stage beside his hanged daughter, in the great existential boomerang of their earlier, rapturous reunion."No cause, no cause," she had said then, as her hands sought his ravaged face – the shattering scene, the heart of the oeuvre, the enacted ritual of transcendent forgiveness, so much harder-striking, deeper-delving than any seen in the cathedral up the street. Was this wiped out by the double deaths, by the whispered roar of nothingness – its mocking laughter – that brings down the curtain? Or does the moment of enactment engender its own truth, incarnated, which survives independently of the onrush and backwash of time? The small old man, now returned to our common contingency, and strangely gnomish here with his sprightly manner, gave no hint of an answer, or of the slightest awareness that an answer might even exist.Or were the gentleness, kindness and show of interest he displayed, in each moment of flickering encounter, themselves the enactment of an answer?9 April 2011, Bath, England
In the LRB, David Runciman provides some telling insights in a review of recent books about the “off-shoring” of the world economy into tax havens, where the hyper-elite hide their money from the taxes and regulations that ordinary citizens are subject to. The review also deals with the political machinations involved in this corrosive process, which lies behind much of our dysfunctions and discontents. You should read the whole article, which provides rich historical context, but are some excerpts, in medias res:
Wise man William Pfaff speaks the truth like rolling thunder here:
The tombstone of Flavinus,from the Ala Petriana,stationed in Britain,shows him horsed, rearingabove a naked captive.This is the pose he desiredto carry his nameinto eternity: brandishingthe standard, proud, honored.The captive is lion-faced,wild and bearded,on all fours,clinging to a post,tensed for the blow.He could have come from Blake,some lost engraving,the carved lines chargedwith living frenzy,history’s flesh.