The Politics of Personal Destruction

Written by Chris Floyd 23 September 2005 10404 Hits

This blog would be remiss if we failed to denounce, in the strongest terms, the widespread dissemination around the Internet of a scurrilous National Enquirer story to the effect that President George W. Bush has "fallen off the wagon" and started drinking again. My god, how low can the "progressive" blogosphere go? To peddle such tabloid tripe, spreading it around the world like a malignant virus, traducing the President's good name with "anonymous sources" -- it's a moral outrage. We here at Empire Burlesque would never take part in such an odious campaign of personal defamation. We pledge never to link to stories like this one:


Nor we will we try to score cheap laughs and shallow satirical points by employing unflattering photos, like the one on the right, to imply that Mr. Bush is some sort of sniveling little sauce-head who can't take the heat and has to look for his dwindling manhood inside a bottle of hootch. That's just plain wrong. We won't play that petty game. We say that unless and until our President is found by Cokie Roberts lying face down in a pool of his own urine at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, we will not spread malicious rumors about his sobriety. And we strongly urge other bloggers to do the same. After all, how can we ever expect to be taken seriously by the Democratic Leadership Council or the Washington Post editorial board if we engage in such unprofessional behavior?

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"The Light Shines in Darkness"

Written by Chris Floyd 23 September 2005 11716 Hits

Published in the Sept. 23 edition of The Moscow  Times. Annotations and sources are available here.

The sea was pink with sunset, the last light draining as high tide slowly reclaimed the beach. A huge harvest moon, flecked with clouds, was hanging just above the horizon in a sky still barely blue. On the distant line where the world curved away, you could see the white speck of the Channel ferry, bound for Calais.

Standing on the high seawall – with no one around, no sound but the insistent boundless roar of the waves – you watched and waited, waited for the hint of wind to rake the clouds away from the moon. The pink sea shaded into gray, first one and then another of the seawall steps was covered by the swarming tide: the waves and the darkness were advancing together. You waited. A horsehead cloud flashed black against the vast yellow presence, then bowed its neck, drifted on – and the moon emerged.

A rapier of light appeared on the surface of the water, a restless, shifting dazzlement, reaching all the way to the foot of the seawall, the edge of the tide. Wherever you stepped it followed, a pointillist blade aimed straight for your eyes. Imperceptibly but swiftly, the moon rose higher, grew harder and smaller, while the band of light, paradoxically, widened: now a broadsword, now a road, now a river of diamonds pouring through the middle of the waves.

Astonishing, unlooked-for, this eruption of beauty, so perfect in its meaninglessness. It was just there, portending nothing, without signification. There was no goddess in the moon, no spirit in the sea: just form, line, curve, light – combining, dissolving, recombining at every moment. A truth emptied of all utility, all contention, all continuity, of everything except the eternal imprint of reality.

How far removed from this realm of ordinary miracle is the sordid world of politics and power. There, meaning and agency, instrumentality and exploitation rule the day. There, the wordless roar of the sea gives way to the ceaseless howl of lies. To deal with politics is nothing more or less than waste management, a necessary evil to preserve public health, trying to keep the corruption down to a reasonable, endurable level.

Of course, corruption is just another word for greed; and greed – self-serving -- is endemic to human nature. No political system is antiseptic in this regard – nor should it be. A little corruption is not fatal; some built-in slack for human failure keeps a system from becoming merciless and inhumane. But when the level of graft rises too high, when it overtops and breaks down the levees of law itself, when it swarms the land, rips out communities and families, when it kills and crushes, when it exalts the mighty few beyond all reason and justice – then it must be resisted, exposed, and condemned. Then, in order to carve out some space for meaningless beauty and reality's truth to flourish, we must plunge into the muck again.

And so here we go: George W. Bush's plan to reconstruct the Gulf Coast is the biggest crony cash-cow in American history (aside from the pork-orgy he's throwing for his pals in Iraq). Bush is using his emergency powers to strip American citizens of their legal protections against exploitation, handing out no-bid contracts to his pals and paymasters and allowing them to pay coolie wages to build their new commercial empires on the bones and blood of the hurricane's victims.

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Look Back in Anger

Written by Chris Floyd 23 September 2005 10173 Hits

Once again, Roger Gathman at Limited Inc is on the money, this time on the bitter benefits of hindsight in viewing the murderous debacle in Iraq. The whole piece needs to be read, but here are some excerpts:

Lately, the media has decided to respond to the fact that the war is unpopular in this country (and will be extremely hard to finance, come the next supplemental) by posing the rhetorical question, don’t we have the moral responsibility to remain in Iraq? This is a sort of cruel joke question. It is as if Cortes were to justify the conquest of Mexico by saying, don’t we have a responsibility to the Aztecs to remain in Mexico? The answer to the media’s new concern with our moral obligation is that an occupying force that makes promiscuous use of air power on its occupied territory, razes cities Grozny style, and establishes interlocking groups with organized kleptocrats to pump money out of the occupied territory seems to have somehow misread the story of the Good Samaritan. I don’t know how much more American charity Iraq can take...

Hindsight should tell us this: Iraq was able, two years ago, to stand on its own two feet. The American occupation has been aimed at preventing an independent Iraq, not at creating one. The idea of indefinite occupation, ie colonizing Iraq, depended, however, on two factors: that Iraq would eventually be a cash cow, and that the American population would go along with Bush’s plan. The first pillar of the Bush plan has collapsed. The second is collapsing. Iraq is in the hands of Iran’s allies. The cost of continuing the war is unsustainable. Moreover (although the Americans still don’t know this), American has become irrelevant to the ultimate outcome in Iraq. Under the shadow of the American shock troops, the real political fight has been happening, in which the American side is represented by a Kurdish faction – and even that faction is becoming impatient with their ally.

Give me more hindsight is the LI slogan. Let's shed as much light as possible on the the monsters who rule us.

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Happy Campers in Clover

Written by Chris Floyd 22 September 2005 5964 Hits

Roger Gathman at Limited Inc gives one of the best explanations for the Democratic Party's flaccid "opposition" to the Bush Faction steamroller that I've seen in quite a while. There is of course no genuine opposition to Bush at all in the American power structure; there are only varying degrees of craven collusion, punctuated by occasional spasmodic regurgitations of sham dissent – cynical evocations of past glories, all talk, no action.

Gathman, displaying his usual slashing erudition, takes off from a demolition of David Mamet's recent piece in the Los Angeles Times, moves on to the court of the Byzantine emperors and brings the hammer down squarely on the agonizing reality of the present day.

A Rule for Reading Newspapers
The whole piece is worth reading, but here's an excerpt:

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Broken Light: Work, for the Night is Coming

Written by Chris Floyd 21 September 2005 7933 Hits
(Below is an excerpt from the book, Empire Burlesque. It might help explain a little bit of the ethos behind this blog, for anyone that's interested.)

Black milk of daybreak, we drink it at evening.  
-- Paul Celan, "Deathfugue"

The children were walking to school. The young people were going out to a dance.
The children stepped on a booby trap planted by a soldier. The young people were shredded by the nails of a suicide bomb. They were all blown up, destroyed.

One moment, the force of life animated their biological matter
, their brains seethed with billions of electrical impulses, the matrix of consciousness brought the entire universe into being, within them, within each of them, each solitary vessel of knowing.

The next moment, only the matter remained: inert, coagulated, decaying. There was no more knowing, no more being; the universe had come to an end.


We drink it at midday and morning; we drink it at night.

They would have us believe it is because Ishmael warred with Jacob. They would have us believe it is because this or that Divine Will requires it. They would have us believe it is because ethnicity or nationality or religion or some oth
er arbitrary accretion of history and happenstance must override both the innumerable commonalities of all human beings and the radical, irreplaceable uniqueness of each individual.

They would have us believe anything other than the truth: that everyone and everything will die; that all nations, ethnicities, religions and structures will fall away into rubble, into nothingness, and be forgotten; and that even the planet itself will be reduced to atoms and melt away, like black milk, into the cold deeps of empty space. And in the face of this truth, nothing matters ultimately but each specific, fleeting instance of individual being, the shape we give to each momentary coalescence of atomic particles into a particular human situation.

That's all we have. That's all there is. That's what we kill when we murder someone. That's what we strangle when we keep them down with our boot on their throat.

We drink and we drink.

Is it not time to be done with lies at last? Especially the chief lie now running through the world like a plague, putrescent and vile: that we kill each other and hate each other and drive each other into desperation and fear for any other reason but that we are animals, forms of apes, driven by blind impulses to project our dominance, to strut and bellow and hoard the best goods for ourselves. Or else to lash back at the dominant beast in convulsions of humiliated rage. Or else cravenly to serve the dominant ones, to scurry about them like slaves, picking fleas from their fur, in hopes of procuring a few crumbs for ourselves.

That's the world of power -- the "real world," as its flea-picking slaves and strutting dominants like to call it. It's the ape-world, driven by hormonal secretions and chemical mechanics, the endless replication of protein reactions, the unsifted agitations of nerve tissue, issuing their ignorant commands. There's no sense or reason or higher order of thought in it -- except for that perversion of consciousness called justification, self-righteousness, which gussies up the breast-beating ape with fine words and grand abstractions.

And so the fine words and breast-beating goes on and on -- prosperity, freedom, holiness, security, justice, glory, our people, our homeland, God's will be done, we will prevail.

We shovel a grave in the air where you won't lie too cramped.

Beyond the thunder and spectacle of this ape-roaring world is another state of reality, emerging from the murk of our baser functions. There is power here, too, but not the heavy, blood-sodden bulk of dominance. Instead, it's a power of radiance, of awareness, connection, breaking through in snaps of heightened perception, moments of encounter and illumination that lift us from the slime.  (c0ntinued)
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Cannibals on Parade

Written by Chris Floyd 21 September 2005 5230 Hits

Brilliance from Leah at Corrente, on the absolute ghoulishness of the Bush Faction goons who want to feast on the corpses of the Gulf Coast victims to fatten their own pocketbooks and advance their radical, rapacious agenda. Read it, and be sure to follow the links which highlight one of the most emblematic elements of this cannibals' rout: the attempt by ludicrous Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (right -- very right) to find dead rich white people killed by the storm. Why? In order to advance the Bushists' perverted obsession with eliminating the estate tax on the nation's wealthiest dynasties, of course. And as Leah shows, this is just one small front in the Bushists' on-going war to strip American citizens of any protection from the predatory elite.

I've said it before, and will say it again: What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?

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End Game

Written by Chris Floyd 21 September 2005 10552 Hits

This week has seen another major -- and malevolent -- turning point in Iraq, the significance of which has gone unnoticed by the American press. The incident in Basra -- where British forces sent tanks against the city's police to rescue two undercover British agents who had  allegedly been shooting at Iraqi civilians -- has exposed the ugly reality of the situation in the supposedly quiet and quiescent Iraqi south. Basra is of course largely in the control of fundamentalist Shiite militias, some allied with Iran, others fiercely loyal to young extremist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The militias have infiltrated the region's police forces and are quickly establishing Taliban-style rule over government and society. As Juan Cole notes, "The entire episode reeks of 'dual sovereignty,' in which there are two distinct sources of government authority. Social historian Charles Tilly says that dual sovereignty signals a revolutionary situation."

Other reports underscore the alarming fact that most of Baghdad is now in the hands of insurgent factions. American forces continually stage massive military actions against "rebel" towns, dropping 500-pound bombs on residential areas, using thousands of troops, air power, armor, etc., to "clean out an area." And they succeed. But just as in Vietnam, as soon as the US forces move on, the insurgents move back and take over the town again. As one U.S. commander noted last week, "We've taken Samara four times, and lost it again four times." There is every indication that the same thing will happen to Fallujah, which was subjected to ungodly destruction late last year.

The war is lost. Three years after the invasion, the occupation forces control less and less of the country all the time. The level of wanton violence -- from all sides -- keeps rising. The physical infrastructure of the country continues to deteriorate. The social fabric is in tatters. "Reconstruction" has degenerated into outright robbery and all-pervasive graft. A piecemeal, many-sided civil war has begun. Each day of the occupation is a fresh boon to violent Islamic extremism. Each day of the occupation further brutalizes and decimates the American military, sinking it deeper into the dishonor of serving a criminal cause: the illegal, unwarranted invasion and occupation of a sovereign country, on behalf of a radical political faction that deliberately lied its way into war.

Yet there is not a national leader on either side of the Atlantic -- even in the opposition parties -- who will stand up and speak the truth about the situation. They all prattle, to one degree or another, about "staying the course" or "getting the job done" or "doing the job right." This is sheer lunacy -- the lunacy of the powerful and comfortable, who never have to face the bloody, ruinous consequences of their pious rhetoric and empty posturing. 

Simon Jenkins, late of the Times and now with the Guardian, has laid out a succinct case for withdrawal from Iraq: To say we must stay in Iraq to save it from chaos is a lie.

The whole piece is well worth reading, but here are some excerpts:

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War! What is it good for? Never-ending profits!

Written by Chris Floyd 19 September 2005 9575 Hits
We've said it before and we'll say it again and we'll keep on saying it because it is the indisputable, undeniable truth: Bush and his faction waged war on Iraq for money. That's it. That's all there is to it. Yes, they wanted leverage over the oil. Yes, they had (and have) grand geopolitical designs that "required" the invasion. Yes, they had blinkered ideologues willing to use the blood and guts of 100,000 innocent people as raw material for their lunatic experiments. But behind all of this is the unbridled lust for ill-gotten, unearned loot -- loot on an unimaginable scale, loot which will augment their political power by several magnitudes and extend their malign influence on domestic and world politics for generations.

They have ransacked the Iraqi larder and stripped it of everything they could lay their hands on. They have transferred billions upon billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into the hands of a few well-connected cronies, secret bagmen, soulless gun-runners and elite investors with nice clean fat white hands.

It is for this reason that George W. Bush sent U.S. forces into Iraq -- illegally, in the middle of the UN weapons inspection process that he himself had insisted upon. It is for this reason that he has caused the needless deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, that he has brutalized, traumatized, overstrained and decimated the military forces of the United States. It is for this reason that he has gutted the American treasury, criminalized the American government and tyrannized the American people.

For money. Murder, for money. Easy money, greasy money, blood money. That's all there is to it, that's what the war in Iraq is all about. Anyone who tells you different is either deluded -- or hoping to get in on the scam.

Here now is the indefatigable Patrick Cockburn of The Independent on the latest outrage in this on-going epic rapine:

What has happened to Iraq's missing $1bn?
Excerpt (but read the whole thing): One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq's defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons....

The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit says in a report to the Iraqi government that US-appointed Iraqi officials in the defence ministry allegedly presided over these dubious transactions. Senior Iraqi officials now say they cannot understand how, if this is so, the disappearance of almost all the military procurement budget could have passed unnoticed by the US military in Baghdad and civilian advisers working in the defence ministry. Government officials in Baghdad even suggest that the skill with which the robbery was organised suggests that the Iraqis involved were only front men, and "rogue elements" within the US military or intelligence services may have played a decisive role behind the scenes....

The [total] sum missing over an eight-month period in 2004 and 2005 is the equivalent of the $1.8bn that Saddam allegedly received in kick- backs under the UN's oil-for-food programme between 1997 and 2003.

Juan Cole has more:
Security Situation in Baghdad Sinking like the Titanic

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