Ordinarily the death of an American hostage held by Islamic extremists is the occasion of bellicose, ballyhooed, bloody shirt-waving rage, stoked in tandem by government and media. It usually evokes widespread calls for retaliation, for taking the gloves off at last and exterminating the barbarians once and for all. Today, it almost always comes with its own hashtag, so that people can immediately identify themselves with the victim, who is seen invariably as a martyr for the goodness and specialness of America.
Millions of words have already been written about the Charlie Hebdo spectacle. No doubt readers have seen much of the small proportion of this verbiage that was pertinent, informative and insightful. There have been laudable attempts to provide political context, cultural nuance, historical background — and that rarest of unicorns, the voice of reason — amidst the Niagra-level roar of bullshit that engulfed the Hebdo case within minutes of the first tweets about the incident. And of course, it is good that we go on trying to make sense of a reality that is at all times besieged by a bewildering array of powerful forces trying to manipulate our perceptions to suit their agendas.
The American record in Somalia is shameful beyond measuring. Few people even know that 10 years ago, the US had a direct military involvement in Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, which destroyed the country’s first stable government in 15 years, killed thousands of innocent people, and opened the door for the radical extremists who plague the country today. I wrote about this Terror War sideshow for years (see below); nobody cared then, and nobody cares now. And still the beat goes on. George Monbiot details a new move by the Peace Prize Laureate in the White House that puts the lives of thousands of Somalis at risk — and will only exacerbate the terrorism that the policy is ostensibly designed to quell. But that has been the bipartisan MO of US policy for many years now.
For anyone interested, a small tribute to the great poet Boris Pasternak, born 125 years ago today, can be found here: In Praise of Boris Pasternak.If you'd like to hear the man himself reading one of his poems, you can find that here.For a previous article on Pasternak, go here: Immortal Communion: One Lowly Word and the Subversion of Power.
One thing I always wonder about: when did the people who consider themselves hip start to worry about what the hell was on television? When did they begin to write long, earnest disquisitions about the box set of some TV show? When did they start to dig deep into the philosophical and sociocultural implications of what a TV news anchor — a professional liar by trade — says about himself …. or anything?
Last week, the Obama Administration announced it is sending troops to Ukraine to "train" the Ukrainian National Guard. The folly of this move -- which, as later stories showed, is only the beginning of a much larger U.S. military involvement in Ukraine -- is so astounding and appalling as to defy comprehension. What it amounts to, in essence, is deliberately provoking a crisis that will bring the world closer to a nuclear war than it has been since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, all for the sake of a territorial and political dispute in one corner of Ukraine. In following this insane policy, Obama is backed by the full weight of the entire bipartisan political establishment -- and by the media establishment, which is eagerly pushing a maniacal anti-Russianism unseen since the McCarthy era. Nowhere is the latter more true than among many "progressive" writers -- people who easily saw the catastrophic danger of the push to war with Iraq, but are now championing an identical advance to an unnecessary war. Whereas before they rightly resisted the primitive "humanitarian intervention" argument that "Saddam is bad, therefore the war is good" -- even it is carried out by a transparently rapacious imperial system which had already killed, by its own admission, more than half a million Iraqi children through years of murderous, senseless sanctions -- now they swallow that specious argument whole: "Putin is bad, ergo we must now trust that same transparently rapacious imperial...
Rooting around in my files for something else tonight, I ran across a letter I sent to the Guardian a few months back. They didn’t print it, of course. They ran a fair few of my letters back in the Bush-bashing days, but not so much in recent years. Anyway, as it deals with a perennial theme — the yearning of “savvy” liberals for “tough” leaders — I thought it might be worth a brief airing, especially in light of one of the likely electoral outcomes next year.
WASHINGTON – The White House faces a serious threat from drones, administration officials said today, after a recent incident in which a small, private drone crashed on the lawn near the president’s home. This episode, though minor, has alerted the White House to a wider problem, the official said.“The drone campaign conducted by President Obama in countries all over world threatens to make the term ‘White House’ synonymous with murder, destruction, violence, terror and cowardly sneak attacks that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives,” said the official. “Even now, there are many people who, when they hear the words ‘White House,’ immediately think of wedding parties blown to bits, of sleeping children eviscerated by flying shards of burning metal, of farmers in their fields atomized by missiles fired by comfortable suburban soldiers sitting in a wadded armchair ten thousand miles away, wolfing down Doritos while they push a button to kill someone. And hey, we don’t want people thinking that.”
Old evils never die. You think you’re got them whipped — but they spring up again, years or decades (or centuries) later, as virulent as ever. Our cursed 21st century has given ample proof of this, both at home and abroad: ancient ills returning with horrific force (torture, racism, repression, oligarchy, feudalism, imperialism, militarism, etc. etc.), old battles to be fought over and over again. This is also true for the “electrics in our brain,” of course, a stubbornly enduring pattern of the individual human psyche.Anyway, here’s the lovely Velma and Pansy the Dancing Horse to tell us all about it. Take it away, friends!
In keeping with the concept of "unmournable bodies" limned by Teju Cole in the New Yorker (more on this below), news arrives today of yet another clutch of unimportant, unmournable deaths at the hands of extremist violence. From McClatchy: