Wednesday, January 31, 2007
--George W. Bush
The newest trend in conventional wisdom regarding Iraq, going as unexamined by the major media as every previous stage of denial masquerading as incontrovertible fact regarding this war, reads something like this: Iraq is certain to descend into greater chaos and potential genocide, become a terrorist haven, spark a regional war, and elevate Iran to a position of dominance in the Middle East if we leave now. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Forget that the case has by no means been made that this worst-case scenario will come to pass. That is irrelevant. The question is now, as it was before the war, of whether or not we have the right; the right to escalate the war in Iraq against the wishes of its people and government, or the right to expand the war by attacking Iran.
When the fabrications that were the flimsy justification for the invasion of Iraq were made plain to all by the stunning lack of WMD ( vindicating the assertions of the IAEA), and by the copious documentation of Dick Cheney’s manipulation of the intelligence reporting process until the CIA coughed up the disgrace that is the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the nation faced a crisis. The war was revealed as unwarranted and unjustified.
Had we been paying attention to all the lofty talk about how the consent of the governed validate its leadership in a democracy being offered as the basis for supplanting Middle East dictatorships with democracies, indeed, if the neocon's who offer these arguments actually took them seriously, we, and they, would be forced to acknowledge that a democratic people therefore have a responsibility for the leaders they elect and the actions those leaders take. This one's on us, always was.
But when the veil fell from the Administration's connivance, we chose to avert our eyes. The other, ancillary justifications offered for deposing Saddam were all furtively moved up a spot. Like the disgraced subject of a Soviet show trial, the WMD/terrorist threat was erased from the offical history. It was never primarily about WMD became the line (and besides, everyone thought he had them, straight-faced). Such a blatant lie requires the complicity of its intended audience.
Why did we play along?
Holding our leaders accountable would have entailed acknowledging the thing for what it was: a national disgrace and a crime. Because there’s no entity more powerful than the United States, there is no one to hold its leadership accountable other than the sovereign American people.
When we took a pass we disgraced ourselves and damaged our republic in ways we won’t know for years to come.
By refusing to accept the consequences inherent in holding the White House accountable for the crime it committed against Iraq, not to mention against the American people, we leapt from a moral precipice. We were the world’s last line of defense against a criminal gang that had gained control of the most awesome military power the world has ever seen, and we deserted our post. The crisis passed with nary a whimper of protest from the vast majority of the public and the major media because at the moment the war had not yet revealed itself as the military and strategic failure that it is. Murderous aggression we can abide; losing, on the other hand, not so much. We should hang our heads in shame.
Now the vice president and his minions at Fox News, those in his ever loyal right-wing radio regiment, and of course the risibly oblivious-to-the-death (of others) war bloggers, have declared it is incumbent upon those who advocate a withdrawal to lay out what they would do to prevent the complete catastrophe that the vice president's actions now make inevitable. They can't see the absurdity of their argument for the audacity of their words.
I suppose it's too much asking that this at least be accompanied by the acknowledgment that this greater cataclysm would be a direct result of the war, and therefore those who lied repeatedly to provoke the war before executing it with fatal negligence should be held responsible. That this isn't the starting point of any debate on the now exigent question, what to do now, demonstrates how perverted public debate has become by party politics and our curious and durable pathology of triumphalism.
Our inability to acknowledge that we can do wrong as a nation now protects those who do wrong to the nation.
That this perversion of debate is allowed reveals a deeper, more fundamental crisis that goes beyond politics to the very condition of modern American society. We have to ask why we are letting them get away with it.
Dick Cheney makes an argument that is a direct condemnation of his actions, yet he makes it confident of its effectiveness. He's right, too; the ruse is working. Worse, this rhetorical assault is deployed not merely to, remarkably, put off the responsibility it implies, but to further his designs for the next strategic blunder, war with Iran.
It's as if the sheer surrealism of its amorality and audacity render us incapable of recognizing the logical madness of it. Some say Dick Cheney should be in jail; no, like a deranged serial killer, he should be confined for the purposes of psychological study for the rest of his distinctly unnatural existence. This man is not evil, he is a marvel.
Apparently yes, accountability is too much to ask for, because too few near power are asking. Aside from their own complicity in the fiasco, the Democratic leadership remains more committed to attaining power than justice on behalf of a nation disgraced and betrayed, and are therefore content to pass non-binding resolutions against the "surge" and watch the Administration twist in the wind while what's left of its supporters fall one by one, like the soldiers and Marines who continue to be fed into the mill.
Make no mistake: for the next two years, and perhaps well beyond, many more American boys will be sacrificed not just for the purpose of Dick Cheney's delusional designs on the Middle East, but also for the Democrats' designs on the White House. But it goes beyond Iraq. Content to milk the catastrophe for maximum benefit, not unlike the Bush Administration's previous wringing of advantage from 9/11, the Democrats are now allowing the nation to drift sideways into an even greater mistake, an attack upon Iran.
Perhaps we can at least put the question back to the vice president, just once: the responsibility is on those who support the surge and an open ended commitment to the war to make the argument as to why ending this mistake is itself a greater mistake. Because if one was to rely on the evening news he wouldn't know that, like the case for Iranian arming of militias, the case that withdrawal will be catastrophic has not been made.
This bears repeating: there is no consensus that Iran is actively involved in arming the Shi'ite militias. Britain, having had responsibility for much of the southern, Shi'ite region of Iraq and its border with Iran, is not convinced. Furthermore, the idea that Iran is arming their enemies among those who directly target American forces, the Ba'athist/nationalist insurgency and al Qaeda,remains highly unlikely.
We can be certain that Iran is positioning itself for our departure and greater influence in Iraq precisely because this is in its national security interests. It is in fact such a predictable outcome of deposing Saddam that it's very difficult to believe that it was unexpected, even by this chronically inept Administration. Of course, they had sugar-plum visions of rose petals and parades, a quick end to combat and on to the next victim-er, liberation. Who do you suppose that would have been?
President Bush's hypocrisy in toying with an alliance with Iran's closest ally in Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose own militia, the Badr Brigade, has been every bit as brutal as al-Sadr's gang, while at the same time declaring Iran's interest in Iraq sinister should be all the evidence you need that he is, once again, leading the nation to war on false pretenses.
Al-Hakim's favor in our eyes, by the way, may stem from his willingness to allow permanent military bases and more generous terms regarding the development of Iraq's great untapped oil fields. One more thing you'll never learn from the evening news is that one of the primary concerns of Iraqis and their neighbors is the likelihood of a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. Many have called on president Bush to allay these fears by promising not to seek such a presence. He has not been forthcoming.
Lost still is the principle involved; we still make no effort to discern, much less respect, the wishes of the Iraqi people or their government. Those much bally-hooed elections that Cheney et al seem to think warranted the deaths of thousands and the irrevocable loss of American prestige, not to mention the possible extension of the terrorist threat into the next generation, have in fact given Iraq a democratically elected government that we continue to restrain from actually governing and whose sovereignty we refuse to recognize. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki begged the U.S. today to refrain from making Iraq the battleground for its war with Iran.
His plea also points out the arrogance of one of the tertiary rationalizations for the war offered after the WMD ruse was exposed: that a major goal was to make Iraq “an ally in the war on terror.” Imagine, we crushed this nation to compel it to act as our proxy in war. Check out the balls on us.
We must finally accept the principle of war only as a last resort. This includes Iran which, despite the absurd comparisons to Nazi Germany, hasn't invaded any of its neighboring nations, and hasn't shown a particular ability or willingness to do so, President Ahmadinejad's demagoguery notwithstanding.
For us to paint Iran's involvement in Iraq as aggression, after having declared "regime change" our official policy toward Iran, after having declared it a member of the "axis of evil", after engaging in covert actions on its territory--in short, after having declared a state of war with that nation and quite possibly having engaged in acts of war against it--goes beyond arrogance into madness.
Of course Iran is positioning itself to influence Iraq; of course it is inserting itself into Iraqi politics and society. The fact is Iran would be derelict if they did not. Our arrogance, again, blinds us. Of the many brutal actions of Saddam Hussein, perhaps the most brutal was his war on Iran, encouraged and assisted by us. Iran, not the U.S., is threatened by a belligerent or chaotic Iraq and always has been, and there's no need to fix intelligence to make that argument.
The fact is Iranian activity in Iraq is just the sort of result of toppling Hussein that should have been accounted for--and probably was. Iranian involvement in Iraq was provoked by our, yes, illegal invasion of Iraq. Everything set in motion by that crime must be laid at the feet of those who committed it, not used as justification for the continuation or expansion of what, as the man said, is worse than a crime, a mistake. Nor should it be cause for more and greater mistakes. Enough.
Citing Iranian involvement in Iraq now as a casus belli is little different than declaring the resistance in Iraq as the reason for the continuing occupation; it is a twisted circular reasoning, citing the effects of an action as its cause.
Let's not let them get away with it again.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
A malt shop with a young soda jerk wearing white apron and hat out front, sweeping the sidewalk; next door a pair of old men lounge out in front of a barber shop, chewing the fat; kids race down the street on bicycles, a pet dog joyfully in pursuit; a young couple moving down the sidewalk filly back and forth flirtatiously. It is a beautiful day. The camera pulls back and pans over to a sparrow which has alighted on a nearby branch. The sudden, rude intrusion of the distinctive sound of several Harley Davidsons sends the bird to flight. Refocusing into the distance we see scores of bikers streaming into the town.
A SERIES OF QUICK CUTS THROUGH SEVERAL CLOSE SHOTS
The soda jerk looking over his shoulder at the sound;
The old timers, one lowers his pipe, the other reaches for his glasses as they turn toward the commotion;
The dog that was chasing the children, stops and looks, gives a yelp and scurries off;
The young couple turns to look, the girl drawing in close to her boyfriend.
Now a biker gang fills the street, countless modern day Visigoths pouring into the town center on their choppers raising a cloud of dust. The racket grows, drowning out everything in a bone rattling commotion. The bikers start to park their bikes with disciplined precision, two and three at a time pulling up to and gently backing up against the curb, each giving a defiant, noisy twist or two of the throttle before shutting down.
CLOSE SHOT, THE LEADER OF THE GANG
He is forty-something, wearing an old leather bomber’s helmet. Removing his goggles he reveals heavy, weather beaten slits for eyes. A misshapen nose bears an old scar across its bridge. He scans back and forth, with the air of someone who's about to devour a meal. He gets up from his bike and turns away from the camera, revealing his "colors", stitched across the back of his weatherbeaten cut-off denim vest, reading:
Monday, January 15, 2007
—Tony Judt, Postwar, A History of Europe Since 1945
*Per MQ in the comments, I see this might be better titled: "Read: 'Islamo-fascism' "
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
A bald man with ashen gray skin and wearing an oversized monocle startles me by appearing via a trapdoor at my feet; he’s shouting at me, silent under the din of the music which is now distorting like an old, straining movie soundtrack. He’s trying to feed me a line of dialogue, repeating it over and over with increasing impatience, but I can’t hear him. Reading his disembodied black lips I can make no sense of them, I suspect he's not even forming words. Still, I’m certain what he’s saying is something terrible, intolerable, vital; shaking his head in disgust he disappears with a resounding clap of the trapdoor that echoes until it morphs into a metallic drum machine sound that becomes part of the music, driving it to a manic, unbearable tempo.
I break into a full run, trying to maintain a straight path, figuring I'll eventually find my way offstage, but soon become aware that I'm passing the same dancers over and over again. I realize the stage is a globe that I'm repeatedly circumnavigating; now I can see its curvature. I’m getting sick, I'm looking for the trapdoor, for a crack in the floorboards, for any means of escape. I look down and see I'm wearing leotards and jackboots. The music reaches an abbreviated crescendo and stops; a split second of silence is abruptly terminated by a thunderclap of deafening applause...
You may have already read about the “BNP ballerina”, Simone Clarke, whose employer, the English National Ballet, is under pressure to fire her for her membership in the British National Party. Clarke was outed as a member of the far right BNP by a Guardian reporter who went undercover and discovered, to just whose surprise is a mystery, that party members hide their identity, are discouraged from making racist remarks in public, and that the BNP has been trying to clean up its image to attract more middle and working class white voters disillusioned by the lack of distinction between Labour and Conservatives regarding immigration and crime. Billed as "Inside the Sinister and Secret World of the BNP" the brief story is resoundingly anti-climactic. More sensational than the story's other revelations, the reporter obtained membership registration lists and "unmasked" Clarke.
Once exposed the dancer gave an interview to The Mail on Sunday, defending her membership in the party. This of course only served to further antagonize her detractors. An aide to the mayor of London and prominent race activist described her relatively mild (see the Mail story above) defense of her party membership as "vociferous." From the Guardian:
The interview has caused fresh difficulties for the ENB, which was able to deflect criticism about Clarke's BNP membership by insisting that her stance was an entirely private one. The company, which is publicly funded and is therefore obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations, will be asked to explain how one of its highest profile employees was able to use her position as a platform for the far right party.
The policies of the ENB and the Arts Council of England are their business (as for Clarke's views not already implied by her membership in the BNP, the most damning evidence of their severity offered in the Guardian's somewhat oversold expose consists of Clarke saying that immigration "has really got out of hand") but their standard, which one assumes they would have as the standard, begs the question: at what point does the promotion of good race relations no longer impinge on freedom of speech? What of individual opinions that also can be construed as adversely impacting "race relations"? What if certain opinions now deemed morally indefensible pass into scientific consensus?
Her views and policies espoused by the BNP appear to conflict with equality policies that operate in the company itself and those laid down by Arts Council England, which subsidies the ENB to the tune of £6m a year.
This elevation of racial "tolerance", as defined by The Guardian and others, works, as if by design, to ensure that certain opinions cannot find consensus. The common logical fallacy of appealing to consequences, barring from possibility that which suggests undesirable consequences, has been codified into social convention, as that which might be considered racist or sexist is necessarily thereby false.
Thus the current elevation of racial equality as the ne plus ultra of justice can only lead to--has led to--the suppression of speech and debate.
Under this order the belief that there is a genetic component to differences in IQ has to be seen as threatening race relations. But it appears increasingly likely to be true. Some long ago began, as if in anticipation of the coming untenability of current dogma, made the argument that such subjects are better left unexplored, what Bernard Davis described as "moralistic fallacy."
However well-intended, they argue for the suppression of knowledge, something as futile as it is intellectually corrupt. This is how the liberal pursuit of racial equality has yielded the illiberal reality of compulsory opinion. A decision has been made by default, unspoken; it has been decided that truth would give way to accommodation.
Contrary to what many conservatives contend, I don't believe this is an inherent hostility to Western civilization, or Caucasians. Those who impose this order are merely, at bottom, afraid. They fear the consequences of certain ideas. Their fear may be well placed, after all. But something has to give.
The question cannot much longer be dodged: which trumps which, free speech or racial equality? They are not necessarily compatible. This is why it may be that, counter to the prevailing doctrine of racial politics, increasing racial diversity threatens racial harmony.
As for Clarke, some heartening defenses have come to the fore, but they seem to be in the minority, at least among pundits and politicians (I was unable to find a defense of Clarke by a public figure).
The Race Relations Act of 2000 mentioned by the Guardian above is the same EU directive that serves as the legal basis for punishing speech that is deemed racist or xenophobic. Last year a British bank was found "guilty of racism" and ordered to pay compensation when one employee, a British native, was overheard by another, a Maltese national, saying "I am against immigration", and "I hate foreigners."
Something called the Black Londoner's Forum lamented in a letter to the ENB that even following what would no doubt be successful attempts to silence the dancer, her continued employment might usher in a resurgence of fascism, with the ballet company as its bastion:
We should not forget the central role that culture and the arts played in the ideology and propaganda of National Socialism during the early years of Nazi Germany, right up until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.
Their knowledge of culture's political uses is perhaps informed less by historical study than by the widespread current practice in the arts of methodically purveying an anti-white and misandrist bigotry that preens as a brave assault on repressive bourgeois values. Aside from the current state of leftist domination of the arts, the historical suppression and control of the arts is invoked to, more or less, suppress and control the arts. How the fascist takeover of Britain will be effected by allowing ballerinas the full range of political affiliations is not explained. Of course it's not about what possible influence Clarke might manage to convey within her extremely limited (in this context, at least) discipline, perhaps with an insidiously counterrevolutionary balancoire, it's more about punishing her for holding the wrong opinions. And serving notice to any more like her. Echoes of the Third Reich indeed.The Mail's more evenhanded coverage, less intent on pillorying Clarke, allowed it to grasp what the Guardian and others are incapable of discerning, or unwilling to allow:
But her story has wider implications. When one of the country's principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong with democratic British politics.This is the story, buried under the predictable and in some cases, such as that of outraged Muslim leaders, hypocritical outrage.
Complicating things is Ms. Clarke’s common-law marriage to a Cuban immigrant whose father is Chinese; the two have a child. It may be that Ms. Clarke doesn't understand the goals of the BNP (and I won't pretend to know much about them either; from what I gather they are white nationalists). The predictable response has been to declare her a hypocrite. Some will aver that the self-professed political neophyte doesn't understand the BNP's goals.
But Ms. Clarke’s behavior is not necessarily ill-informed or bigoted. Her behavior, apparently racially tolerant in her personal life but willing to consider the consequences of race, ethnicity and immigration on the macrocosmic level, is common and rational. Maybe our aging lefties are a little rusty with their slogans: the personal is political.
Self-professed liberals have taken on the worst habits of conservatism, holding certain beliefs and sentiments unassailable, regardless of proof or the popular will. A truly liberal democracy holds freedom of speech above articles of faith, trusting in the character and wisdom of the populace. Nowhere more than in the current immigration debate does the political class express such contempt for the citizenry.
As for Clarke's hypocrisy, if anyone's being hypocritical it's the cloistered elites who insist on forced integration, mass immigration, lenience toward violent crime, and the slow demolition of public education, all disproportionately impacting the working classes, while they send their children off to private schools every morning from the confines of gated communities and security buildings (staffed and maintained by immigrants and natives alike enduring the perpetually distressed wages that are another result of open immigration).
In personal interaction one can disregard race and ethnicity. Whatever prejudices or stereotypes one carries can be confidently put aside as individuals reveal, or prove, themselves. The social networks we travel in select for variables such as intelligence, tastes, culutral leanings, etc; if this group is selective enough race and ethnicity lose importance and a new group identity can be formed. This is precisely how our liberal elites envision the world as a whole, as pre-selected by nature, peopled by a human population with a blandly even distribution of behavioral traits--other than superficial, irrelevant physical differences noticed only by desperate bigots.
But when the cultural and political elites purge real debate out of the mainstream, the BNP and others will only too gladly collect the disenfranchised. Whatever one thinks about immigration policy, he should be concerned that so many like Ms. Clarke have to choose between stigmatization and acquiescence. The net effect is to drive more citizens into the arms of the BNP while simultaneously marginalizing them into irrelevance.
This is aggravated by the growing numbers of Third World immigrants and minorities encouraged to view this stigmatized population as mortal enemies. Yes, I'm making the argument that racial tolerance is threatened by racial diversity. Is that really such an outlandish proposition?
But the seemingly inexorable push for open borders (at least in the West) is only abetted by the current perversion of liberal thought; what drives it is the invisible hand of economic forces, hence the curious alliance of right and left behind it. Rhetoric follows power. This is how democracy is subverted by money.
A prominent, diehard Republican conservative blog, where the only thing that threatens to inspire more enthusiasm than President Bush's sprawling and disastrous foreign policy is his proposal to open the borders to its embittered survivors, and anyone else who manages to set foot on American soil (if not to render the concept of "American soil" obsolete), once noted a newspaper account of BNP gains in local elections under the headline: "Scratch a nativist, find a racist."
Here then is the de facto strategy, achieved by default and blundered upon by its less sophisticated, beer-hall putschists too inebriated on their own sanctimony to see it: opposition to open borders is forced out of the political parties and nearly out of the mainstream debate entirely and equated with bigotry by the cultural commissariat; those who are less than enthusiastic about the consequences of too-high immigration are either corralled into widely discredited organizations like the BNP, intimidated into silence, or they acquiesce and adopt the sanctified opinion. More often perhaps they merely lapse deeper into the apathy that is gradually enveloping the population as a whole. It is a bullying process of enforced conformity to radical social change impelled by economic factors. There's nothing very liberal, or conservative for that matter, about it.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Mexican state issuing llegals GPS devices.
I was wondering why the above news item from The Telegraph sounded familiar, and then I recalled this Untethered post from last May (relevant passage in boldface):
Gracias por llamar La Casa Blanca. Para Ingles marque el cinco.
Thank you for calling the White House. Your government is currently unavailable. If you are a U.S citizen, press one. If you are thinking about migrating to the United States, press two.
If you are calling for today's Border Patrol schedule, press one. If you are calling for the daily Minuteman forecast, press two. If you are calling for copies of current immigration proposals before Congress, press three. If you are calling for locations of potential employers, press four. If you are calling for instructions on how to use your beacon homing device, press five. If you are calling for instructions on how to register to vote Republican, press six. If you wish to return to the main menu, press seven.
Thank you for calling the White House. Your government is currently unavailable. If you are a U.S citizen, press one. If you are thinking about migrating to the United States, press two. If you are an alien being from another planet and would like to replace a current U.S. citizen, press three.
Welcome to the citizen replacement process. We currently have an unlimited number of slots open for carbon based life forms that wish to migrate to the United States. If you'd like to learn more about how pod metamorphosis works, press one. If you are a family member seeking to join a recent alien immigrant, press two. If you would like to recieve a brochure of available body types, press three. To inquire about regional availability, press four.
Regional assignments are currently allocated based on the needs of industry and the Republican party. For a complete list of--
Thank you for calling the White House. Your government is currently unavailable. If you are a U.S citizen, press one.
Yes, I know, wrong government. No doubt our guys are working on the more high-tech pod metamorphosis process. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
add: in the comments to the original posting Rick Darby of Reflecting Light offered this:
"If you are not a U.S. citizen, press two."
"Congratulations! You are now a U.S. citizen."
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Today's Torah portion is Lech-Lecha, Genesis 12:7 to 17:27