Mission Accomplished

September 1, 2010

President Obama’s visit to Fort Bliss just before his speech on the withdrawal of most (not all) troops from Iraq was gracious and dignified. As this Grey Lady editorial notes, it was a welcome change from the behavior of the repulsive little creep who launched the war:

President George W. Bush tried to make Iraq an invisible, seemingly cost-free war. He refused to attend soldiers’ funerals and hid their returning coffins from the public. So it was fitting that Mr. Obama, who has improved veterans’ health care and made the Pentagon budget more rational, paid tribute to them.

Of course, before going on to state the obvious about this contemptible war, the Times has to pause and give the hippies a smack over Vietnam: “One of the few rays of light in the conflict has been the distance America has come since Vietnam, when blameless soldiers were scorned for decisions made by politicians.”

We hardly ever hear about the antiwar protestors who were shot, or beaten to a pulp by hard-hat rioters, or attacked by cops with batons and tear gas. But these yarns about hippies spitting on soldiers, like the fairy tales about Americans still being held prisoner by the evil Vietnamese, will always be with us. They are a peerless mechanism of control, to be used for corralling and isolating dissent, and control was what the Iraq invasion was all about. Not the control of Saddam Hussein — he was already penned in. The control of power in America.

Many fine, patriotic Americans opposed the Iraq invasion right from the start, and I salute them, now and always. Some opposed it out of pacifism. As for myself, I didn’t oppose the war out of pacifism: I opposed it because I can smell a rat. The stench of fraud and lies was thick in the air well before the “shock and awe” spectacle started, and it only increased over the months and years. But “support the troops” was the catch-all response to any criticism, and it worked. The public, scared stupid by 9/11, mostly went along with it. The Democrats who should have been the loyal opposition were cowed. The press, which should have been telling the truth about what was going on, failed (with some honorable exceptions) in this most important task. What an appalling show.

As a military operation, the invasion of Iraq was worse than a fiasco, but it was never a true military operation. There was no casus belli, no real threat to be expunged. I see no reason to doubt that the Iraq invasion was, from the start, a politically motivated spectacle meant to shore up the credibility of George W. Bush and give the Republican Party the whip hand in dealing with the Democrats. It certainly wasn’t meant to go on this long: I’m sure most of the war whores expected it to be done and dusted as quickly as the Nineties romp presided over by the president’s dad, only this time the political capital wouldn’t go to waste.

That’s not the way it turned out, of course, as is shown by the scorecard: some 4,400 Americans dead, another 35,000 wounded, and at least 100,000 Iraqis dead. But that “Mission Accomplished” banner turns out to have been quite correct. George W. Bush, whose presidency was made possible by only Supreme Court justices voting from the bench, got to play Caesar and win himself a second term in an office he didn’t deserve in the first place. The GOP got endless congressional clown shows with ink-stained fingers, and the freedom to turn the economies of the U.S. and Iraq into vast hog troughs of crony capitalism.

And none of the crooks who participated in this awe-inspiring scam has suffered for it. Bush, whose middle name should forever be “Waterboard,” will grow old with his millions. An entire administration that deserved to be led away in shackles for fouling  America’s good name and destroying its economy has not even been subjected to the mild inconvenience of a serious investigation.

Gracious and dignified behavior is not the proper response to what Bush and his cronies did to this country. They used America like a cheap hooker, and they got away with it. So give the hippies their due: they saw something was wrong, and they did something about it. For all the uglies, real or imagined, that might be laid at the feet of the Sixties protestors, they stood up and demanded answers to their questions. All this generation can do is avert its eyes, twiddle its  thumbs, and say “Let’s just move on, okay?”

Mission accomplished.

The drama queens

December 20, 2006

Bob Somerby is particularly sharp about the little campaign dramas journalists like to construct around candidates. Go give him a look — it’s worth your while.

I guess this is what Joan Didion meant when she said we tell ourselves stories in order to live. Unfortunately, in this case the stories are being told by others, and they do nothing to improve our lives. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Peachies and Dannies

December 11, 2006

From the very start, mainstream political commentary on the Iraq war has been a parade of false choices and rigged word games. Churchill vs. Chamberlain. Tough-minded realists vs. pro-Saddam appeasers. Support the troops vs. cut and run. They told us nothing about the real situation, but spoke volumes about the mind-set of the playground warriors strutting around the halls of government and the columns of op-ed pages.

Now, Matthew Yglesias brings us news of the latest delusional dichotomy, Truman Democrats vs. the Isolationist Left, and folks — I’ve had enough. It’s time to make my own contribution to this game, so here it is. In mass market punditry, it all boils down to whether you are a Peachy Carnehan or a Daniel Dravot.

You’ll remember that Peachy and Danny are the main characters of The Man Who Would Be King, the 1975 film based on Rudyard Kipling’s novella, and the only movie that can challenge The Treasure of the Sierra Madre for the status of John Huston’s masterpiece. Briefly put, it’s the story of two adventurers who head into the mountains of Kafiristan in search of riches and end up running the kingdom, aided by British military expertise and some chicanery that has the locals convinced that Danny is actually a god come to earth to rule them. Danny becomes convinced that he is a deity whose purpose is to lift the Kafiris up to his ideal of Western civilization. Peachy wants to take what they can and clear out, but in the end he decides to stay on a little while longer as Danny pursues his vision of godhood.

Of course, the story ends badly for both of them. Once his illusion of godhood is dispelled, Danny cannot control anything anymore. We get a last look at him falling into a bottomless chasm, his hands flailing and clutching at a golden crown that always floats just beyond his reach. Peachy is tortured into near-madness and left to grope his way back home, where he relates his story to Kipling.

It’s not a perfect one-to-one matchup. The junior league Daniel Dravot in the White House doesn’t think he’s a god, just an instrument of God. But when I watch the Sunday morning rabble, with the Joe Bidens and the Fox Newsies talking about staying just a little longer and Giving It One Last Shot in Iraq, and the William Kristols who want to stay put and teach the dirty natives a thing or two about American might, the landscape of fantasy and delusion corresponds so closely to Kafiristan that it’s almost frightening. The Dannies want to stay and play God. The Peachies want to leave somewhere down the line, but they’re going to stay on a little while longer, for the sake of appearances. But either way, they only have the illusion of control, and the outcome for each is disastrous.

There is one huge difference, though. Danny and Peachy were genuinely tough customers who did their own fighting and, when all was lost, went out with their heads high in true brassy style. Our little hammock hawks wouldn’t last five minutes in a parking lot, let alone a battlefield, and they’re happy to outsource the fighting and dying to other, braver people. And don’t expect them to go out with style, or even dignity. Their mewling and puking about the Iraq debacle has already begun, and it will continue through the new few decades, until the last neocon keels over on the wingnut rubber-chicken circuit.

Bootleg Krugman

December 9, 2006

One of the benefits of the Internet is the chance to read important columnists who are foolishly penned in behind firewalls by their employers. Green Pagan does the yeoman work of taking this must-read column out into the open, as part of the ongoing project of recording and honoring the names of the people who tried to keep us out of this sleazy, disastrous war. It’s not a complete list by any means, but it’s useful to keep this in mind as the 2008 presidential season looms on the horizon.


November 16, 2006

It’s part of the political folklore from the 1988 presidential campaign that Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis lost the election when, during a presidential debate, CNN newsreader Bernard Shaw asked him how he would feel about his wife being raped and murdered.

Dukakis, clearly shocked by the creepiness of the question but unwilling to appear rude to a Big Time Media Guy, stumbled through a rather robotic-sounding response.

Lee Atwater and the other orcs on George H.W. Bush’s campaign immediately twisted the bizarre moment around until everyone became convinced that Mike Dukakis wouldn’t care if his wife were raped and murdered. Combined with “Mike Dukakis doesn’t like the Pledge of Allegiance” and “Mike Dukakis likes the ACLU,” it helped form the slime wave that carried King George I into office.

As it turns out, I agree that Dukakis should have handled it better. He should have told Shaw, “Sir, your question is disgusting and voyeuristic and raises questions about your character that probably shouldn’t be examined at length here. It has no place in this serious forum. If you don’t want to ask grownup questions, please give your airtime over to someone who will.”

I think a little calculated rudeness can go a long way to promoting civility in our public discourse. The possibility of being publicly embarrassed for asking head-thumpingly stupid questions might just keep the tele-twinkies of network news from asking those stupid questions in the first place.

Which brings me to CNN anchor-twinkie Glenn Beck and his recent chat with Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress:

BECK: . . . you are a Democrat. You are saying, “Let’s cut and run.” And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.

ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There’s no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don’t need to — need to prove my patriotic stripes . . .

I realize that there are questions so stupid that they paralyze the mind of an intelligent person. Only by getting three-quarters of his brain surgically removed would Ellison have been able to descend to Glenn Beck’s intellectual level.

On the street, the appropriate response to Beck would be, “Get bent, you brain-dead media whore.” In the studio, Ellison would have been better off telling Beck to ask the voters in his district if they thought Keith Ellison was working with the enemy.”Or how about, “Prove to me you’re worth the paycheck CNN gives you.”

Ellison just had his Dukakis moment. It came early enough that it probably won’t do any lasting damage. But Beck’s reflexive use of conservative-certified phrases like “Cut and run,” and his blandly stated racist assumption that someone like Ellison owes America an explanation for failing to be Christian and white, shows how much the wingers have been able to accomplish with their relentless mau-mauing of television news.

A good hard slap in the face, figuratively speaking, would be the best way to start changing this situation. This clod Glenn Beck sounds like an ideal place to sound the starting gun.

The Vulture Queen

November 13, 2006

I knew it was only a matter of time before one of the anti-immigrant hysterics on the right swooped down to batten on the shocking murder of actress and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly. Though I’m surprised it took this long to happen, somehow I’m not surprised that the first winger vulture to feast on the body was Michelle Malkin.

Shelly, 40, was a magnetically lovely woman who came to everyone’s attention through independent filmmaker Hal Hartley, who featured her in The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. Since women are not allowed to age in the movie business, Shelly was reinventing herself as a filmmaker and apparently getting some nice buzz from her first project, Waitress. So when she was found hanging by her neck in her office last week, nobody believed she had actually committed suicide. The New York cops went to work and quickly collared a murder suspect — a 19-year-old illegal immigrant from Ecuador. The grim twist was that the teenager did not, as he thought, kill Shelly when he punched her face during their argument; she was simply unconscious. She was actually killed by the hanging the kid set up to make it look like a suicide.

A terrible story. But when an ideologue needs fodder for a column about one of her pet causes, no tragedy is too terrible to exploit, so Malkin goes to work making this tawdry little killer from Ecuador into an emblem of all the bad things that happen because so many dark-skinned people are able to get across the border.

Incidentally, it turns out that the creep who was sending ph0ny anthrax letters to Nancy Pelosi and other left-leaning folk is a conservative who frequents the comment secitons of various Winger web sites.

Since Malkin prefers to judge the left according to the behavior of its freakiest and angriest members, I wonder what she’ll say about this development.

It’s been a bizarre five years, no doubt about it, but the strangest days of the Dubya Decade may still be ahead.

Though the midterm Democratic sweep has resulted in King George II getting the most skeptical and even mocking press attention he’s ever received, don’t make the mistake of thinking the mass-market media have finally wised up. They’re still looking for a ring to kiss and a soft spot where they can bend their knees. It’s just that the acclaim of the courtiers is being transferred from Incurious George to — and here’s the strangeness — his dad.

Reading this Newsweek story about the return to influence of Bush Senior and his cabal, it appears that the press’s collective memory has been expunged of the fact that George Herbert Walker Bush all but fled Washington D.C. two steps ahead of a shower of eggs and rotten fruit.

The GOP winger base scorned Bush Senior as the Man Who Screwed Up Reagan’s Legacy. Like his spawn, King George I went from a commanding high in the polls, thanks to the first Iraq invasion, to barrel bottom lows. In 1988 he plastered Mike Dukakis, admittedly a dreadful candidate and a suicidal choice for the Democrats, through a low, mean and stupid campaign engineered by Lee Atwater, the mangy cur whose fleas Karl Rove so proudly wears. Then, when Bill Clinton proved to be an unexpectedly tough candidate, Bush Senior spent his re-election bid wandering around the recessionary landscape like a head-injury patient, squawking “I care!” while his vice president and personal Mini Me, Dan Quayle, commanded the spotlight to launch attacks on . . . Murphy Brown.

Remember the trumped-up war over Noriega? Remember the appointment of Clarence Thomas, arguably the single dumbest Supreme Court justice in U.S. history? Remember the troglodyte-infested 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, with Pat Buchanan as the keynote frother? Remember the Global Crossing stock scam? Remember the pardons for the Iran-Contra conspirators, who might have sent Bush to jail if they talked? Remember NAFTA, the creation of which was spearheaded under Bush (and which, yes, Bill Clinton signed off on)? Christ, remember Bush puking on the Japanese?

The only one with any reason to think fondly of the King George I administration is William Kristol, who was able to leverage his job as advisor to the vice president (aka, “Dan Quayle’s Brain”) into the founding editorship of The Weekly Standard.

Still, I have to say I kind of like that Newsweek cover, with George Senior looming large while Lil’ Dubya is reduced to toddler size. For a guy whose obsession with outdoing his father is already legendary, that’s gotta hurt.

Meet Matt

November 5, 2006

Say hello to Matt Taibbi, the new addition to my blogroll. He isn’t too impressed with the new skepticism media figures are finally showing toward the Bush administration:

What’s dangerous about what’s going on right now is that an electoral defeat of the Republicans next week, and perhaps a similar defeat in a presidential race two years from now, might fool some people into thinking that the responsibility for the Iraq war can be sunk forever with George Bush and the Republican politicians who went down with his ship. But in fact the real responsibility for the Iraq war lay not with Bush but with the Lettermans, the Wolf Blitzers, the CNNs, The New York Timeses of the world — the malleable middle of the American political establishment who three years ago made a conscious moral choice to support a military action that even a three-year-old could have seen made no fucking sense at all.

It doesn’t take much courage to book the Dixie Chicks when George Bush is sitting at thirty-nine percent in the polls and carrying 3,000 American bodies on his back every time he goes outside. It doesn’t take much courage for MSNBC’s Countdown to do a segment ripping the “Swift-Boating of Al Gore” in May 2006, or much gumption from Newsweek‘s Eleanor Clift to say that many people in the media “regret” the way Gore was attacked and ridiculed in 2000. We needed those people to act in the moment, not years later, when it’s politically expedient. We needed TV news to reject “swift-boating” during the actual Swift Boat controversy, not two years later; we needed ABC and NBC to stand up to Clear Channel when that whole idiotic Dixie Chicks thing was happening, not years later; we needed the networks and the major dailies to actually cover the half-million-strong protests in Washington and New York before the war, instead of burying them in inside pages or describing the numbers as “thousands” or “at least 30,000,” as many news outlets did at the time; and we needed David Letterman to have his war epiphany back when taking on Bill O’Reilly might actually have cost him real market share.

No argument from me. The mass-market media, with a few honorable exceptions, bears a huge share of the responsibility for allowing Bush to run amok. That means it must also bear a huge share of the responsiblity for the continuing horrors this sleazy war will generate in the coming decades.

Not just any hack job

September 8, 2006

While hack TV critics like Ken Tucker and Alessandra Stanley push the line that The Path to 9/11, ABC’s upcoming crockudrama, is an honest piece of work that lays out blame without fear or favor, bloggers have been doing the heavy lifting and finding of some juicy facts.

The latest tidbit comes from Max Blumenthal, who finds that the film’s director is part of a little-known Hollywood evangelical group called Youth With A Mission, and has benefitted from a PR blitz choreographed by David Horowitz, who is trying to foster a clandestine ideological network within Hollywood when he isn’t trying to smear academics as traitors and terrorist-appeasers.

Meanwhile, a growing list of noted historians have signed an open letter asking ABC to send The Path to 9/11 down the plumbing — the only appropriate distribution for this crock of right-wing shit.