Friday, September 30, 2005

You Love Me! You Really Love Me!

Yeah, I know I said that my hiatus was due to school, wingnut all-star research, and rice-harvest related activities. But that was a lie. And you bought it, suckers!

Actually, I left blogging to chase my dream of becoming an internet supermodel. The American dream. And I've made it.

Yes, I, RETARDO Montalban, am a blogzine supermodel.

I have a pile of Canadian money big enough to burn a wet moose. Fame, fortune... all that was left was women.

So I began to survey the field, knowing full well that net supermodelness is cachet these days. Anybody I wanted, I could have. Right?

Wrong! My first choice was Jenna. Liberal, from the Pacific Northwest: I was certain she was a coffeehouse girl, and everyone knows they are quick to hook up with liberal boys for some fun abortioning, dope-smoking, atheistic action. But no! I waved her into an elevator thinking, this is gonna be sweet. Then she kicked me in the 'nads, and as I lay prone, spat on me. I didn't even get her phone number. Later, I learned that she exclusively dates wingnuts. Like Judson Cox. If only I'd worn a flannel shirt!

After applying an ice-pack to my sack, I resolved to try again. I set my sights on Lauren of Feminste. I said, "Hey, Lauren, put down that Betty Friedan tome for a minute and let me tell you how I strut my stuff on the catwalk for exclusively pro-choice causes." I had her. She was interested. But then I fucked up. "I'm thinking of getting pectoral implants, moving to Venezuela, and trying out for the Mr. Socialist Universe pageant." Suspicion was in her eyes. "I think you're in it for the fame, RETARDO, and that's the wrong reason." So I never did get to join Lauren's clique where, like Pat Robertson says, they practice witchcraft, teach children to be homosexuals, and spend their quiet moments sticking pins into the groin regions of male voodoo dolls.

Needless to say, after these events I was considerably dejected. But then I checked my email. In it was a message from a "M.J.", consisting only of a string of cute little lovehearts which I will render an example of here using my superior computer skillz: <3.

Since I was on the rebound from rejection, I quickly replied (rather too ebulliently): "Hi, if you are a female fan, would you like to join me for some pagan fun? I'm thinking, we could redistribute our incomes, abort some fetuses, toss projectiles into the George W. Bush poster on my dartboard, and engage in anal sex beneath my altar to Bill Clinton. What say you?"

Almost immediately the response was in my mailbox: "Sounds devign. I'll be righte over, M.J."

I had, as they say, butterflies in my stomach. Quickly, I prepared my apartment: dusting off the hammer & sickle posters and the moroccan leather-bound Korans, windexing the glass over my framed correspondence with Paul Krugman, dishwashing the abortion utensils, and taking out the trash laden with dead fetuses (carefully, I left one fetus part in the bottom of the trashcan in plain view, so my new girlfriend would know I'm the real McCoy and not some fake abortion enthusiast; also, in the hope that it'll lead to a discussion on the joys of cloning). Since I had little time, I was helped in speeding-through my cleaning chores by illegal drugs, including crystal methamphetamine and crack cocaine.

Suddenly, I heard a knock at my door. I opened it, and there stood an angel:

"Umm, hi. Come right in."

I helped her out of her clothes with her coat. "Let's have a seat." I had made sure that Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" was playing in the dvd machine (am I not the thoughtful lover?).

"Hi, RETARDO, I'm Marie Jon' and I have always loved you." My heart melted. "Would you like to see my email bage?"

"Sure, Marie, but let's fire up the bong while we're at it."

"Awesome. I was hoping you'd say that. You know, RETARDO, I've had a crush on you for so long and with such intensity that I've even been signing your name along with my own to the hatemail I send those Sadly, No! homos."

"Really, Marie? I'm so flattered! Here. Take a drag. This is some primo shit. Last time I smoked it, I saw Mohammed, Josef Stalin, and Gloria Steinem beat up Jesus, even though Jesus doesn't exist! Hahahaha."

Though she smiled hugely at this before she huffed from the bong, I felt a little worried that my laugh sounded well, retarded. I was high.

Exhaling Godzilla-like a huge THC-laden cloud, she said, "RETARDO, can I have an abortion?" This was a little to-the-point. Slightly startled by her directness, I said, "Maybe you think all we liberals move that quickly, and I admit some do -- Brad R., for instance -- but I want to get to know you better before I engage in such explicit acts of liberal lovemaking with you."

She was smooth. "Okay, let's just fool around, then, first. I'll get you so hot that you'll forget your inhibitions. I can't help but move so fast! Chomsky just makes me ..well, so moist. Quick, let's make a protest poster for International ANSWER."

Now I must admit, dear reader, that this sort of talk makes me turgid.

"Yeah, baby, that's it. Now tickle me with some article of hemp clothing. Not too hard. Yeah, that's it: tease me, baby. I bet you have pajamas with Che Guevara's portrait all over them." How did she know?! Then her voice descended to the sexiest whisper: "I'll be wearing them in the morning."

(To Be Continued)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Centrifuge

Iraq is not like Vietnam in the following way: the natural force at work in Iraq is centifugal, the natural force at work at Vietnam during the war was centripetal.

Iraq was created by the British; it is an arbitrary construct only held together by, in chronological order, British puppets, The Ba'ath Party, and the occupying US Army. Vietnam, in contrast, was a natural whole partitioned by imperial forces of first the French, then America.

Popular will, what I'm calling the "natural force", was in both cases at odds with American designs. Thus, resistance -- and the similarities begin. In both cases America put itself squarely opposed to the cause of native self-determination with disasterous consequences for all parties.

Juan Cole, in the wrecking-ball of an essay by which he demolishes Christopher Hitchens, writes:

The seventh benefit of the Iraq war, Hitchens says, are the "immense gains" made by the Kurds. But the Kurds had already made their gains, under the U.S. no-fly zone. Since the war, their situation has arguably worsened. They are faced with finding a way to reintegrate themselves with Baghdad, a process clearly painful for them (they keep threatening to secede at the drop of a turban). Their oil pipelines have been sabotaged, and they have been subjected to a wave of assassinations, kidnappings and bombings. And the petroleum city of Kirkuk, which they desperately covet, is still inhabited by Turkmens and Arabs who do not intend to go quietly. Turkey has threatened to invade to protect the Turkmens. Kurdistan is now a powder keg. These are not immense gains.

If the Kurds don't know if they are in or out, that means the Shiites have been out for a long time (and, of course, the Sunnis were never in to begin with).

Friend of centralisation, enemy of the centrifuge Tom Friedman throws up his hands and says:

That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind.

Face it: the three peoples of Iraq are secessionists. Fools like Hitchens and Friedman honestly believe that the people of Iraq can (and want to be!) centralised under a federalist or even devolutionist scheme presided over by whatever American puppet Bush decides on.

Please. Federalism is a tricky thing -- America had its own grave problems with it culminating in the great national argument we had in 1861-1865 -- and devolution only works when everyone involved thinks they are getting a square deal (see Switzerland). Secession and independence is the first inclination of societies coming out of colonialism; it is also usually the best option.

No one -- well, no one liberal -- wants more bloodshed in Iraq, but if Friedman and his ilk hadn't been such damn fools in getting everyone into this mess, I'd be more kind about his Axl Rose ("spend a hundred thousand dollars in a human grocery store/ ain't that fresh/ I don't need your civil war") act.

If we had waited to build a genuine consensus and UN security council action on Iraq, we and the Iraqis wouldn't be in this mess. I'd have prefered that, when the time was right (after, in other words, we concentrated our firepower on Osama bin Laden and killed or captured him), we -- if Saddam wasn't already dead by then -- helped the UN depose him and his sons. Had this happened, the transition team would have been largely Arab, and so eliciting of trust (though, to be fair, the UN has many deserved enemies in Iraq). It is less likely there would have been an oil puppet installed; perhaps more importantly, it wouldn't have been so righteously suspected. There would have been an Open Door policy for Iraq, rather than our Open The Door To Terrorists policy currently in place (a.k.a. Andrew Sullivan's beloved flypaper theory). Iraq could have been partitioned in an orderly way amenable to native wishes, and with far less bloodshed. Now, well...

Well, there is reality. It's a civil war; and while secession was an inevitability, open war was not. What insured it is our presence, which came as a surprise to some very important people, who should have known better, as they finally admit their error but then move on immediately to the next fuck-up:

The Prime Minister admitted he had underestimated the insurgency, but insisted his strategy was right. "I didn't expect quite the same ferocity from every single element in the Middle East that came in and was doing their best to disrupt the political process," he said. "But I have absolutely no doubt as to what we should do. We should stick with it."

Yes, stick with it. Here's another inevitability: we've lost. Now who's suicidal? The defeatist thing is to imagine that you can beat a majority-popular insurgency inspired precisely because the occupier has enforced policies that thwart the self-determination of the natives. We're ruled by defeatists; Iraq is menaced by them. The United States and Britain assumed they could, alone, contain the centrifuge as they saw fit; they thought they could manipulate it at will. Instead, their presence has made it an explosive, and they are responsible more than anyone for the shrapnel.

Responsible, for sure:

I don't have time at the moment to explain fully why and how this peek at the banality of evil changed my thinking, although I'll try to cover it in a future post. Suffice it to say that my visit to was a reminder of the genocidal skeletons hanging in the American closet. It left me with the conviction -- or at least an intuitive premonition -- that an open-ended war in Iraq (or in the broader Islamic world) will bring nothing but misery and death to them, and creeping (or galloping) authoritarianism to us.

We have to get out -- not because withdrawal will head off civil war in Iraq or keep the country from fallling under Iran's control (it won't) but because the only way we can stop those things from happening is by killing people on a massive scale, probably even more massive than the tragedy we supposedly would be trying to prevent.

Get out. Get out now.

My Hate Is Pure

Sweet Jesus, I hate libertarians. They brag on their principles (when they mean, actually, their dogma), but at root they are the worst kind of misanthropes.

They are social darwinists of the worst sort. In capitalism, hucksterism is the basis by which the survival of the fittest is decided, so libertarians then term that culturally-determined criterion "nature", then feel a special glee in pointing out that the poor are "nature's" refuse.

Inferior is sorted from superior, poor from rich; and anything which would counter this "natural" process is anti-darwinist (and therefore anti-science). Hence liberals and socialists seek to meddle with "nature's" processes, which is a moral crime of great magnitude.

High Priestess of this belief was the novelist Ayn Rand. Philosophically (no, Rand doesn't qualify), some put the blame on Nietzsche but actually the person most responsible for codifying social darwinism as a philosophy was Herbert Spencer. Charles Darwin himself is utterly blameless for those who've bastardised his theories. And for what it's worth, I think it's very appropriate that Anton LaVey chose Rand to plagiarise for his Satanic Bible.

Politically, social darwinism was for a good period the reigning ideology of the Anglosphere; it was called laissez-faire. Modern libertarians, the only current political party shameless enough to openly advocate hard social darwinism, are descended (in America) from the Republican Party pre-Theodore Roosevelt and from (in Britain) the Liberal Party of the Victorian Era. Of course, history and reform killed these entities stone dead; the antidotes coming in the form of Progressivism in America and the Labour Party in Britain. Thus by definition, libertarians are atavistic and reactionary: they seek to restore something history (or, if I were trying to be cute, nature) thought deserving of extinction.

But libertarianism does have utility; it is a vessel for sociopathy and perverse ego-reinforcement. There is no more ridiculous phrase to a libertarian than "the brotherhood of men". Humans are individuals (hence Rand's fiction's emphases) born to do battle with other humans, via capitalism, to see who'll prevail. Great psychological dividends come with financial success; rich people are just better than poor. And the very poor? Well, self-evidently, they don't deserve to breathe. What a waste of resources! "Nature" should take its course.

Think I'm building a strawman? Think again. I knew when Katrina hit that the racism inherent in the Republican party would be put in clear view. But everyone knew that, even Republicans. What I also knew was that libertarians would take an especial delight in the stress -- and, yes, even the deaths -- suffered by the underclass on NOLA. The only question was, which libertarian would be tacky enough to say it outright?

I was thinking of Benjamin Jowett's words, regarding the libertarians of his time and place:

I have always felt a certain horror of political economists since I heard one of them say that the famine in Ireland would not kill more than a million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do much good.

Now read this shit, originally posted at (surprise, surprise) Jane Galt's site:

But in EITHER case, you have to consider that these people were essentially surplus. In other words, the least-functional 20% of the population of New Orleans has been eliminated. That obviously INCREASES the overall functionality of the New Orleans population.

I’m not blind to the fact that the people who chose to stay behind are suffering, and that’s not good, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL. But all things aren’t equal. Consider: normally, disasters like this have ALWAYS served to help weed out the less competent. In these days of Mommy Government, these people are saved to drag down the rest of us. This hurts EVERYONE in the long run.

But of course you can NEVER get people to see things this way. It’s all Boo hoo hoo look at that baby that Geraldo is holding, let’s get the Government to Save That Baby.

This is concentrated, Nazi-evil. As such, I don't feel in the least bad being nasty about it. I hope the person who wrote this is robbed, anally-raped, set on fire, urinated on, and castrated by a homeless NOLA resident. And I'd pay to see it. You want social darwinism, motherfuckers? It won't be the kind you think is "natural", but it'll be darwinism of a sort; people who remove themselves from their duties to humanity can be culled in other ways, too.

That's it, force libertarians to live up to their beloved "principles"! How's this for darwinism, you miserable fucks: libertarians should be forced to cash-out their property, stuff the cash into their pockets, and marched through (insert ghetto's name here: I pick Orange Mound because I'm from Memphis) wearing placards of some of the things they've said and written about poor people's inferiority. For those that make it, congratulations, you've prevailed. You're superior.

*Bonus: this is a sick, sad joke to normal people, but sensible and inoffensive to libertarians, who stick to their precious principles, after all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Your Powers Are Weak, Old Man

Christopher Hitchens resolved to debate straw, bragged on how he was going to destroy straw, spent many days carefully baling and arranging straw, then, in the end, was soundly thrashed by straw. How pathetic.

Yes, straw. George Galloway, while a formidable debator, is perhaps the last person I'd want to represent my side on any issue. Galloway's a bruiser but is too questionable a character, with too checkered a past, to be representative. Yet that is precisely why Hitchens is drawn to him: easy pickings, Hitch thought.

He should have known better. Hitchens was beaten in an impromptu debate with Tariq Ali two years ago, and beaten slightly less well by the mild Mark Danner in a formal debate around the same time. But time has not been kind to Hitchens's arguments -- flawed from the start -- and his stubborness and truculence compounds his weakness.

My concern here, then, is not Galloway (though he scored some great shots) but with Hitchens's case: not just with his pro-war stance, but with his general about-face. I'm not one of those snotball creepy little wingnuts/"liberals" whose first acquaintence with Hitchens's writing came from reading his degraded pieces in Slate. You know, like, say, Michael J. Totten. I read Hitchens before he was a neocon hack.

Full video of the debate is here.

Unofficial transcript, by what can be called in the kindest sense of the phrase a useful idiot, is here; God bless him for his hard work even though he did it for the wrong reasons.

Iraq had lost its sovereignty as far as a state can do under international law. There are four conditions under which a state may be deemed or said to have sacrificed its sovereignty. These are: if it participates in regular aggressions against neighboring states or occupations of their territory; if it violates all the letter and spirit of the terms of the nonpre, pre, excuse me, the non-proliferation treaty, and in other words, fools around promiscuously with the illegal acquisition of weapons of mass destruction; third, if it should violate the Genocide Convention, the signatories to which are obliged without further notice to act either to prevent or punish genocide; and fourth, if it plays host to international gangsters, nihilists, terrorists, and jihadists.

A minor point on hypocrisy, first. The United States has, at various times since signing the genocide conventions, been guilty of each of Hitchens's listed infractions. Now that does not mean I imply moral equivalance -- we have had no one personally comparable to Saddam to lead us -- but I do assert legal similarity. Hitchens, author of a wonderful book making the case against Henry Kissinger, knows what I mean. But would he propose that even during the darkest days of "Dr." Kissinger's and Tricky Dick's leadership, the US had lost all claims to sovereignty? If not, why not?

More hypocrisy: Hitchens's Dear Leader, George W. Bush, prosecutor of his beloved Iraq War, is steadfastly opposed to uniform application of international law, especially protocols which would provide for the prosecution of war criminals. I speak of this adminstration's virulent hatred of the International Criminal Court. Now why in the fuck should anyone believe that it's wise to allow a proven hater and active opponent of international law make war enforce international law? I suspect that Hitchens would reply, "irony", which stinks of the old "only Nixon could go to China" argument that Hitchens himself used to abhor.

he gives me the opportunity to say that I've been a life-long supporter of the reunification of Ireland, and with Edward Said in the early years of the intifada, as early as '86, published a book as you can still get from New Left Books/Verso, called Blaming the Victims about the, the struggle for the full establishment of Palestinian rights.

And yes it's true that I was an opponent of the last Gulf War, I don't know why anyone thought that to make such a point was a point against me. I dare I say I might not have been invited here, in this, this "Battle of the Titans" if it wasn't tolerably well known that I think I was probably mistaken on that occasion.

Here he's responding to Galloway's use of Hitchens's leftist past to score rhetorical points. So far as I know, Ali was the first to do it publicly, if only to satsify his own curiosity as to whether Hitchens had gone "completely David Horowitz on us". This sort of attack simply must be done. In crucial ways, Hitchens has revised himself. He admits to revision with regard to Iraq I, but is loathe to admit that his attitude -- which he refuses to recant -- to Vietnam, Ireland, Algeria, Palestine also contradicts his current stance.

These people are not pacifists, ladies and gentlemen, nor are they anti-imperialists. If you haven't noticed, they called for the restoration of the lost empire, the caliphate, and the imposition of Sharia law on all non-believers within its borders. That's not pacifism, that's not anti-imperialism. And to praise the people who do this...

It's almost as funny as Michael Moore saying that the Zarqawi'ite resistance in Iraq, for him, the same as the Minute Men of the American revolution.

I am sick to fucking death of this argument. It gains a lot of traction in wingnut circles, and Hitchens is its most vocal and consistent advancer. Look, the military estimates that about only 5 to 10 percent of the resistance is of foriegn origin. And how many unreconstructed Ba'athists could there be? Hitchens would have you believe that the only people in Iraq who resist, in one way or another, the occupation of their soil by Americans (whom they suspect, rightly, of having an interest in a puppet government) are nutcase bin ladenists or Saddamists. This is a fantastic slander on all Iraqis, especially with the poll numbers on how many want US out of their country ASAP. Even Hitchens's beloved Bush has publicly admitted that no one likes to be occupied, and Army brass has repeatedly stated that the initial slander on the resistance -- that it was all Ba'athists -- was a fabrication. Goddamn you, Hitchens, use some empathy! Imagine your relatives raped and murdered in Abu Ghraib, and you'll hate to the core those who did it -- or can you only imagine that when Saddam is the culprit?

Galloway counters by speaking of the Algerian resistance techniques used against the French. Of course, despite the tantalising fact that the French were the target of such violence, a reference like this means nothing to wingnuts whose beloved tanks and bombers are, by their logic, the only proper means of killin'. But to Hitchens, Galloway's criticism is lethal: Hitchens supported the Algerians. Again, refer back to the Hitchens-Ali exchange. When a movement must resist colonialism, yet has no "civilised" weaponry, guerilla tactics and "terrorism" is the only recourse. Every country in its infancy has done it. On the other hand, this doesn't excuse suicide bombing of civilians, vile no matter who does it. But how can it be right that the Viet Cong and the FLN engaged in terrorist acts to win self-determination, but wrong that Iraqis do it? Obviously, it can't be. Thus Hitchens "solves" his contradiction by smearing the whole Iraqi resistance as bin Ladenist.

And the full intent of that, the full intent of that was, and I'll say it to it, yes, yes in Fallujah was to establish a Taliban-regime and a safe-house for al-Qaeda recruiting. That's what we were facing. You think you can fight that without casualties? You're irresponsible, you're ahistorical. We take, on this side of the house, without conditions, we take our side with the struggle of the Iraqi democratic and secular left against fascism, we make no apology.

This is very smooth indeed; now who's excusing atrocities?

The French claim in Algeria was that Algeria was part of France, Algerie Francaise. We do not say Iraq Americain, Iraq Anglais, we don't.

Oh, lord. It's shit like this that has finally convinced me that Hitchens isn't merely misguided, but that he's arguing in bad faith. He knows full well that we didn't say "American Guatemala" or "American Chile" or "American Vietnam", either, but we damn well behaved as if that were the case. Indeed, our track record is so reprehensible in this regard that the obvious default position for anybody in the world who cares to think is to assume that America will be interested in pupperty and imperialism. In fact, that's why some of us opposed the war to begin with. In fact, that's why most people in the world, especially those with long memories, don't like us and probably never will.

Um, I have written that I think both Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, um, insulted not just their own electorates, but everyone in the world, by preferring to, uh, shall we say, frighten people, uh, preferring to frighten them than to educate and enlighten them and I have written that repeatedly and I believe it very much. I think that a good cause has been greatly disfigured by that, by those political deformities.

I read everything Hitchens writes: the above statement is disingenuous at best. The man insisted that there were WMDs in Iraq long after even freepers had been embarassed by the claim. Far from being critical of the "scare them into compliance" tactic of Blair and Bush, Hitchens was one of its chief enablers.

just as I am not personally responsible for creating 100,000 al-Qaeda fighters, nor am I here as someone who can answers questions on behalf of the Bush administration, rather to the contrary. Um, the, it's, it's, it's a single issue question with me. I think the president was right to do what the previous president and vice-president, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, had only promised to do, and what the United States Senate had only voted to do, which was to move Iraq into the post-Saddam Hussein era.

Here we have a cowardly dodge of responsibility -- this from a man who carefully stretched the onus of reponsibility over the anti-war crowd to include complicity in or appeasement of everything that Saddam Hussein ever did. Then, almost accidentally, he confesses to monomania. Nope, none of the bunglings and fuck-ups of the Bushies are Hitchens's responsibility. None of it matters except that Bush removed Saddam. Here we see the worst part of radicalism: the desire to do anything so long as it's done. How it's done is immaterial.

Yet I suspect Hitchens would find that last criticism a compliment, so let me modify it. Hitchens likes to think of anything radical ("revolutionary") to be superior. So it's not radicalism at fault here: it's facile, superficial radicalism and its attendent abdication of responsibility. In reality, Hitchens has championed, shamelessly, the cause of deliberately not thinking things through.

That has run an elaborate method of concealment, uh, that offered to Mr. Tariq Aziz, Mr. Galloway's best friend, I think he told the Senate Subcommittee, he said best friend or very close friend. A man he has met twelve times, spent Christmas with, Mr. Tariq Aziz

I have no idea if Galloway met with Aziz, and don't really care for the purposes of this post. But I think it's important to point out that Hitchens has scored political cheap shots with this shit before. I recall him flaming the Vatican's foriegn ministry for doing the same thing, yet he is curiously silent when reminded that Donald fucking Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein and his entourage (which would presumably include Aziz) under very friendly circumstances. Rumsfeld's, and other crooks in this adminstration's, diplomacy interludes with Saddam is a much more crucial point.

That's we know that at least 20% of the population considers this resistance to be a fascist pest and have committed their heroic armed forces, because there is a rebel army in Iraq. There is a peoples' army, there is a guerilla force in Iraq, it is called the Peshmurga, it's the peoples' liberation army of Kurdistan, and it fights on our side.

Now he quotes polls. And he thinks they are to his favor.

Anyway, about the Kurds. The only reason the Kurds are not much of a part of the resistance is because they think, mistakenly IMO, that they will get a better deal from complying with colonialism than they would fighting it. Not that the Kurds trust us -- how could they, after what Henry Kissinger colluded with the Shah to do to them? -- but they no doubt have pleasant memories of the no-fly-zone era, when they were protected from Saddam but had a large degree of autonomy and self-determination (and how did the no-fly-zones work so well, Hitchens? Because there was no fucking puppet then). The 20 percent Hitchens cites in the polls, I feel safe in guessing, is Kurdish. Of course they will say, jockeying for power, that the resistance is fascist. The resistance is Arab, whom the Kurds distrust and intensely dislike.

In other words, relative Kurdish contentment with the US presence is not due to some high-mindedness or inherent ethnic virtue, but simple and flexible realpolitik and tribal self-interest (two things Hitchens despises). The minute the Kurds lose their relative over-representation in the quasi-government, they'll instantly become, in Hitchens's blanket slander, "jihadis".

If it had been up to grand ayatollah Sistani, and if you're right, if it had been up to my advice too. Mr. Paul Bremer would have had to call elections much earlier than he did and so he should have done, and make a transfer of sovereignty much sooner than he did and so he should have done. But we have no reason to doubt that the forces that favor this transition to a federal democratic system in Iraq where no one group rules by violence or terror, or by dictatorship.

Amazing. Even though Hitchens admits that there is glaring evidence that the US was none too interested in even "officially" changing the terms of sovereignty -- in giving the Iraqis the freedom this whole operation was allegedly fought for -- he says there's no reason to suspect bad faith. No wonder he can't fathom the true motives and desires of the majority of Iraqis who want us the fuck out of there.

Shame on the people, shame on the people who call this a liberation movement.

Fuck. You.

This is just blindness. Iraq is composed of three peoples who don't like each other and have no reason to form a common government. Centrifugal forces are inevitable in such a scenario, and only brutal centralising force, in the form of Saddam then, in the form of the occupying army now, can keep these people together in such a false, unwanted political construction. Hitchens, like many anti-orientalists, refuses, or is incapable, of seeing beyond his own pluralist dogma and therefore actively supports policies which ultimately thwart their right to self-determination. He thinks they are stupid or evil if they choose secession rather than federalism. I think there can be democracy in Iraq, but it won't be of Iraq. It'll be three separate countries.

I would caution people from adopting a zero sum mentality in this respect...

But I will have to add, that for people to start pumping out propaganda before the bodies have even been uncovered in New Orleans saying, and to make points, demagogic often, they wouldn't be dead if they weren't black. But people haven't been identified yet, whose parents don't know where they are. And to say this wouldn't have happened if we weren't wasting money on Arabs? That, that is an appeal to the most base, provincial, isolationist, and chauvinist mentality.

This is where dogmatic internationalism strains to the breaking point. Hitchens has always been this way; it's the Trotskyist in him. Well, I'm glad to say I've always rejected that belief. Hitchens would no doubt say then that I dont qualify as a democratic socialist, but I beg to differ. In fact, there is a pre-Stalinist tradition which Hitchens knows full well applies: the right opposition, Bukharinism.

To whom does a national government owe its first allegiance? The answer is, from whom it is composed and by whom it derives its power: its own populace. This is common sense, yet Hitchens calls it provincialism.

Hitchens ravaged John Kerry on similar grounds before the election. Kerry had argued that, what with the government's current fiscal crisis and the need of new American firehouses, it was wrong to take money from such projects for the sake of Iraqi firehouses. Of course his point also alluded to the myriad reconstruction scandals -- another Bush achievement Hitchens constantly defends -- but the obvious logic was powerful: it is ultimately a zero sum game. Except to Hitchens who, in that case too, let it hang heavily in the air that anyone who disagreed with his version of "international solidarity" was a vicious, bigoted nationalist pig.

But speaking of deviations from standard socialist doctrine, Hitchens here is an apostate in a far worse way than even the bigoted, vicious nationalists in his imagination could be when he begins to excuse the spectacular racism in the federal "reponse" to Katrina. The Guardian summed it up well:

But it was Hitchens who made the greater gaffe when he implied, to howls of disbelief, that race played no part in those who perished in Hurricane Katrina, and that George Bush could not have helped the victims because he was obstructed by state officials. At this point he might have taken his cue from Liston, who spat out his mouthpiece as the bell tolled for the seventh round against Muhammad Ali, declaring "That's it". But he soldiered on. Having lost the audience he then turned on them. "I'm just reminding you that you're on telly," he said. "I just hope your friends and relatives aren't watching."


Anyway, then Amy Goodman rather diplomatically asked Hitchens if he thought his whoring for the Bushies had paid off in TV time, other means of notoriety, and financially. Hitchens answered this in the negative pretty elegantly; put less kindly, he knew he was had. Then, after laughably denying being a mouthpiece and enabler of the Bushies, he attempted to explain his motivation for making common cause with American reactionaries while becoming an apologist for imperialism:

since even from the chair there was a question about my motive in this, and I think I can describe it fairly simply. It was rather fairly put in fact by my great antagonist Harold Meyerson, editor of the American Prospect in a recent article. He said, "Mr. Hitchens' motivation for being involved in this appears to be his old friendship and solidarity with the secular Iraqi Kurdish left forces." Well that's nice, because just for once someone's got it right how it was that I made some new friends, didn't lose the old ones unless they wanted to desert me,

Aside the self-serving conclusion, this is true. But it's an incomplete truth. Hitchens's own website links to (and apparently approves of) this explanation of his motives: it too is incomplete though useful, but unlike Hitchens's own explanation, wasn't solely created to serve the dual purposes of self-aggrandisement and obfuscation. So, I offer my list of reasons:

1. Hitchens hates religion to the same degree and with the same style that Robert Welch hated communism. He's a fanatic. And Islam is the religion that he reserves for special scorn, partly because of the awful fatwah issued by the Ayatollah Khomieni against Hitchens's friend Salman Rushdie, and partly because, I suspect, Islam is "eastern" and therefore alien. Hitchens has a lot of the "West is the Best" snotty form of ethnocentrism in him: on the edge of some of his commentary (if you know where to look; I suggest in his writings on Pakistan) can be heard the flared-nostril sneering of the classic pith-helmeted British overlord.

2. Bravado. Hitchens sees debate as war. If I may engage in some pop psychology, I also see in his unhinged tones of late a bizarre unfortunate tribute in the form of filial piety. Hitchens deeply admired his father, a Royal Navy commander. He has frequently stated that when his father helped to sink a fascist (Nazi) vessel, he accomplished more than Hitchens ever could. I think this has something to do with Hitchens seeing fascism beyond even what socialists like us by nature normally see. Hence, his popularising of the now banal phrase "islamofascism". Now islamists are encumbered by the doublewhammy: they are "fascist" as well as religious, how easy they are to hate! And in railing against them, he's flattering -- or competing with -- his father's exploits.

Hitchens subscribes to the Leninist school of debate, which could be called "exterminationist". I dont think that's a bad thing, though it's certainly gruesome when practiced by the likes of, say, David Horowitz. The problem is that when events go badly for Leninist debators, they tend to desperation. Hence Hitchens's circulations of the "other side"/"objectively pro-Saddam" slurs agains the anti-war movement. But not only that, to tie it to the macho shit (and someone else made this point in a good essay not long ago. I can't remember who), Hitchens is notorious for calling people cowardly who do not immediately decide which argument to buy, or worse, people who decide that the internal conflicts of another country are none of their business. To Hitchens, isolationists are the scum of humanity. All this he rather gives away in unguarded periods when he writes of the allure of the action and "tough decisions" of foriegn policy making, and the relative dreariness of domestic concerns. Even when Hitchens was a genuine leftist he rarely had anything specifically useful to say about helping liberal causes inside this country.

3. Deification of Orwell. This one's tricky, because admiring Orwell is a great and necessary thing. But Hitchens using Orwell for this crusade is simply without proportion or judgement. Hitchens (and thereafter, every hackish, allegedly non-conservative pro-war writer from the much dread Michael J. Totten to the genuinely execrable Glenn Reynolds) has frequently quoted this passage of Orwell's:

PACIFISM The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to the taking of life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.

No doubt Orwell had a point. There's also no doubt that this is Orwell at his most irresponsible. That there are dubious or opportunistic pacifists is a fact, but since pacifism is an entirely noble and fragile belief, it's a shitty thing indeed to inculcate a knee-jerk macro-dismissal of those who claim to follow it. This is exactly what Orwell's commentary does. I'm hostile in principle to the charge of giving ammo to the enemy, but here is the finest instance I can think of as an exception. What Orwell did was provide a perfectly Inquisitional riot act for war-mongers to read to any pacifist, genuine or not. And if I recall correctly, Orwell himself acknowledged his error and disowned the offending passage, if not the thought -- that fake pacifists exist -- behind it.

3. Mutated Trotskyism. The internationalism uber alles attitude remains, but the original reasons -- class war -- for that strategy are jettisoned. This is how Hitchens can straightforwardly defend war profiteers (his sneers become more pronounced when Halliburton is mentioned; how I wish Leon Trotsky were around to opine on that), reconnoiter Vegas with Randroid fuckfaces, snarl at anti-globalisation agitators, defend to the bitter end a President far more guilty of the assorted domestic crimes and corruptions for which Hitchens hated Bill Clinton, and do no small part in enabling an authoritarian movement in America that is as overtly religious (is that irony, Hitch?) as any in the last hundred years.

4. Hitchens is congenitally incapable of acknowledging trade-offs. He didnt and doesn't want to hear that the allegedly leftist Iraq operation, when prosecuted by a stereotypical American reactionary (and under the pre-conditions of post 9-11 hysteria) was bound to result in a heavy blow to the cause of leftism inside America. He refuses to admit that the Bushies have motives for being in Iraq which no leftist, not even Hitchens in his current state of degradation, could admire. He refuses to admit that he's enabling a capital punishment (long Hitchens's sole domestic pet cause, upon which he has written eloquently and frequently) enthusiast for the sake of his Iraq War. He refuses to admit that he's enabled the most authoritarian federal regime inside America since Reagan's (whom Hitchens hated for good reason). He refuses to admit he's enabled a sorry lot that gets some of its best thrills from gutting environmental protections.

Some of us were cautious enough to know that the trade was the United States's health for the promise -- surely to be broken -- of Iraq. That's exactly what we got. Hitchens, who had a great talent, contributed to this loss and refuses all responsibility for it. Fuck him and the elephant he climbed up on. Let them both choke on straw.

*Update: I added some links.

Also, greetings, readers of Shakespearessister and Jay in Baltimore. Hitchens's turn to the dark side is a pet theme of mine; if you like this post, I have another.


Is there a company as vile as Nike? I know the competition is crowded, and my post title is ultimately hyperbolic. But still, I think Nike has a good case as the most revolting company around if the standard is how many sectors of public life it corrupts.

First, there's sports as a whole. What Nike has done to the NBA is a clusterfuck of awfulness, for instance. Not that I have given a shit about the NBA since Dr J. retired from the sport when I was a kid, but I still hate to see a company essentially running a whole sports league as its marketing fiefdom.

And when you talk about the NBA, talk about black popular culture is not far behind. How Nike exploits black consumers is a tragedy. It's a sad thing indeed to see a segment of the population so disaffected and abused supporting an entity that thrives on socking it to the poorest of other countries. I admit that to a degree, black culture itself shares blame in this. Being economically excluded for so long, however, makes it understandable (if tragic) that when money does come, the result is that so relatively much is spent on exorbitantly overpriced personal luxury items like $100 sneakers. But without Nike, and its whores like Alonzo Mourning, constantly inculcating the practice, it would soon if not cease be seriously curtailed. I don't know his attitude to Nike, but I'm willing to guess that Eton Thomas has the potential to be a socially-responsible NBA star (and here's a wingnut screed to prove it) in a way that would scandalise corporate whores like Michael Jordan or Mourning.

Nike is of course notorious for claiming that false advertising is "free speech" and protected by the First Amendment. In doing so, it not only has the support of the nutjob libertarian/randroid branch of wingnuttery (and that quintessential Uncle Tom, Clarence Thomas), which is predictable, it too has the support of the Bush administration, which in turn again demonstrates the Bushies' pattern of being for the Bill of Rights if it can be made somehow to apply better -- or, preferably, only -- to the mega-rich.

NPR reported on Nike's recent profit surge, which the commentator attributed to news of Nike entering the low-scale shoe market (through Wal-Mart, if I remember correctly -- if so this would be truly a partnership from hell) and to a sales boom in Latin America which, if true, would be sad for the same reason as given for Black America (the poor being groomed to fuck over the poor elsewhere).

Anyway, fuck a bunch of Nike. Enjoy the first link, it's really withering and righteous.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Heart Of Darkness Is Just All Right With Me

Or so argues Steve Gilliard, which makes me shudder to think what wingnuts are saying about it. I don't think I'll bother trying to find out.

The war porn story is one of those awful things that could, and probably should, make a misanthrope out of anyone -- or, at least, that's my first thought. What a degraded species human beings are: the feeling is what Martin Amis has called "species-shame".

Then I read excuses for the soldiers, the revolting feeling congeals, and I begin to analyse.

No, not all humans are capable of this; only some are. Why is that? War is certainly the pre-condition, but by no means are most warriors capable of such depravity. And this is a distinct thing from the regular, awful things that soldiers must do anyway, is it not?

The war porn story is a lesson in scalp mentality -- something, by the way, that White America has responsibility for inventing as much or more than Native America.

Scalping, on one level, was done to show proof of a kill to one's own kind, which in turn made the bearer more illustrious and powerful. Psychologically, it's trophy hunting: proof, that can be shown-off, of brutal power over another. Headhunting, by the Celts or by indigenous people of the Pacific and South America, of course had a religious component, but nevertheless provided the same psychological pay-off.

In our culture such things become commodified.

Scalps, in the form of grisly pictures of the dead, accompanied by wahooing macho commentary, are being traded for porn.

Part of being a human is to resist -- even in a debased, hucksterish culture such as ours -- certain things being commodified. Slavery, for instance, is recognised as a great moral evil even though I'm certain that there is a market for it, especially in America. Contract killing is banned with stiff penalty. You know what I mean.

But on the other hand, the rot of sociopathy runs deep. Violence-obessed fetishists value gruesome images, and are willing to barter for them. Thus war pornography being traded for sexual pornography. The beauty of the human body en flagrante delicto being traded for records of dismembering and death; love -- or the simulation of love -- being traded for death. That this is a bad trade to me is self-evident.

But then that these pictures (scalps) are being taken, it would seem for the express purpose of trade, by remorseless bastards, is self-evidently an act of psychopathy. Again, the pictures aren't records; they are trophies. They aren't meant as a recount of the vileness of war; they are commodities of perverted bravado that can be traded for masturbatory fodder.

As a lesser point, I submit that any such pictures are the property of all humanity. They have a use, among non-sociopaths, as propaganda against war. If Saddam's gold-plated AK-47 is, at least in name, the property of the people of America so too should be these pictures. Again, it's offensive enough that they are taken as proof or record of "look at me killing Hadji!" It's worse that they are then used, essentially, for sex.

Anyway, Gilliard can fuck right off. Look at this mismash of reactionary and liberal excuse-making, all in one awful post: truly the worst of both worlds.

I don't know why anyone is shocked that soldiers would trade grisly pictures for porn. The Army created this market by banning porn in theater, and these kids could care less about the people who tried to kill them.

He even managed to pack it in just one paragraph.

There's the conservative-realist excuse that "war is hell" implied in the first sentence. Don't be surprised or appalled, much less revolted, he means. There's the libertarian-conservative "free markets triumph all" excuse in the first clause of the second sentence. I agree it's stupid that the Army bans porn. I'm not sure it's counter-productive from the Army's viewpoint (well, until this PR disaster), but I disagree with the ban on principle. Still, they can pay for it like anyone else. With money, not scalps. Then the neocon/Hitchens excuse in the concluding clause. Excuse me, but I take leave to doubt that all these pictures of mangled human remains are of people who've opened fire on American soldiers. As if every dead person in the photos is Osama bin laden. Of course psychopaths have no taboo against defiling the dead, no matter who the dead person may be.

They're trying to turn this into a joke, a sick joke, but joke nonetheless.

Aww, these poor soldiers, so stressed: why, it's just gallows humor! This is the "South Park Republican" excuse.

Soldiers have always done this. Omer Bartov caused a shitstorm when he created an exhibit of Wehrmacht pictures of the Eastern Front. It was the same kind of thing.

More of the war is hell, "I watch the History Channel" excuse-making. War is debasing, so there are no standards one may expect for soldiers to follow. The conclusion of this logic is that there's no such thing as a war crime.

However, if you think the soldiers won't pay for this, you'd be wrong. This will be in their heads long after you've forgotten you've seen these shots.

The coup de grace. Beautiful. The soldiers are the real victims! Finally, our squishy liberal psychotherapy excuse.

Steve Gilliard has a job waiting for him. When this guy tries to rehabilitate his political career, and tries again to paint himself as the genuinely suffering party, he has a perfect hagiographer in Gilliard, for whom, apparently, there is no such thing as the heart of darkness.

**Edit 10/03/05: Looky, looky. I found something, while researching another topic, that pertains: the soldiers are following the sterling example set by the president. In holding a scalp mentality, that is (obviously not the chickenhawkery part).