Thursday, September 01, 2005

Catastrophe Times Two

 
Posted by James Wolcott

The Oil Drum is bringing the grim forebodings and ominous magnitude of what's happening in the Gulf, and what may be in store for the city of Tennessee Williams and John Kennedy Toole and sweat-bedewed jazz. I've removed my earlier post about hurricanes ("An Ignoble Confession"); it was written in a frivolous vacation mood, and this is not the time for frivolity.

Watching the Sunday talk shows put me in a separate overlapping funk. Meet the Press, Chris Matthews--two panels discussing Iraq, and with the exception of Wes Clark on MTP, everyone was working on the assumption that things have gone wrong in Iraq, and hashing out possible alternatives and approaches. One guest, Kathleen Parker on Chris Matthews, said that Bush has done a poor, montonous job in selling the war recently, using the same old tired cliches, and that he "needs to come up with some new lines." (Some new cliches.) This is like all those anxious conservative souls who emailed David Frum at NRO (the hell with the link, you know where to find it) to carp about Bush's uninspired speeches last week, and what needs to be done to regalvanize support.

We're past that point. Long past. Hatching some new fighting slogan, or adding muscular originality to his stock speech, or, the most idiotic idea yet, forming a vigorous "domestic-information program" (paging Dr. Goebbels) that would remind American turnips with short-term-memory loss "Why We Fight" and take out ads and produce movie trailers to put the war message across. Yeah, that'll work.

Nearly everyone debating the war (or, more precisely, how bad a shape the war effort is in) views it solely as a matter of what We do. It isn't about US anymore, it's never been all about US. Whatever minty new words are put into Bush's mouth aren't going to make a fig of difference to the insurgents, and refinding our "resolve" isn't going to create enough soldiers out of thin air to change the reality on the ground.

Read Billmon at Whiskey Bar on the war reporting of Knight Ridder's Tom Lasseter:

"If you read nothing else about the war in Iraq this weekend -- or this month -- read Lasseter's stories. True, they're just anecdotal pieces of evidence -- although in this kind of war anecdotal evidence is probably more valuable than the reams of statistics and self-serving progress reports spat out by the Pentagon. Lasseter also doesn't paint the troops as the kind of heroic, larger-than-life action figures that make the fighting keyboarders drool with barely suppressed homoerotic envy. But you can't read his stuff and not come away with a profound sense of respect for the men and women who are fighting this war, and a boiling anger over the way they are being sacrificed to a hopelessly lost cause."

When it comes to eulogizing just how lost that lost cause is, no one is more eloquent than Tom Watson:

"The symbols have never been more stark: no screenwriter (even those who write farces) could have sold such a script in 2000, before the national election was pick-pocketed by James Baker. Too unbelievable. A blithe, play-acting President on a bicycle on the ranch, under siege from a growing camp of aggrieved Americans while the finest, middle class youth of the nation is bled white thousands of miles away in the midst of a religious civil war triggered by the United States - with no hope of victory, no hope of Jeffersonian democracy, no hope for honor. Yes, this does sound like 1968 - minus the bicycle, and with lower approval ratings and a more mainstream opposition.

"Yet, of course, the toothless, political cowardice of the Democrats must not slip away into the night of history. Particularly in this Congress, lockstep support for national security in the "time of war" has given the Administration the social checkbook it needs to write the bills for this war. Far too many Democrats went along for the ride, bought too easily into the argument that everything is different after 9-11. They missed the fact that one thing didn't change, despite the panic of the President and his little yelping terriers: we still have some national character in this country, we can't be sold a bill of goods forever, we know when to hold 'em and to fold 'em.

"And folks, it's time to fold 'em. When the argument for continuing war is to merely to honor the dead that have gone before with more dead, with more wounded, with more destruction, you know the jig is up, that the military maneuver is merely in the form of a forlorn hope, destined to die for nothing. The Iraqi civil war will rage until there is no Iraq. There never was an Iraq, except as the construct of an empire and a dictator; we had no business in the squabbles of religious tribes. And we have no business in helping to write a constitution that places the lives of women at the mercy of a medieval code of sexist, moralist, symbolist system of humiliation and punishment. Conspiring with the mullahs against women may be George W. Bush's greatest act of treason against the world's people - and it will live in infamy.

"There is nothing to this but to admit failure, and save American lives. Perhaps that is not honorable. Perhaps it leaves a vacuum in the east, into which the hard-core religionists can step. To bad: it is done. And we need to be done."

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