Thursday, August 10, 2006

no gels or fluids

A multitude of topics worldwide merit special attention and analysis. A major "insurgency" and Taliban presence in Afghanistan, the resumption of extreme violence in Iraq, Israel's war in Lebanon, and the beginnings of the buildup to the mid-term elections are only a small sample of notable topics I am sure other more well-informed observers are agonizing over. I have been disinclined to participate. Lately, I find myself more generally disinterested, and preocuppied with goings on in my corner of the desert. I have been preparing for a Master's in Ed. program at ASU which starts this upcoming Monday, and for the past few months have been tinkering with a home project studio I've begun piecing together. Some of the song ideas have been sitting around for years. These diversions have kept me from my usual fixation on the media. The events of the past month however, are notable in many respects. Other obligations prevent a lengthy discussion, but I will submit for inspection the following news items. All conform to the prevailing logic of absurdity.

Events in the U.K. dominated this past week, "President Bush said Thursday that a foiled plot to blow up multiple flights from Britain to the United States shows 'this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation'. The president laid the blame for the would-be attack squarely on al-Qaida-type terrorism. " - (AP).

There is a violence that cannot be overstated in the use of the term "fascist" to describe any group. The gratuitous employment of meaningless pejoratives, and their function in the immediate atmosphere of paranoia and reaction should be transparent, even in a multi-layered, fully functional system of propaganda. It is effective to reference the moral themes of WWII, implying equivalency between the forces of monolithic state Fsacism under the Axis powers, and the dispersed Al-Quaeda organizational structure, if one's aim is to promote jingoism among the population. Read the quote again. The words of the President would be more properly addressed to naive children. It is almost embarrassing to read or listen to. The emphasis on "Islamofascism" has steadily increased, and will likely continue to do so.

Transparency should apply as well, to Republican commentary on the nomination in Connecticut of Ned Lamont as Democratic Senate candidate:

"At the same time, Republicans began a concerted effort to use Mr. Lieberman’s defeat to portray Democrats as weak on national defense, reprising a theme that they made central to the last two national campaigns. The attacks came in searing remarks from, among others, Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and Vice President Dick Cheney, who went so far as to suggest that the ouster of Mr. Lieberman might encourage “al Qaeda types...It’s an unfortunate development, I think, from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, to see a man like Lieberman pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security strategy,’’ Mr. Cheney said in a telephone interview with news service reporters. - (NY Times 8-10)

Absurdity pushed to the extreme. The actual suggestion is that the excercise of democracy (i.e. voting) leading to a shift in leadership elements, will encourage terrorism. Continuous reprisal of themes being pushed since 9/11/01. I dont remember it being this explicitly stated. Flash has referenced the continuity of this discourse since Wilson. Regardless of the democratic position on national security, Cheney's suggestion amounts to support for "fascism", if it were more accurately defined by passionate ideologues. It has been known for some time that current U.S. policy has in fact contributed significantly to terrorism. Recruitment is up, as are basic sympathies in the Muslim world with anti-imperial sentiment.
Lieberman, a Democrat, has been a favorite of the GOP and the White House for some time. The defeat of such an important administration ally is clearly unacceptable. Flash has also pointed out that Lieberman, in announcing his plans to run as an independent, has performed a rare act of real democracy, disrupting the two-party system. On cue, the immediate and predictable Democratic response was that Lieberman should have simply accepted defeat. It is another question how a more progressive Democratic policy would differ in practice. I am constrained by my own ideological convictions enough to say, not much. An elaborate stage show, of which many of the actors are themselves unaware. Underlying absurdity of the performance, making possible the avoidance of core issues by both sides.

July 17th
(CBS/AP) It wasn't meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance — including President Bush cursing Hezbollah's attacks against Israel. Mr. Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group Of Eight summit. "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh*t and it's over," Mr. Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll. The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion. The president also bluntly expressed his frustration with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, telling Blair, "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone and call (Syrian President Bashar) Assad to make something happen." CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod says the open microphone only made public the reality that had been emerging in private: the lack of agreement on the best way to stop the violence in the Mideast is raising tensions among the leaders who are trying to come up with a plan.

For me, this was the most strikingly (in)dispensable story in quite some time, for many reasons. That it remained deserves commentary beyond the platitudes about slow news cycles. To begin with, the notion that this was "unscripted" is slightly dubious. Assume that it was an entirely candid moment, providing the citizenry with a glimpse at the real, human, in-the-moment thinking of the most important public figure in the world. In this case, it simply reveals the maximal level of incompetency and ignorance of world affairs and foreign policy. A frightening prospect indeed. Who is the "they" that needs to "get Syria to get Hezbollah" to stop firing rockets? I am assuming this would be the U.N. That's it, just tell Kofi Annan to ask Syria to stop Hezbollah. This rests on the the assumption that Syria is the lone hidden hand operating Hezbollah from behind the curtains. Hardly a comprehensive model, and one avoided even in mainstream punditry. It could be true, I guess. The U.S. had the power to stop Indonesia from decimating its population with just one word, it just took a quarter century to say it. But I digress. Very simply, I find it impossible to believe that these comments illustrate the framework of foreign policy as understood by Bush and Blair. This could easily have been articulated by a simpleton, a relatively uninformed American citizen, suddenly thrust into the Oval Office. Some would argue that this is exactly what happened in 2000, but that is another matter. Moral considerations aside, Bush is surrounded by a group of highly intelligent, competent cabinet members and advisors. Many of them possess decades of experience in the nuances of Realpolitik. After 5+ years in office, one would think the influence of Daddy's friends had rubbed off.
The other possibility is that this exchange was somehow scripted. I find this hard to believe as well, but cannot dismiss the nagging thought. Media fixation on the exchange was not necessary, and also functioned as a method of bringing the man himself back to the people, to get inside his head. Reinforcement of the public image that has been cultivated since day one in spite of the Bush legacy as wealthy oil men, that of a down-home Texan with cowboy credentials. A side note: in Latin America, the myth of the cowboy has been celebrated for just as long, but never was integrated into political imagery to the degree it has in the U.S.
In any case, the story reveals continued frustration with the United Nations. The administration attitude towards the U.N. as an obsolete institution is no secret. Why then, did Bush think that pressing Kofi to talk to the Syrian President would have any effect? It is important to keep in mind that the U.S. opposed a full cease-fire from the very beginning of this conflict, preferring instead a "sustainable cease-fire". The resulting international impasse has contributed to the length of the conflict.

I have to cook dinner.


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