maandag, augustus 11, 2003

Sunday At The Movies

British troops in riot gear fought
to restore calm
in the southern Iraqi city of Basra
yesterday as dire shortages
of fuel and power sparked disturbances.

A man arrested for armed robbery
and theft has had charges
against him dropped after
medical experts
concluded that his behaviour could have been altered
by the severe withdrawal symptoms
he was experiencing
from the antidepressant Seroxat.

'I want them to bring our troops home. I am appalled at Bush's policies. He has got us into a terrible mess!"

Susan Schuman is angry. Her GI son is serving in the Iraqi town of Samarra, at the heart of the 'Sunni triangle', where American troops are killed with grim regularity. Breaking the traditional silence of military families during time of war, Schuman knows what she wants - and who she blames for the danger to her son, Justin.


The Clinton Legacy and America demonstrates the genesis of the rabid schism between Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Neo-Con bobbysoxers.

More consequentially, the New York Times had jumped in with a front-page story implying a sleazy though barely penetrable real-estate partnership between the governor and a fast-talking investor whose building society, founded years later (a fact that the headline obscured), was subject to state regulation.

Whitewater allegations, implications and offshoots cascaded through the respectable news, promoted by Clinton-hating Republicans in Congress and the special prosecutor’s office. No spin-off charge was too petty – “Travelgate”, “Filegate” – to be dubbed an auxiliary case of White House malfeasance.

When the relevant federal agency cleared the Clintons in 1995, major news organisations (including the New York Times) could barely be troubled to notice. It didn’t seem to matter that, after years of grand juries and headlines, no one was ever convicted of any charge stemming from the Clintons’ failed investment in Ozark real estate. As Sidney Blumenthal writes without exaggeration, “never before had a sitting president been so assiduously investigated about a matter that had occurred before his election.”

By the second half of Clinton’s first term from 1992-96, the incoming Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich, was calling Clinton “the enemy of normal Americans” and forcing the government to a standstill. Slash-and-burn criminalisation was all the rage on talk radio and in the bought-and-paid-for right-wing press. Establishment pundits relayed such charges with glee while prettying them up as “the character issue.”

For the scorched-earth right, Bill Clinton was, if not the literal Antichrist, a close approximation: the perjurious, adulterous doper Slick Willie, admitted draft dodger and reputedly serial womaniser who had opposed the Vietnam war, visited Moscow, and married a card-carrying feminist who only belatedly took his name and was the first professional woman to take up First Ladyship in the White House. Clinton was, in their eyes, the 1960s incarnate, and worse: he won elections (five out of seven in Arkansas, including his last four in a row). He promised, now, to baste together the left and centre of the Democratic Party.

The hard right viewed such successes as infringements upon their God-given prerogatives. They did not mourn, they organised. The story of how they succeeded is the shank of recent American political history.

Also of note, the Imprint interview with Michael Walzer on The United States in the World – Just Wars and Just Societies:

It is hard work trying to sustain an oppositionist politics in the US today – especially when part of what I feel I have to oppose is the idiocy of many of my fellow oppositionists: knee-jerk anti-Americanism, old left dogmatism, and the rejection of any fellowship larger than the sect of the politically correct and the morally pure. I live on the left, but quarrel with some of my neighbours, and in the aftermath of 9/11 the quarrels have gotten more intense. But I would resist the idea that I am 'working' on these quarrels. They are just occasionally necessary engagements.

An exerpt of Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with J├╝rgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida.

Habermas remarks:

If the September 11 terror attack is supposed to constitute a caesura in world history, as many think, then it must be able to stand comparison to other events of world historical impact. For that matter, the comparison is not to be drawn with Pearl Harbor but rather with the aftermath of August 1914. The outbreak of World War I signaled the end of a peaceful and, in retrospect, somewhat unsuspecting era, unleashing an age of warfare, totalitarian oppression, mechanistic barbarism and bureaucratic mass murder

Derrida defines:

"A critical reading of Schmitt, for example, would thus prove very useful. On the one hand, so as to follow Schmitt as far as possible in distinguishing classical war (a direct and declared confrontation between two enemy states, according to the long tradition of European law) from "civil war" and "partisan war" (in its modern forms, even though it appears, Schmitt acknowledges, as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century). But, on the other hand, we would also have to recognize, against Schmitt, that the violence that has now been unleashed is not the result of "war" (the expression "war on terrorism" thus being one of the most confused, and we must analyze this confusion and the interests such an abuse of rhetoric actually serve). Bush speaks of "war," but he is in fact incapable of identifying the enemy against whom he declares that he has declared war. It is said over and over that neither the civilian population of Afghanistan nor its armies are the enemies of the United States. Assuming that "bin Laden" is here the sovereign decision-maker, everyone knows that he is not Afghan, that he has been disavowed by his own country (by every "country" and state, in fact, almost without exception), that his training owes much to the United States and that, of course, he is not alone. The states that help him indirectly do not do so as states. No state as such supports him publicly. As for states that "harbor" terrorist networks, it is difficult to identify them as such. The United States and Europe, London and Berlin, are also sanctuaries, places of training or formation and information for all the "terrorists" of the world. No geography, no "territorial" determination, is thus pertinent any longer for locating the seat of these new technologies of transmission or aggression. To say it all too quickly and in passing, to amplify and clarify just a bit what I said earlier about an absolute threat whose origin is anonymous and not related to any state, such "terrorist" attacks already no longer need planes, bombs, or kamikazes: it is enough to infiltrate a strategically important computer system and introduce a virus or some other disruptive element to paralyze the economic, military, and political resources of an entire country or continent. And this can be attempted from just about anywhere on earth, at very little expense and with minimal means. The relationship between earth, terra territory, and terror has changed, and it is necessary to know that this is because of knowledge, that is, because of technoscience. It is technoscience that blurs the distinction between war and terrorism. In this regard, when compared to the possibilities for destruction and chaotic disorder that are in reserve, for the future, in the computerized networks of the world, "September 11" is still part of the archaic theater of violence aimed at striking the imagination. One will be able to do even worse tomorrow, invisibly, in silence, more quickly and without any bloodshed, by attacking the computer and informational networks on which the entire life (social, economic, military, and so on) of a "great nation," of the greatest power on earth, depends. One day it might be said: "September 11"—those were the ("good") old days of the last war. Things were still of the order of the gigantic: visible and enormous! What size, what height! There has been worse since. Nanotechnologies of all sorts are so much more powerful and invisible, uncontrollable, capable of creeping in everywhere. They are the micrological rivals of microbes and bacteria. Yet our unconscious is already aware of this; it already knows it, and that's what's scary."

The Washington Post runs a story delineating the deception of the nuclear threat in the pre-Invasion artillery of White House rhetoric:

"The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it.

Two senior policymakers, who supported the war, said in unauthorized interviews that the administration greatly overstated Iraq's near-term nuclear potential.

"I never cared about the 'imminent threat,' " said one of the policymakers, with directly relevant responsibilities. "The threat was there in [Hussein's] presence in office. To me, just knowing what it takes to have a nuclear weapons program, he needed a lot of equipment. You can stare at the yellowcake [uranium ore] all you want. You need to convert it to gas and enrich it. That does not constitute an imminent threat, and the people who were saying that, I think, did not fully appreciate the difficulties and effort involved in producing the nuclear material and the physics package."

Not to mention the hallucinations of grandeur of Dick Cheney and his Magic Mushroom Clouds:

"The possibility of a nuclear-armed Iraq loomed large in the Bush administration's efforts to convince the American public of the need for a preemptive strike. Beginning last August, Cheney portrayed Hussein's nuclear ambitions as a "mortal threat" to the United States. In the fall and winter, Rice, then Bush, marshaled the dreaded image of a "mushroom cloud."

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