Wednesday, May 03, 2006

M is for Meltdown

Today brings more evidence that the warmongers are going into full meltdown mode: The "august" Wall Street Journal published a piece by Shelby Steele (his real name, apparently) titled "White Guilt and the Western Past", in which he suggests that the answer in Iraq is to basically just carpet-bomb the hell out of everyone, indiscriminately and without mercy. This childish ranting is not the sort of thing you'd hear from a major-thinktank conservative if they thought the war was going well. And the WSJ wouldn't have published it, under normal circumstances. Not very buttoned-down or respectable, certainly. But they know they've screwed up, and they're desperately looking for someone or something to blame. Other than themselves, I mean. The fact that they control all three branches of government, the military, the media, and so forth, makes this a bit difficult. They can try to pin the whole thing on a few scruffy left-leaning professors, but that sort of lacks the proper scope and grandeur, so the current spin is that it's the fault of some sort of vague vestigial namby-pamby liberalism that suffuses the entire culture and rots our souls from within, or something.

A couple of good takes from the blogosphere, from Unclaimed Territory and Orcinus. One perceptive comment from the first story, from Anonymous Liberal:

Wow. Sometimes arguments just leave me speechless. Steele's argument reminds me of someone who is losing a game of chess and in frustration picks up the board and throws it, scattering the pieces everywhere.

When the going gets tough, just bomb the hell out of everything. That'll work.

Throwing the chessboard. That really is the perfect metaphor for what we're seeing. And there's an epidemic of chessboard-throwing going on these days, over in the cons' parallel universe. Witness this pro-Steele post over at Blogs for Bush. Apparently it's a really courageous and noble act to assert that your country is superior to everyone else. And then he goes on and on about it, blah, blah, blah, since simply saying something over and over again makes it true, or at least it does over in the other universe. Also, in the other universe, abandoning your nation's core principles at the first sign of trouble is a sign of strength, not of weakness, I gather.

(Even the ever-spineless New Republic gets in on the Steele-bashing act just a little. The Steele article's low-hanging fruit, quite honestly, and they need to occasionally do something to prove they're still not Republicans yet. So now that's done, and they can go back to bashing dangerous radicals like Alan Colmes and Joe Lieberman again.)

You do have to admit that Steele knew exactly the right moment to toss the grenade. This sort of talk is guaranteed to upset the left regardless of the hour or the season. And with right-wing types a.) already riled up over race issues with the ongoing immigration debate, and b.) starting to play Desperately Seeking Scapegoat over Iraq, Steele's piece pushes all of the right buttons.

Which brings us to the obvious question: WTF does "white guilt" have to do with Iraq? Look closely the next time you see a picture of a crowd of Iraqis. Do they look even remotely nonwhite to you? Are they somehow just "honorary" nonwhite people because of their religion? Is that it?

If you'd followed the link on Steele's name early in the article, you'd have noticed that he's a black conservative, a la Clarence Thomas, which means his day job at the Hoover Institution is to gibber on about nothing but race relations, day in and day out, saying all the crap it isn't respectable to say if you're a white conservative. I guess it's ok for him to talk about Iraq, so long as he tries to tie it to his area of expertise, and makes it clear that whatever's gone wrong in Iraq is 100% completely the fault of those civil rights evildoers way back in the 60's. Amazingly, this makes perfect sense to the 32-percenters out there. Perhaps I'm biased, as a non-boomer, but am I the only person out there who thinks conservatives' obsession with the 1960's has become more than a little pathetic? I mean, next year marks the freakin' 40th anniversary of the "Summer of Love", but they still talk about it as if it was the Apocalypse. It's ancient history. Get over it, already, and find some new material. No, wait. Keep doing what you're doing, and keep lecturing the kids of today about obscure cultural events that happened decades before they were born, and expect them to care. Go ahead. It'll work out just great for you. Fantastic, even. I'm sure of it. Trust me.

Steele's useful at the moment, because Iraq scapegoats are thin on the ground. The cons figure they may as well trot out one of the hoary old classics, the civil rights agitators, and Steele's just the man to do it. Who cares if it's true or not? If conservatives cared about truth, we wouldn't be in Iraq in the first place, after all. But Steele's only useful for this one narrow purpose, and I expect he'll slink back into the dark shadows of Barad-Dur-by-the-Bay (the Hoover Institution, using "by the bay" fairly loosely) as we ramp up for the next wars the neocons have in store for us. If anything, the people of Iran are even more Caucasian-looking than Iraqis, which I understand is a point of pride within Iran. Heck, even the name "Iran" is related to the word "Aryan", and the neocons' beloved Shah gained the Peacock Throne after his father was deposed for supporting Germany in WWII. So there's really not a lot of raw material here for Steele's usual schtick. And Sudan is even worse; we can't very well go and slaughter the Arab Sudanese on behalf of the African Sudanese, and then blame the whole thing on white guilt if it goes badly. That wouldn't make a lot of sense, would it? And even if Syria's the next target, the best Steele could do is rehash his current argument about Iraq. I don't see it convincing a lot of fence-sitters this time around, and I doubt it'll work much better the next time around either.

The really obscene thing about Steele's article is that he plays the race card to justify the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. Seems the best way for conservatives to show just how much they hate Al Sharpton is to turn Ramadi or Tikrit into the next Dresden. That'll show him, for sure. And after a few of these new Dresdens, our decades-long liberal cultural malaise will be exorcised, the 1950's will magically come back, women will all stay home and have babies, "separate but equal" will be the law of the land, and true Christian morality will rule the universe. Or whatever.

When they wax nostalgic about about our supposed ruthlessness in WWII, the cons conveniently forget that 60+ years of technological progress have happened between then and now. They seem to think FDR would've refused to use smart bombs if he'd had the option, I guess because dumb, civilian-killing bombs are so much more manly. These bombs may primarily fall on nearby things with no military value, but that's ok, apparently, and is definitely not a waste, because "collateral damage" gives us a really nice cathartic feeling, all the more so when it's done deliberately. Steele's bio doesn't say he has any military experience, so I'm inclined to think he has none, which would be par for the neocon course. It's interesting how chickenhawks are always so much more enthusiastic about killing civilians than actual military people tend to be.

Of course, killing all those civilians is purely theoretical at this point, and we can all hope it remains so. Steele's aim seems to have been to present a (hopefully) unrealistic strategy for "victory" in Iraq, and then assign blame for the fact that it's not being followed. It's a whiny, childish chickenhawk game, and what's more, two can play that game. In that spirit, I submit to you that we'd be in a lot better shape in Iraq if we just had the services of a vast army of clones, kinda like in the recent Star Wars movies. But those head-in-the-sand conservatives are blocking this sure path to glorious victory with all of those pesky religious objections to cloning, stem cells, and the like. There. That was easy.

Updated: Here's another article in the same vein as Steele's, this time a long screed from the Ayn Rand crowd titled “Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense. The article gets fairly tedious and bogs down in Objectivist jargon here and there, but I gather they're arguing that the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians is not merely desirable from a coldly practical standpoint. In fact, they argue, it's the one and only truly moral option. I always knew the Rand crowd were raving lunatics, but this really takes the cake. And here's a classic wingnut "nuke-em-all" tirade, from way back in 2004. Clearly some people have even shorter fuses than Steele does, although the WSJ hasn't quite stooped to granting them dead-tree space just yet.

Updated II: But wait! There's more! Here's a piece at the Wash. Times just titled "Lessons for Iraq", again arguing that "liberalism" is somehow sapping our national resolve, and repeating the cons' bizarro-world "First Law of Holes", namely, "If you find yourself in one, just keep on digging, forever if necessary." They're no longer bothering to offer the public any hope things are going to improve over there. But we're still supposed to keep doing the same things as before, and then expect the results to be different this time. Right. That always turns out well.

Besides Mr. Steele, the Hoover Institution also boasts a motley collection of cultural elitist types in the Allan Bloom / New Criterion mold. These guys are forever popping up in the media, wanting to lecture us about their own narrow spin on Western culture, from Thermopylae to TS Eliot. While I may think they're a bunch of silly bowtied fuddy-duddies, I'm going to take a page from their book and wrap this post up with a bit of poetry apropos to the moment, just to demonstrate my impeccable elitist credentials, which is Very Important. Appropriately enough, today's poem is about colonial war in the Middle East, and it happily takes the colonizer's side. And naturally it was written by a dead white Anglo-Saxon male. Well, Scottish, if we're going to split hairs here, but definitely dead, white, and male. And what better way to mark the right-wing meltdown than with the martial gibbering of a man universally regarded as the godawful worst poet of all time?

Without further ado, I present to you The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, by the singular William Topaz McGonagall:

YE sons of Great Britain, come join with me,
And sing in praise of Sir Garnet Wolseley;
Sound drums and trumpets cheerfully,
For he has acted most heroically.

Therefore loudly his praises sing
Until the hills their echoes back doth ring;
For he is a noble hero bold,
And an honour to his Queen and country, be it told.

He has gained for himself fame and renown,
Which to posterity will be handed down;
Because he has defeated Arabi by land and by sea,
And from the battle of Tel-el-Kebir he made him to flee.

With an army about fourteen thousand strong,
Through Egypt he did fearlessly march along,
With the gallant and brave Highland brigade,
To whom honour is due, be it said.

Arabi's army was about seventy thousand in all,
And, virtually speaking, it wasn't very small;
But if they had been as numerous again,
The Irish and Highland brigades would have beaten them, it is plain.

'Twas on the 13th day of September, in the year of 1882,
Which Arabi and his rebel horde long will rue;
Because Sir Garnet Wolseley and his brave little band
Fought and conquered them on Kebir land.

He marched upon the enemy with his gallant band
O'er the wild and lonely desert sand,
And attacked them before daylight,
And in twenty minutes he put them to flight.

The first shock of the attack was borne by the Second Brigade,
Who behaved most manfully, it is said,
Under the command of brave General Grahame,
And have gained a lasting honour to their name.

But Major Hart and the 18th Royal Irish, conjoint,
Carried the trenches at the bayonet point;
Then the Marines chased them about four miles away,
At the charge of the bayonet, without dismay!

General Sir Archibald Alison led on the Highland Brigade,
Who never were the least afraid.
And such has been the case in this Egyptian war,
For at the charge of the bayonet they ran from them afar!

With their bagpipes playing, and one ringing cheer,
And the 42nd soon did the trenches clear;
Then hand to hand they did engage,
And fought like tigers in a cage.

Oh! it must have been a glorious sight
To see Sir Garnet Wolseley in the thickest of the fight!
In the midst of shot and shell, and the cannons roar,
Whilst the dead and the dying lay weltering in their gore

Then the Egyptians were forced to yield,
And the British were left masters of the field;
Then Arabi he did fret and frown
To see his army thus cut down.

Then Arabi the rebel took to flight,
And spurred his Arab steed with all his might:
With his heart full of despair and woe,
And never halted till he reached Cairo.

Now since the Egyptian war is at an end,
Let us thank God! Who did send
Sir Garnet Wolseley to crush and kill
Arabi and his rebel army at Kebir hill.


No comments :