Just Above Sunset
December 4, 2005 - Under the News













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Thursday is usually a day of away from politics, devoted to a photo shoot for this Sunday edition of Just Above Sunset.  Last week it was an afternoon at a local place that's used in many films, Greystone Mansion (also here).  This week it was another "on location" shoot - Santa Monica Pier, the absolute end of Route 66, like in the song, and a favorite with location directors.  And there was filming there this Thursday, but nothing major - a McDonalds commercial.


But the political discourse, the national dialog, spun on. Driving from Hollywood to Santa Monica and back, you could hear the radio buzzing with news and politics - more chat about the president's speech at the Naval Academy the day before (covered here) and the business with the military spending millions to plant fake news stories in the new Iraqi press. Whether we torture folks and whether we should we torture folks, and where, was old news. The "death squads" story (covered here) was old news. On the issue of us spending millions planting fake news stories in the Iraqi press, the left was saying we shouldn't be subverting a newly-born free press with propaganda disguised as news, that we bribe people to print as if it's real reporting, while on the right one heard the idea that of course we should - we need to get our message out and this is war. On the big war speech you got the same - it was either detailed platitudes not based in reality, or the most inspiring presidential speech since the Gettysburg Address. It all depends on your point of view.

Well, in the Mini Cooper the first button of the AM band is "all news" with CBS from Washington at the top of the hour - and "traffic on the eights" - the third button is Air America and the lefties, the fifth is Rush Limbaugh on the right, and the sixth is the "lounge" station (Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and such). Nat King Cole sounded just fine. He even sang "Route 66."

But one keeps coming back to the big questions, and the chatter on the radio. The questions were in there, somehow.

What are we, as a nation (but perhaps not a community any longer), doing? What have we become? We're all in this cooperatively - we pay our taxes and elect folks to get this or that done, and think this is a fine place. We have schools and road and armies and programs to keep things running smoothly, but the last five years, since that crazy close election, have everyone shouting "the other side" down.

All of us who think this war was a bone-headed idea that was, then, executed with stunningly incompetent decisions after we "won," take a lot of heat from friends and relatives for not being patriotic and not "supporting the troops" and not "simply trusting the president." We're the ones tearing down America and all that.

While one can understand the anger, and understand that such anger is inevitable, it may be misplaced, as Bob Harris puts it here

 

I can speak for no one else, but it seems obvious to me that it is the war which disgraces America. It is the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people which disgraces America. It is torture which disgraces America. It is imprisonment without trial which disgraces America. It is the use of chemical weapons which disgraces America. It is disdain for international law, the use of military power as a first resort, the intentional confusion of the Iraqi people with terrorists thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, and the corruption of the very word “democracy” which all disgrace America.

As an opponent of the war, I am trying to stop my country from being disgraced any further.

 

That about sums it up. Of course Harris should have used "that" not "which" in each point in his brief statement here, but he captures what bothers so many on the left - what we have become in order to feel safe and feel we just had to do in response to the very real threat of those who have attacked us here and want a very different world in the Middle East, one we just cannot accept.

The argument from the right seems to be that those things that may seem to disgrace America in this list, or ones like it, while perhaps unfortunate, are necessary. Everything changed on September 11, 2001 - and if you think otherwise, you just don't "get it." They are the realists, and the grownups.

The argument here and in so many places has been, no, not much, if any of this, was necessary. There were alternatives, many of them (often discussed here) - and none of these things has worked out well. Iraq is in a low-grade civil war that could become an all-out civil war, or even a regional war. We have effectively isolated ourselves from the world community, and while their opinion may no matter a whit to those on the right, some argument might still be made that cooperation with other nations, even if grudging cooperation can get a lot done. But we walk away from treaties, from agreements on trade and agreed rules for treating others humanly, from this treaty or that. We claim we have to do this in our own self-interest, but to what end? We're safer, we're richer, we're getting what we need in the world? Not exactly.

Of course none of what Harris or those on the left think really matters. We have done what we have done, and it is clear that there will be no changes of direction for three more years, and maybe not for the four years following that. This is a democracy. The people have chosen the leaders who project the image they think the nation should project to the world - no one messes with us and we don't much care what anyone thinks of anything we do, and any "rules" are kind of beside the point. We'll follow them if we feel like it, or not. They call this strength.
There's not much point in opposing the whole thing. The votes have been counted. And, if the rest of the world can just go take a hike, perhaps those who have been outvoted ought to either accept things as they are, or leave. Changing things by some sort of persuasion - moral, logical, practical (or satiric) - is beyond unlikely.

Oh, you can do all sorts of analyses and exercises in practical and logical thinking.

In reaction to the big war speech at the Naval Academy you get things this like this from Jeanne over at Body and Soul, a mediation on an essential question. What are they fighting for? The "they" is the Iraqis. And she ends with this - "So, isn't it beside the point to talk about how Iraqis aren't ready to fight, and won't be for a long, long time? Isn't the real issue that there's nothing they would fight for that the Bush Leagues want them to fight for?"

You have to read the middle to see how she got there, and it's pretty convincing. And one doubts such subtle consideration actually takes place in the administration - of the implications of just what "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" means on the ground. Which Iraqis do we want to "stand up" what are they supposed to stand up for? She notes that Robert Dreyfuss argues that American forces are now "the Praetorian Guard for that radical-right theocracy" in Iraq. (See this.) In the complex internal power struggles there now, how do we get these guys to "stand up" for a new and somewhat abstract idea - a secular, inclusive Iraqi democracy? Is anyone mulling this over in Washington? It's in none of what they say. But it is kind of important.

What do they say?

We were basically told in the "big speech" to be patient and things will work out. And, by the way, no significant number of troops will be coming home this year - we'll stay until we achieve total victory, but we'll leave as the Iraqis get their act together.

What? Which is it?

Note this this

 

Bush can play John Wayne - we'll fight 'til the last man dies - but if it becomes politically necessary to pull out significant numbers of troops next year, he can remind us that he's been saying all along that our only goal was to train Iraqi troops, and - what do you know, just in time for the election - they're trained. We are not about to send American boys thousands of miles from home to do what Iraqi boys ought to be doing for themselves.

 

And that's the plan.

There's not much to do but note "the plan" - that's what we have. Those who have other plans - Murtha, Biden, think tanks full of experts considering the complexities - are not the leaders we elected. We went for "simple and strong."

Get over it.

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Kierkegaard:

"Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion - and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion ... while Truth again reverts to a new minority."































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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