Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

August 16, 2006

Billmon says “trash,” I say “treasure”

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 10:10 pm

Billmon wrote:

Strictly from a humanitarian point of view, it’s both grotesque and repulsive to have to listen to Ehud Olmert, Sheikh Nasrallah and the Boy King all proclaiming victory in their nasty little war — even as the bodies are still literally being pulled out of the rubble.

He has not considered my humanitarian point of view, which is when all sides claim victory, it binds them inexorably to the truce. What “victorious” organization would dare attack again, and prove false their rhetoric on victory while confirming their own brutality?

This is a difference between me and Billmon — aside from his brain dwarfing the jumbled marble bag of mine. I know that some of it is more theater than policy, and must be regarded that way. Lebanon asked for the Shebba farms back, knowing it wouldn’t get them. Israel inserted “defensive operations” in the agreement to keep the scare on. But as we see now, everyone shouts “victory!” through their losses as if destruction were self-validating. Absurd, but a good sign.

I realize Billmon’s post was half rant, but still. Good things can happen despite the embarassing gibberish of those in power. Yes, I’d prefer that everyone compete to see who was more “grown up,” more “human,” more “compassionate” and “reasonable,” but that can happen only in my Utopia, where dead bodies in fact devalue winning. Fact of the zeitgeist is, winning — self-centered, ego-fellating winning — trumps sensibility every time.

Maybe that’s where Billmon finds his frustrated rage. He may see, in these victory cries, the opening sequence to The Last Boy Scout, where a running back needs that touchdown so bad he whips out a nine and blows away two defenders on his rush to the end zone. If only we could be more like the running back, who, instead of psychopathically raising his arms in triumph, comes to terms with his sin, removes his helmet, kneels, and squeezes fire through his own brain.

I don’t see it that way. One has to admit that stopping is something, even if leaders overcome shame with unabashed triumphalism. True, a person can’t beat the living shit out of someone then congratulate his “moral character” for curbing his desire to gouge an eye. Equally disgusting would be to dance in celebration over a writhing victim.

But these guys are politicians, abstract storytellers struggling to fashion a throughline for something that is, at is base, surreal. They can only work within their strength: delivering a more salable form of the truth, one where they aren’t revealed as thoroughly depraved nutjobs.

Therefore, I regard these silly victory shouts as a Cuckoo’s Nest form of agreeing it’s over, and can be thankful — beyond all the absurd proclamations — that we, as the caretakers of ourselves, recently received a backhanded gift, in the form of birds singing again in southern Lebanon.

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August 15, 2006

Victory, spelled with a ‘P’

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,terrorism,war — secretmojo @ 12:30 am

Ceasefire is great news. And a humiliating slap in the face for all the warmongers who cheered this conflict as the chance of a lifetime.

It may or may not last. I’ve always thought a good judge of the strength of a truce is whether all sides come from the agreement claiming victory. It may be this way for Hezbollah, somewhat for Lebanon, but not for Israel. The two captured soldiers, the “reason” for the devastation in the first place, remain captured.

One more observation, and I’ll let everyone get on with their own Israel/Lebanon news saturation. After reading a bit on local reactions (here and here), a peculiar phenomenon struck me: while displaced Israelis are afraid to return to the north, Lebanese refugees are jamming up the roads heading back to their homes.

This is fascinating to me, because southern Lebanon and Beirut are decimated. Buildings turned into gravel dumps with twisted rebar poking out of them. If any Lebanese wanted to be afraid, they need only look up.

Israel hasn’t seen this kind of overbearing damage. Yet, the fear to return seems greater. Now, I don’t want this to turn into a debate about who’s the greater victim here, because the way I see it, everyone proved their humanity by honoring the ceasefire, and are victorious over the innate evil of War. Score one for sensibility and compassion.

But it is interesting how uncertainty is one of the main ingredients of fear. And how, after a certain predictability is achieved — even if that prediction is one of death and destruction — fear dissolves.

August 8, 2006

Ceasefire: the whole world minus one

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 7:44 pm

There were three, but now there’s one.

It’s a pretty crappy deal for Lebanon, who will now have to face two occupiers instead of one. They’ll be tending to both Hezbollah and Israel. And, if you’ve ever positioned yourself between two brawling guys in a bar, trust me, it’s neither fun nor easy.

Furthermore, I call it a “soft surrender” because it asks nothing of Israel but demands plenty of Lebanon. What do you expect when enemies craft peace agreements?

But I hope Lebanon takes the deal. The future may or may not work itself out, and war may explode again, but Lebanon’s getting UN forces—although Bush would like these forces to do more his bidding than Lebanon’s. And yes, I know, Bush says annoying throwaway words like “As these Lebanese and international forces deploy, the Israeli defense forces will withdraw.” These lying words are clearly not in writing, as they should be if you’re to speak them in the first place. Plus, they sound frighteningly like his highly successful “stand up/stand down” Iraq verbiage that have yet to see reality.

But I hope they take the deal anyways. Negotiate, get a couple of concessions perhaps, but take the deal. Otherwise, it gets worse for everyone, but mostly for Lebanon, who’s enduring a 6:1 kill ratio right now.

I realize the current proposal is “We’ll stop shooting if you do what we say,” but when you’ve got both a ceasefire and international troops to enforce it (sort of), take it. Otherwise, be prepared to defend the existence of your country, because this is an offer you honestly can’t refuse. And the crazies are on the verge of conflating the whole of Lebanon into a terrorist encampment, an idea oddly successful with Iraq. And everybody knows how great that’s going.

U.S./France ceasefire prop incites pundits to not call it “an obstructionist flip-flop of the highest order”

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 12:37 am

When the U.S. joined with France to introduce a draft text for a ceasefire in the Middle East, a non-nonplussed Sean Hannity did not say, “We always came to expect this from a flip-floppin’ Prez.”

“And to flip-flop with France,” Hannity didn’t continue, “it’s just. It’s just embarrassing.”

Not sparking a rare reversal of their support of the president’s rejection of a ceasefire, right-wing pundits didn’t show a break from the situational ethics they tended to embrace in the past.

“Bon jour America,” Jonah Goldberg never said, “we have been conquered by cheese eaters.”

Around the blogosphere, right-wing sites joined in a chorus not against the president, one commenter not claiming that the president “had betrayed the ideals of Americans, and can consider himself a traitor, or rather, traître.”

Even Ann Coulter had a biting essay she didn’t write on the matter: “It becomes clear that the godless Monsieur Bush has now drifted to the Parti Socialiste, offering diplomatic bon bons to an impotent Nations Unies like a desperate housewife trying to win favor with a feral cat. I’m not saying we should poison the champagne at the White House, but it’d be an interesting test of both loyalty and alcoholic relapse, don’t you think?”

Charles Krauthammer, neither, attacked the proposal viciously in his non-recent article, “Why the French Act Isn’t Funny Anymore”, not blasting the French as a “second-class power” and the president as “an obstructionist” for kowtowing to international pressure to stop the violence in the Mideast.

To be sure, Rice, Bush, and Cheney will have hell to not pay with their conservative stalwarts in medialand. David Limbaugh, Mark Steyn, and David Brooks have yet to not weigh in on the matter. The dangerous act of nestling up to both the French and the UN will certainly prove in the days ahead that principles always stand before politics.

Not.

August 6, 2006

War comes with more than victory

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 4:16 pm

Curtis tries to cure my peacenik streak over at Empty Rhetoric. But I think, as many people who encounter my view on war, he receives me wrong.

To be clear: I’m not a pacifist. I recognize that war is an unfortunate reality of being human, and must be executed both justly and mercilessly. But I believe we should all start at the base conception that war is a pock upon us and regret it when it happens, so that we’re emphatically compelled to seek other (perhaps ego-bruising) means of solving our problems. Why? Because war generates horrific unintended consequences that go solidly against our own morality and, furthermore, cannot be controlled once the fists start flying.

In the current conflict, which started with the capture of two (or three, depending on perspective) soldiers, negotiations, even of the backdoor or “assasination” kind, were immediately eschewed in favor of a full-blown attack. War might be good for something, but so far it hasn’t been good at getting those two soldiers back (would it truly stop if they were released?), and has been deplorably inept at stopping rocket attacks. It’s also helped the Lebanese government lose what little control it may have had over Hezbollah, which I guess is something, but something unwelcome to me. Been good at funneling Iranian and Syrian weapons into the area, too, and increasing recruitment and support of Hezbollah. I sense it has also turned some American citizens (let alone the Lebanese), if only briefly, against Israel’s policy. If this is what the world wants, then I suppose it is good for something.

War causes problems; it rarely fixes them. Check out the rousing success in Iraq or indeed the history of the current conflict to see how war spreads its beneficence. As Ben said, “There has never been a good war, or a bad peace,” even as he participated in the Revolution. He’s one who always kept his head screwed on tight, and knew what he was getting into. If we begin with peace, we still have difficult, maybe impossible, problems to solve, which may eventually lead to war anyway. But if we begin with war, we create thousands more problems we most certainly can’t control, let alone solve.

Explicitly promoting the continuation of this war by rejecting a ceasefire as harmful admits diplomatic incompetence. I’m still not clear on what “lasting ceasefire” truly means (I am not psychic, you see), which is probably part of my problem understanding the arguments that create a false choice between “lasting” and “immediate.” I’m also not quite sure why “ceasefire” is conceived as an admonition to Israel, not both sides (Tony Blair flubbed as much in the House of Commons). Perhaps both concepts insinuate complete victory and eradication of terrorism as the only chance for peace. I do not know.

What I am sure of, however, is that if Condoleeza called for an immediate ceasefire and then dug deep into hardcore negotiations, I wouldn’t be hearing much from the right about how a ceasefire is idiotic and useless, but how it was brilliant, bold, and proof that this administration was on the verge of solving the Middle East conflict.

And they’d be right to brag, of course. I could deal with that, even though Ms. Rice and the rest of them irk me so.

August 5, 2006

The word is “failure”

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,rants,terrorism,war — secretmojo @ 11:59 pm

My god, why?

What I believe has disappeared via this growing compendium of Justification Proclamations is the concept of war as a failure of humanity.

War is a failure. It means we couldn’t work it out amongst ourselves like adults, and punched our sister in the face for the toy. It is not a triumph. All wars are Pyrric victories: you need only count the dead. It is blood and guts, unbound hatred, and immoral to the core.

War proves itself bizarre when we map its qualities onto an individual. It is everything we would despise about a man: solving problems by fist, justifying beating the crap out of someone, bragging about his kill ratio and the blackjack he has in his car.

So why this depraved assumption that war is innately valid, heroic, and beneficial? That stopping war, even briefly, is useless? Actually, I don’t care for the answer to this one; I’ve heard enough “birth pang”-style ramblings to decide the answer comes more from fealty than intelligence or compassion. War is not innately valid, and anyone who acts like it is is someone to steer well clear of.

We should, if we are human, deplore war. It should shame us, embarrass us, and make us cry for our own species. But I suppose this would require too much grace. Too much “bleeding heart” emotions, as opposed the more manly “bleeding body” approach. But if we still have souls, we should recognize that fighting wars are a stain upon us, and that if we dare engage in them, we best do it for the most obvious, self-evident reasons, and know all the while we curse ourselves to hell for it.

In other words, when we justify our wars ex post facto, and furthermore cheer their existence, we’ve gone sociopathic.

War is a failure from its inception. Did I say that already? If a person believes war brings it like King Midas, transforming useless things into gold, perhaps he’s right: King Midas lost his daughter through his greed. But a war, unlike Midas, has no Dionysus to bring back the dead.

Human beings are not based in hatred and violence; our prominent qualities are intelligence, abstract thought, language skills, music, and the undying need to create, love, and have our stories told.

So I think anyone can predict my response to a post that, in order to justify the continuation of death, blithely mentions uber-menschen, racism, sickness, peace as idiocy, hatred, Pol Pot, Hitler, dysfunction, victimization, pathology, blindness, “stopping feeling,” killing Jews; and uses pejorative language like “Pay attention,” “Is this starting to sink in?” and “We just wanted to clear that up for anyone who’s feelings might have been hurt” and “before you puff out your chests with self esteemed indignation”, and so on, and so on, and so on:

Loathe yourself, because you’re part of the problem.

July 31, 2006

How to redefine words so you smell more like roses, and less like crap

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,rants — secretmojo @ 2:26 pm

Here’s a guide for those of you who, as facts come in regarding Lebanon, need stronger cognitive shielding (hat tip to Curtis, who’s always a fine read, but gets this one wrong). While not as succinct as “War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery,” it’s still a delightful romp into the benefits of self-defined cult language: Ceasefire is Surrender, Civilians are Combatants, Disproportionate is… Kickin’ Ass!

Pretty soon the semantic divergence will be so great that I’ll ask a conservative friend to “pass the salt,” but he’ll hear “appease the chemical weapon.”

Then he’ll start yelling about “taking the fight to them,” and I’ll be all, “huh?” and he’ll be like “Don’t treat me like I’m stupid,” and I’ll say, “whatever,” and reach for the salt.

Seeing the brisk movement of my arm, he’ll take a swing at me, and I’ll say “calm down, buddy, what the fuck’s gotten into you?” and he’ll be all “NO CEASEFIRE!” and I’ll again be like “huh?” and he’ll grab me by the shirt, puff up his chest, and scream “I’m sick of your ‘huh’ accusations!” and heave the table aside in massive clatter.

And the salt will explode all over, I’ll get pissed and tackle him, he’ll bite my earlobe and I’ll gouge his eyes. We’ll both be arrested, and, since he’s got a cop friend, I’ll get jail time for assault.

Then, months later, he’ll moan alone to a bartender, adjust his eye patch, and tell the sorry tale of how good our friendship used to be until, one day, I freakishly attacked him out of nowhere when he politely asked me to pass the salt.

July 28, 2006

Secretary Rice fandangles riverrun Jabberwocky

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics — secretmojo @ 10:49 am

Secretary Rice Canerdling with the Girmack SplenderlouslikeU.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice did some stuff in the Middle East this week. She also said shit, moved around a bit, and met with dudes.

In Rome, she delivered a speech about junk and other crap alongside that guy from Lebanon, who talked about various bullshit. Rice promised to “Do more whatchamacallit to enhance things and bring a long awaited rapeteta to the Middle Whatever.”

In the midst of an escalating war between Israel and Lebanon, and mounting civilian casualties, Rice rushed to the Middle East after 13 days of conflict to briefly meet with various Guys and Hominas and discussed a plan for “getting somebody to eventually do something when the situation has properly thingamajigged.”

Despite the U.S. demand of a “never cease firing” resolution at the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary Rice says she “hope[s] of an eventual end to whatever is so crazy and, like, ‘birth,’ you know.”

Asked whether Rice will return to the Middle East after going to Malaysia, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow answered, “Why’s that? I think she pretty much wrapped it up over there. Weren’t you paying attention earlier?”

Next week, Rice plans to return to Washington, where she will regroup before taking a tour to South Korea to talk about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to Singapore to address human rights, a short visit to Russia to develop diplomatic relations, and a trip to France to deliver a small seminar on Financial Viability in the Modern Age to various EU organizations.

But first, she says she’s got “pivotal Middle East gimcrack to canoodle in Kuala Lumpur, and, you know, whatever.”

July 23, 2006

Net citizens better than their leaders at diplomacy

Filed under: blogging,Israel/Lebanon,Politics — secretmojo @ 9:05 pm

I cannot make up my mind whether I am delighted or disturbed by an article that tells the tale of Lebonese and Israeli nationals chatting with each other through the ’Net while bombs are falling.

I am delighted, for example, that propoganda has now entered its weakling days. It is very difficult to demonize an enemy when your countrymen are chatting with them on forum boards. It’s near impossible to lie or even downplay anything as well; for sure you will have “enemy” citizens telling it like it is to people on the other side of the border who trust them:

Goldman described one experience in which she was sitting at her Tel Aviv home sending Instant Messages to a Beirut blogger as he described the sounds of rockets falling outside.

But I am disturbed in two ways. One, that those with the guns and the tanks and the bombs are frighteningly less competent than their citizens when it comes to fashioning ties with neighboring countries. And two, the rather strange acceptance that life goes on underneath the war, with friends from both sides “doing what they do” while the powermongers above them, like angry Roman gods, crack thunder in the sky in a theater of death, which, to the war-weary, ultimately gets a collective yawn:

Like her own friends, most Lebanese teens did not appear willing to let their social lives come to a halt just because a war happened to be going on.

I’m all for dialogue, and making the best of a bad situation, but for some reason, this creeps me out.

Rice pursues “Natural Birth” policy in Mideast

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics — secretmojo @ 10:05 am

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice landed in Israel today after a hasty two weeks of planning to address the escalating violence in the Middle East, which she calls “The Mideast Birthing Project.”

“It was great just to finally land here, to get see all the wonderful work that has been done,” she said aboard her plane. “I know I talked about birthing pangs earlier. But to witness firsthand the miracle of life is something else.”

After a two-week-long layover in Washington, Rice quickly scheduled a 13-stop flight for the Mideast, promising to arrive in Lebanon by way of Bangkok sometime in 2010. “We certainly are thinking long-term here,” she advised, “which is why I plan to do nothing about it until it’s too late.”

Part of the president’s bold “Natural Birth” policy, Secretary Rice will call upon Hezbollah and Israel to “never cease firing,” promising that if they do cease fire, the United States will be forced to call for a persistent-fire resolution at the UN security council.

In addition, she intends to pressure Israel to not only allow her a press conference, but to provide her with a list of hotels where she can stay. “We certainly cannot ignore Israel’s responsibility to keep civilians like me comfortable,” she said. “In dangerous wars like these, it’s important to keep focus on my humanitarian needs.”

Rice also plans to visit Saudi Arabia to speak about Syria, Rome to talk about Lebanon, and Cyprus to speak on Iran. When she reaches Lebanon in 2010, she promises to readdress Rome, after which she’ll take a trip to Iran for a seminar about Washington, D.C.

“The Middle East problem can only be solved by enduring the problem itself,” she said as she left the airport. “It’s like lamaze: you try to comfort the mother to accept the pain, until she finally gives birth to a freedom baby that coos and smiles at daddy America… Actually, I have no friggin clue why I’m here. I’m just glad my suits didn’t get lost in transit.”

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