Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 23, 2005

WB: War of the Words

War of the Words

Posted by b on July 23, 2005 at 21:09 UTC | Permalink


Do you ever try to see things from the other side's perspective? Let me help you. Imagine -- I mean, really imagine, in as much vivid, realistic detail as you can muster -- that you have secured one of the top position's in a Democratic administration. The administration has started a war you honestly believe, all things considered, is a just war. Your job is to help bring that war to a successful close as quickly and effectively as possible. Things are really going rough -- it's much harder going than you ever expected and the Republicans are trying to point out your every little misstep and then shouting, "We told you so." Then, you get even more bad news -- there has been more than a few instances of really egregious prisoner abuse, complete with repugnant, incendiary photos. Now, even though you don't condone the specific behavior in question, you know that if the news spreads, it will only add fuel to the fire -- not just the Republican/media fire at home, but it will severely harm your war efforts due to severe backlash within the enemy's wider culture. What do you do?

Posted by: MikeL | Jul 23 2005 21:27 utc | 1

Hope for a merciful god.

Posted by: biklett | Jul 23 2005 21:50 utc | 2


Posted by: Jassalasca Jape | Jul 23 2005 22:01 utc | 3

The administration has started a war you honestly believe, all things considered, is a just war. Your job is to help bring that war to a successful close as quickly and effectively as possible. Things are really going rough -- it's much harder going than you ever expected and the Republicans are trying to point out your every little misstep and then shouting, "We told you so."...What do you do?

How about acknowledge the catastrophic failure of your policies and do the honorable thing and resign?

You can't excuse the unfolding Iraq disaster on "honest belief". Every one of the administration's blunders in Iraq -that Iraq had WMDs, that the war could be financed with Iraqi oil, that Americans would be "greeted as liberators", that the American military presence could be rapidly drawn down, that Iraq could be easily transformed into an American client state, to name some of the more notorious ones- were questioned by opponents of the war before the invasion. The problem was that these objections didn't fit into the Bush administration's preconceptions so not only were they not even seriously entertained by the Bushites, but anyone with the gall to challenge the party line was relentlessly persecuted and marginalized. Now that events have proven critics of the war right you're saying we owe these crypto fascists a debt of understanding? The hypocricy almost defies comprehension.

This isn't just a case of "I told you so" however. The loss of comity in the national dialogue is regrettable, but it is the loss of the dialogue itself that made the Iraq debacle possible. By placing ideology above pragmatism, assuming that anyone who dissented from the ideology was acting in bad faith or from partisanship, and leveraging their powerful propaganda machine to virtually monopolize the public discussion on Iraq the Bushites very deliberately brought this disaster down on themselves and, rather more consequently, on the American people. And they will do it again and again until enough Americans reject both their ideology and the calculations of naked partisanship than underlie it.

Posted by: Lexington | Jul 23 2005 22:01 utc | 4

Now MikeL, respond if you please.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 23 2005 22:18 utc | 5

Mike, you're myopic. Granted what's been done has been done. The problem is how to put an end to it quickly before any more harm is done. Hiding from Americans the evidence only prolongs a disastrous policy. Exposing it, increases the probability that we can finally free the Republic of the crazy loons who've seized the reins, outlaw torture & prevent an invasion of Iran.

Posted by: jj | Jul 23 2005 22:20 utc | 6

By the way, "position's" should not have an apostrophe, I know. Anyway, my comments have to be considered in context. Specifically, they were a response to Billmon's post about Rumsfeld's attempts to keep the news/photos of prisoner abuse from spreading. You really think that any one of you would do differently in his position? I doubt it. If you were partly responsible for the genesis and orchestration of a war you believed, at least initially, to be justified (even if you were guilty of exaggerating the case for it), and a scandal like this broke, your responsibility as conductor of the war would weigh heavily on you to minimize the impact. Imagine what such news/photos do in the heart/mind of a Muslim/Arab. It's like gas on a fire you're trying desperately to put out.

Posted by: MikeL | Jul 23 2005 22:36 utc | 7

MikeL, as you've surely noted; democrats would demand a change in policy and a full investigation. We're not much on this 'Oh Great Leader' crap. Important distinction, this.

Posted by: ken melvin | Jul 23 2005 22:41 utc | 8

Billmon, you're working too hard. It's all great stuff, because you are incandescent, working at full efficiency, which is wonderful, except that incandescence implies combustion and energy transfer. Remember it happened once before. No criticism, just a friend asking you to take a short break. Life is a long term proposition. The United States is entering into an historic crisis. With time off, away from the headlines, you'll be able to see the world in 3-D. Physical stuff like mountains and plains, from sea to shining sea. Come to CR for a week or two.


Posted by: Frank Kelly | Jul 23 2005 23:00 utc | 9

mikel you are barking up the wrong tree here, all this 'oh please understand from the other side,' lets get one thing straight , there is absolutely no evideence bush or cheney &co are trying to put out any fires. that is a load of crap. they are responsible for the mess we are in, and they are responsible for the torture , they allowed for it and they created the conditions for it, they are only covering their asses, and trying to avoid taking responsibilty. how about you try seeing this from another perspective. like the child who got raped by prisoners. wrong tree, peddle your lets all be reasonable jargon w/ a different crowd, you won't find any takers here.

Posted by: annie | Jul 23 2005 23:04 utc | 10

F**K "the other sides perspective" It's exactly this narrow thinking ie that there is black and white, good and bad, one side and the other side, that has lead the world and in particular the US up the path of self delusion into mass murder.
The only way any sort of administration can hope to work effectively and for the people it claims to represent, is if when mistakes are made they are honestly owned, the people responsible are dealt with in the way that satisfies the community and we all move on to fix the foul-up.
It is this continual emphasis by government that their munificent rule is the most important treasure to be jealously guarded, that has destroyed 'democracy'. For democracy to work effectively the voters must have a realistic picture of all the circumstances they are facing. Rumsfeld isn't holding on to the pictures because he's worried about the impact in the Muslim world he's hanging on to em cause he's worried about the impact back home with the voters. He and his crew might lose their cushy little gig. It really suits the powers that be if they can reduce their theft of a nation to the level of Monday night football where you support one team to the bitter end no matter what, but it doesn't do the rest of us much good. Don't fall for it.
I have no idea exactly how many of the people in here from the US support the the blow dried, blue suited bastards on the other side. I think that few of them vote for the current mob but it is totally ridiculous to imagine that in a world as complex as this one has become there are only two points of view/styles in governing it.
If any of the people here do ride the donkey I betcha they aren't the most popular figures at their local meetings, since most who come in here unlike MikeL ask questions, difficult and morally complex questions but they are as unprepared to accept the bland statements of a careerist egoist from one side as they are from the other. Perhaps one day those of us that live in the US will feel sufficiently empowered by the dialogue across the independent media to take on these shitbags, independent of either donkeys or elephants.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 23 2005 23:05 utc | 11

ps I didn't sub the last sentence which now implies that I live in the US. For what it's worth I don't. The way I see it we're all pretty much in the same sack of shit anyhow.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 23 2005 23:08 utc | 12

I'd have sympathy for MikeL's point of view if he was calling for the impeachment of the entire US administration.

But he's not.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jul 23 2005 23:14 utc | 13

one more thing mikel, if the admin had EVER thought this war was justified they would not have lied to us to get us there, they could have told us the truth. they exploited a situation to get us there because they knew we would never have gone otherwise. exactly the same reason we aren't allowed to see the notes on the energy meetings. they make up their minds behind closed doors, do whatever they want, and refuse to be held accountable. i know what i would do if i was in their shoes. so don't be telling me i'd ever be following in their footsteps w/any decision they have made.

Posted by: annie | Jul 23 2005 23:14 utc | 14

Specifically, they were a response to Billmon's post about Rumsfeld's attempts to keep the news/photos of prisoner abuse from spreading. You really think that any one of you would do differently in his position?

The more relevant question, I think, is whether I would have ordered the policies that gave rise to the Abu Ghraib atrocities in the first place. And of course, the answer is no. And in this particular instance, that answer alone is probably sufficient -- since if Rumsfeld hadn't set the wheels in motion, it's not likely we would be debating whether videos of young boys being sodomized should be released to the public.

As to whether I would try to prevent the release of photos/videos that really DID result from unathorized abuses by a few "bad apples," that's a tougher question, since I really don't have much faith any more in the notion that "the truth will set you free." If the Rovians can use selective and distorted "facts" to successfully smear war heros, there's no reason to believe the jihadists couldn't sensationalized accounts of isolated abuses to smear and demonize America.

But -- and this is the whole point of the post -- Donald Rumsfeld apparently DOES believe that full and free disclosure is ultimately the best policy, because "free and well-informed people can and will sift through the increasing volumes of information and over time develop a balanced view of our government, our Armed Forces, and our values and principles." At least, that's what he told the world a few days ago.

I guess I were in Rumsfeld's shoes, fighting tooth and nail to PREVENT the full disclosure of information, I wouldn't publish stupid propaganda in the Wall Street Journal that makes me, and the US government, look like the lowest forms of lying, hypocritical scum that ever hid under the rim of a toilet bowl.

But of course, the whole question is pointless and I think Mike knows this. Rummy and company aren't fighting to keep these videos and photos from the Islamic world -- which already has made up its mind about what happened at Abu Ghraib. They're trying to keep them away from the American public, because they will totally undermine the filthy lies peddled by the conservative propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and his brain-dead supporters.

As always, this isn't about protecting the American people from the terrorists -- it's about protecting the Cheney administration from the consequences of its own crimes.

Posted by: Billmon | Jul 23 2005 23:16 utc | 15


Here's a somewhat different "war of the words": an article in tomorrow's Times by Richard Stevenson, on the topic of Bush, Rove, and Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation. Its tone is one of gravitas, all in very good faith, inviting us to expect that we'll learn something from reading it. Well, we learn absolutely nothing at all, leading me to wonder why they bothered to run the piece in the first place. And then I notice that the piece makes no mention whatsoever of Judith F. Miller, whose situation is of great interest to us all.

Posted by: alabama | Jul 23 2005 23:25 utc | 16

And this invites me to wonder something else: when will some member of the press, in a "gaggle" of his own devising, put the question to Keller and "Pinch" Sulzberger about Judith K. Miller's association with known criminals, no doubt in the pursuit of her own criminal ends? We've all heard about the strange silence of Bush, McClellan and such, but we've yet to hear about the silence of Richard Stevenson and such. We might call it "the coverup at The New York Times," because, in fact the Timesitself is stonewalling.

Posted by: alabama | Jul 23 2005 23:27 utc | 17

MikeL- millions of people in America and western Europe came out in opposition to an invasion of Iraq because 1) they thought it would make the situations in the world worse, not better, 2) they read reports and news and knew that Bush, were lying, to the best of their ability to know, 3) they had the evidence of the history of the Bush administrations lies and total disregard for principles like, oh, democracy and rule of law and separation of church and state, and so why should they think these people could be trusted? 4) the energy policy task force papers, 5) Scott Ritter, the IAEC, various ambassadors who resigned, Generals who were kicked get the picture, maybe?

In addition many of us called our representatives to tell them we did not want this war. People went to Kerry's office, thinking that surely he had learned something from his earlier experiences...but the democrats, too, went along.

So now we're in a situation where innocent people have been tortured and raped by a govt that was illegally installed and that continually tries to strip away democracy in this nation and you want people to have some understanding for the fucking govt????

It's like Auschweitz. The Germans wanted to live in denial of how they got those cheap goods...but when the camps were liberated, neither they nor the world could deny, any longer, that the Germans had fallen into utter moral depravity.

How ironic (except not) that the prez who claims that god talks to him (or maybe it's not ironic) is able to kill and murder and torture and lie and people in this country want to believe him because then they don't have to look at what they're supporting or its impact on the rest of the world.

And these issues didn't start with Abu Ghraib. The School of the Americas was around long before that prison. The nuns who were raped and killed in Central America, (thanks Reagan) the disappeared in Argentina and Chile (thanks, Kissinger) --none of this is exactly new now, is it?

The problem is that the truth is coming out.

If the democrats want to be on the side of the war criminals, then let them suffer the same fate.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 23 2005 23:37 utc | 18

Billmon forgot to note the context in which this is occurring.

Bu$h Threatens to Veto War Dept. Appropriations bill if it limits His Freedom to Torture"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.

The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.

Posted by: jj | Jul 24 2005 0:11 utc | 19

Why can't we all just get along?

Billmon's reply is the most sensible/well-thought-out. And I suspect he's right about the main reason Rumsfeld doesn't want the truth revealed -- so I suppose my point is moot.

What the hell does the following quote refer to? Jesus Christ, Billmon, take it easy. You're a great writer/blogger, but it's not world-changing enough to sacrifice your mental health over.

"Billmon, you're working too hard. It's all great stuff, because you are incandescent, working at full efficiency, which is wonderful, except that incandescence implies combustion and energy transfer. Remember it happened once before. No criticism, just a friend asking you to take a short break."

Posted by: MikeL | Jul 24 2005 0:22 utc | 20

This men behind this war condemned themselves, the moment they decided they had to hide its true cost.
The fact that you need a FOIA decision to be allowed to show the flag-draped coffins; that the planes with KIA land at Dover at night; that newscoverage of funerals is restricted; that the press is not allowed to freely interview the wounded (at Walter Reed, for instance) - clearly shows the administration feels great shame over the war it began.

There is no "other side of the fence" on this war.

Posted by: SteinL | Jul 24 2005 0:41 utc | 21

I was in Syria last April when the whole Abu Ghraib thing broke in the news. It was the same night that Damascus saw its first terrorist attack in many many years. We had been up on the mountain to watch night come over the city and ended up listening to grenades and machine gun fire. When we finally got home, the police showed up at our dooor with ak-47's--they just wanted to know if we were parked on the street, and if we were (we weren't--we didn't have a car) we would have to move our car==to prove it wasn't wired. The next day was our last day in Syria. The whole day is under a cloud in my memory. I will never forget watching satellite tv to find news of the attack only to be hit with that horrible picture of the man on the box. It was sickening and shaming, and we all own it to this day.

Posted by: pegm | Jul 24 2005 0:49 utc | 22


You sound like a lawyer. Take a break yourself and examine your beliefs.

In other words "fuck off". You add no incremental benefit to MoA.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jul 24 2005 0:50 utc | 23

It's not clear to me that public exposure of these photos of depravity is the best choice. There isn't a best choice. The buffoons have made such a mess of it. More and more choices are nothing but Sophie's Choice.

Thanks to Sy Hersh, we have a good notion already about what's in the photos. So does the world. Iraqis have other, more personal sources. But photos communicate more directly and emotionally to most people. Release of such horrific pictures will be inflammatory. Were it only a question of domestic distribution, then no problem. But I'd differ with Billmon in guessing that it will be inflammatory in the ME as well as in the U.S.

Perhaps the question should be what will public exposure accomplish?

Will seeing these photos lead the U.S. public to conclude that their leaders are at fault and mobilize broad resistance? Rove/Rummy have successfully floated that meme about military rogues, without any relation to Gen Miller and his improved interrogation techniques from Guantanamo, or the President's finding on legal torture. Will the meme hold up? What will link the photos to leadership culpability?

On the other hand, it is very likely that a new wave of anger will sweep Iraq and the ME when official U.S. photos confirming the worst reports are seen. The lives most at risk are likely to be individuals with NO direct culpability in the offenses against humanity at AG, soldiers and Iraqis on the front lines, and the victims of future terror strikes across the world. Would it further undermine the delicate struggle of Iraqis to form their own government and expel foreign terrorists, our terror and AQ's, or would it assist them? Would it fan flames of violence or shorten the term of conflict?

The motives of our fearless leaders are undoubtedly craven and self-serving. But we still need to ask ourselves what course of action serves the hope of peace best: releasing the photos now or keeping them classified until this battle has passed?

Can anyone suggest a compromise solution? A few of our best poets, if they were willing, might view the photos and describe them to us? Though I'd fear the death of poets.

Or should we just roll the dice and take the truth staight up?

Posted by: small coke | Jul 24 2005 0:57 utc | 24

It's as simple as this--if you want to see the lies that led us to this war exposed, if you have hope that somehow we could turn back the tide that has eroded our freedoms and made our country the world's villain, then you want to see these phots come out. If you think we are somehow on the right course and that pretending that these unpleasant things never happened will actually help us somehow, then you don't want to see then come out. As they say, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Posted by: pegm | Jul 24 2005 1:05 utc | 25


Imagine what such news/photos do in the heart/mind of a Muslim/Arab.

You're forgetting that these are photos of events that actually took place. The people in these photos, including the young men who were forcibly sodomized in front of their parents, know what happened because they were there. Word of these atrocities has already spread through the Arabic-speaking community, close the barn door though you will.

The American people currently enjoy the very dangerous luxury of being able to deny to themselves that such things were done in their name. The best argument for releasing the photos is that what the American people don't know can hurt them.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape | Jul 24 2005 1:07 utc | 26

small coke: here's a deal the dems should go for-

The ENTIRE Bush administration resigns and, in exchange, the photos are only released to a court of law at their trials. Same with military that is aligned with Bush. Same with all other agencies. Get rid of them for the sake of world stability.

The reason for the release of the photos is to stop what is happening, by getting Americans to admit to it (those that give a damn enough to pay attention) and to get the Bush junta out of office.

That's the way I see it, in the best interests of everyone in the entire world.

I do not doubt that there are jihadists who would be happy to kill me for no reason. I do not think that problems in the world are going to stop because the Bush junta is gone, but I think it's one of the first positive steps that America could take.

Next, they turn over all revenue and contracts to that Halliburton, etc. no longer has a place there.

We're already in the middle of a shit storm that the Bush junta brought about by their "reaction" to 9-11...that had been in the works for years...and their way does not work. So we need to stop pretending that our presence in Iraq will help.

I think it was Lebanon that said they had to wait till America was gone to start putting their own house back in order.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 24 2005 1:10 utc | 27

the false question put by mikel is so stupidly insensate - so barbaric are its inferences - it does not even merit this comment. i am in complete accord with cloned poster on this - fire we need - but there is a healthy cleansing fire

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 24 2005 1:14 utc | 28

I hold no hope for a Bush impeachment, but I truly believe that he will become the American Pinochet, beleaguered on all sides and welcome nowhere. It is my fond hope that he will live the rest of his life afraid to leave that hell he calls home.

Posted by: pegm | Jul 24 2005 1:15 utc | 29

& always this dumb presumptions by a certain type of visitor here - who in almost every instance are not really asking questions - who do not see the obvious differences amongst this community (which in & of itself creates profounder resonances) & that there exist no hegemonic position here on almost every question . what is shared however is a form of decency & a very real desire to communicate

how someone with any dignity whatsoever would even hint to suggest that i try to see things from the shoes of that little assassin rumsfield is adding insult to injury

not only do i refuse to even see the slighest hint of what may move murderers like rumsfield - i categorically & definitively oppose even the rhetorical position of doing so. it is simply too indecent

u s imperialism & its aliies are murdering people day & night & i will not forget that. ever. whatever arguments i have to make are informed by those murders & the continuation of those murderous policies

i don't need to understand they psychoanalytique quarrel with ourselves that vincent gigante had with papa carmine galante - to know that bth are hoods. period. i do not have to analyse the rise of italian nationalism & the sicilian response to understand carmine galante or a carlo gambino or a john gotti are just small men with even smaller imaginations - therefore their compulsion to crime

in the same way - i do not need to take any of the opinions of the cheney bush junta seriouslly. they are not serious. that their absence of seriousness is combined with a passion for force reminds me that from the robber barons of the 19th century in america - there is a continous & continuing history of families of crime - whether they are luciano, lansky truman, nixon, costello, anastasia, kennedy, johnson, colombo, gallo, reagan, genovese, gotti or bush

they have made or lives hell - but they are not the historical figures they imagine themselves

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 24 2005 1:54 utc | 30

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down...

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 24 2005 1:56 utc | 31

Or should we just roll the dice and take the truth staight up?

I was at a conference in Jordan last year when Colin Powell responded to the first round of Abu Ghraib photos. He said (or words to this effect): "Now you are going to see our democracy in action."

But of course, all we've since then has been lies, distortions, excuses, coverups and smears. We've seen demagoguery in action, not democracy.

Except in the courts. That's the ONLY place where anyone has attempted to hold anyone accountable. It's the only place left where America can still demonstrate to the world that it is still rules by laws, not men.

If the Cheney administration really had wanted to control the fallout from these videos, it would have fired Rumsfeld, fired Sanchez, fired (and courtmartialed) Miller, allowed the Judge Advocate General's office to conduct a full and fair inquiry, ASKED for a special joint congressional investigation, and released all related documents and photos as soon as practical.

Then America could have said to the world: This is how we fight our wars. This is how we deal with OUR criminals. What about you?

It's entirely possible that many in the Islamic world would STILL have been outraged, STILL would have hated us (some will always hate us) But I'd much rather be in the position of defending that than trying to defend this abortion of justice.

There's also the domestic impact to think about. Awhile back I read about the release of a videotape of Serb paramilitary troops slaughtering Muslims in Bosnia. They played it on television in Serbia. Apparently, it had quite an impact. It forced many who had been denying the truth for years to finally face up to it. And that gave some breathing room to politicians who had been pandering to Serb nationalism for years, but really wanted to make a break with the past.

Can't say the same thing will happen here, but it's sure worth a try. So I say, bring it on.

Posted by: Billmon | Jul 24 2005 2:12 utc | 32

The photos and videos need to be released. The full horror of what we have allowed to be done in our names must be brought home to us if there is to be any hope of our avoiding another repetition of past bad behavior when the present iteration is over.

Please remember that this is exactly what did not happen after Viet Nam and now, thirty years later, we find ourselves commiting exactly the same vicious crimes again.

The issue is not this or that war criminal in power. The issue is our willingness to allow ourselves to be swept along by the war criminal du jour. Only a full, unexpurgated disclosure of exactly what the consequences of political laissez faire are can bring us to our senses.

How about some video reporting from Palestine as well, to help us through our "why do they hate us" denial?

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Jul 24 2005 2:20 utc | 33

If you were partly responsible for the genesis and orchestration of a war you believed, at least initially, to be justified (even if you were guilty of exaggerating the case for it), and a scandal like this broke, your responsibility as conductor of the war would weigh heavily on you to minimize the impact. MikeL @ 6:36 PM

MikeL, how could someone who starts out "partly responsible for the genesis and orchestration of a war [he] believe[s], at least initially, to be justified...", proceed to become "a conductor of the war [with] responsibility [that] would weigh heavily [on him]?" Well, his belief in the justice of the war may so increase that it obligates him to assume a more central role, or he may simply forget to resign, and become a "conductor" by default.

Posted by: alabama | Jul 24 2005 2:23 utc | 34

But if neither of these, what then? Simply this: while he no longer believes in the war, he happily uses it as a pretext to silence his critics. Because he hates his critics more than he hates his "enemy". Such a Rumsfeld is never wrong, takes no responsibility for mistakes occurring on his watch, and punishes, without remorse, anyone who might presume to fault the wisdom or competence of his leadership. In other words, MikeL, he's just another self-serving, power-hungry narcissist who can't, and won't, accept criticism. A trivial fellow, finally, and a truly unworthy person--hardly an object, at least, for anyone's admiration. And in fact he's losing this war: those who serve him will either have to die for him (but is he really worth dying for?), or kill him off to survive (but is he really worth anyone's jail-time?).

Posted by: alabama | Jul 24 2005 2:24 utc | 35

If I were a murdering torturing bastard would I like proof of this displayed? No, probably not.

But I am not, and I would hope the world gets less torture and killing if these things are exposed.

(Now I am truly going to sleep)

Posted by: A swedish kind of death | Jul 24 2005 2:38 utc | 36

A swedish kind of death, it's a fact that murdering torturing bastatrds have always liked proof of this displayed. it makes them feel strong, it makes them happy--provided they control the time, place, medium and quality of the display. Unhappy the sadist who lacks a public to wow--sadism having an extraordinary component of exhibitionism (Freud's "Three Essays" provides us some leads on this particular psychic structure). And this, of course, is the governing obsession of Rumsfeld's WSJ editorial: he can't control the publicity surrounding his sadism. And he well understands that the internet is a principal source of his misery. Sadistic control freaks can't abide the blogosphere--those in government, to begin with, but those in the MSM as well.

Posted by: alabama | Jul 24 2005 2:52 utc | 37

In reply to small cokes contention that suppressing the photos or getting poets to interpret them is a choice:
Do you realise how offensive it is to lump all muslims into one insensitive monlith that can only react in unison and with violence to the abuse of their children?
If the photos were released along with indictments to all the crims and genuine apologies to the victims, the chances are most people around the world including those from the areas currently suffering the worst of Leopold 2's rape and pillaging would accept that justice has been done. They would move on and look for more positive things to occupy them. Sure a minority that can't cope with the humiliation of victimisation may lash out. That happens everywhere including in the US which I seem to remember had an incredible problem with lynch mobs in the not too distant past. The perceived solution to lynching in the US was to install adequate, public law enforcement so that people could have faith that justice would be done and wouldn't take the law into their own hands. I'm sure that although many of those lynched in the US were bad'uns I'm equally sure that most were "individuals with NO direct culpability in the offenses". If the way to stop vigilanteeism in the US is to reply with justice why would it be any different anywhere else.

But the subtext to your question really is that you know that there will be no justice for the victims of Abu Graib so you suggest taking the easy way out and pretend it didn't happen. All in the name of the innocent of course, never to protect the guilty, that's just "an unfortunate byproduct of pragmatism". Trouble is no one seriously believes that and it has been the most favoured excuse for letting the powerful off since people first entrusted their destiny to others.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 24 2005 2:52 utc | 38

alabama has put it briefly but well - their most human & terrible of crimes is that they never ever take responsibility. point

that they parade their shamelessness for all to see is unforgiveable. i doubt if the arab world will ever forgive. nor will the oppressed who may have desired the 'dream' of america but who now see it for what it really is - a brutal & brutally inconsistent master who would have us all as slaves - house slaves or field slaves. the difference for the master is negligable

in a world where this ugly form of chaos rules - the decisive factor in humanty is to take responsibility for your actions & this the empire cannot & will not do

they are slime of the fifth rank - their heinous acts based in nothing more substantial than a desire to dominate by any means available at every level

they would deny the intemporality of being & reduce that being to a form & functions but they move us away always from the terrible knowledge of skin on skin

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 24 2005 2:52 utc | 39

the terrible doubleside of the internet provides more than ample proof of our complicity in their actions no matter how vehemently we oppose them

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 24 2005 2:55 utc | 40

MIKEL, truly imagine putting yourself in the minds of people who purposely lie at the initiation of shit, and then continue to steal, cheat, lie, forge and fuck throughout that shit, and then claim that exposing their shit would only encourage their prosecuters.

Bernie Ebbers was a simple scaliwag con man. These people are ripping off the conscience of several millenia of evolution and throwing us on their dung heap. To excuse them is to join them.


Posted by: | Jul 24 2005 3:02 utc | 41

An excellent point, remembereringgiap: why would anyone want to study those images....?

Posted by: alabama | Jul 24 2005 3:04 utc | 42

Do you ever try to see things from the other side's perspective?

when they're deceitful, traitorous, conspiratorial, lying, torture-loving, law-breaker, mongering, possibly genocidal war criminals?

Usually not.

Posted by: bcf | Jul 24 2005 3:05 utc | 43

great post, Debs. I like your solution...release the photos with the indictments.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 24 2005 3:24 utc | 44

When we have need to study those qualities in ourselves, bcf (in order to subdue them, shall we say) then seeing things from the perspective of "deceitful, traitorous, conspiratorial, lying, torture-loving, law-breaker, mongering, possibly genocidal war criminals" is certainly the way to proceed. This would be one reason among many, I suppose, for the enduring fascination of Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth... My quarrel with Rumsfeld (if I have one) is the mincing pettiness and abiding triviality of his performance as compared to those of your truly virile villains....

Posted by: alabama | Jul 24 2005 3:33 utc | 45

Hmm oh well it appears I'm not the only one in a total fouler today. I'm not sure if it was this story or the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes formerly known as "The Brazilian' or 'a terrorist suspect' that set me up to be pissed at some fool's limp wristed attempt at excusing torture, but along with a few others in here; pissed I am.
Some days just turn out to be those "I'm angry and I'm not going to take it anymore days" MikeL probably feels a bit put upon but he can console himself with the fact that my neighbour whose father parked his truck in front of my garage this morning probably copped worse!

I guess it's because as rgiap states we're all complicit in this evil that some days it gets too much.

And yeah I'm sure we're mostly aware that guilt and rage are not the best way to deal with things and generally work on a solution to a problem beats sounding off but it never hurts to vent the spleen every now and then.

Just don't be coming around MoA with half assed attempts to justify the unjustifiable on one of those days unless you like poking a rabid old dog with a stick. lol

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 24 2005 3:34 utc | 46

I'm with faux and Debs, release the photos for evidence under articles of impeachment, then war crimes trials. Keep repeating; impeachment, impeachment, impeachment.

Posted by: jdp | Jul 24 2005 3:35 utc | 47

Great book -- The Nuremberg Interviews.

US Army shrink Leon Goldensohn interviewed all the top Nazi leaders in their cells during the year or so of their war crimes trial.

Not one of them felt guilty of anything; they were all puzzled and amazed at even being arrested:

I didn't hear; I didn't know.
Every side did bad things.
The staff officers did that.
The enlisted men did that.
Not in my sector. Never.
The people wanted the war. Not me.
Carrying out orders does not make you guilty of anything.
Loyalty was everything. Hitler was not available if you were not loyal.

When shown films and photos of the camps and the work of the SS death squads in Russia, these world conquerors were as outraged and sickened as the judges were.

Whoever did this must be punished severely, they said.

Debs is right. Release the photos. How else will we rejoin the world?

How else will we ever climb down from where we are?

Posted by: Antifa | Jul 24 2005 3:59 utc | 48

This is complicated. What's even worse than this horror of sadism is the peep show going on around it with people doing nothing but salivating in anticipation of the next round of abuse. The lack of action against this shame of humanity is the real prurient behavior.
The perpetrators are sick sadists so their behavior is to be expected, But the world at large is supposed to be socially conscious to some extent. This worries me.

The excuse around the concentration camps in WWII and the lack of action were attributed to not knowing the full extent of the behavior. So now we do, and look. What in the world is stopping the people?

I'm with Debs. Indictments should accompany this, or some tangible move in that direction. Otherwise it seems like a useless freak show, repeated and repeated for some perverse pleasure.

Posted by: jm | Jul 24 2005 4:02 utc | 49

Yes, re the qoute from Powell above about seeing how our Democracy handles this ... that statement was noted and many did wait and watch ... and all the subsequent actions of denial, excuses, evasions, deciets, coverups and banal justifications along with the patheticly trivial punishments awarded to only the 'foot soldiers', reservists all, with no commanders, or Intel, let alone leadership figures being held accountable has surely shown how our Democracy works ... the world has waited and judged us and found us wanting.

In the meantime the state terrorism continues unabated with ever more revelations leaking out to the worlds public.

We have become a sick, taudry parody of a Latin American military dictatorship ... though one armed with nukes and the might of a superpower... with global reach and an undeniable hunger for consumption ... full of hypocricy and hollow righteousness.

Posted by: Outraged | Jul 24 2005 4:12 utc | 50

@ Did - yes, that is the subtext, part of it. In the short run, and I'm not feeling much more optimistic about the long. Billmon's suggestion would be a start. fauxreal too. But we all know that's not going to happen. So we know the real options are cruielly limited - Sophie's choice.

If you understood me to categorize Muslims as a single body whose only repertoire is violence, I can only apologize for poor communication skills. It was not my meaning at all. I did not actually mention Islam. And while anger may be a spiritually violent emotion, "a wave of anger" should not be understood as "a wave of physical violence," if that was a point of confusion.

So even with limited options, still we try not to let the opponent set the terms of the struggle. In this case, I hoped to suggest that instead of simply reacting to Rumsfeld's obvious lawlessness, we try to define our choices based on our own ends.

If we are apppalled at the available options, we can try to discover or create new options. Or we can refuse to participate by doing nothing. But in the moment, choices must be made.

Will you choose one child to save from the ovens, thus condemning the other to death, or refuse to make a choice and see both die? Which child? Is this pragmatism? I don't know. The problem of the evil that offers such choices is that every option makes us complicit.

The consensus of this thread seems to be that releasing the photos is the preferred coursse, and they persuade me. No one on this thread needs photos to understand the hideous proportions of the war and our warlords. As alabama noted, many of us probably won't look. Maybe pictures of atrocities will help change the world for a day or a decade or longer.

Justice and a rule of law would be far better, Did, as you say.

Posted by: small coke | Jul 24 2005 4:28 utc | 51

MikeL said "Imagine what such news/photos do in the heart/mind of a Muslim/Arab. It's like gas on a fire you're trying desperately to put out."

Imagine what it does to *my* heart and mind. My tax dollars are paying for this war, torture included. The ideals of my country have been destroyed, probably for the rest of my lifetime. Why are we doing this to ourselves and to the world?

Posted by: DeborahT | Jul 24 2005 4:43 utc | 52

has just been trained at the New York Times and understands that his buddies have a point of view that we must all accept as part of the rainbow coalition. Judith Miller has a point of view you know. She doesn't see her self as an evil source that has contributed to a disaster that is killing tnes of thousands and reducing millions to the state of nature. Why just talk to Judith and you will see she is a rational person who has undoubtedly signed a birthday card or two in her day with "best wishes" and meant it.

Sure, he is a horses (horses's) ass, but, amusingly enough he is irking "liberals" and "progressives" by using the "liberal" and "progressive" party line of ersatz moral relativity. He has the brilliant insight that the true believers are defensive and uses that to come up with justifications for cover ups that just happen to identify their self interest, the needs of the nation, the needs of mankind, and the orders of the dvine. Convenient. Darmouth educated?

Posted by: razor | Jul 24 2005 4:49 utc | 53

@small coke As I said above in reference to MikeL's posting not yours, I'm in a foul fettle today which of course doesn't excuse my posts but perhaps explains them a little.

I am saddened to hear that you feel powerless to force change on those that engendered this abuse. I'm not sure that you're correct. There HAS to be point in any society where the people say No More! Yes it is easier to do when people are hungry or homeless but it's not impossible to do when their anger isn't purely about their own situation.

I suspect one of the reasons many of us are losing our rag on this issue is that without Billmon's post this little item probably would have slipped past us. In other words what's going on here? Why have the media once again reverted to lapdogs of the powerful?
After we've finished venting our spleen the next thing we need to do is try and make sure that this latest little refusal of Rumsfeld to accede to the will of the courts is made an issue of.

If one were a conspiracy theorist, which I'm not, I refuse to give the sad little malformed personalities that fight for the right to oppress us, the tag of omnipotence, one could imagine that the 'noise' about Koran abuse and gitmo and Newsweek was just a 'softening up' process to ensure even the most recalcitrant of the media toed the line on this scandal.

From what happened with the first photos we already know that unless the voters of America get to see pictures of Arab boys being butt fucked by the fearless warriors for freedom as they eat their wheaties, they will simply refuse to believe it. Even then the Limbaughs and lgf's will try and claim that the pictures Rummy didn't want you to see are forgeries. For most that won't ring true but the wing-nut brigade will grasp that little straw for dear life. The mainstream media will be hard pressed to take that option though because why would the US govt tie up so much resources on protecting forgeries?

There won't be support for publicity from Congress either. They fold like an origami butterfly at thought of losing any pork .
That means you and me more especially those people who live in the US need to fight tooth and nail to ensure people know that BushCo is trying to suppress these images. It can be done. DSM showed that although that was done with the contrivance of MikeL's 'other side' which can't be counted on here.

Drip drip Drip like water on stone. This is probably not the only blog you contribute to so make sure that all the places you frequent in the blogsphere hear about this. Similarly local media outlets need to be asked what they are doing with this story. Of course a campaign needs to be well aimed as well as well subscribed but since marx gets flung around here occasionally a little Mao never hurt; "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jul 24 2005 6:45 utc | 54

B is correct. If the Mob really believed God spoke through them, 'onward Christian soldiers', then they'd demand full disclosure and public trial for Abu Ghraib and the other Iraq evils.
You can't claim to promote Freedom with an "F", and then cover up tortures, disappearings, rape and murder, already more than Saddam ever did.

They did not, and they do not. Instead, they seek to block all legal action, and get legal opinions that the Mob can take any actions it choses as Supreme Leader, and then surreptitiously out CIA operatives who reveal these mechanations, and demand $40,000M more right after they get their demand for $80,000M until October, by 100-0.

A Dutch friend of mine called me LD on 9/11, her voice barely controlled, clearly weeping. "Can you believe this incredible disaster in NYC?"
To which I responded, "It looks like a bad Bruce Willis movie to me." To which she screamed and hissed, "You ... cold ... bastard!" To which I replied, "Darling, this is just the beginning. The Saints come marching in, Glory Halleluah! Neo's'll take over our government, and kill 100 darkies for every one who died in the WTC, then Great Satan will do a little jig in Crawford."

Which ... they have, and ... he did.

Keep up a constant pressure. We no longer have the marchers, we're being zomed by malls and TV. We no longer have the votes, it's a one-party system now, with two flavors. Red Army or Blue Army, they both march under a Pentangle banner.
The Senate voted 100-0 to keep the war going.
They will do so again. The media has already forgotten Karl Rove and Valerie Plame, and Abu Ghraib is just last years' American Idol winner.
We are seeing nothing from the streets of Iraq,
and our pundits say the economy is going great!

The War of the Worlds has begun.

It's not love, it's Crest white strips!

Posted by: Frank Omelek | Jul 24 2005 7:10 utc | 55

small coke writes: Perhaps the question should be what will public exposure accomplish?

I can answer that.

It's a serious answer, too— but it won't sound like it.

It will provide comedians with more raw material to compose dark jokes at the expense of the Cheney administration. At this point, comedy is about the only non-violent civil disobedience that offers any hope of provoking a positive change in American government policy. If our war criminals in power are ever to be brought to justice, it will only be after the majority of people in the U.S. sober up from their long binge of licking Cheney's Bufo alvarius and get serious about being Americans again. The only way to reach those people is with comedy.

When the "Where's Spark?" pictures made the rounds, everybody was utterly horrified. For a couple weeks. Then the comedians went to work. Support for the war criminals dropped considerably.

Release the video. Everyone will be horrified all over again, but the comedians will know what to do. America needs its comedians now more than ever before.

Posted by: s9 | Jul 24 2005 7:11 utc | 56

I don't think you guys really get it.
The Reds won. The Blues lost. It's over.
It doesn't matter anyway, it's history.
This isn't America, it's RNC Theme Park.
Get over it. Get a job. Pay your taxes.
Spill blood for our Chairman's HAL 401(k).
That's about it. Love it, or move to Iran.

Posted by: Frank Omelek | Jul 24 2005 7:32 utc | 57

Weird stuff Frank Omelek,

I find that bu$hCo supporters have a great deal of compassion as evidenced in letters">">letters of condolences for Spot who was executed.

After reading Spot and Barney's page, it took 3 tissues!! Now I can see to type!! Losing a pet is a terrible thing. We just had to put our beloved Buddy the beagle down, he was only 3, and was doing his thing of running and jumping with his friend Belle. One evening he jumped onto the love seat, and fell backwards and landed on his back. As the evening went on he got progressively worse and by morning, he was totally paralyzed. I stayed with him while he went to sleep so his last memory would be that in the loving arms of someone who loved him and will miss him everyday of my life. My condolences to you all and to anyone who has gone through this. God bless America!

very strange, the photos have been retouched and appear to give halos to Dear Leader.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 24 2005 7:57 utc | 58

What s9 said.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape | Jul 24 2005 9:27 utc | 59

Discussions and arguments are by and large useless when those responsible for the situation refuse to rebut or even acknowledge their role in creating them.
It's further a useless gesture when you finally realize that those same individuals don't care what anyone outside their sphere thinks. If anybody feels that ANYONE in this administration gives a damn about what we think, you're probably as far beyond reality as they.
In ten years, Bush will be comfortably clearing that last bit of brush from his ranch, or possibly still trying to milk a horse; Cheney will be somewhere out of the country enjoying life with a wad of money from Halliburton, Rumsfeld will be in a retirement community for wealthy Republicans, most assuredly not in America; Rice will be playing piano on her plantation; there'll be similar perks for the others. And they'll all get together at some off shore resort(or maybe in Argentina with the other old boys) to talk about the good old days, the days they ruled America.
They'll laugh about the huge deficit and how it doesn't affect them. They'll laugh at the ease with which they screwed the American Public. They'll think back and laugh at the impotent attempts when Democrats tried to stop them. They might hurl a thoughtless and thoroughly insincere "Thank You" at us, but mostly, they'll just laugh and enjoy life at our expense.
And what about us? How many of us will be laughing? Laughing at $10.00 minimum per gallon gas; at wages that haven't appreciably risen above inflation; at atrocious utility bills; at an education system that leaves most children behind, not just the minorities or the disadvantaged; at the lack of Health Care Facilities for impoverished Baby-Boomers; at empty and rusted factories and businesses that have moved to China and Korea, that make the exodus of the 70s look lame in comparison; at no longer having any semblance of a middle class while the old middle class tries to blame the old Democrats; at unemployment only exceeded by the First Great Depression of the 30s; and especially they'll laugh at the way the Public was taken in by their manipulation of the Religious Right.
I can imagine a heavily religious if not totally Theocratic America ruled inquisition style by various religious sects. Baptists controlling most of the south; Mormons the West, Protestants the Midwest and Catholics the Northeast; all answerable to one rotating overlord such as Robertson or Dobson or Falwell.
I could go on but it's frustratingly depressing.
And since many of you won't be around to appreciate what Bush has done for you and your children, you should thank them now by your continued apathy.
Sadly, the rest of the world sees something in this and is right now making efforts to distance themselves from America and their dependence of her.
We were the once rightfully proud custodians of this world. That's changed now, all because of greed basically; but mainly shortsightedness and pandemic apathy on our part.
When Bush was asked a while ago what he thought the future would think of him, his reply was basically, "It won't matter, we'll all be dead".
But how you get to 'dead' still matters to me and some others.
Short of a major catastrophe in the lives of the current Administration, I feel that they will indeed live as I've stated. But I also feel that we can change the way I think we'll end up. Hell, we might even change the way they end up!
Since this diatribe started invoking the terms discussions and arguments, I invite them, pro and con, provided Bilmon allows the space.
I'm not a pessimist by nature, I'm a realist. A pessimist will give up and accept what he thinks is inevitable. Examples are Evangelicals.
A realist knows things can be changed. Some of us intend to change things.
Thanks to Bilmon for providing this forum to allow me to state what are my opinions.

Posted by: Father Tyme | Jul 24 2005 14:00 utc | 60

After reading Spot and Barney's page, it took 3 tissues!! Now I can see to type!! Losing a pet is a terrible thing.

Reminds me of Gordon Gekko's line in Wall Street about the WASPs: Love animals; hate people.

Posted by: Billmon | Jul 24 2005 18:28 utc | 61

And the last vestage of comedic truth, for this administration -- has run dry as a dog bone with the fortunes of that naked joke himself, Dennis Miller. Bordello of Blood indeed.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 24 2005 18:58 utc | 62

Then again, maybe Richard Perle could work up a Jackie Vernon routine.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 24 2005 19:15 utc | 63


Problem is what role comedy plays, as exposure of truth, or ironic detachment.

The fact is that laughter-according to Bergson, the restoration of life from its conventional hardening -has long become the conventions' weapon against uncomprehended life, against the traces of something natural that has not been quite domesticated.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 24 2005 19:50 utc | 64

We could use a bill hicks. But no matter how much leno makes fun of bush, this comedy only too often confirms the power of self-mockery--a luxury only enjoyed among powerful people.

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 24 2005 19:52 utc | 65

The thing that gets me is MikeL saying this legislator thinking this is a just war, all things considered.

--what were all those things considered? The way the war was made part of the mid-term elections?

--the way people were attacked who differed with the Bush Junta? The lies about the anthrax attacks, trying to tie them to Iraq?

yes, the diff. b/t red and blue is a matter of degree, not substance, at the level of Congress.

And razor, where do you get the line that liberals and progressives have the stance of "ersatz moral relativity?" According to whom...Ann Coulter? What is false about a balance of powers, whether they are biz, govt, etc. etc? What is ersatz about the understanding that a middle class makes democracy possible, and that it's really not a good response to a so-called WOT to tell people to go shopping and send the poor kids off to die?

I find more "moral relativity" among the Republican talking heads and abortion clinic bombers than any liberal I know. ymmv...

The Bush junta is going down. That's my gut feeling. They are being taken out, and we're all just spectators in this power play.

Rove/Plame/maybe Bolton...Libby...who knows where else it goes with the forgeries.

Rumsfield, Miller, Sanchez, because of Abu Ghraib, and Bush, too, I hope and pray, by trying to arm twist Congress to let him torture because he's the head cheerleader, dammit, and he earned the right to shit on people.

I don't know what will get Cheney, although, who knows, he may have a fatal heart attack...his ticker has always been an issue...

Florence in the Renaissance comes to mind.

Who will be put in place until the next elections, is what I wonder...and how long it will take to bring down the Junta...and will they hit back with such violence that even after they're gone, it will take even longer than we now can imagine to get past their reign of terror.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jul 24 2005 20:44 utc | 66

Fauxreal has Named It:

their reign of terror

And in this era of "globalization", they're going global w/it. (In buildup to Invasion of Iran...but I'll post what I've dug up on that another time - unless they're Impeached in time. If not, we may never get back to the relatively halcyon days of 2000.)

Posted by: jj | Jul 24 2005 20:53 utc | 67

Just a quick drive-by from me so I can feel I've banged my head in frustration with the best of 'em...

My take on MikeL's unfortunate first comment on this thread was that he probably didn't phrase his hypothetical question very well. Rather than excusing the continuing atrocities and cover-ups by attributing endearing human foibles to those responsible (directly and indirectly), I'd like to think his actual question was the same response I get from just about everybody when I am apalled and outraged at the latest abomination that filters (directly and indirectly) through the gaps in the Pentagon-controlled news services. That question (which I am also tired of hearing... as it is also excuses nothing) is:

"Well, what did you expect?"

The answer is that I expect better. I hold the unpopular and apparently unrealistic attitude that leadership should be held to a higher standard than the public-at-large. I am of the opinion that when elected and appointed officials get away with high crimes, it encourages the plebes to emulate them. I believe their jobs are cushy enough as it is, and that treating them with kid gloves is a disservice to both the offices they hold and the people they represent... and that this disservice is cumulative; affecting future generations of human beings. I dream of a an imaginary day when the highest offices in the United States and every nation are undesirable to hold, so that only the truly dedicated, responsible and qualified apply to hold them. But that is only what I expect... I am not one of the obscenely rich and I have always had to clean up my own messes. Rich kids do not.

Many years ago I gave a lot of thought to the concept of democracy, genuine democracy and not simply what passes for it in these parts. At that time, I determined that three requisite conditions must be present before anything "democratic" can happen. Unlike the majority of my ideas, I have seen no reason to alter or amend this one. Those conditions are:

1. A free and unfettered press.
2. A sober and educated population.
3. A fully transparent and accountable leadership.

The United States, which is farther than ever from meeting a single one of those criteria, has no business talking about democracy, much less trying to export it. Perhaps the blogosphere has made some headway into addressing the first of those three conditions, but we are still a long, long way from being the great democratic experience we so proudly declare we are to the rest of the world.

And excusing leaders on the grounds that they are acting in their understandably limited and human interests puts us no closer to the goal line. I reject your argument, MikeL, and I expect a lot better.

As for s9's observations about comedy...

In principle, comedy (and all art) has the potential to be subservise. When the state becomes monstrous and evil, subversion is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, comedy has failed to live up to its potential and, in the cases of Leno and Dennis Miller, it is yet another propaganda arm of the state. It is a knife that cuts two ways. Robin Williams following in the footsteps od Bob Hope and doing a USO show to contribute to the dehumanization of the "enemy" is not, in my opinion, a productive use of the art form. The majority of comics have become, in my opinion, no different than anyone else who churns out worthless corporate art. They are sellouts in the most charitable of interpretations. Many of them are simply state-sanctioned enablers and propagandists.

I don't disagree with you that they have the potential to do much good, but so far I am not laughing.

Posted by: Monolycus | Jul 24 2005 21:20 utc | 68

Grrr. "subservise" translates to "subversive" in Typonese for those of you keeping score at home.

Posted by: Monolycus | Jul 24 2005 21:24 utc | 69

Monolycus, you're posing a rather severe "either/or"in your 5:24 PM post, one that could apply to any or all of us, comic or otherwise: eitherwe're "subversive," or we're "sell-outs" and "enablers". Is this what you really believe (and you wouldn't be alone if you do)?.... Or are you upholding a particular standard for comedians; more particularly, for popular comedians; more particularly still, for rich, popular comedians; and most particularly of all, for rich, popular comedians who also hope to be treated with respect by opponents of the war?

Posted by: alabama | Jul 24 2005 22:06 utc | 70


I think that this is a worthwhile discussion, but I do want to note that I find it a bit odd that the topic of comedy has sprouted from a debate about the merits of releasing photographs from Abu Ghraib. There's probably something deeper about human nature to be said about that, too.

I thought that my comments were a bit more nuanced than the either/or situation that you outlined, but I'm happy to clarify. I stated that comedy, like all art, has the potential to be subversive, and I, as a card-carrying malcontent, am most gratified when it is. However, when comedy is not subversive (that is to say when it is not designed to communicate a message which might not otherwise be socially or politically acceptable)... what is it? What compels people to pay attention to it? If it does not deliberately say something, then it unintentionally says something else (If there were no message at all, it fails to be comedic or artistic... it's just there to skew the daily noise-to-signal ratio).

A professional comedian, one who earns their livelihood by crafting jokes, should know this. If they fail to employ comedy as a means of communication then the message of their "art" becomes: "Pay attention to me and give me money." This puts their product squarely in the realm of what we call "corporate art". In those cases, I believe the noun "sell-out" is one of the nicer labels that can be applied to them. The "sell-outs" concern me only insofar as they (intentionally or otherwise) promote capitalist values that cause people to internalize the desire to gain as much as they can especially and necessarily at the expense of others around them. An apt analogy for them would be cancer cells... focused exclusively on growth to the detriment of their support system.

Those comics who do effectively communicate a message with their art are definitely "enablers", but that term does not distinguish between a comic whose message I agree with and one with whom I could not be more opposed. In terms of the actual joke, there is no difference between Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Jesus' General or The Simpsons. All are over-the-top, unrealistic, batshit in their ostensible messages. The only difference is that, rather than overtly repelling people as a good satirist ought, Coulter and Limbaugh actually appeal to a good many people's baser natures. (It is possible that they are genuinely what they present to the public and I am missing the point, but I have also always thought that Machiavelli's The Prince was meant ironically.) In either case, I doubt Coulter and Limbaugh care more deeply about the message of their "entertainment product" than the fact that they are highly overpaid to keep doing it. Their satiric approach should make them "enablers" of the Left; the fact that it doesn't and they continue to keep doing the same schtick indicates that they were really "sell-outs" all along.

To answer your question regarding the degrees to which I hold this standard, my response is that I am not making such a great distinction (although it is taking more mental faculties than I possess to imagine a comedian who is both rich and genuinely progressive). I was approaching the topic from a political perspective per the discussion out of which it arose. Politically, I doubt whether a "popular" comedian cares a whit whether I respect them or not. Only commercially unsuccessful ones still feel the need for the approval of A.O.A.

The point of this is that the art of comedy presents a unique opportunity to give voice to messages that can not pass through other outlets. A comedian concerned only about commerce can always wow the lowest common denominator with nothing more than a well timed fart. But if there is a visionary out there with a genuinely progressive agenda who wants to slip under the radar and effect real social change instead of perpetuating the status quo, they have some fertile material to work with in this medium. But with few exceptions (Jon Stewart, maybe?), I do not see many innovative progressives mining this ground.

Maybe it's just harder for we on the Lefter end of things to find much in the world to laugh about. Gallows humour is not to everyone's taste.

Posted by: Monolycus | Jul 25 2005 0:46 utc | 71

"everybody knows the boat is leaking
& everybody knows that the captain lied"

marshal leonard ohen

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 25 2005 1:01 utc | 72

Mother of God.

We have swallowed Poison which is killing us.

Vomit, America, vomit!

Posted by: gylangirl | Jul 25 2005 3:31 utc | 73

On the topic of humour, I scratched around in my meagre archives and came up with this.

For what it's worth. :-)

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape | Jul 25 2005 10:22 utc | 74

I giggled. So it was kind of funny.

Posted by: A swedish kind of death | Jul 25 2005 10:50 utc | 75

Thanks, Jassa. That was a fair piece of subversion.

Posted by: Monolycus | Jul 25 2005 19:06 utc | 76

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