Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Republican Offensive

Here's Juan Cole on the Netanyahu State of the Union speech upcoming Tuesday:

There are many salient points in the Cole post--just read it. It is remarkable that the party of God-Bless-Merica would so boldly undermine an active, on-going diplomatic effort to reduce tensions in an area that could otherwise exhibit the first nuclear exchange in world history. Congress is rapidly overtaking the worst congressional historical moment in our history of exceptional history-making: among a number of worthy candidates, that would be rejecting membership in the League of Nations at the end of World War I.

Meanwhile, the criticism of "American Sniper" must be hitting a nerve at the base of the lizard brain: the gangleon that operates the slashing spiked tail of the dinosaur. Last night Mr. O'Reilly (yes, he's returned to the Dish) presented a remarkable editorial attacking "the internet" in toto because people are criticizing the movie. He particularly singled out a review on, a site I rarely visit:

I'll repost the link I posted yesterday:

This is not the review by Ms Taub which O'Reilly directly attacked. But for that matter, Mr. O'Reilly really didn't directly attack anything, except the character of Ms Taub, which he denigrated by quoting from a piece she wrote last year in which she tried to understand just what the hell the Taliban in Pakistan was thinking when they attacked a military school in the Tribal Region and killed over one hundred school children. From this premise, O'Reilly vaulted to an overall indictment of the internet (why he didn't say Internet Tubes I don't know), invoking as his conclusion the historical fact that Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia both used state news sources to affect their population's understanding of world events. Mr. O'Reilly didn't bother to mention that the New Yorker had published last year a major piece of reporting on the facts concerning this particular U.S. Army sniper, his service, his fairly bizarre post-service civilian career as a self-marketer, and his even more bizarre murder at the hands of a fellow serviceman. The New Yorker is of course one of the most impeccable of news sources, vetting their work to the maximum. As far as I've read anywhere, no one has denied the New Yorker story. Here's the link Mr. O'Reilly didn't bother to furnish, easily available on Google (took me ten seconds):

The criticism of the movie American Sniper concerns various omissions about the historical Chris Kyle which Clint Eastwood makes in the process of the portrayal of his freshly fictional doppelganger. This is of course the basic nature of almost every movie proporting to offer historical material. What is remarkable is not that it happens in American Sniper, but that the movie is in many quarters being described as "the truth about the war in Iraq," or about what it means to be a soldier in the Iraq theatre.

Yesterday on NPR an ex-Marine was quoted as saying that the movie shows that when soldiers return the civilians around them (such as their wives and children) shouldn't expect all roses and rainbows. Indeed not. The question is not this, but how to understand it. Are we to take the soldiers who have experienced pure hell, and four tours of it, as the final arbiters of the truth about war? What truth? Mr. Kyle is quoted as saying that the Iraqis were all "savages," and that he enjoyed killing them. Is that the truth? I wonder if it's even Eastwood's truth, for all of his weird appearance for Mr. Romney at the last GOP convention, and the empty chair muddle he presented as theatre.

When Mr. Bush committed our military to the appalling Iraq adventure, it was obvious to many that it would not end in May on an aircraft carrier with the banner "Mission Accomplished" and a grand marching band. Indeed, Mr. Bush committed to our withdrawal from Iraq before he himself withdrew to Texas, and it was only left to Mr. Obama to oversee the event later on. Mr. Bush prepared the ground for ISIS. The war prepared the ground for Eddie Routh:

The Washingon Post was not cited in Mr. O'Reilly's diatribe last night. It's not "the internet." But the fact that Clint Eastwood has picked Kyle to be the Captain America of the Second Iraq War is necessarily woven into the story of Eddie Routh, American Veteran of that war. Perhaps Eastwood will have to undertake a sequel, if his concerns are historical. It certainly doesn't take a propagandist to appreciate the many and deep ironies which abound.

This week in Iran people rioted because of the Charlie Hebdo cover responding to the massacre of its editors. The cover depicted Muhammed weeping over the murders. The people in Iran rioted because the Prophet is never supposed to be depicted at all, at least according to one dominant strain of the Muslim religion. This is a Homer Simpson moment. Another is Mr. O'Reilly declaiming against media being used as propaganda, or (for that matter), in naming his bit of nightly entertainment "The No Spin Zone."

It has been a commonplace since at least The Red Badge of Courage that there are different and to some degree contradictory levels which must all be comprehended and appreciated if we are to understand the human activity of war, and it's fundamental insanity. People in war can indeed be heroic, brave, even trustworthy and reverent. And they can exhibit all these revered human qualities in service to causes which cannot be respected or revered. If being courageous and brave was all there was to it, we could embark on wars willy-nilly, in the service of producing a generation of great warriors. It seemed to work for Sparta. Those were much simpler times, and actually, it didn't work for Sparta either. When Mr. Bush embarked on Iraq, a lot of people said he'd totally forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. Those critics were absolutely right. American Sniper proves them right. Eddie Routh's story is more obvious, that's all. There's nothing new to any of it. The Hurt Locker, another movie not mentioned by Mr. O'Reilly last night, gets it right too.

The authoritarians among us have only one real rule. Shut up. It doesn't take an internet. It was already there in print. Meanwhile, as the innocent amongst us focus on the alleged defamation of a brave American Hero by the left wing internet (never mind the plain facts of the story, Chris Kyle is now Chris Kyle (c) and don't you forget it), our congressional "representatives" are fashioning a strategy aimed at demolishing our President and State Department's active and ongoing efforts to deflect an on-coming war with Iran--a war which none of them will fight, and which will produce should it occur an even more gigantic tragedy than the one still ongoing in Iraq. What cheap thrills for O'Reilly and his band of cheerleaders.

Here's one last bit of information:

The deeper story of the movie American Sniper is its function in the manipulation of the American voter's perceptions. This is what Mr. O'Reilly was very concerned that you not notice, in his diatribe last night. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

One more link. This is a serious, responsible review of American Sniper, the movie:

Our American propensity for substituting comfortable myth for uncomfortable reality is hardly new. It is deeply, perhaps ultimately fatally unfortunate that we now have whole mainstream networks devoted to serving the myths, propping them up, never even allowing the smallest question to filter in from somewhere outside the bubble. Perhaps this was the true motivation for Mr. O'Reilly's diatribe the other night: somehow commentary on the internet was at least bruising the bubble of Chris Kyle, American Hero. Aside from the advent of Mr. Murdoch, nothing else is very new. You want to watch something that will shake your fantasies of America? Try Barefoot Gen, parts 1 and 2. Hey it's just a cartoon, how hard can it be? No one was "really" killed. If you do watch it, I'll bet it's the first time in your life you ever really tried to imagine the truth of Hiroshima: that there was simple human life going on at the moment the atomic bomb went off that August day. If we are to be adults, we must eventually face the facts, whether it's Chris Kyle or Hiroshima. Too bad Mr. O'Reilly isn't interested in helping the long hard process.

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