Friday, August 12, 2016
We are Very Powerful
Chasing along behind Donald Trump's latest absurdity is a fool's errand. You can see the illustration of this truth by watching the news pretty much every day. In the can these days we keep a copy of Evan Wright's "Generation Kill." It's a little remindful of Michael Herr's "Dispatches." Possibly if George Bush had read "Dispatches" he might have considered more seriously the gawdawful idea of invading Iraq in 2003. Instead, a whole new generation of embedded journalists get the horrible opportunity to write the whole story yet again. Last time jungle and dumbassery. This time, desert, etc. As I've said here before, we already knew why invading Iraq was a terribly bad idea. The closest to reality the architects of the Iraq War, Part II got was when Paul Wolfowitz and a mortar came fairly close to occupying the same space while he was visiting Iraq a couple of years in. No doubt he had some spare underwear.
So it is that when Donald Trump tries to blame the existence of ISIS on the Obama administration (of which Mrs. Clinton was certainly a part), it's little short of an eye-roller, and no less an eye-roller than Mr. Bush's idea of invading Iraq and overthrowing its government and dispossessing its military and governing class was in the goddam first place. And of course that didn't in the least stop the good ole USA, and Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the damn idea too, so maybe in that distant sense she does have some responsibility for ISIS, and the logic for voting for the war resolution was not so distant from the logic of attacking Iraq because some expat Saudis living in Afganistan crashed US airliners into the World Trade Centers and killed some 3,000 innocent people, some muslims among them. The "logic" here meaning a short hand marker for "domestic political consumption," or see, e.g., "Truman Lost China."
But here's a little of what Mr. Evan Wright reports, and there's a whole book more full of the same story, day after grinding day. You can smell the blood and taste the dust.
Doc Bryan's examination of the boy has revealed that each of the four holes in the boy's body is an entry wound, meaning four bullets zoomed around inside his slender stomach and chest cavity, ripping apart his organs. Now the bullets are lodged somewhere inside. If the kid doesn't get medevaced, he's going to die in a few hours.
Fick and the battalion surgeon, Navy Lieutenant Alex Aubin, a twenty-nine year old fresh out of Annapolis and the Naval medical school in Bethesda, Maryland, arrives with bad news. Ferrando has denied their request to medevac the boy...
"I'm going to go ask the battalion commander again," Aubin says.
Colbert appears, climbing over the berm. He sees the mother, the kid, the brother with the bloody leg, other members of the family who have now gathered nearby. He seems to reel back for an instant, then rights himself... Colbert knees down over the kid, right next to his mother, and starts crying. He struggles to compose himself. "What can I do here?" he asks.
"Apparently fucking nothing," Doc Bryan says.
Aubin returns, shaking his head. "No, we can't medevac him." ... (Generation Kill, pps. 172-73)
You might want to read Juan Cole's piece on the seven reasons why we shouldn't have intervened in the Syrian Civil War, an idea Mrs. Clinton still suggests from time to time is a good one. And unlike George Bush, who was only "around" during Vietnam, I'd imagine Mrs. Clinton actually remembers at least watching that unfold on TV. I sure remember it!
The interventionist temptation, muted since the Iraq imbroglio, is now returning. Sec. Clinton’s team are already talking about taking steps to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from office as soon as they get into the White House. An excellent and principled NYT columnist called the non-intervention in Syria President Obama’s worst mistake.
I understand the impulse. Who can watch the carnage in Syria and not wish for Someone to Do Something? But I beg to differ with regard to US intervention. We forget now how idealistic the rhetoric around the US intervention in Vietnam was. Johnson wanted to save a whole society from the Communist yoke. Our idealist rhetoric can blind us to the destruction we do (the US probably killed 1 to 2 million Vietnamese peasants, recalling Tacitus’ (d. after 117 CE) remark about the Pax Romana, “and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”–atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.)
Killing people is indeed a kind of power. Every life destroyed changes history, and thus the world. The little bedouin boy who died in the invasion of 2003 might have become a scientist who solved the zika virus, or a loving father tending his family and his desert herd of goats. It's possible that his brother, who lost his leg but survived, later blew himself up in some market in Baghdad, or in Damascus. Better a martyr than a one-legged beggar perhaps? Look, we are so powerful we can create a despair deeper than a galactic black hole, a despair so deep and wide that it can even today possibly induce us to put a blustering lunatic in charge of our nuclear arsenal. Oh great, the men and women who survived the Iraq War and stayed in will find themselves led by a posturing military school dropout who never served and has the attention span of a gnat.
Gravity is inexorable. Go near the black hole and it will seduce you closer still. We will avoid Trump, if we do, by electing Mrs. Clinton.