Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When your Enemies

Are your Leaders.

One of the great, underlying themes of Orwell’s “1984” is how the State subjugates and perverts that last safe-house of liberty -- memory. How Outer Party members -- like Republican Party members -- are relentless reminded that the Past is not a fixed object. That “backwards looking” is dangerous and unpatriotic, in our case chiefly because that Past is full of the “evidence” of the “failures” and “lies” of the Dear Leader.

So we certainly don’t want people snooping around there.

We want them instead looking at an Invented Past, because then, when the Past has become the manufactured product of a political machine, it is magically transformed into a bottomless wingnut treasure-house stocked with an infinity of outrages and betrayals and wily enemies always just beyond our reach, and yet against whom we are always on the verge of Complete Victory.

A Past full of grievances and Righteous Christian Fury and predicates for war to keep the Hate that powers the Party strong forever.

Because in that world, the Leader has become the Enemy, and within the bubble of the Party the Past is nothing more or less than whatever the fuck Big Brother or Little Dubya says it is.

So when Dubya says something patently ridiculous like this:

Bush says Iraq war was worth it


President Bush says he has no doubts about launching the unpopular war in Iraq despite the "high cost in lives and treasure," arguing that retreat now would embolden Iran and provide al-Qaida with money for weapons of mass destruction to attack the United States.

Bush is to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on Wednesday with a speech at the Pentagon. Excerpts of his address were released Tuesday night by the White House.

At least 3,990 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003. It has cost taxpayers about $500 billion and estimates of the final tab run far higher. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglizt and Harvard University public finance expert Linda Bilmes have estimated the eventual cost at $3 trillion when all the expenses, including long-term care for veterans, are calculated.

It just of hangs in the air.

Meaningless, quacking noises slurred for the thousandth time from the mouth of a liar and halfwit.

I mean, at long last who the fuck is he even talking to? Who is there left on the face of the Earth who has not already made up their mind?

And then I remember, yet again, that this liar and halfwit is the Leader of the Free World.

That this is a liar and halfwit who is still fervently worshiped as the Greatest Fucking Christian American Hero Evah by millions of my fellow citizens.

Millions of loyal Outer Party members.


And when Dick Cheney (who, after five years of war, still has to sneak into the heart of the Fabulous Iraqi Catastrophe he created) announces this (emphasis added):

Cheney again links Iraq invasion to 9/11 attacks as bombing victims are buried

By Hannah Allam and Laith Hammoudi, McClatchy NewspapersTue Mar 18, 5:20 PM ET

BAGHDAD — Amid tears and wails, mourners in the southern city of Najaf on Tuesday began burying victims from a suicide bombing that killed nearly 50 worshipers and injured dozens of others just before evening prayers Monday in nearby Karbala .

In Baghdad , a long-anticipated Iraqi national reconciliation conference began with great fanfare, then quickly dissolved into the usual sectarian and political stalemates that have marred several similar gatherings in recent years.

But Vice President Dick Cheney gave an upbeat view of conditions in Iraq as he concluded his unannounced trip to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion. Cheney also defended the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as part of the struggle against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

This month, an exhaustive Pentagon-sponsored review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents captured during the 2003 U.S. invasion found no evidence that Saddam's regime had any operational links with the al Qaida terrorist network.

But Cheney, who spent the night at a sprawling U.S. base in the northern town of Balad, told soldiers they were defending future generations of Americans from a global terror threat.

"This long-term struggle became urgent on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 . That day we clearly saw that dangers can gather far from our own shores and find us right there at home," said Cheney, who was accompanied by his wife, Lynne, and their daughter, Elizabeth.

It also just hangs in the air.

Another in such a long, long, long litany of ridiculous, bare-faced, treasonous lies by a man who, by all rights, should be rotting away the rest of his miserable life in federal prison wearing an orange jump suit with “War Criminal” stenciled across the back.

But instead is free to stride across the world stage and lie his ass off because he and Dubya have one more duty to perform.

Like the vile defenders of slavery, the final act to their hideous legacy is to reshape the world insofar as it is possible into a place where their unspeakable crimes cannot be undone.

Like the despicable authors of Jim Crow, their final aim is to rip the body politic so violently, and to grind their feculent, blood-drunk authoritarian insanity into our wounds so deeply, that America will never be rid of festering disease they leave behind.

Using torture, murder, economic catastrophe, the loss of whole cities and wars to sheer incompetence, the beatification of Teh Stupid, pardons, signing statements, illegal domestic spying, secret prisons, radical deregulation, the Feudalization of America, and on and on and on, the final transgression of the Bush/Cheney junta is this:
To try and make the rest of crimes of the last seven years seem normal.

In the most nakedly Orwellian way imaginable, they are seeking to smother any conception that it might be possible to have a President who is not a lazy and proudly ignorant sadist. A President who can actually be bothered to pronounce big words correctly and can actually be bothered to understand big ideas at all.

A President who doesn’t smirk and snicker at the catastrophes he has unleashed, as if Katrina or Iraq were some particularly mischievous fart jokes.

To kill any memory of a time when a Vice President wasn’t simply an evil, rapacious beast. Was something other than a genuine monster, left completely unsupervised to run murderously amok, lie at will, ignore the rule of law, and then order up Presidential Pardons for any of his traitorous underlings who got caught gutting the Constitution as causally as you or I might order Chinese take-out.

All of which provides (if you are looking at it from this angle) the most dramatic backdrop I could possibly imagine for Senator Obama’s speech.

Because today the President and Vice President each told horrendous lies.

They told them casually and for the hundredth time, and no one in the media freaked out, or fainted, or ran into the bowels of their building screaming “Stop The Presses!”

Because after seven long years of crime after crime and travesty after travesty, having leaders who despise our nation -- leaders who openly hate We The People and have done more than any foreign despot or terrorist to destroy America as we know it -- has become the New and Terrible Normal.

And so while many people have said many nice things about Barack Obama’s speech today –- for example, comparing it glowingly to speeches by Lincoln, Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt -- I would add one more adjective.


It was, on its face, a brilliant speech about race in America. Perhaps the brilliant speech about race in America.

However as much as we are a nation crippled by centuries of racial injustice and tragedy, we are also a nation traumatized by seven years of vicious, deliberate and continual battering at the hands of evil men.

We are also a nation that has lost cities, soldiers, treasure and our good name at the hands of those evil men.

We are also a nation that, after seven years of bombardment not from foreign shores but from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, has become dazed and exhausted and not a little despairing by the shrieking, 24/7/365 barrage of Neocon bullshit, threats, open lust for endless war and open contempt for our laws and way of life.

And onto that stage strode the Junior Senator from Illinois, who proceeded to remind us for 37 minutes that it is still possible to have leaders who speak plain, painful truths with honesty and eloquence.

Who reminded us with every word and gesture that we deserve so much better, so much finer, than the likes of Bush and Cheney.

That when the shitstorms come, good leaders do not drag the world into the sewer with them by playing on the people's fears, but instead rise to the meet the moment and rally the people to greatness by appealing to their goodness.

That although, as Churchill said,

“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering”

Churchill also said
“But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope.
I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’"

So while the national press could not be bothered to mention today that the President and Vice President lied to us, yet again, on matters of life and death, for 37 minutes all across the nation, just as in the days of old -- around radios and teevees in offices and cabs and cafeterias and gyms -- Americans listened and even wept as the Junior Senator from Illinois stood against the tide of filth and incompetence and fear that Bush and Cheney and their legions so desperately want us to believe is all we can ever have and reminded us of how much better we can be if we just demand better of ourselves and our leaders.

For 37 minutes the Junior Senator from Illinois looked America’s race problems dead in the eye, and at the same time managed to remind a beleaguered and exhausted nation that Hope Rocks.

And Smart is Beautiful.

And that, my friends, was something to see.


Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

I would vote for Obama [or HRC, for that matter] to ward off four more years of wars, fascist judicial appointments, Constitution-shredding, and elite looting and fiscal malfeasance.

However, neither of the Democrats being offered to me are liberal enough for my tastes; I see little reason to prefer one to the other.

The adulation of Obama baffles me. I feel like the only deaf mouse in Hamelin.

For Miss Haruhi's sake, folks, he's Barack Obama, not Barack Spaghetti Monster! :)

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

"Hope Rocks"

I once read an interpretation of the myth of Pandora where Hope, rather than being the only kindly thing in Pandora's Box, was actually the most cruel tool of the jealous and petty gods of the Greek myths--because it caused people to keep themselves alive, and suffer the other plagues of the Box, rather than kill themselves and escape them.

I will not kill myself, as the Proprietor of the next life is said to disapprove of such things, but I have learned to put no hope in this beautiful hell that is the natural Universe.

But then, it's not my real home anyway.

Malacandra said...

Well, as someone who does hail from the natural universe (or multiverses, depending on who you ask), while Barack Obama was not my first choice, I find him more than sufficiently refreshing and inspiring.

Interestingly, when I had my first opportunity to see him speak in person, at the California Democratic Convention, I left wondering "where's the beef". For all his talk about "turning the page", I wanted to hear how we were going to get healthcare for all, re-establish a middle class, and get some checks and balances back into our gummint. And I heard none of that. Which was a disappointment. I'd had my eye on Obama since 2003, and expected great things from him, so it was a let-down.

John Edwards, by contrast, not only had a positive vision, but had sophisticated policy positions that he could render clear and comprehensible in plain language.

Hillary came off far better, in person, than expected... considering that I am truly convinced that she'd push back the progressive movement for a decade and undo every good thing that came out of Howard Dean's DNC.

In any case, Obama has been getting under my skin, and today's speech was extraordinary, and a reminder of what real leadership looks like, and showed by contrast just how desperately arid and parched the landscape of our discourse is.

It'd be great to have a president who is not only NOT a national embarrassment, but who also might be able to not only perceive, but understand "nuance" and complexity... and see things in more than just black and white... and more than even shades of gray... but actually see the full spectrum.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

About "leadership": As a wise man once said, "don't follow leaders/watch the parking meters".

Unknown said...

It was something to see. I have the YouTube of the entire speech and I have watched it three times. Very moving post..thank you.

res ipsa loquitur said...

I come here for The Big Picture (and the snacks) and you always deliver.

People will fight to the death not to grow, because growth is change and change is painful. Hence the furious spinning I'm hearing from the likes of the noxious Mssrs. Scarborough and Carlson as I sip coffee in the dark.

"For all we know, he went to that church for political reasons."

"Why did he hang around this guy for twenty years?"

"Did the speech go far enough?"

The media lagged public opinion on the war, on the economy, and now, on BHO. Sure, they mouth words about this being a "change election," but they simply will not accept how badly the public wants real change (not simply a change in the occupant of the White House), because it scares the crap out of them. When you've been spinning like a top for the benefit of the Inner Party just so you can maintain your slimy little Outer Party sinecure, it's scary to think that someone could come along and blow it to bits ... even if it might save a republic.

Churchill (and now BHO) asks you to change, and it seems much less scary. He appeals to the part of you not wholly given over to cynicism (which you're relieved to know still exists) and makes clear that he's going to be working his ass off right alongside you. So you roll up your sleeves and say, "When do we start?"

I heard the Con Law professor BHO once was in the speech. I liked Con Law as I did the speech. It was forward looking, but more importantly it was respectful of its audience. He knows that at our core we get it ... and that we're capable of the hard work of change.

Just as an aside .... Stiglitz's $3 trillion estimate has more impact when you break it down by household share, which will be $25,000.

I re-read 1984 every few years, most recently in the summer of 2006. I always cry at the end.

Anonymous said...

Bravissimo, Driftglass.

I did not start out backing Barack Obama; I was "smart enuf" to be an Edwards gal.

But, guess what???? Edwards could never pierce the steel-clad YAWN with which the media ignored him. Soooo, it no longer matters a rat's ass that I started with Edwards ... or that the media sucks donkey dong ... or ANYTHING.

Love the one you're with, sweets. And after reading the BO speech transcript -- and nodding to Driftglass' Counter Anniversary post on our 5th Year of the Clusterfuck (cuz that is what it really was), I'm ready to pick up the baseball bats. And GET CRACKIN'. No more whining.

Anonymoustache said...

You are a magnificent wordsmith endowed with a superlative mind. You get 'it'---great post.
For those who still like to bring up the idea that Obama is weak on 'content'---what are you looking for? What advanced specifics have any of the other candidates provided that Obama hasn't---either thru speeches or thru his website etc? The 'he's a talker short on specifics' is a media-shithead talking point. Obama showed me yesterday, more clearly than ever, what we need from a leader. He took a powder-keg issue straight-on, and he did a phenomenal job with it. he had the balls to lay it out like it is, and challenged the nation to take his speech in its entirety. Leaders need to show that they 'get it'---that they truly understand what the problems are and how to address them; that they have the guts to tell it to you like it is; that they share your urgency to remedy the wrongs....anyway, what Drifty said. It was a landmark speech for its brutal honesty, and that was what struck me above all. Not nearly as eloquent as Drifty, I had the same core reaction:
Pardon the plug.

Malacandra said...

ivory bill woodpecker said...
About "leadership": As a wise man once said, "don't follow leaders/watch the parking meters".

That's the same wise man who said "You've got to serve somebody".

The guy who wrote:
"He's the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You've got a heart of stone"

That being the case, we may be saying the same thing after all: I listen to people when they're making sense. When lots of other people are doing that as well, at the same time... and are motivated to work together in a spirit of cooperation to make things better, I call that leadership.

But when someone on the podium or the radio isn't making sense to me... or is trying to sell us snake oil, I don't.

Maybe these "wisdom" or "leadership" things, whether for Bob Dylan or Barack Obama, represent transient phenomena, and not an innate constant attribute of the person involved.

Which is why I can hear Obama one time, and go "Meh", and another time go "Yes!". And revel in Dylan's works of genius, but leave his tiresome pedantic screeds in the cutout bin.

Still, it's remarkable when anyone EVER shows the capacity to see far enough towards the horizon to get me excited about their insights and observations. And when politicians do, they usually end up losing by wide margins, if they aren't taken down by a hostile media first. And that can still happen.

In the meantime, I'm hopeful about Barack Obama. Because Faux News is throwing everything they had at him - in this instance, guilt by association - and he used ju-jitsu to turn it into a teachable moment.

WereBear said...

I, too, started out with Edwards, because I liked what he said he would do.

Likewise, I am now supporting Obama, for the same reason.

I don't understand the people who ask Obama to get specific. We had specific, with Kerry, and eyes glazing over as he remembered yet another arcane point to consider. He was obviously intelligent and had given his positions a great deal of study and thought.

Which wasn't enough.

The fact that Obama sells hope is not a detriment, in my opinion, because he's not selling snake oil. He does believe it, and he's right: unless enough people pull together to overturn the present state of affairs, nothing will get done.

I totally agree with that.

Malacandra said...

I just want to clarify that I'm talking about a specific speech I saw Obama give in April of '07, and I was explaining why, back then, I preferred Edwards.

I'm not having a problem with him now. And especially given the alternatives, I'd be more than thrilled to see him elected.

dguzman said...

Brilliant post. I'm no Obama supporter, but I had to admire his ability to speak in something other than cliches and bullshit, unlike most other politicians; not to mention the fact that he can speak the language, unlike the current president.

Anonymous said...

Hat Tipped To Drifty.

Bring on the nomination.

Distributorcap said...


the air is really dirth from bush and cheney and i am afraid even obama or clinton cannot clear it

but the band plays on as millions of people would STILL vote for mccain over these 2 despite his unending cheerleading for this tragedy in iraq.

why is it just a blogging community and some progressive people in america see what damage has been wrought -- why does virtually no one in the broad media stand up and do a Howard Beale -- some tiptoe, but none do

and that would surely generate ratings

great post

Anonymous said...

Drifty, you are a brilliant writer, both inspiring and daunting to a piker like myself. Peace, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Malacandra, I'm witcha :-)

Maybe these "wisdom" or "leadership" things, whether for Bob Dylan or Barack Obama, represent transient phenomena, and not an innate constant attribute of the person involved. Which is why I can hear Obama one time, and go "Meh", and another time go "Yes!".

I have not found myself endeared to any one candidate, yet. Edwards is a good man - taking care of family matters more than ever. HRC has taken on campaign tactics that make it impossible to vote for her without holding my nose and wretching into the ballot box. nader = no.way.

Obama seemed like sucha greenhorn, and to some extent this was truly a bullseye on his back you could see from outterspace. I say this soley in pragmatic form. Tally the years each candy-date has been around the block and you get numbers, whoopideedoodah.

An inexperienced Obama is still leagues ahead of a bumbling halfwit guv from podunk Crawford.

Now, the 'inexperience' thing is becoming thinner and thinner as Obama cuts his chops, hits straight to the matter and tackles the issues one after another, now honing his words with quantum precision. And hearing anyone say "gosh he's so articulate fer a N*ggr" makes my skin crawl and blood boil. The man is frikkin more ARTICULATE than 99.999999% of the population at large.

But politics is not an exact science for me, it's blood sport, and I find that while I become fascinated with a good speaker/player, I lose sight of the game at large.

(link is safe - clean, fun, interesting ;-)

tokyoterri said...


Anonymous said...

I thought cost was only measured in "lives and treasure" in games like World of Warcraft, but apparently POTUS thinks differently.

Mauigirl said...

Great post, and I agree completely. Churchill kept England going on the strength of his courage and his words, and that is something Obama could do as well. It is time we had someone who can understand both sides, who can see nuances and shades of gray so that we no longer pit one side against the other and try to find a better way.

beth said...

Bravo and thanks. You're the only blogger who (I think) is really angry enough. I come to read your words so's to not feel crazy. Cheney, Bush, the horror. Also recommending a great piece I read today that encapsulated the horror I feel -- it captures the cold soul-lessness of the NeoCon glorious-world-vision;

Professional Left Podcast #602

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