February 09, 2007

I Solemnly Pledge to Do My Part: I Believe...

I'm very grateful for your appreciation of my never-faltering efforts to save the tattered remains of the sanity enjoyed by those few of us who struggle, against all odds, to maintain a fragile connection to reality. In Wonderland, where the meaning of words changes at least once daily and often becomes the exact opposite of what we had once thought those words to signify, this task demands courage and tenacity. Nonetheless, I have braved the mind-assaulting campaign of Giuliani-Gingrich, Henninger and Noonan (for which effort, we still await the bottle of single malt scotch; we note only that our patience may be extraordinary, but it is not infinite; besides, we happen to be thirsty at the moment), as well as the often entirely unintelligible and condescendingly ignorant slurs offered by one Jonathan Chait, which slurs are offered as a weapon to delegitimize all those who were correct about the Iraq catastrophe, while he was spectacularly wrong.

And I even tangled with Max Boot. We must never forget Boot, for he might punish us severely. Since he appears to enjoy that sort of thing quite a lot, it would be unwise to provoke him.

Now I turn my gritty determination to Amir Taheri, and a column entitled, "General Petraeus' Real Problem: The True Threat is Back in Washington." Of course, I hear you exclaim. We know that. We understand that the United States can never be defeated by anyone, anywhere. We are incapable of losing to the forces of history and culture that we believe are completely irrelevant to our actions. We are America! We transform reality at the most elemental level, if we only want to enough. (Oh, yes: that's Kristol's line, another service I provided to you.)

Perhaps it would be best only to focus on a few aspects of Taheri's remarks. Our resources are not unlimited. Consider this:
The first [of Petraeus' "advantages over his predecessors"] is his reassuringly deep understanding of the Iraqis, their sensibilities and their complexities. Having picked up a smattering of Arabic over his long tenures in Iraq, Petraeus seems to have also developed a genuine sympathy for Iraqis.
The logic would thus appear to mean that Petraeus' predecessors did not have "a genuine sympathy for Iraqis." Interesting. That might explain why we've murdered more than half a million of them, and destroyed their country so that anything resembling a normal life is impossible for an incomprehensibly huge number of people. Still, this is good news: it's always important to have "sympathy" for those we're trying to "improve" by means of bombs and bullets. We can do no less for "our little brown brothers." Our beneficence is unequaled.

And Petraeus has "a smattering of Arabic." Impressive! When the majority of Iraqis tell him that we should get the hell out of their country and stop slaughtering them, he may actually know what they're saying. This, too, is good news. Not that he or our government will follow such advice, of course. After all, we know what's good for them much better than they possibly can, given their inherent savagery and our innate superiority. Still, at least he can have a conversation.

I suppose we need to look at this paragraph:
There is little doubt that many elements within America's political elite want the United States to fail, for a variety of motives. At least some of those elements would do all they can, short of being charged with unpatriotic behavior, to ensure that the outcome of the war in Iraq is seen as a defeat for the United States - even if it is not so in reality.
I do so wish that the advocates of a notably brutal imperialism could invent at least one new attack on those who dare to disagree. Listen up, Taheri: we failed before this catastrophe began -- for the simple reason that we never knew what we were doing. In addition, our invasion and occupation are fundamentally and irrevocably immoral.

Given that this misadventure constitutes a huge war crime, and that every day brings numerous additional war crimes, we have failed. We certainly deserve to lose.

As always in these cases, the heart of Taheri's argument is the following (and this is hardly a new argument, but it's useful to appreciate these dynamics from time time, as well as to note how they have remained unchanged for the last several years):
The one factor that can ensure Petraeus' success is the perception that the United States is united in its commitment to the new Iraq that America has helped create from the ruins of the Saddamite tyranny.
The reference to "the new Iraq that America has helped create" is, I admit, fairly stunning to me. This is a "new Iraq" where large numbers of people -- innocent Iraqis, Americans, and occasionally some genuine terrorists -- are slaughtered every single day. If comparable numbers of people were killed in the United States with similar frequency, we would have long been under nationwide martial law, and all vestiges of "normal" life would have been almost completely eradicated. This is, of course, functionally where Iraq as a country is now.

But look at the earlier phrase: "the perception that the United States is united in its commitment..." Once more, we see that facts -- Iraq's own history, its own culture, the reality of the forces that we have unleashed -- are irrelevant. This is Kristol and all the other hawks recycled one more time: facts don't matter in the least. Huge and growing mounds of corpses don't matter. All that matters is that we are "united in [our] commitment." And we don't even have to actually be "united" in this way: we just have to create "the perception" that we are "united."

This is one of the keys to the psychology of those who advocate wars of aggression, mass killing, torture, indefinite detention, and all the other horrors of the "new Iraq" we have created. Reality is put at an increasing distance. Multiple levels of distortion are put in place precisely to pull us farther and farther back from the living, and dying, reality of the monstrous crimes that we commit every hour of every day. All that matters is how we view it -- and not even that. All that matters is how others perceive how we view it. And this is "[t]he one factor that can ensure Petraeus' success..."

I think this approach would easily fit into a text that describes unusually severe mental disorders. It hardly qualifies as a healthy, decent, sane or remotely effective method by which to conduct foreign policy, especially when one is prepared to murder hundreds of thousands of people to achieve one's aims.

But okay. If that's what you need, Taheri, you have my complete support. I absolutely, completely, totally believe that Petraeus and the United States will succeed in Iraq beyond our wildest fantasies. It will be Paradise on Earth, of a kind never before witnessed in all of mankind's history. It will be delicious chocolate, great art, fantastic sex, the world's cutest kittens and puppies, and Everything Else That Is Good, True and Beautiful all rolled into one.

I believe it. I want it to be true, with every atom of my being. I will repeat these thoughts at least once a minute for the next year, at a minimum.

That should do it. Now you need to do it, too. C'mon. C'mon. Do you want us to lose? Of course you don't. Say you believe.

Say it.

Say it again.

One more time.

And keep saying it, over and over and over. Remember: you don't actually have to believe it yourself. You just have to convince others that you believe it. Alright, then. You may go now, but just until next time. This crucial lesson will clearly need to be taught repeatedly in the dangerous days ahead. Before I leave myself, I must acknowledge one grievous failing of mine. If I had genuinely understood what was required of me, my heartfelt and enthusiastic cooperation would have been forthcoming long before now. I humbly and sincerely apologize. I am unforgivably slow sometimes.

But now, I believe. I believe, I believe...