Monday, March 12, 2007

Must-Read Reading


"I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."

--Chuck Hagel, December 21, 2005, on his opposition to renewing the Patriot Act



Before we get to the important recent political articles you might have missed that are making news, you should peruse this brilliant take-down of the Oprah Myth on Salon entitled Oprah's Ugly Secret from Peter Birkenhead; it encapsulates everything that I've detested about the insufferable daytime talk show queen and her Bono-like attempts to make the world safe for upscale consumerism. Choice cut: "One of Oprah's signature gimmicks has been giving stuff away to her audience ("giving" here means announcing the passing of stuff from corporate sponsors to audience members), most notably in a popular segment called "My Favorite Things." These bits have revealed an Oprah who truly revels in consumer culture, and who can seem astonishingly oblivious to the way most people live and what they can afford. She seems to celebrate every event and milestone with extravagant stuff, indeed to not know how to celebrate without it."
Read full article here

Regular readers of WardensWorld will not be surprised to discover that we have settled on a presidential candidate for '08 and his name is Chuck Hagel, the Republican Senator from Nebraska. Now all we need is for Hagel to formally announce his plans. That decision could come as early as today, and it may reveal his intention to mount an Independent run for president outside of the two major parties. The man has the one quality that can't be focus-tested or polled or mass-marketed -- a little thing called integrity. Read this terrific profile from Esquire.com by Charles P. Pierce and see if you're not on the bandwagon. The guy really detests Dubya as much as the rest of us, and has the backbone to go against the misguided dictates of his own party, which has been hijacked by nefarious neocons like Karl Rove for far too long. I would not bet against this guy, a true war hero with the medals to prove it. And you get the feeling that if Rove & Co. tried to "Swift Boat" this guy like they did Kerry, Hagel would be waiting for them the very next day outside their offices, ready to go mano-a-mano, and what happened next wouldn't be pretty for the War Party. Choice cut: "He is developing, almost on the fly and without perceptible calculation, a vocabulary and a syntax through which to express the catastrophe of what followed after. Rough, and the furthest thing from glib, he's developing a voice that seems to be coming from somewhere else, distant and immediate all at once."
Read in full here

Nobody in Washington journalism has the government sources of Seymour Hersh, and he puts them to good use once again in a New Yorker piece on the Bush regime's efforts to rev up for war in Iran entitled The Redirection. Not content to break one entire country into pieces beyond repair, it seems unhinged neocons like Elliott Abrams are once again shortsightedly focusing on setting the entire Middle East region ablaze, and are currently forming shaky, volatile alliances across religious and political lines, to the point where you get the uneasy feeling that everything these guys touch will turn from bad to worse. It's a typical head spinner from Hersh, such that when you reach the end of the article you will be more confused and alarmed than when you began reading it: "Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours."
Article in full here

Speaking of head-shaking, the Counterpunch.org issue of March 9/11 brings us a typically incisive interview with the one and only Noam Chomsky, bane of conservative ideologues everywhere. Under the heading "War, Neoliberalism and the 21st Century," Sameer Dossani chats with Chomsky about his new book, Failed States, subtitled The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.

Also worth checking out is this Chomsky article from the Guardian UK, here reprinted on Truthout, which makes the simple but undeniable point that, yes, the war in Iraq and the greater Middle East is, was, has been and always will be all about the oil, stupid: Read here

Justin Raimondo, perhaps my favorite current political writer, brings us this gem about Chuck Hagel, called Hagel Against the War Party. Raimondo has been using his column on antiwar.com to rail against the war from the right, as he remains steadfastly opposed to this disastrous war of empire which goes against everything traditional conservatives have stood for. He expects Hagel to make an announcement regarding his candidacy as early as today, and Raimondo typically cuts to the heart of what a Hagel campaign will signify as set against the backdrop of Washington politics: "Hagel insists he's not an "antiwar" candidate, but this is precisely what I mean about the effective stereotyping of all opposition to the neocons' foreign policy: critiques of the war not steeped in either pacifism or blame-America-first leftism are simply inconceivable. What Hagel doesn't seem to understand, quite yet, is that his campaign will do much to erase the red/blue paradigm at a time when it is doing the most damage possible. But that's okay: historic figures almost never comprehend the impact or larger meaning of their actions, except in retrospect. That's why we have political analysts and pundits."

If Raimondo is my first go-to guy for a spirited opposition columnist, then William Rivers Pitt, more of a left-wing firebrand in the mold of Hunter Thompson and, even more fittingly, Thomas Paine -- two righteous pamphleteers with whom he has much in common -- is my second choice for inspired polemical. You can find his work on truthout.org, where he writes twice or thrice a week. From his most recent column on the conviction of Scooter Libby, one of the Iraq invasion's mendacious architects, last week: "The lies promulgated by Mr. Libby led directly to the deaths of 3,185 American soldiers and the wounding of between 47,000 and 53,000 more soldiers. This amounts to between a third and a fourth of the entire active combat force of the United States military. The lies promulgated by Mr. Libby led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the maiming of thousands more, and the creation of a sectarian civil war in that nation whose effects will be generational in impact." What sets Pitt apart is a level of sheer outrage you won't usually find in the corporately beholden mainstream press. That, and his colonial sounding name, which seems to come straight from the pages of American Revolutionary War history.
William Rivers Pitt archive

A book that puts the fate of the Middle East into greater historical perspective is Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong, The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East. Lewis chronicles the mindset behind the region's fall from a leading scientific civilization to one that has consistently lagged the West for centuries. At one point the Middle East was at the frontier of human knowledge, only to become what is today "a poor and ignorant backwater" dominated by shabby tyrannies. The problem simplified is that after the rise of Islam, few in the East looked to Europe and the West for new developments, content in the belief that religion contained the answer for all of life's questions. Lewis relates how travel to the West was a rarity among Middle Easterners, while Europeans continued to trek East out of curiosity and a search for knowledge. A typical example is the invention of the clock and other time-keeping machinery. The Middle East in short had no interest in either using or developing such external devices, instead relying on more natural methods to keep time. The overarching point Lewis makes is that developments in the West were of no interest to the region unless they could be used to a narrow military or political advantage. The best parts of the book were the excerpts from the journals and diaries of contemporaries. A short book (200 pages) well worth reading for perspective on the current crisis.
Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong

Somehow the Lewis book led me in the direction of another ancient civilization, this one very much in the news of late: The Spartans. I am halfway through Paul Cartledge's masterful World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece -- just before the Persians invade the Greek mainland -- and was all set to check out the new movie 300, but for the uniformly atrocious reviews it was receiving. So I will pass on that movie, which really looks more like a video game than a movie you might actually learn something from, and instead hunt down the 1962 movie called The 300 Spartans. The clash between the invading Persians and the undermanned Spartans has been called the most important battle in the history of mankind, and lest you judge that sentiment a smidgen too hyperbolic (some still stubbornly consider the 1983 U.S. invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada more significant), consider the consequences had the Greeks not prevailed in 480BC against King Xerxes & company in the landmark Battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartan warriors and 700 Thespian volunteers held off an invading force estimated by modern historians to be around 100,000 men minimum to as many as 300,000 maximum. We might all be eating falafels instead of souvlakis in downtown Astoria but for the heroism of the proud Spartans, who successfully bought time for the Athenian navy to assemble the massive fleet (380 ships) that would ultimately repel the invaders in the decisive Battle of Salamis. But the best part of the Spartan story is finding out little tidbits like how the warriors would perform calisthenics and then meticulously comb their long hair before a battle, unsettling their enemies in the process, as well as the great flashes of Laconic wit uttered memorably on the battlefield. For instance, when Xerxes forcefully commanded the Spartans to lay down their arms, the Spartan leader Leonidas simply responded: "Come take them..." Man, here it is 2,500 years later and I still get chills just reading that line!
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Finally, we here at WardensWorld would be remiss (negligent, derelict) if we didn't note the passing of one of our leading progressive voices. In late January of this year, the irreplaceable
Molly Ivins lost her long battle with cancer, one of the few foes she took on and didn't prevail against. In an age where the silly pun-making of a Maureen Dowd passes for political commentary, it is worth looking back and saluting a true warrior in the battle against the reactionary conservatism that has reached its unfortunate pinnacle in the power grabbing of the Bush Crime Family. We lost one of the good ones just when we needed it most.

And it's also worth noting that it's having people like Molly Ivins on your side of the battle line that lets you know that somehow you're on the side of common decency and justice for the underdog, while the other side is populated by shrill, high-pitched shrews like Anne Coulter and Michelle Malkin. She saw through the current resident of the White House as the conniving, lying fratboy he always was, and now the rest of the nation has slowly come around to her way of thinking, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly poor approval ratings garnered by Shrub, as she was fond of calling Bush Junior. One of a long line of great Texas populists in the mold of folks like Jim Hightower and Bill Moyers, and fierce right up to the end, as you can see by her very
last column, which urged concerned citizens to stand up against yet another troop surge. Her final words are worth repeating in full, and should serve as inspiration for progressives and free thinkers everywhere:

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"

Amen to that, Molly. We know that wherever you are, someone's surely getting an earful right about now. We're very much the better for having known you.

5 comments:

Vincent said...

So is Hagel the guy ? I read the Newsweek piece a couple of weeks ago and it was pretty positive. But he isnt even running yet. But any smart man has no desire to be president unlike all the vultures who have already lined up for there little bit of fame. I say no to rudy and mccain just because of there actions in 2004 where they shilled for bush like a bunch of whores and i'm not sure what obama is about and hillary is a no just because at this point we need to get away from anyone named bush or clinton If she wins it will be 30 years of being ruled by someone named bush or clinton (1980-2012). We have become a country ruled by powerful families YUCK !!!

Wardens World said...

Good points, vincent. How about an independent or cross-party ticket of Hagel and Jim Webb, two Vietnam veterans who oppose this war. You heard it here first. Although Webb is unlikely because he's only been in Washington a few months. At least he can run as outsiders.

Wardens World said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimithegreek said...

bro warden , i'm with you on Hagel. I called it on 1/28/07 after I heard his speech on utube.
his veep may be none other than colin powell as heard on radio this eve!!

Johnny Starr said...

LEONIDAS FOR PRESIDENT!!! WARDEN YOU MAY BE EATING FALAFELS IN ASTORIA SOON ENOUGH. THE WAR IS NOT OVER. THE PERSIANS WILL BE BACK WITH A NUKE IN THEIR BACK POCKET. WE NEED A FEW SPARTANS TO TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS INSTEAD OF PENCIL NECK BLOGGERS WHO ARE AFRAID TO GET THE JOB DONE.