Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Topic: Making Use of History

The Anniversary of D-Day Sixty Years Ago

George Bush is off to France for the anniversary celebrations.

And the times they are a changin' - as the man says.

From l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of The Tocqueville Connection see BUSH TELLS FRENCH READERS: CHIRAC'S MY FRIEND
Received Wednesday, 2 June 2004 19:24:00 GMT

Say what?
PARIS, June 2 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush has reached out to France in an interview in which he calls President Jacques Chirac his "friend" and seeks to downplay the bitter divide over his decision to invade Iraq as an amicable debate.

The comments, to be published Thursday in the French magazine Paris Match, come just ahead of Bush's in France this weekend for commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, where Chirac will host an array of world leaders.

"I have never been angry with the French. France has long been an ally," Bush said in the interview, translated into French and made available to AFP ahead of publication.

On Iraq, he said, "I made a tough decision and not everybody agreed with that decision ... (but) friends don't always have to agree. Jacques told me clearly. He didn't believe that the use of force was necessary. We argued as friends."

When asked whether he would invite the French president to his ranch in his home state of Texas -- a privilege accorded to few foreign leaders -- Bush told Paris Match with a laugh: "If he wants to come to see some cows, he's welcome. He can come and see the cows."
Yeah, right.

See U.S. bitter about French stance on war
Harsh words lead to strained relationship with France
Warren P. Strobel , Knight Ridder, Published: Thursday, April 24, 2003

A little over a year ago?
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has warned France that it will pay a price for having led the effort to thwart the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the latest sign that hard feelings generated in the run-up to the war won't dissipate quickly.

The warnings came after a White House review this week of U.S. policy toward France, and they continue a trend by President Bush of punishing nations that cross him, even allies such as Canada and Germany.

American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to provide many specifics of how relations with France, an ally of the United States since the Revolutionary War, will change.

They said Wednesday that no final decisions had been made and that much would depend on whether French President Jacques Chirac proved cooperative in the rebuilding of postwar Iraq.
Washington and Paris are in the middle of another tussle over the United Nations' role in Iraq, including how quickly to revoke sanctions, whether to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors and the world body's role in forming a post-Saddam Hussein government.

On Tuesday, France moved partway toward the U.S. position that sanctions on Iraq should be lifted immediately, proposing that most sanctions be suspended for now.

Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed appreciation for the change in a telephone call Wednesday with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, according to French news reports.

But in a television interview Tuesday night on "The Charlie Rose Show" on PBS, Powell responded simply "yes" when asked if there were consequences for France for opposing the United States.

"We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this," Powell said.
And this from those days:
American anger at France over its refusal to support war in Iraq reached new heights yesterday when President George Bush took a direct swipe at President Chirac.

"I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon," was Mr Bush's tart comment in an interview with NBC News, when asked about Jacques Chirac - a reference to the informal summits Mr Bush likes to hold with favored foreign leaders at his cherished retreat in Crawford, Texas. Many in his administration - by implication, himself among them - had the impression "that the French position was anti-American", the President said.

... In Paris, one French official was told by a White House official that "I have instructions to tell you our relations have been degraded", while senior Bush aides met on Monday to decide on the nature of the punishment.

The likely sanctions will include steps to marginalize France within Nato, and efforts to downgrade or even bar French participation in US- sponsored international meetings.
What happened?

And now this from the AFP?
Bush's wife, Laura, contributed to the US charm offensive on France by giving an interview to state television network France 2 in which she also stressed that the two countries were "friends".

"Yes, we had our differences over the war in Iraq. But we have also worked together, we have worked together in Afghanistan. I think France will be with us in the reconstruction of Iraq, to help the Iraqis build democracy, to free themselves from the oppression of Saddam Hussein," she said, according to the channel's dubbed French translation of her remarks.

"I believe, I think that we will always remain friends, that our two countries will always be allies. I hope so."

The First Lady added that she thought that French animosity towards her husband came from not knowing him well enough.

"He deeply believes that freedom for all is important. I hope people see that in him. It's a hidden aspect in his character. He has a character that Americans are proud of: a strong personality, he's tough, independent, with a love of freedom. Those are American characteristics and my husband has them. I think the French have them, too."
Perhaps. Or perhaps the animosity towards her husband come from understanding just who he really is.

Well, who is to say?

Our friend Ric in Paris offers these comments in an email just received here, under the heading Les Vaches:
Bush: 'Not all French presidents are wimps' ....

Not surprising. Mrs Bush was 'interviewed' on France-2 TV news tonight by David P, who was doing the news here, and suddenly he was there - in DC - but 24 hours ago. Mrs B is looking forward to the state din-din at the Elysee Palace tomorrow or whenever it is.

Mrs B confirmed that Jacques is George's favorite Frenchperson. She said she couldn't say so in French, and did not say that she hoped that Madame Jacques can speak English - because they will be spending some time together in the next few days, traipsing off to Normandy, to see some beaches, graves and cows.

As it is, French TV news announced but did not follow up with story about how many D-Day visitors to Normandy are already in Normandy, trying to beat the rush and the visits by heads of state this coming weekend. Apparently cows get nervous when there are too many big heads around.

For any Listers who may be intending the relive the events of Tuesday, 6. June 1944, please do not forget that the event is on a Sunday this year. Long-range weather forecasts are shaping up nicely and there may actually be real sunshine this coming Sunday, unlike for the original event.

D-Day, already in prime time on TV, goes into heavy rotation tomorrow night with the beginning of the full-length movie of the 'Longest Day.' This is not the movie version by the same name, but a film of the actual event - in color! - that will last from 6 June until the Liberation of Paris on 19 August, when the film of this other historic event will take its place. (Also in color, see it on France-2, France-3, TV5 and Arte. 'Reality' TV shows will continue to be aired as usual on TF1 and M-6.)

Monday night's preview of the 'Longest Day,' called '?t? '44,' contained the startling news that only 0.5 percent of the French were in the Resistance before D-Day. There were also many residents who were annoyed with D-Day on account of being bombed and killed. After D-Day, membership in the Resistance swelled suddenly, to one percent.

It stayed at this level until enough chewing gum, cigarettes and Coca Cola became available and the French became aware of the advantages of abandoning the Vichy regime in favor of the new invaders, who were mainly Americans (the ones who had gum and money), supported by General Monty with the British (the ones without gum or money.)

Somehow, between 6 June and 19 August, everybody in France joined the Resistance, including many former members of the Milice, past-time Gestapo informers, and some Vichy government officials, like Maurice Papon. The hapless ones were stuck in the Vel d'Hiver and left to rot.

Parisians, cranky and unpredictable as always, would not listen to reason and went ahead and liberated themselves, using any old material that was lying around. This was started by the police (who had been arresting Resistance members 24 hours before) when they decided to have a strike. They took over the Prefecture on the Ile de la Cite and began shooting at the occupiers, who shot back. Some Parisians were killed, and about 1000 memorial plaques were later pasted up all over the city.

When General De Gaulle arrived four days later, the city was pretty much liberated, except for some random shooters at the Place de la Concorde and at the Hotel de Ville. De Gaulle did not once drop his cigarette, but had a duck a couple of times, along with 500,000 other people.

About a week later he ordered the Resistance and the FFI disbanded. If they wanted to keep shooting, he said, they had to join the army. Some did and got killed on an excursion to Berlin.

Meanwhile, all sorts of camp-followers like Ernest Hemingway arrived. Old Ernie liberated the Ritz Bar, visited Sylvia Beach, and moved into the Hotel Maurice that had so recently been vacated by the other occupying forces. The sound of big band jazz was heard for the first time and bottles with drippy candles were set out in basements in the Quartier Latin, to be ready for the existentialists.

So far, it's been surprising how many French actually do remember all of this. As far as I know, nobody has said a word about it in the last 27 years. It turns out that it wasn't forgotten at all. Some people in Normandy are still complaining about getting bombed. Everybody accepts Coca Cola and chewing gum now. The most popular brand is 'Hollywood.' If that isn't a 'thanks,' I don't know what is.

To further international understanding between France and the United States, I think Mr. Bush should hang around for a week, to witness the European Elections when the French and the Germans, and everybody else except the sodden Swiss, will vote for new representatives to the European parliament. This is another way of saying 'thank you' for getting liberated, even if many of the Bush crew think that Europe may be getting a bit too big and shows it off by having continental elections.

To show that Europe isn't all that big, in France alone there are about 25 parties competing on 13 June. Some of these are anti-European parties. But May '68 hero 'Dany the Red' is the Euro manager for the Euro-Greens, and is running a trilingual campaign on behalf of candidates from the Atlantic to Russia, from the Mediterranean to the North Cape.

In France, at least, the big question is whether the Trotskyites will out-score the Communists. Jacques' conservative UMP party is trying to avoid another severe slap in the face, but really wishes the Euro-elections were happening in Australia, maybe last year. Jacques' Prime Minister has said that he will ignore any new 'slaps in the face.' It just goes to show that conservatives anywhere have a lot in common.
Ah, I wish I were there. The conservatives in power being slapped around by those who actually wish to live in a community... "Egalite, Fraternite, Liberte" and all that stuff we think is for sissies.

But yes, Daniel Cohn-Bendit is a far different man now than he was in 1968. Aren't we all?

I do recall on my trips to France seeing "Hollywood" chewing gum. In a pipe shop in Avignon I had a long talk with the owner about the name. I told him I actually lived in Hollywood. He was amused and threw in some free pipe tobacco.

Ah, crazy Americans. And crazy French.

Ah but should you find yourself in Normandy for this D-Day thing?

Also from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) ...

Received Wednesday, 2 June 2004 10:25:00 GMT

In short -
Top-selling items are copies of the famous toy cricket used by members of the US airborne divisions to identify each other after dropping behind German lines. The metal gadgets, which emit a click when squeezed, sell for between 2.5 and four euros (four to five dollars).

Other souvenirs -- some in special 60th anniversary packaging -- include model parachutists, car registration plates marked "D-Day 1944" and the whole gamut of camouflage clothes.

For the more discerning -- and wealthier -- collector, it is possible to buy genuine articles dating from the Normandy campaign, such as a piece of shrapnel for eight euros, a box of British bandages for 14, a US stretcher for 150, and a German grenade for 200.

"In general German military objects are more in demand than British or American ones," said one saleswoman, Sylvie.

A German helmet bearing insignia can go for as much as 600 euros, while recently a US helmet found covered with a crust of sea-shells in the mud of the beaches went for 240.
Ah well.

Sic transit gloria mundi ...

As for the D-Day festivities and the speechs?

This could be interesting.

See Bush warned against comparing D-Day to Iraq
Kim Willsher in Paris, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday June 2, 2004

Bush has been warned:
French officials fear George Bush will inflame anti-American sentiment in France this weekend by linking the D-Day landings with the invasion of Iraq.

Advisers close to Jacques Chirac have let it be known that any reference to Iraq during the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France on Sunday would be ill-advised and unwelcome.
Both presidents will address second world war veterans and VIPs during a service at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy.

"He'd better not go too far down the road of making a historical comparison because it's likely to backfire on him," said a source close to President Chirac.

He added that the French would not appreciate any public mention linking the events and said photographs of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisons did not sit well with the image of D-Day heroes.

Anti-US feeling has been running high in France since Paris opposed the war on Iraq last year. Activists have called for a mass demonstration in Paris on Saturday to protest at Mr Bush's arrival.
Oh yeah, from a guy who probably likes Hollywood chewing gum and thinks Laura Bush has it wrong - the French dislike Bush because they actually know they type.
Laurent Fabius, head of Mr Chirac's governing UMP party, said of Mr Bush: "He represents the exact opposite of everything we admire about America."
Well, there's a lot to unpack in what Fabius said right there.

Ah, but as Ric in Paris points out, Kim Willsher here in The Guardian is at tad confused -
Laurent Fabius, ex-minister, is a leading member of the Socialist Party in France.

Alain Juppe, another former Prime Minister, is head of the UMP party - but is awaiting court decisions about whether he is a political crook or not. He is being challenged by Nicolas Sarkozy, now Minister of Finance, for leadership of the UMP party. There will be a party meet later this year to decide who will lead the party.

Further news to come as events unfold.
The Brits are having trouble telling one frog from another? So it would seem. Kim Willsher seems to have this problem.

Ah well.

Be that as it may, the French, it seems, rather like Americans. The problem is this Bush fellow.

In my trips to France, with very few exceptions, I have been welcomed with warmth, and good spirits and lively talk by these difficult French folks. And some of them I now count among my good friends. But I, and so many others who have had the same experiences I have had, don't have Bush's particular charm, I suppose. I guess we lack his moral clarity or whatever.

But will there be protests in the streets of Paris? There all always protests in the streets of Paris. It is what the French do.

But this time?

Paris bans protests ahead of Bush's visit
Robert Graham in Paris, The Financial Times, London (UK)
Published: June 2 2004 19:14
Demonstrations have been banned in central Paris throughout this week to ensure no hostile protests are in evidence to disturb President George W. Bush's brief presence in the French capital on Saturday, where he will be dining with President Jacques Chirac.

This blanket ban cannot conceal the groundswell of French hostility to the US president and the unpopularity of his policies on Iraq and the broader Middle East.
Perhaps Ric will cover what happens in the street with next Monday evening's MetropoleParis. I suspect something will happen.

Posted by Alan at 20:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 3 June 2004 05:59 PDT home

Tuesday, 1 June 2004

Topic: Bush

Rhetorical Flourishes and Imaginary Friends

See Making Hay Out of Straw Men
Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, Tuesday, June 1, 2004; Page A21

Milbank is bothered by the same thing that bothers me in discussions with my conservative friends. It's this straw man mode of argument.

And Bush does it well. As Milbank says, it's an ancient debating technique: Caricature your opponent's argument, then knock down the straw man you created.

Here's the problem, in one example:
In a speech on May 21 mentioning the importance of integrity in government, business and the military, Bush veered into a challenge to unidentified "people" who practice moral relativism. "It may seem generous and open-minded to say that everybody, on every moral issue, is equally right," Bush said, at Louisiana State University. "But that attitude can also be an excuse for sidestepping life's most important questions."

No doubt. But who's made such arguments? Hannibal Lecter? The White House declined to name names.
Yep, I've been there. Many of us have had this thrown in our face.

Much of the idea that it might be wise to understand the root causes, justified or not, of hatred of America, of the Palestinian hatred of Sharon's tactics, or of Israel in general - all that sort of thing -- is met with being accused of granting that perhaps our enemies are NOT wholly evil, of granting perhaps they MAY have a grievance they feel deeply, justified or not, that it might be wise to address. We are told that we are really saying they're as right and justified as we are. And we are sternly reminded we are good and they are bad. No more, no less. Being generous and open-minded, as Bush puts it, is simply disregarding the facts. But who is being generous and open-minded? We just want to know what's happening and why?

The why is that they are just, well, damn it, evil.

Ah well, maybe they are just evil. All of them. Everyone of them. Even the toddlers.

Milbank notes a few more straw men. Kerry recently suggested we halt, or at least slow, oil shipments that are replenishing emergency petroleum reserves. Might help with the high prices.

And yes, Bush replied by saying we should not empty the reserves.

But Kerry didn't say that. Oh well. "The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror. We're at war."

No one said to do that. Doesn't matter. Most people will assume Kerry said it.

Then there is the issue of why we went to war in Iraq. As least Bush isn't saying it was to prevent gay marriages in Haiti. But Bush, as Milbank notes, has a really cool routine. No weapons of mass destruction like we said we had to destroy?
... Bush explains the prewar intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein had such weapons, and then presents in inarguable conclusion: "So I had a choice to make: either trust the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time."
Yes, but that wasn't exactly the choice. Milbank says the real choice was to support continued U.N. weapons inspections, or go to war.

Heck, maybe there were third or fourth options.

And on it goes. I like this one:
On May 4, Bush was discussing the war on terrorism, when he said: "Some say, 'Well, this is just a matter of law enforcement and intelligence.' No, that's not what it is." On May 10, he posited: "The natural tendency for people is to say, oh, let's lay down our arms. But you can't negotiate with these people.... Therapy won't work."

It is not clear who makes such arguments, however. All but a few lawmakers in both parties support military action against al Qaeda, and Kerry certainly has not proposed opening talks with Osama bin Laden or putting him on the couch.
Yes, Bush is having debates on psychology and the philosophy of terrorism with imaginary people who say the funniest things. But they aren't there.

Bush was, in support of the Leave No Child Behind reforms that were enacted, arguing with those who say "it's racist to test" students. Huh? No record of anyone saying that.

Milbank points out that some folks who usually like George, are calling Bush on this:
On April 30, for example, Bush was discussing Iraq when he said: "There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins ... are a different color than white can self-govern."

The columnist George Will asked who Bush was talking about, then warned of the "swamp one wanders into when trying to deflect doubts about policy by caricaturing and discrediting the doubters." There are some, including in the State Department, who are skeptical about the ability of the United States to spread democracy in the Arab world, but that is a far less sweeping argument than the one Bush knocked down.
Well, yes. I don't believe it is the position of the State Department that people of color don't get this democracy business and can't ever get it, because of their race. Hey, look who heads the State Department.

Bush is arguing with his imaginary friends again. I would guess this race and democracy counterargument to an argument no one made causes Colin Powell to bang his head against a wall, or drink heavily

But it is good theater.

Milbank also covers Bush on healthcare and on the economy, particularly outsourcing and tariffs and all the rest. Try the link and read it all. Find a wall. Drink heavily.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 1 June 2004 22:32 PDT home

Topic: The Culture

I take it all back -

You can find a full discussion of Michael Moore's new film at May 23, 2004 - 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Wins Palme D'Or Award at Cannes - and that contains snippets of reviews and links to reviews, and comments on why it was facing distribution problems, and comments from my friends Emma and Ric in France.

Disney, as reported, was blocking distribution of the film. Miramax Studios, a relatively autonomous subsidiary of Disney that produced the film with Disney money, was trying to buy the domestic distribution rights so folks here could actually see it.

Maybe I don't like Disney Studios very much, the folks who "own" the film. Maybe I harbor secret resentments against Michael Eisner, the Disney CEO, because he was an English major at Denison University ('65) and became a big shot. I was an English major at Denison ('69) and didn't. Bah.

But I made a prediction:
Bob and Harvey Weinstein (Miramax) are still tying to get Disney to agree to a price - any price. Note also Icon Productions, Mel Gibson's company, seems earlier to have tried to buy the distribution rights from Disney - but suddenly backed out (Moore says they probably got a call from the White House). That's when Miramax stepped in and tried. The plot thickens. And Disney is holding the film now - grinning. They won't budge. Disney does make sure Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson get plenty of exposure on their radio outlets. But this film isn't going anywhere near a projection booth soon.
I was wrong.

Last Friday evening Disney sold the film to Miramax.

And now it is coming to a theater near you, or maybe near you.

See Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" Finds Domestic Distributor
Gary Gentile The Associated Press, June 1, 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Michael Moore's award-winning documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" has picked up a U.S. distributor and will hit theaters June 25.

The film will be released by a partnership of Lions Gate Films, IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group, which was formed by Harvey and Bob Weinstein specifically to market Moore's film.

... The Weinsteins, who run Miramax Films, bought the rights to the movie from The Walt Disney Co., which owns Miramax and refused to distribute "Fahrenheit 9/11."

The Weinstein brothers will personally finance and control distribution and marketing, they said Tuesday.

"I am grateful to them now that everyone who wants to see it will now have the chance to do so," Moore said in a statement.

"On behalf of my stellar cast - GW, Dick, Rummy, Condi and Wolfie - we thank this incredible coalition of the willing for bringing 'Fahrenheit 9/11' to the people."

Disney chief executive Michael Eisner said the company "did not want a film in the middle of the political process" because he believed that theme park and entertainment consumers "do not look for us to take sides."

In a settlement reached last week, the Weinsteins repaid their parent company for all costs of the film to date, estimated at around $6 million. Any profits from the film's distribution that go to Miramax or Disney will be donated to charity.
So. It's a done deal.

The issue now is negotiating with the theater chains and other studios. The summer release schedule was locked in ten or more months ago - Harry Potter is back - Spiderman is back - The Day After Tomorrow may have legs (after all, it has a Dick Cheney look-alike as the evil Vice President who is much to blame for the end of the world as we know it and all that). Things will need to be moved around. Money will change hands.

But somewhere, just before July 4th, we will be able to see this film in some markets.

Thank, or blame, the French and that festival.



Any profits from the film's distribution that go to Miramax or Disney will be donated to charity?

Which charity? More to follow on that....

Posted by Alan at 21:25 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 31 May 2004

Topic: Photos

Memorial Day

It was ninety and cloudless out here in the Los Angeles basin today, with kids screaming in the pool until late in the afternoon, and then a pale sunset. Memorial Day. Late in the morning, with a roar, four F18 fighters in close formation shot low over the Sunset Strip on their way toward the coast - The Navy Blue Angels doing the annual flyover of the sprawling Veterans Cemetery over in Westwood.

Memorial Day. Bush and Rumsfeld spoke at the Tomb of the Unknown in Washington, and Rumsfeld got a standing ovation.

And Time reported President Bush has been given a pistol Saddam Hussein had with him when he was captured and now proudly shows it to selected guests, in the side office at the White House where Clinton had his encounters with Monica. Yeah, so ask yourself, what are you proud of? "He really liked showing it off," a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun told the magazine. "He was really proud of it." Whatever.

And Reuters is reporting this:
The Army is investigating reports of assaults against Iraqi civilians and thefts of their money and jewelry by U.S. troops during patrols, raids and house searches, defense officials said on Monday.

...The probe by the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, suggests that a major scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans goes beyond detention centers into the homes and streets of the troubled country.

"There are a number of criminal investigations by the Army into allegations of assault, theft and other issues that extend beyond the investigations into activities at detention facilities," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Oh great.

This war is not exactly making us look good and noble.

The new WWII Memorial opening in Washington last weekend, ant that helped. That war had fewer ambiguities and we actually were the good guys - if you don't think too much about what the Tuskegee Airmen faced when they got home after their heroics, and if you don't think too much about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated in the Army, fighting for us all in Italy, while their relatives were in our internment camps in California. You see, they were all Japanese-Americans. Curiously, the 522nd battalion of the 442nd Regiment discovered and liberated the Dachau, the other side's much nastier camp, but they were ordered to keep quiet about it. The next day, another American battalion arrived and "officially" liberated the camp. It would be too strange if.... Well, you get the idea.

But that war was easier to honor, generally.

This war, and our guys, some of whom I know, is hard to write about. And one of my family is being posted to Iraq in January - for a year in this war, or peace, or whatever it is.

How to make sense of the day? I found "Billmon" over at Whiskey Bar struggling with it. See his comments where you will find sections like this:
... I come from an old military family, one that has been fighting this country's wars since before it was a country. And they're still fighting them: I have cousins who served, and several who died, in Vietnam. Others served in Desert Storm. Some of their kids are now in Iraq.
So Memorial Day has strong meanings for me - even though I never wore a uniform and have never felt any attraction to the mindless cult of military power that so often passes for patriotism these days, especially on the right.

Like the founders (and Dwight D. Eisenhower, for that matter) I fear the permanent war establishment - the so-called "iron triangle" of a bloated military, a corrupt defense industry and the congressional whores who profit from the care and feeding of both. And I've watched uneasily over the past several decades as the professional officer corps has evolved into something like the armed wing of the conservative movement.

These are fundamentally unhealthy trends for any republic - and especially for one that's already showing a pronounced tendency towards imperial hubris. To a greater degree than perhaps at any time in our history, the military has become a major political player, and a dangerously reactionary one at that. When Rush Limbaugh is the only political voice allowed on Armed Forces Radio, it's fair to say the trend lines for democracy are not good.

But as much as I may distrust an increasingly politicized military establishment, I can't disown the men and women who are serving their country - or trying to serve their country - in Iraq. On this Memorial Day, I must pay my respects to those who have given their lives, and praise their courage and their dedication, and grieve their loss. And I must honor the wounded, those who have seen their limbs shattered or their minds blasted by this war. May they be healed in body as well as spirit. And may all those who fight in this war always know that their country loves them, and respects them, and will never turn its back on them, or blame them for our failure.
The whole thing is worth a read.

He runs through a lot of what going wrong, and right, and in between over there. And then he stops.
But in the end it doesn't really matter - I am an American and these are my people. They've been sent to Iraq to fight, and die, in my name. I can't support the war (which is a lost cause anyway) but I can't turn my back on the troops. It would be like turning my back on my own family.

... When I hear the casualties from Iraq reported on the news, or when photos of their flag-draped caskets leak through the Pentagon's wall of secrecy, I realize I know nothing about the young men and women who have been sacrificed in this war. Where they good soldiers, who served their country well despite everything they were forced to endure? Or were they monsters, who killed or tortured or stole from the people they supposedly came to liberate?

I don't know - I'll never know. But I remember my father's war diary, and the things it taught me about him, and I realize I owe these men and women the benefit of the doubt. However they lived and however they fought, they died in my service, and in the service of my country. And for that I am eternally in their debt.
Of course.

And I couldn't be more proud of the family member I mention. I went to his graduation from West Point. I see him several times a year, for deep discussions of international politics - well, they seem deep - and he reads widely and thinks well. We disagree on many things. But he's a good man. And I wish him well. He has my respect.

But it's not him where I see problems.

Everyone sees the problems.

This is a good summary.
A Foreign Policy, Falling Apart
Robert G. Kaiser, The Washington Post, Sunday, May 23, 2004; Page B01
Syndicated elsewhere as The applause is fading; it's time to change the Iraq script
Monday, May 31, 2004

It's long, but convicing.
We have come to a delicate moment in an absorbing drama. The actors seem unsure of their roles. The audience is becoming restless with the confusion on stage. But the scriptwriters keep trying to convince the crowd that the ending they imagined can still, somehow, come to pass.

The authors stick to their plotline even as its plausibility melts away, and why not? For months the audience kept applauding; many of the reviewers were admiring, while many others kept quiet.

No more. Senior military officers, government officials, diplomats and others working in Iraq, commentators, experts and analysts have all joined a chorus of doubters that is large and growing. And the applause - in this case, public approval as measured in polls - is fading.
Already, some of the authors' friends are grabbing them by their rhetorical lapels. "Failures are multiplying," wrote George Will, the conservative columnist, yet "no one seems accountable."

The original script included parts for American soldiers and diplomats, Iraqis, Arabs and Europeans, but many declined to play along or refused to perform as directed. No matter - the authors promised to "stay the course." A quick look back at the list of promises made and then abandoned demonstrates how little the play now conforms to the original scenario. And by the way, just what is the "course" we are staying on?
Yeah, well, who knows?

Well Kaiser notes that Americans are hopeless romantics - "...we're always looking for the triumph of the good guys and happiness ever after."

Indeed so. Particularly on this Memorial Day.

But it's hard to be hopeful -
... the success promised by the Bush administration both before and after the war has eluded us.

We have not made a "a crucial advance in the campaign against terror," the words US President George W. Bush used when he declared victory in "Operation Iraqi Freedom" on May 1, 2003.
Instead, we have stimulated new hatred of the United States in precisely the regions from which future terrorist threats are most likely to arise, while alienating our traditional allies. By embracing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza, we abandoned the "honest broker" role that US governments tried to play for four decades in the Middle East, and we confirmed the conspiratorial suspicions of every anti-American Arab. Our credibility has been battered.

We set out to put fear into the hearts of our enemies by demonstrating the efficacy of a new doctrine of pre-emptive war. Instead, we have shown the timeless nature of hubris. Last week we announced the transfer of 3,600 troops of the overstrained US Army away from the border of what might be the world's most dangerous country, North Korea. They will be sent to help with the war in Iraq, for which we now acknowledge we had inadequate resources.
Contrary to the Bush administration's stated and implied promises - "we will be greeted as liberators" was Vice-President Dick Cheney's famous version - we did not achieve a relatively low-cost triumph in Iraq. Instead we have a crisis of still-growing dimensions. Our occupation policy has changed as often as the color of Madonna's hair. Ominously, as became clear with last week's assassination of Iraqi Governing Council President Ezzedine Salim, we cannot even protect the Iraqis who have agreed to work with us.

The war has damaged the good name of the United States in every corner of the globe, has cost unanticipated scores of billions of dollars (all of it borrowed) and now threatens long-term damage to our army and the National Guard. War has already disfigured the 3,500 American families whose sons and daughters have been killed or seriously wounded in Iraq, and countless Iraqi families as well.
This man is not looking on the bright side.

Read the whole things and you'll see why there may be no bright side.

And there is history:
The events of the last few weeks recall the trauma of February and March 1968, when Americans were absorbing the impact of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Tet was a brilliant military campaign that won no lasting military benefit for the Vietnamese communists who executed it, but which humiliated an ignorant, over-confident America and destroyed political support for the war in the United States.

Dean Acheson and Clark Clifford, two principal architects of "containment" - the basis of American foreign policy toward Soviet and Chinese communists from Truman to Johnson and beyond - told their friend and president, Lyndon B. Johnson, that the jig was up. The costs of war in Vietnam were too high to justify its continuation.

Soon afterward Johnson announced he would not seek re-election and asked the Vietnamese communists to negotiate peace.
No, don't even think it.

Bush doesn't waver. Moral clarity and all that...

And Bush has a plan, at least a plan to stay in office.

See From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity
Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks
Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, The Washington Post, Monday, May 31, 2004; Page A01

The facts?
Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.
The facts are not good in Iraq, and not much better in Afghanistan, and the economy is going great, but only if you own a business or stock in one - not if you are one of the unlucky few, if you're what is quaintly called a "worker."

So, if events are such that they are hard to spin too terribly positively, why this hyper-negative blitz of campaign advertising full of distortions.

A Republican explains -
Scott Reed, who ran Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign that year, said the Bush campaign has little choice but to deliver a constant stream of such negative charges. "With low poll numbers and a volatile situation in Iraq, Bush has more hope of tarnishing Kerry's image than promoting his own."

"The Bush campaign is faced with the hard, true fact that they have to keep their boot on his neck and define him on their terms," Reed said. That might risk alienating some moderate voters or depressing turnout, "but they don't have a choice," he said.
And it will probably work.

Four more years. Four more Memorial Days.

Posted by Alan at 21:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 30 May 2004

Topic: Photos

New issue of JUST ABOVE SUNSET MAGAZINE now online!

No blogging today. It's a holiday weekend....

And, as usual, Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Commentary here will resume tomorrow.

Check it out the new issue of the virtual magazine, the parent publication of the weblog.

Volume 2, Number 21 Sunday, May 30, 2004

- New columns from Bob Patterson - as The World's Laziest Journalist and as The Book Wrangler
- Vastly expanded items that first appeared on the web log, and new items with comments from France (of course)
- Channel your inner "Newfie" checking out a link to one of our writer's adventures in Newfoundland
- A lot of new quotes to keep you thinking
- Pretty pictures, revisiting old scenes...

Current Events

Bush Speaks: Jumping the Shark

Gore Speaks: Back from the dead ...

Conservative Thought: A whole Lott of love here...

Leadership: What Do You Owe Your Subordinates? Tom Clancy almost punched out Richard Perle? Really?

Sidebar: He died. Sisyphus Shrugged.

Legal Matters: International Law and the Geneva Convention: We Take Hostages...

Odds and Ends: New Urban Legends


WLJ Weekly: (The World's Laziest Journalist) Crazy, man, crazy! The return of the bebop sensibilities?

Books: The Book Wrangler Returns (A Bob Patterson extra!)

Religion: A Follow-Up on the Unitarians (Texas Theology Revisited)

Legal Oddities: Adventures in Intellectual Property Rights

Photography: Good Light in Los Angeles

Quotes: Useful Pithy Observations... (Even more this week!)

Links and Recommendations: Gros Morne National Park, A writer's adventures in Newfoundland...

Note: Some interesting new statistics in "About Just Above Sunset"


Out my front door, Century City...

Posted by Alan at 20:08 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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