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October 26, 2003 Mail

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I do send out some odd email, and receive equally odd email in return.  Here I will print some of it, with, now and then, my responses.  
God and Country.  Our Crusade to Rid the World of Evil.

Okay, so I live in Hollywood and tend to think of things in terms of movies.   Remember the movie The Killing Fields (1984) - a story based on the events in the life of a New York Times reporter in Cambodia?  That was Sidney Schanberg - except in the movie Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston.  The story was actually more about his aide Dith Pran and Pran's escape from Cambodia and the mass murder going on there - or was that ethnic cleansing?  Genocide?  Political maneuvering?  Practical eugenics?  Preemptive mass executions for the public good?   Sometimes the terms get all blurred. 

The film was quite good.  And you might remember Haing Ngor, the Cambodian doctor who actually survived the killing fields and played the role of Dith Pran, receiving all that applause at the Academy Awards that year.   Best supporting actor.  The only MD to ever win an Oscar?  I guess.

As I explained here many months ago regarding this film, The Killing Fields - http://www.justabovesunset.com/abovesunset/id19.html - in the last scene Schanberg is back in New York.  Things have gone as bad as they can go.  He assumes his friend is dead.  Millions are dead.  Lon Nol is long gone and the Khmer Rouge is not gone at all.  "Nessun Dorma", the tenor aria from Puccini's Turandot, is playing in the background.  Schanberg is on the telephone, powerless and getting nowhere as the aria plays in the background.  The aria is one of those heroic "sprinto" things about winning against all the odds.  But there's no fixing any of this.  Things aren't going to get better.  And the music plays - Dilegua, o notte!  tramontate, stelle!  Tramontate, stelle!  All'alba vinceṛ!  Vinceṛ! Vinceṛ! - which is the hero asking that the night end, the stars set, because at dawn he's going to win, to be victorious.  Yeah right.  It works in the scene.

Sidney Schanberg must be cranking up the old Puccini again.  He had a fine piece in the Village Voice issue of October 15-21, 2003 - Bush's War Plan Is Scarier Than He's Saying - The Widening Crusade (the whole item is here: http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0342/schanberg.php )

Just some key items from his analysis:

No one who believes in democracy need feel any empathy toward the governments of Syria and Iran, for they assist the terrorist movement, yet if the Bush White House is going to use its preeminent military force to subdue and neutralize all "evildoers" and adversaries everywhere in the world, the American public should be told now. Such an undertaking would be virtually endless and would require the sacrifice of enormous blood and treasure.

With no guarantee of success. And no precedent in history for such a crusade having lasting effect.

People close to the president say that his conversion to evangelical Methodism, after a life of aimless carousing, markedly informs his policies, both foreign and domestic. In the soon-to-be-published The Faith of George W. Bush (Tarcher/Penguin), a sympathetic account of this religious journey, author Stephen Mansfield writes (in the advance proofs) that in the election year 2000, Bush told Texas preacher James Robison, one of his spiritual mentors: "I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it."

Mansfield also reports: "Aides found him face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president. And he framed America's challenges in nearly biblical language. Saddam Hussein is an evildoer. He has to go." The author concludes: "...the Bush administration does deeply reflect its leader, and this means that policy, even in military matters, will be processed in terms of the personal, in terms of the moral, and in terms of a sense of divine purpose that propels the present to meet the challenges of its time."

Some who read this article may choose to view it as the partisan perspective of a political liberal. But I have experienced wars - in India and Indochina - and have measured their results.  And most of the men and women who are advocating the Bush Doctrine have not. [empahsis mine] You will find few generals among them. They are, instead, academics and think-tank people and born-again missionaries. One must not entertain any illusion that they are only opportunists in search of power, for most of them truly believe in their vision of a world crusade under the American flag. They are serious, and they now have power at the top.

As you see, Schanberg is worried.  The neoconservative guys have made our foreign policy one of threats and preemptive wars and a crusade of "good" against "evil."  After a discussion of current events seeming to indicate we plan a good number of further wars of this wort, Schanberg adds:

In effect, George Bush says, believe in me and I will lead you out of darkness. But he doesn't tell us any details. And it's in the details where the true costs are buried - human costs and the cost to our notion of ourselves as helpers and sharers, not slayers. No one seems to be asking themselves: If in the end the crusade is victorious, what is it we will have won? The White House never asked that question in Vietnam either. 

In the end, the answers lie with this president - and later maybe with Congress and the American voters. Is he so committed to this imperial policy that he is unable to consider rethinking it? In short, is his mind closed? And if so, how many wars will he take us into?

These are not questions in a college debate, where the answers have no consequences. When a president's closest advisers and military planners are patrons of a policy that speaks matter-of-factly of fighting multiple, simultaneous, large-scale wars across the globe, people have a right to be told about it.

In short, Schanberg doesn't like where things are going, and I was reminded of that last scene in The Killing Fields, the one with Puccini playing in the background.  Into what sort of killing fields are we being led? 

Reaction from my email forum?


From New York: "Nessun Dorma?  And the problem with the sun rising the next day and being victorious would be what?"  And I took that to mean my New York friend thought we could finish out the business with Iraq and Afghanistan, take on Syria and change that government, invade and change the government of Iran after that, then Cuba or North Korea, then... and we'd win them all and create governments in those places that support us wholeheartedly.  We can be victorious.  Or maybe he didn't mean that.


From Rick Brown in Atlanta, with his years in the news business:

I've been busy, but I finally got around to reading this Village Voice article.

(First of all, just in case somebody from Fox News tries to use the piece as an example of journalistic bias, it should be noted that although Sydney Schanberg is indeed a reporter, what he offers here is not reportage, but commentary. Different things. Bias is not traditionally allowed in news reporting, while in news comment, it's almost a requirement.)

Slowly but surely, Im getting the picture. Throughout all that earlier Leo Strauss discussion about the Bush administration consciously offering up their version of Plato's "noble lie" about WMD to get America into Iraq, I kept saying to myself, "Yes, but that doesn't explain WHY these guys wanted to go there in the first place."  I knew it wasnt oil, and I strongly suspected that it wasn't even to make all those "Friends of the GOP" ("FOGOP"?) wealthier than they already are.

Okay, I guess I'm a late bloomer. But now I think I see.

Paul Wolfowitz (et al) had been planning a "Global War on Terror" that they hoped would last at least five years (two presidential terms, born along by a "wartime presidency, with legs"), but wishing they had a Pearl Harbor to make their job easier. Then 9/11 conveniently came along to get the ball rolling.

But what's in it for Bush? God! (No, I mean that literally! God!)

Think of it this way: "Evil" is the dragon, and it's "St. George the W's" spiritual calling, by God and history, to slay the dragon.

But why Iraq? Because Iraq is the easiest place to get the Bush Doctrine's feet wet! Militarily, the country would be a pushover (means); Saddam had been giving us the finger over inspections all these years, and you could plausibly make the argument that he had WMDs, ready to share them with others who hate us (motive); and nobody - not even liberal Democrats - would dare oppose overthrowing this murderous tyrant, especially after we find those inevitable weapons programs (opportunity).

The snag, of course, came when - much to everyone's surprise - none of the promised WMDs were found! That sure took the wind out of the sails! It certainly makes it much harder to now get the American people behind moving on target #2, much less #3, #4, and whatever.

Unless, of course, we conveniently happened onto ... another Pearl Harbor?



My reply to Rick was this:

You know, Rick, you're starting to sound like someone who has a conspiracy theory.

Well, maybe conspiracy is the wrong term.  A unified theory of political reality?

But consider this.  What if Undersecretary of Defense General "Jerry" Boykin is right?  What if Bush was, in fact chosen by God?  What if questioning, criticizing or opposing any decisions of this president were, in fact, thumbing your nose at God's will?  Wouldnt that make even thinking what you think here not just treason, but blasphemy?   What if Satan is, in fact, real, and every Muslim at the moment? 

There sometimes is, there often is, lightening down there in Atlanta.  Aren't you a little bit afraid?

What if George Bush really is the instrument of God on earth?  Then... ?


From Ellen in Albany I got this: "Nice Halloween effects, a week early."


And then Rick shot this back:

There's a chance you're right, Alan!  There's also a chance that a trumpet-tooting archangel will climb out of your rear end while you're sleeping tonight and blow your head off!  But if I were you, I wouldn't anticipate that eventuality by calling up to cancel tomorrow's job interview.

Hey, I'll take my chances that God isn't stupid enough to side with this guy.  But if I'm wrong, then God should know he's doing so at the risk of his job approval ratings dropping like an anvil by early November of next year.  I mean, might even Anselm have imagined the kind of self-destructive Supreme Being who would hitch his trailer to the likes of GWB?

But on the more serious side, I'm not suggesting that this cabal had anything to do with 9/11, nor that they're cooking up another one. Im just saying that if another al-Qaedda biggy happens on its own, they may figure all bets are off, and might be off to the races again, this time in ways we can only imagine in our worst dreams.


I then reminded Rick that it could be to his advatange to be on the side of God and President Bush and General Boykin, just in case, because, well, you might want to hedge you bets,  And I sent him a copy of a bumper sticker I once saw: "Flatter Jesus - or He'll Torture You in Hell!"


Rick shot back, regarding God and Bush and Halloween: "Good point!  If I give God a handful of kandykorn, will he go away?"


I replied that no, the Christian Right doesn't recommend discount candy as a prayer offering - unless, perhaps, you purchased it at Wal-Mart.  Those Wal-Mart folks who banned racy magazines are on the right side of the Lord.  And they now mask they covers of Elle and Cosmo and Vogue due to racy or suggestive images - but will not, presumably, cover up publications like Better Homes & Gardens, Mary-Kate and Ashley and that sort of thing.  Good Christian folks.  So their candy is probably okay.

Rather than candy, abject flattery of the all loving, forgiving God, who tends to smite those who are uppity, is recommended.  Profess your sinfulness and acknowledge your pitiful unworthiness - that sort of thing.  If you are favored with grace, perhaps you will be asked, like Abraham, to execute your son.  Maybe like Moses you'll get to talk to a burning bush.  That could be fun, and opens up all sorts of opportunities for bad puns about the president and his ideas about how one should govern.

Oh heck, register Republican and send some cash to Karl Rove.  Buy Ann Coulter's new book, or O'Reilly's.  That should do it. 

No, Rick, if all the others are right, and there is some sort of God, then God isn't stupid.  He/She/It does have a sense of humor.

I just came across this on the UK wires regarding Mel Gibson's new movie about Jesus that has the entire Jewish world ticked off - I covered that a month ago - http://www.justabovesunset.com/abovesunset/id100.html 

Here;s the scoop....  From Quaker in the Basement to the UK to you....
Source: http://quakerinabasement.blogspot.com/2003_10_01_quakerinabasement_archive.html#106695746625183322

God is Watching and Apparently, She's Pissed...

The actor playing the role of Jesus in Mel Gibson's new movie was struck by lightning during filming, but not injured. The bolt also struck the movie's assistant director - the second time he's been hit while on the set.

Talk about your slow learners.


From Rick:

Jesus!! (Pardon the expression.)

The guy playing Christ is apparently someone named Jim Caviezel. If you visit the link to the AP story, you'll find this quote:

"I'm about a hundred feet away from them," producer Steve McEveety said, "when I glance over and see lightning coming out of Caviezel's ears."


From Phillip Raines:

Lightening strikes people who are outside a lot.  In fact thats the main thing you can do to get struck.  Golfers, rangers, construction workers are no doubt deserving to be smote from the heavens, but a just God (or just god) had nothing to do with it, deary.   Boy the superstitious are having a field day with it though.  What's this, an oil stain in the parking lot that looks like St. Bartholomew?  Let's go check it out!


And to them all from Hollywood:

Yeah, yeah, I know.  But the circumstance was so delicious, given Jerry Falwell praying a large hurricane would wipe out Disney World when they had the "gay days" celebration there, and all the stuff with Boykin recently saying God chose Bush.  Too good to ignore.

And that oil stain under the neighbors 1974 Nova in the garage downstairs here in Hollywood looks just like Nancy Sinatra.  Heck, maybe it is Nancy!


And this rambling discussion continues even now....