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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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Sunday, 15 August 2004

Topic: The Culture

Sensitivity and its Limits

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, went online earlier today. That would be Volume 2, Number 32.

Along with extended versions of items that first appeared here, you will find two new photography sections, along with a page of photos that first appeared here. Bob Patterson returns as "The World's Laziest Journalist" of course. And here you will discover the connection between the hard-boiled Chicago writer Nelson Algren and the French feminist icon and friend of John-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir - and their mysterious connection to Mom's Bar and Grill. And they said it couldn't be done.

What follows is an extension of this item - Male Identity: Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking to the Profound

This sensitivity business that started last Wednesday or Thursday has been on my mind.

And what would that be?

Cheney criticizes call for `more sensitive' war
Vice president twisting senator's words, Kerry campaign says
The Associated Press - Updated: 12:58 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2004

The item comes from Dayton, Ohio - home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the birthplace of Orville and Wilber Wright, and one dull place. Been there - about halfway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

But it wasn't dull last week.
Vice President Dick Cheney ridiculed Sen. John Kerry's call for a "more sensitive" war on terrorism Thursday, saying it would not impress the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists or the Islamic militants who had beheaded U.S. citizens.

"America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive," Cheney told supporters in this swing state. "A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans. ... The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."

He was referring to Kerry's statement last week at a minority journalists' convention in which Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, said: "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."

Phil Singer, a spokesman for Kerry, said Thursday that Cheney was being disingenuous and was twisting Kerry's words. Singer noted that President Bush had also used the word "sensitive."

"Dick Cheney's desperate misleading attacks now have him criticizing George Bush's own words, who called for America to be `sensitive about expressing our power and influence,'" Singer said.

"Dick Cheney doesn't understand that arrogance isn't a virtue, especially when our country is in danger. ... If Dick Cheney learned this lesson instead of spending his time distorting John Kerry's words, this country would be a safer place," he added.
Arrogance isn't a virtue?

One could argue that even if it isn't a virtue, it wins votes. (Argued in Playing Fair: The Bad-Boy Vote.)

Cheney's position is this -
"Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively. They need to be destroyed," he said.

None of the country's military heroes would follow Kerry's advice, he told an audience that included many veterans.

President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses Grant "did not wage sensitive wars," Cheney said. "... As our opponents see it, the problem isn't the thugs and murderers that we face, but our attitude. We, the American people, know better."
We do? Speak for yourself, white man!

The idea we can be better thugs and murderers, and be those things but for good ends, than the pitiful thugs and murderers the other side develops for evil ends, is curious.

We need nurture and develop the appropriate kill them all mind-set? I guess.

Then what are we doing in Najaf trying to avoid blowing up the famous shrine where Sadr is holed up? Why not pull back and drop the big one? Are we such pussies we actually care what a bunch of crazy rag-heads would say or do if we did? These guys have their fake, strange (no Jesus!) religion - and we're sensitive to that? This business in Najaf and spreading across Iraq, is, as anyone can see, now a civil war. We have chosen sides. Iran has chosen sides. When Sherman marched across Georgia on our own Civil War, was he picky about what he burned to the ground?

Maybe Cheney is ticked at our own military for being such wimps. It would seem so. We don't need no allies, and we don't need no advice from no experts on Islam or Islamic culture, and we don't need nobody's damned permission - we need to kick some serious ass here.

One might point out that all this has its limitations, and that there might be trouble down the road with actions that follow from this stance. You know, unintended consequences and that sort of thing. What do they call it, nuance? That's a French word isn't it?

But Cheney is a man's man - the kind who folks in Ohio love. He's no wimp.

Well, the Associated Press reports elsewhere that Senator Tom Harkin said this -
"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil," Harkin said. "Those of us who served and those of us who went in the military don't like it when someone like a Dick Cheney comes out and he wants to be tough. Yeah, he'll be tough. He'll be tough with somebody else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go."
I guess Tom isn't buying this "man's man" macho business.

Want to avoid all the manly crap? It's hard.

Sunday morning with a decisive thump the multi-pound Los Angeles Times lands on my doorstep. Harriet-the-Cat jumps. I switch on the coffee machine and start to disassemble this Times package. Let's see - this weekend's magazine is the fall fashion issue (sultry models - fur is back, it seems), and many inserts wanting us all to buy the latest back-to-school crap (fancy photos of winsome kids with colorful outfits, looking uncomfortable) - and the slick but stunningly shallow Parade Magazine.

Page two of Parade is always the "personality" page - Walter Scott answers your questions about famous and no longer famous folks - minor celebrity gossip and such. And what does the "personality" page give us this weekend? This -
Q. George W. Bush has occupied the White House for almost four years, yet little is known of his personal preferences. Can you fill in the blanks? -- J. Brinkley, Los Angeles, Calif.

A. He's a man of simple tastes whose favorite foods are peanut butter (creamy, not chunky) and jelly sandwiches and Fritos. According to Ronald Kessler's A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush, just out, the health-conscious President brings his own treadmill and nonallergenic pillows on long trips.
Ah, good to know.

Digby over at Hullabaloo put it best -
The audacity of presenting this election as a choice between an effete French pussy and macho manly man is mind-bending.

Clearly, this election is a choice between a sixty-year-old man and a five-year-old boy.
But the five-year-old boy is so charming? I suppose in his impish way he is.

Oh, it doesn't matter. His kick-ass take-names no-nonsense nasty uncle will run the country for him. Have another Frito, George. Dick will take care of the bad guys.

But what to do with this?

As above, this business in Najaf and spreading across Iraq, is, as anyone can see, now a civil war. We have chosen sides. But on the Knight-Ridder wire it seems the side we're supporting, the good guys, are just as a bunch of "sensitive wimps" too. The Iraqi army that we work for (it's their country now, right?) is refusing to fight, again. Obviously they are just a bunch of girly-men - acting like John Kerry in Vietnam? Well, that Kerry comparison depends on who is lying.

Here's the deal -
"We received a report that a whole battalion (in Najaf) threw down their rifles," said one high-ranking defense ministry official, who didn't want his name published because he's not an official spokesman. "We expected this, and we expect it again and again."

... "I'm ready to fight for my country's independence and for my country's stability," one lieutenant colonel said. "But I won't fight my own people."

"No way," added another officer, who said his brother - a colonel - quit the same day he received orders to serve in the field. "These are my people. Why should I fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?"

... when [1st Sgt. Khalid] Ali was asked about the number of guardsmen who have quit since al-Sadr's latest uprising, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Vernon Sparkmon cut him off.

"Certain things, you can't discuss," Sparkmon told Ali. "If somebody asks that question, that's, like, classified stuff."
The fellow asks why he should fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?

To prove you're a man? To prove you're not French? Men fight. Differences in opinion aren't settled by talk. You want a democracy don't you? (The irony is too obvious, isn't it?)

Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly says these Iraqis just don't seem to be up for an American-backed civil war. Well, they don't have that manly killer instinct.

Work it all out through discussion and compromise, and maybe through, say, voting? Nope. Ask Uncle Dick - that's not the American way.

Time for a tad more scotch now.

Posted by Alan at 22:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 15 August 2004 22:05 PDT home

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