Singin' The Blues With Vichy On My Mind

by Richard Macintosh

October 4, 2004   


"The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth."
—Henry Louis Mencken: American humorous journalist, 1880-1956.

(Swans - October 4, 2004)   Ayad Allawi spoke to Congress on September 24th, 2004 and he was heralded by the usual media suspects. For those of you who don't know who Ayad Allawi is, he is a former CIA operative selected by our president to rule Iraq. Allawi is a puppet, a "Quisling." Karl Rove could have written his speech (and he probably did).

The speech was slick, but not slick enough to fool anyone but the most culpable, those desperate that the American empire project be correct and on the right path. Unfortunately, the culpable represent a sizable cohort.

As Mr. Allawi gave his speech a glowering Dick Cheney sat behind him clapping on cue. Almost none of the speech was based on the reality of events on the ground in Iraq. It was a sham speech by a sham leader, one designed for the American electorate: the kind we are used to hearing from our president.

It made me blue. I had Vichy on my mind.

I remembered a famous photo of the Wehrmacht marching through the Arc de Triomphe while a Frenchman wept. It was (is) a famous photo. The Nazi's found a former French hero, Henri Pétain, to run a sham government for them centered in Vichy. It was a sad moment.

The same scenario was repeated in Norway, with a sham government set up under a Nazi puppet: Vidkun Quisling. The name "Quisling" became an epithet for those who would collaborate with an invader. It still is.

Drunk on their ideology and flushed with pride, the Nazis expanded their conquest, blind to historical lessons, actually believing their own propaganda, actually believing that a "New World Order" was in their hands. Those less prosaic might refer to this as "believing your own shit."

Dangerous thing: believing your own shit!

The Nazis were, of course, doomed. They were doomed, first because of their hubris and second because hate is stronger than fear. When you become a hated nation, there comes a point where fear no longer works. The most dedicated people will give their lives to defeat the hated. Others will simply no longer cooperate. Ultimately, violence and force expose the weakness of those who depend upon them. As Albert Einstein once pointed out, to pursue a strategy that no longer works is madness.

Hannah Arendt, a contemporary of Einstein, warned that legitimate power and violence are opposites:
"While violence can destroy power, it can never become a substitute for it. From this results the by no means infrequent political combination of force and powerlessness, an array of impotent forces that spend themselves often spectacularly and vehemently but in utter futility." (1)
Americans would be wise to ponder that.

Yet, as if in some "Strangelovian" nightmare, the mad are still with us. Today, the mad propose new nuclear weapons, as well as new biological and nerve destroying weapons of mass destruction, all the while believing that they can deny them to others. They actually think America can control the world -- forever. It's called "full spectrum dominance."

If this is not madness, I don't know what is.

There is a truism that power expands until it is stopped -- stumbling along as a man-beast in a drunken stupor before he crashes -- face down -- in the gutter.

Political and economic power, as the drunken man-beast, never seems to know when to stop. John Steinbeck alluded to this in a famous passage from The Grapes of Wrath:
If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I," and cuts you off forever from the "we."
What sort of leader would send troops to crush a rebellion of Partisans, those resisting invasion by a foreign power? One mad with power, of course. A small, little man with a clipped moustache comes to mind, but we have such in our own time -- and in our own government. No, we are not Nazis -- not yet -- but there is a whiff of fascism in the air. Henry Wallace, Vice President of the United States during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidency put it this way:
"The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

—Henry Wallace, The New York Times, April 9, 1944. (Quoted by Ray Beckerman on his web-blog, "Fairness," 9-22-04.)
This should not be unfamiliar to those of us living in 21st Century America, but it is because, collectively, Americans are politically blind. The facile thought that everything has changed since September 11, 2001 is swallowed hook, line and sinker by a majority of the populace. The President and his handlers repeat this lie (and others) over and over with impunity. The thought that something could be learned from history seldom penetrates the barricaded skulls of our official media while the class of people most victimized by the corporate state soldier on.

It is not the political class who are doing the fighting and dying in Iraq (nor anywhere else in the Empire). The men and women doing the fighting and dying are those who George H. W. Bush once referred to as "fodder units." They are gleaned from poverty stricken areas within our inner cities and rural communities stripped of hope. These are the people behind the strident (or plaintive) slogan: "Support our Troops," yet our President, George W. Bush, has yet to attend a single funeral of a service person killed in Iraq. Not one!

Is this not somewhat curious?

I suppose the president's attendance at military funerals would send a negative political image to the "fodder units." They might realize that joining the armed forces really isn't about job training, or going to college, after all. I mean, a person could get killed or maimed fighting in a place one can't even pronounce. The powers that be wouldn't want that reality to surface, now, would they?

No, they would rather script reality and have the governor of California refer to those who advocate peace as "girly men." It doesn't matter whether the governor ever fought in a war, or not, (he didn't). What matters is the perception that a body builder and movie star, with a penchant for pinching women on their backside, is actually a tough guy.

Well, Audie Murphy he ain't. (2) And the governor is lucky that his father didn't run across Audie during World War II. Had that happened, Arnold would never have been born.

Why is it that those who actually fought in a war tend to be less bellicose than those who never fired a shot? Is there a lesson here? Is it necessary to belabor the point that the most bellicose of our ruling class, including the president and vice president, never saw any action -- other than in a bar, somewhere?

Will the cold light of day ever shine on these political frauds? Yes, most likely, but will it shine in time to prevent disaster? That is the question for Americans, whether they support the Empire, or not. If Hannah Arendt is correct, it is already too late: the American Empire is doomed.

Finally, what sort of leader would select a traitor to rule as his proxy over a conquered people? A leader basted in hubris, of course. One who discounts the opinions of "fodder units," theirs and ours: the kind of guy who thinks he can get away with anything, because he always has. One doesn't have to go back to Caligula (3) to find such leaders. They have existed throughout history. At present, our political culture grows them right here at home.

And, finally, what about the puppets? A puppet's career (and perhaps his life and the lives of his family members) is over the minute that he fails to please the Emperor. The names of these puppets change depending upon their usefulness, but the soup served always tastes and smells the same, whether it is cooked in a foreign kitchen, or an American one:

Cold potato soup: Vichyssoise!

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Notes & Resources

1.  Arendt, Hannah, quoted by Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World, p. 221.  (back)

2.  Audie Murphy (not to be confused with the actor: Eddie Murphy) was the most highly decorated American soldier in World War II. He enlisted as a private and rose through the ranks attaining the rank of first lieutenant by the end of the war. In one engagement, he was credited with killing over 50 German soldiers.

Audie became an actor after the war, starring in over 25 films. Reportedly, a "western star" once challenged Audie to a quick-draw contest. Audie replied that he would be willing, but only if they used live ammunition. There was no contest.

Audie Murphy was killed in a plane crash in 1971.  (back)

3.  Gaius Caligula (A. D. 41-54), the infamous Roman Caesar who coined the phrase: "Oderint dum metuant." ("Let them hate us, just as long as they fear us.") Richard Perle used this quote without giving credit to Caligula, but it shows where his mind is.  (back)

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Richard Macintosh on Swans (with bio).

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Published October 4, 2004
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