Swans Commentary » swans.com January 31, 2005  



Blips #11
 From The Martian Desk


by Gilles d'Aymery




RESOLUTION: "To put an end to all war, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor. To tend the sick, to comfort the miserable, to make low the powerful, to raise up the meek. And if all that fails, to find one damn huge, dry martini with two olives -- and go swimming!"
Sister Constance Craving,
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,
As told to Tamara Palmer of the SF Weekly, "Resolution Guide 2005," January 19-25, 2005


(Swans - January 31, 2005)  HERE THEY GO AGAIN: The Tenured Left (an expression I stole from John Steppling) has once again allied itself with the Cruise Missile Left and other bien-pensant humanitarian progressives in signing another neither-nor statement concocted by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy of Joanne Landy fame (remember the Cuba petition?). All those good people who oppose the US occupation of Iraq condemn attacks on Iraqi trade unionists. They "believe that the physical targeting of trade unionists is in no way politically or morally acceptable, even though [they] disagree strongly with the IFTU's [Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions] support of UN Resolution 1546, which supports the U.S. military presence in Iraq."

THEY "also oppose the victory of those elements of the resistance whose agenda is to impose a repressive, authoritarian regime on the Iraqi people, whether that regime is Baathist or theocratic-fundamentalist."

GOSH, I'm impressed by such a penetrating and far-reaching statement; and there is no doubt in my mind that the Iraqi Resistance -- you know, the "insurgents," or are they "terrorists?" -- will heed the words of this morally superior crowd.

A FRIEND ASKS: "What is wrong with condemning the torture and murder of trade unionists in Iraq?

NOTHING wrong per se, friend. Problem is, once a trade unionist accepts and welcomes the invading forces, he henceforth becomes a target of the resistance because he is now deemed a collaborator. It's not a matter of right and wrong. Check your history books.

"What is wrong with stating a distaste for authoritarian and theocratic factions and rule?" asks my friend further.

Nothing wrong (or right) again, friend. But you may want to focus on your mirror... Instead of distasting the other, look at your own (system, culture...), and start distasting...and clearly expressing your distaste...even if it may cost you your job or your life... Again, look in the mirror...look home. It's not up to you or me to tell people from another country and another culture how they should behave, especially when the circumstances that led them to behave as they do, notwithstanding what pleases our senses*, were imposed on them by external forces far more violent than their own violence.

* Spinoza once said that the perfection of things must be measured according to their own nature and things are not more or less perfect because they flatter (please) our senses or hurt them.

"WHAT is the goal here?" further inquires my friend.

UH! you tell me... I thought we all understood it was about oil...lifestyle, and control/domination/competition... Now, if the question is "what's the goal of this petition," or, rather, this statement, I'd say it's about a) playing into the hands of the US elites and b) co-opting/controlling the "activists."

THEN, my friend states: "I want an end to the war, and an end to killing, ASAP. Period. I don't care what they call the government afterward. So long as it operates on the basis of words, not guns, and willing consent, not compulsion."

Nice of us to be able from the comfort of our liberal homes to digress into nothingness... What do you want again? The end to the war will depend on the resistance on the ground, lassitude in the boonies (think the military and their families), and heavy cost to the enterprise (think your pay check), which in turn will force the hand of the rulers to reconsider... It won't depend on your wants (or mine for that matter). Why would they operate differently from the way we operate? How can they use "words and willing consent" (whatever "willing consent" means) when we use "guns and compulsion" against them. Try to apply your reasoning to the case of a raped woman and her rapist.

AND, anyway, why do we take upon ourselves to tell "them" what they should do or shouldn't do? There seems to be an unsaid, perhaps unconscious, but definite and real arrogance in this attitude (as there was in the January 4, 2005 James Petras Open Letter to President Chávez...).

MY FRIEND persists: "I propose this rule: any political goal or faction that requires the killing of unarmed or innocent civilians is not worthy of support. Period."

IN THE ABSTRACT (in theory) this is quite a laudable statement; however it is not contextual. I'm not sure how to explain this... When people gather at an execution (burning of a witch, lynching of a black man, killing of a murderer, liquidation of the French Commune, etc.) and cheer the executioners and the act itself...these are unarmed people...are they innocent people? So, when a trade unionist, say an unarmed trade unionist, supports the invasion of his country and the invaders, is he an innocent man?

(As an aside, one would be well served to keep in mind the words of Albert Camus in Carnets (1942-51): "When they were burning John Huss, a gentle little old lady came carrying her faggot to add it to the pile.")

One can regret the violence, one does not have to support that violence, but one should not treat all violence as equal, which the statement does and my friend's "rule" suggests.

HAVING a deep-seated sense of morality, my friend adds: "Neither neither-nor, nor either-or, but what's right is right." (I think he should have closed this with an exclamation period.)

I DISAGREE. "what's right is right" presupposes that what's wrong is wrong. It's a black & white judgment within the realm of human events that are fundamentally gray in nature. What the statement does is to equate the two violences, that of the rapist and that of the raped.

NOT ALL violence is equal.

NEVER, EVER equate the violence of the abuser and the abused, the rapist and the raped, the invader and the resister. And yes, the abused, the raped and the resistant may at times respond in kind, or inappropriately in the eyes of the bien-pensants and other intellectuals...

SINCE, I MENTIONED John Steppling's paternity regarding the Tenured Left, let me share his take on the CPD statement and my friend's comment:

These trade unionists were in support of the invasion and occupation (though there may be shadings here). So in the eyes of the resistance they were collaborators. The article claims no work being done was for military purposes.....I leave it open to discussion if that is true. One doubts it in the last analysis.

Collaborators are almost always seen as legitimate targets -- if one is speaking of colonial wars -- and this is a colonial war.

To say killing innocent civilians is wrong is rather obvious -- 100,000 dead civilians killed by the occupying army is something we all feel disgust with. However, I don't feel in any sort of position to make distinctions about the resistance's tactics. The point Gilles was making (I think, though I am sure he will speak for himself) is that this statement claims, yet again, some paternal authority about exactly this. (We, as members of the country that is occupying you, demand you play by rules established by us...yada yada yada...we are in solidarity with you...yada yada yada...but you can't do these things because it offends OUR sensibilities).

To write a letter which condemns the killing of a trade union leader -- even if also mentioning ANY killing of civilians -- is to focus on the wrongs (sic) of this resistance.

The statement also says it doesn't want a theocratic regime in power, or an Authoritarian, Ba'athist-led party. Ok, well, I would answer it's not up to the signatories of this petition.

How about we petition the UK and say we don't want labor or tories in power, and stop putting so many defenseless drug addicts in prison -- we don't like it. The petition is absurd and plays into the hands of the Imperial power. The resistance is legitimate because they are fighting an occupying power. Period.

To write these kinds of letters is to suggest what is acceptable for the resistance --- even though the far greater destruction (and the cause of the entire nightmare) is the US imperial crusade. Energy should be spent on condemnation of the occupier -- their wrongs far far far outnumber those of the resistance...assuming we can figure out what a "wrong" is. I don't doubt personal grudges are being settled right now in Iraq...nor do I doubt there are reactionary forces at work in the resistance. But it's not up to me, or you, to make moral judgments about fighting an occupier. Beyond which, the unionists by most definitions WERE collaborators. If I were in the resistance, I would probably hold them up to judgment also.

I mean, maybe its time to read Fanon and Sartre again.

Try to understand what the options are for a resistance under the boot heal of the largest military in world history.

The statement tends to draw attention away from the more serious crimes of Empire...while apologizing for unionists in solidarity with the invasion. It gives the impression that somehow certain rules must be followed by the resistance...rules established in University reading rooms while hunched over a power book.

Wars of resistance are violent and ugly...that's what happens when you invade and occupy a people and then humiliate and torture them. This is a violent and ugly struggle...but who started it?

SO, HERE you have it! And with all these good people in mind...

QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "There is an indifference that is more helpful than your blabbering about being humane, as the right hand pets some of us like Mother Teresa, and the left hand swings the sword of the tribunal against others. Little devils of goodness. Humanity hyenas. There is no one less open to suffering than you official humanitarians. Marsbodies that appear as the protectors of human rights... The people here have become as evil as they are not. And the war has made you tourists as evil as you are."
--Peter Handke, Dugout Canoe, The Play About The Film About The War, 1999

I WONDER, have these good people signed a statement condemning the use of torture by the U.S.? I will gladly volunteer to draft one for Joanne Landy and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy. I'll even submit the draft to Noam Chomsky and Michael Bérubé for their approval, comments and guidance... Because, see, as I reflected in my last blips, "the Convention Against Torture treaty, as ratified by the Senate, doesn't prohibit the use of 'cruel, inhuman or degrading' tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad, in Iraq or elsewhere." As Frank Davies of Knight Ridder Newspapers reported on January 25, 2005, "Torture treaty doesn't bar 'cruel, inhuman' tactics, Gonzales says." (See, http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/10732654.htm)

AS WE ALL know Alberto Gonzales is our next Attorney General...

CLEAN ELECTION in the land of the free and home of the brave: "If it makes you feel any better," writes Milo Clark, "we have documented a case here in Hawaii where a Hart eSlate DRE recorded votes for candidate A to candidate B. And this is on top of documenting that in 15 of 72 precincts on the island of Hawaii, Hart eSlates recorded votes for a party not on the ballot for the precincts involved."

"WORSE times are coming," Milo adds.

JUST IN CASE you missed it, here is the benediction prayer that Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, delivered at the close of His Highness Bush II's coronation on January 20, 2005:

Oh Lord God Almighty, the supply and supplier of faith and freedom, how excellent is Your name in all the earth. You are great and greatly to be praised. God, as we conclude this 55th inaugural ceremony, we conclude it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Thank You for protecting America's borders. After all, the Psalmist reminds us, unless You, O God, guard the territory, our efforts will be in vain.

Thank You for our armed service personnel. And it is with unswerving thanksgiving that we pause to remember the persons who have made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure America's safety. Thank You, O God, for surrounding our personnel, their families, their friends and our allies with Your favor and Your faithfulness.

Deploy Your hosts from heaven so that Your will for America will be performed on earth as it is already perfected in heaven. I confess that Your face will shine upon the United States of America, granting us social peace and economic prosperity, particularly for the weary and the poor.

I also confess, God, that each American's latter days will be better than their former days. Let it be unto us according to Your Word.

Rally the Republicans, the Democrats and the Independents around Your common good so that America will truly become one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equal opportunity for all -- including the least, the last and the lost.

Bless every elected official right now. God, I declare Your blessings to shower upon our president, George W. Bush. Bless him, his family and his administration. I once again declare that no weapon formed against them shall prosper.

God, forgive us for becoming so ensnarled in petty partisan politics that we miss Your glory and block our purpose. Deliver us from the evil one, from evil itself and from the mere appearance of evil.

Give us clean hearts, so that we might have clean agendas, clean priorities and programs and even clean financial statements.

Now, unto You, O God, the One who always has been and always will be, the one King of kings and the true power broker, we glorify and honor You.

Respecting persons of all faiths, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

FEELS GOOD, doesn't it? And then you wonder why they are teaching creationism and "intelligent design" in an increasing numbers of America's schools. Hey, even Hillary Clinton is preaching abstinence now! And with the inauguration complete, god has left Washington DC for Jacksonville and the Super Bowl.

"When they look at Jacksonville, I want them to see loving people who care about their city," [David Garrett, head of the Jacksonville Baptist Association's Super Bowl Ministry] said. "I want them to see Jesus."

"We're blessed in Jacksonville," said David Burton, director of evangelism for the Florida Baptists Convention. "...We are very blessed here, whereas you go to some other cities in the nation where maybe the Super Bowl is being played, it seems like darkness, like the evidence of Satan is heavy there."

Neither Mr. Garrett nor Mr. Burton revealed whether god is a Patriots fan or an Eagles fan, but given that it is ungodly to not be a patriot, and unpatriotic to not be godly, we assume he's betting on New England...

BOONVILLE NEWS: The good folks at The Anderson Valley Advertiser appear to have had their friendly ego bruised by my contention that the paper was becoming boring. So they republished my comments with a zest of good humor and further included a big byline, TAKE THIS, GILLES above a letter to the editor that read:

Enclosed is a check for one year of your always interesting publication. Your six month "probation" has proven that I should not have had any doubts about the continued quality of this paper.

You are keeping the edginess, even if it's a bit kinder and gentler than Bruce Anderson's. I like it.

Signed, Lilo Ducommun, in Laytonville, CA.

Er, what should I take exactly is not explained, but notwithstanding the inference to the inference, the quality of a newspaper lies in the eye of the beholder. When Johnny Carson retired from NBC Tonight Show in 1992, Jay Leno came to the scene. I'd kindly and gently submit that compared to Johnny Carson, Mr. Leno is rather bland and boring, but then what do I know!

Don't worry, dear David (Severn) and Mark (Scaramella), you are much loved and appreciated here, and I thank you for finally spelling my name correctly. Talking about name, or surname, take a moment and check the etymology of "Ducommun."

A neighbor sent us a nice piece of racist rhetoric advocating racial profiling of Moslem extremists. Geez, and I who thought that Anderson Valley was an oasis of liberalism... (The Valley voted 69.29 percent for Kerry in the November election, and if you factor the Bush vote, the Valley voted 93.91 percent for the duopoly -- that's the extent of the meaning of "change" that is so well reflected by the local radio, KZYX!) Thinking of it, and irony apart, I sure appreciate the company of David and Mark...

On my boring side of the ledger, we planted nine sycamores, five European birches, two redwoods, two apple trees, two chestnut and two walnut trees.

And so it grows...

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Internal Resources

Iraq on Swans

America the 'beautiful'

Blips and Tidbits


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

The Upside Down - Walter Laqueur One - by Milo Clark

Terrorism Upgraded To Normality - Walter Laqueur Two - by Milo Clark

Excessive Demands Will Exceed Capabilities - by Philip Greenspan

America's Health Is In Tainted Hands - by Jan Baughman

Johnny Carson - by John Steppling

Boycotting The Hegemony: Part Two, Bechtel - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

The Pledge Of Solidarity - by Manuel García, Jr.

And We Call It The "Paper Of Record!" - Book Review by Louis Proyect

Shakespeare, Playwright Of The Diaspora? - Book Review by Charles Marowitz

Le Chant des Partisans (Song of the Partisans) - by Maurice Druon & Joseph Kessel

Blips #11 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor

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URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art11/desk011.html
Published January 31, 2005