by Gilles d'Aymery
"Power is much more easily manifested in destroying than in creating."
—Wordsworth, Preface to The Borderers, 1796
(Swans - July 18, 2005) WE WERE SUPPOSED to celebrate Western generosity two weeks ago. The fight against African poverty was a story with considerable traction. Launched with great fanfare thanks to the likes of Bono and Bob Geldof, pardon me, SIR Bob Geldof, as they religiously extolled the valorous and gallant efforts and commitments of the "civilized" world, the G-8 Summit could not but be a tremendous success. Mr. Blair took center stage under the paternal gaze of his Uncle Sam du jour. Ensconced in the wealthy resort of the Gleneagles Hotel, which for the occasion, as a model of freedom and democracy, had been surrounded by a five mile perimeter fence with watchtowers, 10,000-large police contingent, helicopters, US marines at the ready (see Joe Davison's report), our munificent leaders were hard at work on the benevolent task of forgiving a few billions of debt in exchange for open access to free markets and raw materials. The news networks were focusing on the first part of the equation, the leaders and the corporate barons on the second. It all made for a jolly ending and happy time. Here was an occasion about which TV watchers in the rich world could feel really good for a few days of news cycle. But wait, what were these sounds on the horizon? Boum, boum, boum, boum... The dastardly terrorists, in a matter of minutes, had stolen the show. The camera crews packed their trucks and rushed to cover the latest episode of Fear Factor. Blood -- especially our gruesome, horrific blood -- and tragedy are good for ratings. Happy times were not to be, after all, and the G-8, with its sanctimonious baloney, quickly receded into ether.
MR. BLAIR, MEANWHILE, kept center stage, this time as the defender of the poor and the orphans, of our way of life and that of the "civilized" peoples of the world. "The War on Terror continues," uttered Mr. Bush with usual conviction, all the while pondering with his advisers whether the U.S. should invade Britain in order to fight the terrorists over there rather than on our blessed American shores. "Terror in London" made the morning and evening news for a few days; messages of sympathy were offered as they should be; the dead were mourned and remembered; flower memorials in the impacted locations grew over the days as a touching reminder of people's humanness (though it would be comforting to see similar displays in Fallujah). Meanwhile, the G-8 long forgotten, the leaders back in their respective homes, the British police and security services went to work with remarkable efficiency. Within days the identities of the perpetrators were discovered -- home-grown boys...
THE STORY had to compete with a few side shows: the jailing of NYT's Judith Miller, which had more leg in the print media than on TV; the nomination of a new Justice for the US Supreme Court, to be done in a "dignified and civilized way"; hurricane season; the Srebrenica "massacre" and usual Serb bashing; and, of course, the favorite issue of the US punditocracy, did he or did he not do it? He being Mr. Bush's "architect," Karl Rove, the much admired or maligned, depending on which side of the aisle one stands, top adviser to the president; it meaning possibly leaking the name of a covert CIA agent which apparently is a crime in the U.S. The Rove story had much juice and handily supplanted the London tragedy within the fourth estate. By the end of the week the "scandal" had grown to such an extent that all Sunday morning news shows covered it, with NBC's Meet the Press dedicating the entire hour to the issue. G-8, London, Srebrenica, etc., were out; Rovegate was in.
ROVEGATE REALLY? It looked like it till people began to realize that the story had little to do with the outing of a CIA agent or the discrediting of Joseph Wilson. As Frank Rich puts it in respect to Wilson, "he is, in Alfred Hitchcock's parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is 'a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops.'" Rich continues, "This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit -- the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon Tapes -- is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds. . . . . this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair." (Frank Rich, "Follow the Uranium," NYT, July 17, 2005.) The Minneapolis Star Tribune concludes its editorial of July 14, 2005 thus: " In the scheme of things, whether Rove revealed Plame's identity, deliberately or not, matters less than actions by Rove, Bolton, Cheney and others to phony up a case for war that has gone badly, has cost thousands of lives plus hundreds of billions of dollars, and has, a majority of Americans now believe, left the United States less safe from terrorism rather than more. That's the indictment which should matter most."
THE SHARKS are smelling blood. We're talking Iraqgate here. Cheney has retreated to the safety of his bunker, nowhere to be seen. The White House has gone mute. Will special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald uncover the "fix" to which the Downing Street memo referred? Will he connect the dots between the lies concocted in the White House and the war against Iraq? This story eclipsed practically everything else in the past week. It appears to have solid legs... Stay tuned.
BACK TO LONDON, for a moment, and the couple of similarities, beside the sheer horror, between 9/11 and 7/7. On both occasions, the security apparatus of each country, while aware of potential threats, was unable to prevent the respective attacks and within days each was able to reconstruct the events and identify the perpetrators. This should bring plenty of ammo to the conspiracy theorists out there. The off-the-cuff, idiotic comment by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that "it seems that part of this team [the perpetrators] had been subject to partial arrest" in 2004 will add to the rumor mill. Wow, the Brits organized the London terror spree; or maybe it was the Israelis, who are known in some quarters to be behind all mischief, crimes and misdemeanors, terror attacks, even behind the outing of the CIA agent.
TALKING ABOUT conspiracy theories, aficionados would be well served to visit the Web site of Popular Mechanics (PM) and take a look at their March 2005 cover story, "9/11: Debunking the Myths." PM investigated, with the help of more than 70 professionals, "the 16 most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists." You know, "the Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet," and on and on and on. As the PM editors state, "in the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense." In these increasingly chaotic times, a bowl of common sense is like fresh air in the midst of 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperature.
SLIDING TOWARD DISORDER, says Philip Golub, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Paris VIII and the Institut d'Études Politiques, Paris, France, in "United States: the slide to disorder" (Le Monde Diplomatique, July 2005) is not a matter of if but a matter of when. Golub posits that "[T]he unilateralism of the United States - economic, commercial and military - is at odds with the multilateral reality of today's world. US politics of military supremacy contradicts its sacred principle of free markets." He then asks, "[W]ill this be a turning point of history, like the one that marked the end of the first phase of capitalist globalisation, which lasted from 1880 to 1914?" He concludes, "[T]he formal and informal transnational webs of capitalist cooperation and the supra-state regulatory institutions of globalised capitalism constructed or reinforced during the 1980s and 1990s are proving unable to hold the system together. Since there is no transnational political authority to halt or reverse the disintegrative trend, we are sliding towards disorder." Not a rosy scenario, but one that is developing under our very eyes.
QUOTATION FOR THE AGES: "The only thing [that Britain] has done for European agriculture is mad cow. You can't trust people who have such lousy cooking."
--Jacques Chirac, president of France, apparently joking with Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin, in Kaliningrad early July 2005.
I'm sure our British readers will appreciate the "joke." Hey, don't blame me; I had no say in the place and date of my birth; and the best fish and chips in the world I've ever eaten were in Britain!
BOONVILLE NEWS: Just about one month ago we had to burn wood in our stove to keep us warm. It felt like being in Boston or Maine, where I'd much prefer to be -- especially Maine (can you spot Castine on a map?). Summer heat has come with a sudden vengeance, averaging 100 deg. F. in the past few days. Trees, plants, animals, humans, are suffering -- though, compared to Iraq I'll take this heat any day... -- and water is short...the story of the disintegrating West (US West) in a nutshell.
But, no worries, right down the road, a new vineyard is on its way. Wine is the blood-of-late in this valley. People live by it. Immigrants -- now a majority of the Valley population -- sustain the trend. The old timers, all white, try to adapt. The vineyards bring construction and maintenance work and plenty other well-paid jobs. Who's to complain? Destroying habitat in the long term is not a short-term concern, like how to pay for the bigger trucks valleyers are buying at an accelerated pace.
The last time I went down to the drive-in, I saw a 60ish woman getting in a brand new humongous blue truck. With her cellulite-loaded buttocks, jodhpur thighs, and small 5ish-foot frame, the poor woman had to haul herself with great effort on her failing biceps into the cab, finally sitting at the wheel, all proud of herself, a smile on her face in the midst of a suspicious, circular look for anyone not a part of her tribe who may either disapprove of her latest acquisition (we do have PC lib-labs around) or, worse, who knows, maybe fearing envy from brigands, that her latest materialist trophy would lead to a carjacking, and possible rape by the one of the hordes of southern, brown-skin immigrants that roam the land (some of whom she may employ in her own home so long as the price is right). She drove out to the far-away place where she resides -- a couple of miles from town; she's part of the old-timers' jet set; works for the local this or that, paid by the taxpayers; family's been in the Valley for as long as recorded memory can tell; husband drives another big truck with a bumper sticker that reads "Environmentalism is a disease" or something approaching; advocates that if you own a place, whether your home, or 100,000 acres of redwood tracks, you should be able to do as you please, without local, state, or federal interference. There is something truly endearing about sharing Northern California enlightenment!
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...