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Paul Berman, the "liberal hawk" who I posted about earlier, just published a NY Times magazine piece on Sayyid Qutb, an obscure (to us) Islamic philosopher, who apparently is the key to Berman's "Islamic fascism" hypothesis. We've been discussing it over here. In so many words, Berman says that Qutb's brand of militant religious fundamentalism has the potential to unite secular and spiritualist Arab factions that have traditionally been opposed (and still are, judging from Osama bin Laden's recent condemnation of Saddam Hussein).
Ellen Willis reviews Berman's book in Salon today, and says he's wrongheaded to support Bush's war--she calls him "naive." Berman treats Bush as a mere instrument to bring Enlightenment (i.e. liberal democracy) to spiritually mature but politically ignorant Arabs, but Willis reminds us that Bush has a fundamentalist agenda of his own. I'd say Berman is doing Bush's intellectual spadework: in his research and exegesis on Qutb, he's trying to forge a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda that Bush has so far been unable to prove.
Berman says the antiwar movement makes fascism abroad possible, but by giving Bush philosophical legitimacy, he's abetting its spread here at home. The "reluctant hawk" argument (espoused by the likes of Joshua Marshall, who rah-rahed the war 'till a few days before it started) is "We need to take out Saddam, I just don't think George Bush is doing it the right way." This seems totally unrealistic and hypothetical to me. For all the center/left's blather, the only plan on the table is Bush's. And the left's first priority should be removal of that right wing nutjob by 2004 at the latest. Supporting his war helps keep him in power.
I've been a bit shy about putting pictures of myself on this site, but every once in a while someone takes a photo of me that causes me to say, "People gotta see this." So here it is. Please don't clog the comment board with praise or jealous jeers--I want to be appreciated for my ideas, not just how I look on cam.
From The Agonist, here's some news from the last country we liberated:
9:53 CST Thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Laghman, a provincial capital in Afghanistan, on March 23 to protest the U.S.-led war on Iraq. An estimated10,000-plus people chanted slogans like "allah akbar" (God is Great) and burned U.S. and British flags. Many protesters were chanting "death to America, death to Britain, " the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency reported.
Well, I wasn't planning to include this picture in my post on the March 22 protest, because the cops had a minimal presence from what I could see. But according to bloggy, they got a little rowdy late in the day, when the protesters didn't disperse as fast as they'd like. This picture shows New York's finest in their riot helmets (behind the women), waiting for marchers near the endpoint. If ya got power, ya gotta use it, I guess.
I attended the march to protest the invasion of Iraq today in New York City. The crowd of 100,000 to 200,000 stretched from Times Square to Washington Square--this thing was big. As with the Feb. 15 rally, the mood was passionate and upbeat, with spontaneous cheering and chanting: "Money for health care! Not for war! Money for schools! Not for war! Money for libraries! Not for war!" As you can see from this picture, it was a family event, on a beautiful Spring day, and you could almost close your eyes and believe that the suits weren't raining death and madness on a faraway country, at hideous cost to all of us.
The crowd was mellow but a lot of the signs were angry. How could you not feel that way if you'd spent a couple of days watching Wolf Blitzer and Peter Arnett screaming "Whoa! Whoa! Look at the size of that one!" as downtown Baghdad was ripped to shreds? Here's the grrlpower antidote to the wargasm boys: one of the signs said "Eat my Bush."
And then there was this guy. This is a bold piece of agitprop, but of course it represents an extreme view that this page cannot in any way endorse. Can you imagine, comparing Bush to you-know-who and the WTC massacre to the Reichstag fire? Irresponsible, irresponsible.
Unlike Feb. 15, cop presence was at a minimum. I guess they figured out that the crowds of kids, moms & dads, and seniors that turn out for these events don't merit the plastic handcuffs and riot gear. Also, virtually no "pro-war" demonstrators to be seen: just a couple of disgruntled souls standing on the sidewalk shaking their heads or holding thumbs down. No hardhats screaming "Death to hippies!" I certainly have the impression that this city, which you'd think might be baying for militaristic revenge for 9/11, in fact feels emphatically the opposite. Maybe that's why Bush has decided to sacrifice us.
Salon has just posted a super-smarmy interview with "liberal hawk" Paul Berman, who espouses the Christopher Hitchens line that "Islamofascism" is the deadliest threat facing the world today. Forget that we're talking about mostly Stone Age countries riven with tribal and nationalist infighting, and forget that what he calls Baathist (pan-Arab) and Islamist tendencies are utterly opposed (he describes them equivocally as "rivals/cousins"). Yes, henceforth these people will unite and goosestep together in one great, monolithic nation that will make the Ottoman empire look like a high school chess club. That is, unless we stop them. And by "we" Berman means George Bush, even though he whines that the interviewer is "trying to pin him down" in expressing support for the Iraq takeover. He spits venom at antiwar protesters, comparing them to the French socialists who ignored the Nazi threat, and asks a loaded question: How horrible must they feel seeing photos of tearful Iraqis embracing their "liberators"? (Duh, don't you think those are precisely the images Bush & Co want us to see?) Berman thinks protesters should stop demonstrating and start agitating for more democracy in Iraq. It rattles the brain that he's so focused on stopping fascism abroad he can't see it growing at blitzkrieg pace in his own country.
Ironically, those alarm bells are being rung much more loudly by the hard, libertarian right than the "help others even if it kills them" left. An essay in the Moonie-owned Washington Times, by archconservative Paul Craig Roberts, actually compares Bush to Hitler! Here, at least, is someone who is worried about the Administration's use of forged evidence as a pretext for war.
The news media are really into this war thing, huh?
I'm following all this on the Internet because I can't bear the TV coverage. I don't have much to say that other weblogs aren't saying more eloquently, except, if you're reading this outside the USA:
Sorry, not all of us agree with the current government. We're having a little "Nazis taking root" problem and hopefully we'll have it fixed by the next election.
Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy (Blue, White, and Red) was recently released on DVD, and I just watched White again, after having seen it in the theater in '94. It's the least discussed but for some reason my favorite of the trilogy--it's certainly lingered longest in my memory. The plot in a nutshell (spoilers): Karol Karol is a Polish hairdresser ditched by his beautiful French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) because he can't "consummate the marriage." Dead broke and on the lam because she has falsely accused him of setting fire to her shop, he ships himself back to Poland in a suitcase. Communism has just fallen and he uses some lucky inside information to get rich in a real estate deal. Still desperately in love with Dominique, he hatches a weird plot, making her co-executor of his estate, faking his own death, and framing her for murder. After the funeral he shows up in her hotel room and they make passionate love, but she goes to the slammer nevertheless; at the end of the movie he visits her in prison (presumably by buying a guard's silence) and she communicates a message, using Charades-like hand gestures, from a barred window high above him: "When I get out, I will not run away; I will (re)marry you." In the last shot of the movie, Karol lowers his binoculars and we see tears of happiness streaming from his eyes.
The commentary track clarifies the confusing, albeit moving, ending. When I first saw it I just assumed Karol was wealthy and influential enough to officially resurrect himself and have the charges against Dominique dismissed, once she'd sworn to be faithful to him. She cried at his "funeral" so he knows she still loves him, even though the renewal of her vows is coerced. The audio commentator (a Kieslowksi expert) says that deleted scenes make it clear that Karol tried and failed to get the charges dropped and was still "dead" when that last scene takes place. A Spanish critic opined that Dominique's hand gestures were only Karol's fantasy, and the movie ends with him just as frustratingly removed from his wife as he was at the beginning. Yet the DVD commentator notes that in an earlier (non-deleted) scene we hear that "the lawyer is making progress" (toward Dominique's acquittal) and in the movie Red, you see Karol and Dominique together among the ferry survivors, so there's a belated happy ending.
Feminist film critics have condemned Kieslowski (and this movie in particular) for misogyny, and it's true Dominique is one-dimensional--she serves mainly as Karol's tormentor and object of longing. The plot revolves around him, and he's enormously sympathetic. Dominique is a memorable harpy in the film's first reel--when Karol fails to satisy her, she files for divorce, cuts off his bank cards, and accuses him of arson. In view of this terror campaign, Karol's use of the Polish prison system to break her will seems like a perfectly reasonable countermeasure. But, then, once he gets his mojo back she becomes genuinely affectionate. In truth, they're both strong and determined people, even though he's the better drawn character; the movie's more about him conquering his co-dependency than shackling her. And his bounce back in the middle of the film from utter humiliation truly exhilarates.