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Noam Chomsky is one of the few people who bucked the conventional wisdom that bombing Afghanistan was good--before and after we "won." He also opposed the Kosovo war back in Clinton time, earning him the scorn of liberals who support humanitarian intervention. The MIT prof is the subject of a passive-aggressive hatchet piece in the New Yorker this week. It's one of those mini-biographies, where a staff writer talks about Chomsky's academic battles as a linguist, his current schedule of intensive travel and speechifying, his wife, his grooming--while subtly reinforcing the official line that he's a bad egg. For example:
Chomsky is not a pacifist on principle, but when it comes to the United States he has never supported an intervention. The country's record is just too damning, he says: to expect better in the future is to indulge in willful self-delusion. States, he believes, can never be moral actors. But when asked to suggest a better way--an alternative to intervention in, say, Bosnia or Kosovo or Rwanda, to stop massacres currently taking place--he has no ideas to offer. Those are, he says, difficult cases. He does not know how to think about them.I recommend perusing Chomsky's writing archive at znet to see whether he "doesn't know how to think" about Kosovo, in particular. He points out that there was no "flood of refugees" there before the start of the war, as interventionists claimed, and attacks the double standard of the US arming the Turks against their own Kurdish population at the same time as we were "protecting" the Kosovars. He argues that Milosevic would have been toppled eventually through his own political blunders, and that the US bombing was an unnecessary aggravation. In general, he thinks it's better for countries to remove their own bad leaders a la Ceausescu than suffer the indignity of having it done for them. Whether one agrees with any of this or not, it's kind of deceitful to say it's not a position.
Wireframe Aesthetics (Part 1)
Escape from New York, 1981. John Carpenter couldn't afford wireframe computer simulation for his low budget film, so a model of New York City was constructed for the sole purpose of being photographed and rendered as a negative image. Escape from New York. Image as it appears in cockpit of Snake Plissken's glider. Still from Tron, 1982 (flipped vertically). Steven Lisberger's entirely computer-generated landscape set the standard for wireframe aesthetics. Critics often refer to this film with tongues in cheeks, but they do refer to it. Stephen Hendee, Inertial Field, 1998. Sculptor Hendee makes Tron-like walk-in environments with foamcore, electrician's tape, and backlighting, thus bringing the idea full circle, to a Carpenter-esque simulation of a simulation.
Escape from New York. Image as it appears in cockpit of Snake Plissken's glider.
Still from Tron, 1982 (flipped vertically). Steven Lisberger's entirely computer-generated landscape set the standard for wireframe aesthetics. Critics often refer to this film with tongues in cheeks, but they do refer to it.
Stephen Hendee, Inertial Field, 1998. Sculptor Hendee makes Tron-like walk-in environments with foamcore, electrician's tape, and backlighting, thus bringing the idea full circle, to a Carpenter-esque simulation of a simulation.
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.