December 7th, 2006


Oh, Lileks, you complete me

The Second World War, as has often been noted in this space, is the last war that everyone in America felt more or less morally comfortable about. This is why conservatives are constantly invoking it in order to tart up whatever bullshit war they want us to fight at the moment: if they say "Well, we want to knock off this third-world country in Southeast Asia so they don't go commie and rob us of a cheap labor pool", people are likely to wince a bit, but if they manage to find a way to compare it to WWII in terms of halting a monstrous evil before it eats our babies, well, then, boys, we can all rally 'round the flag. Hence the currently popular, albeit totally absurd, notion that our invasion of Iraq is exactly like WWII, except America has gone weak in the knees from decades of soft living and the creeping, womanly influence of liberalism. Today, our boy Jim-Jim, in the course of spelling out why the Baker Plan is a non-starter, regurgitates this notion in a particularly facile way:

It’s as if we invaded France and spent three years getting their government back on their feet before proceeding to Berlin.

Uh. Well, no, James, actually, it's not like that at all. First and most obviously, we are the occupiers of Iraq. We're really more like the Germans than the Americans in this scenario, because...well, remember all those movies you like to crow about, those moral-clarity pictures from the '40s and '50s about the Big One? Remember the French Resistance? That's the Iraqi insurgency. They're fighting to kick us out. When we showed up, the French were happy to see us and universally aided us throughout the rest of the war and beyond. That, to put it mildly, has not taken place in Iraq. For another thing, it was not difficult to reinstall a democratic government after we liberated France, because they already had one lying around that they'd been using up until the Nazis came sniffing around. Likewise with Germany: they had a pretty democratic system pre-Hitler. Neither of them were recently made-up countries invented by an imperial power with an aggregation of ethnic and religious entities unwillingly thrown together by their occupiers; neither had been built up militarily by the countries that would later invade them; and neither -- and here is the most important part -- was a fascist dictatorship for many, many decades prior to the initiation of hostilities. Additionally, we had plans -- extremely detailed plans, down to the minutest issue -- on how to rebuild Europe after the invasion, something sadly lacking in the American effort in Iraq; we had a country on wartime footing rather than one being constantly urged to rack up more debt; and we had the assistance of the entire continent of Europe in the rebuilding phase, an aspect missing now because Europe pretty uniformly thought that invading Iraq was a stupid idea. Moving on, I know you and yours like to pretend these days that Iraq or Syria or whatever are the real killers who murdered Ron and Nicole, and that Iraq was just a warmup for taking out Tehran, where all the 9/11 terrorists came from, but that begs a number of questions, such as why you never include Pakistan on that list or why we didn't just invade Iran and (especially) Syria to begin with. I had been led to believe that Saddam Hussein was the real villain here; and while I guess I can accept your ludicrously morphing rationales for why we invaded Iraq, there is no way in hell you can make me believe that this is exactly like when we invaded France in WWII.

He goes on to mock and deride the Baker Plan's suggestion of diplomatic efforts to democratize Iran and Syria, apparently forgetting that Iran and Syria were both democratizing and liberalizing pretty well with the aid of American diplomacy until we decided to stick them in the Axis of Evil and invade their region, thus galvanizing every radical for a thousand miles, putting their governments and citizens in a paranoid war mentality, and giving their worst leaders an excuse to roll back progressive legislation. Then there's a bunch of vapor about his old man, which ends with a photo of Lileks the Senior reading a newspaper from around the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Which, like another, more contemporary, adventure, is often referred to as a "fiasco".) Lileks conludes thus:

Ah. Yes. Well. The Bay of Pigs. Well, at least we learned our lesson. Talk strong and act irresolute , and the situation will resolve itself. Neatly and quickly. It's not like Cuba ever troubled us again.

Again: Uh...

It seems like Lileks is actually defending the Bay of Pigs invasion, which is so crazy I'm not even going to discuss it, but..."it's not like Cuba ever troubled us again"? He's clearly being sarcastic here, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. For one thing, Cuba never bothered us in the first place; Castro only went hardcore red to piss us off because we told him to get bent, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was much less about Castro than it was about the US and Russia playing big-dick with each other. But more to the point, did Cuba ever bother us again? Are they bothering us now? When, since 1963, has Cuba bothered us? Was there some big invasion that I didn't read about? Did Cuba launch a wave of terrorist attacks against us in the 1980s? Was Cuba sending arms to Hezbollah? I can't even imagine what this 'trouble' he's referring to, exacerbated by our limp-dicked 'diplomacy' and easily solvable by a nice robust invasion and occupation, might be. Does he mean simply that Cuba has had a dictator since then? Because I gotta tell you, there are a lot worse people than Castro. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were dictators only a few hundred miles away, in Central and South America, who made Castro look like Jerry Brown in terms of slaughtering and imprisoning their own people, and we not only didn't invade them, we put them in power. Does he mean that Castro was a commie, and no commies can ever be tolerated, no matter what the cost in human lives of not tolerating them might be? Because (a) that's nuts, and (b) that's the thinking that put dozens of bloodthirsty dictators (including Saddam Hussein) in power for so many years. I mean, help me out here. When did Cuba ever trouble us, except in 1980 when Castro got sick of us bugging him to release his political prisoners and said "Okay, you take them"? Am I missing something, or is it that in the world of Lileks, tiny hapless Cuba has constantly menaced American freedom for the last 50 years?
flavored with age

Voice Post: The Perils of Drunk Driving, or Getting Laffs from Sports Talk Radio

315K 1:34
“Hi there! I like to listen to sports talk radio in my car on the way to work, and the reason for that is because I like to listen to stupid people. I want to be exposed to as many of them every day as I possibly can, and sports talk radio provides that service for me. And it also heaps on additional benefits like tons of racism, and sexism, and homophobia. So it really has it all!

I was listening to it today in the car on the way into work and they played a Public Service Announcement about drunk driving, about how you should not drink and drive. And in this PSA they said that if you got into a car accident, a number of terrible things would happen to you, and they described them in gory, vivid detail: your head would fly through the windshield and be torn from your body, and your chest would be collapsed by the steering column, and your knees would be crushed by the impact.

Also, they mentioned that your feet would come out of your shoes. [Pause for dramatic emphasis.] And I thought that this was an odd thing to mention, because if your chest has been collapsed by a steering column and your head is being been torn from your body, I would not really think that losing your shoes...would be that bad. But I didn't put the thing together! I am NOT an expert on drunk driving! The people who wrote the PSA are.

So remember that, people: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. Because your shoes will come off.”

Transcribed by: petit_chou

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

- I have this theory that the majority of traffic jams are caused by cops. See, cops like to drive really slow, and no one ever wants to pass a cop for fear of getting pulled over, so wherever cops go, there's a line of backed-up traffic behind them. MY THEORY IS CORRECT, YOU DIE NOW

- At least the San Antonio cops have the big, easily-visible light racks on top of their cars, instead of the flat, barely-noticeable ones they use in Minneapolis. That shit is cheating.

- Update on the white compact I park near bearing a "DOING MY PART TO PISS OFF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT" sticker: it also sports decals depicting Elvis, the US Air Force, and the Texas flag. Because nothing pisses off the Christian right like Texas, Elvis, and supporting the military.

- Boy, this journal sure has been boring lately. Didn't I used to be funny? I didn't? Oh, okay, never mind then.

- In the Boomer generation, a lot of people thought that Richard Nixon would become a sort of universal cultural icon -- that he would live so long that coming generations of innocent children would be exposed to him, and their parents would have to destroy their childhoods by explaining who that awful man was and why he was on TV. Fortunately, Nixon died, but unfortunately, the role has been filled by Henry Kissinger.

- I have been wearing business clothes (that is, dress slacks, an Oxford shirt, and a tie) to work lately even though I don't have to. I think something has gone horribly wrong with me.

- There was a guy on the radio this morning who referred to today (that is, Pearl Harbor Day) as the day America lost its innocence. I have heard other people use this line to refer to the day that Kennedy died, the start of the Civil War, and the Sept. 11th terror attacks. Frankly, I dunno how a country built on a violent revolution, cutthroat capitalist expansion, and the mass slaughter and forced resettlement of Indians could ever have been innocent to begin with, but how many damn times can we have lost that innocence? Does America just collectively forget every few years that bad things sometimes happen? America starts to sound like one of those women who 'reclaim their virginity' after six husbands.