Citizen Zed - 2/1/11
It's like when you saw Jurassic Park and had an even deeper thrill, perhaps alongside troubling reservations, that for better worse film would never be the same again. What happens when global political reality feels its sinews torn and re-strung in the wake of something like that? With Wikileaks, Tunisa and now Egypt we're finding out daily. And for us in the theatre of events it's every bit as stupefying and sensational as watching T Rex rampage through apparatchiki who comically, yet self-confidently, regurgitate the pablum of unconscious anachronism - as though somebody might as well be ringing the dinner bell.
Senator Claire McCaskill appears on MSNBC back in November, bedecked in a smart clown suit underscoring her expertise in the art of official denial. Questioned about incitement to war with Iran by Gulf state elites, McCaskill's ire focuses solely on the messenger: "Well, I think what I‘m stunned about is that someone that had access to this information decided it was a great idea to make it public... and I really do think it‘s time that we take a look and make sure that our laws are strong enough in terms of going after people who leak this".
Everybody loves seeing a cheerleader get it first in a monster-horror flick. A deer in the headlights, oblivious to the sheer scope of the unthinkable, resorting to the machinery of a paint-by-numbers programme. Only we in the audience know this is the very thing that makes for twitching protoplasm in the wake of der Gang Gottes in der Welt.
"This Administration is advancing a robust foreign policy that is focused on advancing America’s national interests and leading the world in solving the most complex challenges of our time", says Secretary Clinton after wondering if "there's enough room in here" for her cunning contribution to the crescendo of hysteria™.
"Disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper function of responsible government", she says, beautifully begging the question when the meaning of question begging has been lost. Does the US Government function properly, is it responsible? Bracket everything you think about the wisdom of or whatever about the leaks and this blazingly obvious question now stands spectacularly posed. And yet, Ms Clinton's whole act turns on evading a proper response. What now needs an argument to establish a conclusion is, rather, reflexively imported into her premises.
The stride of something that shouldn't be alive sends tremors, vibrating the placid reservoirs of privacy, and our actors can only manage the incantations of denial.
But yet another trick works to kick up dust and misdirect attention. After assuring us that "I will not comment on or confirm what are alleged to be stolen State Department cables", Ms Clinton can't help but gesture at what's obviously a face saving bright spot:
"So if anyone reading the stories about these alleged cables thinks carefully, what they will conclude is that the concern about Iran is well founded, widely shared, and will continue to be at the source of the policy that we pursue with like-minded nations to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
We beg to differ Secretary Clinton. Even before Tunisia and Egypt, careful thinking should have struck upon the realization that the schemings of corrupt Arab leaders confer no legitimacy to war threatening contortions about Iran. To suggest otherwise is sheer sophistry. Like the truck crashing through the TV screen during an NFL time out, the logic of this turns on mind games - in the same way a desperate sale is flashed at the reptilian brain as an event.
You knew the Arab street did not share the shameful, secretly transmitted views of their leaders. The view you push is not "widely shared". Not where it counts. On the Arab street this pronouncement only highlights the disconnect between the people and their "concerned" leaders.
And while you decry Wikileaks, we know the US almost certainly assisted Israel in the manufacture and testing of the sophisticated Stuxnet malware used to attack Iran's industry. The US engages in cyberwar by proxy and cries foul when mere internet tech is employed to unveil the secret tissue of ugly geopolitical calculus. We are to buy the notion that it's the latter which is an "attack on the international community"?
You'd think the blowback from having overthrown Iranian democracy back in 1953 would give pause to employing a weapon that can be turned against us. You'd think the gross consequences of working both sides of the Iran-Iraq war would nowadays condition careful thinking. And you'd think careful thinking would conclude, at the very least, that tacit involvement in the "slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" can only only correspond to a time-lapse corrosion of respect for American rhetoric.
America is the fat Elvis gyrating on the world stage. Tragically past its prime and bereft of either genius or nobility, its moves are stained by the imprimatur of imperial inertia, of sweaty emotional exceptionalism and a grotesque dependency on, and thus an appeal to, animal instinct. Look down at Fox News all you want, but their crime is only to be more up front about it.
Yes Secretary Clinton, the impossible Karma Monster is crashing through Pax Americana Park. And the world whose leadership America arrogates to itself needs something more substantial than a stale and tacky stage routine.
Permit the observation of a drunken Irishman. There he was in Sligo, wound up over the Ryder Cup, asking: "You know why we drink to taking the cup?". Awaiting an answer, he went off on an imitation - at first unclear - but then unmistakably that of astronauts talking to Houston. "Don't you see", he went on, "you Americans are the richest, most powerful people in the world - you can do anything... and you don't".
Please imagine the tone, a sneer tinged with disappointment, yet somehow suffused with a hope that we'd become ourselves again.
Watching Apollo 11, the whole world vicariously breathed the American Dream. You remember. Now with the world watching Egypt, they want to remember. Even the kids who can't, they strain to conjure that America. Suddenly the buzzing welter of the facebook generation vibrates to Tunisia and Egypt. They care. And recoiling at the smell of facts undergirding the Egyptian regime, they aspire to recollect an America they can believe in. They want to pick up the flag and plant it on the frontier of global evolution.
No Secretary Clinton... No Mr. President, there's not enough room in here any more. Like it or not the space has changed; and a heretofore "non-ideological generation", caring more than before and stewing in progressive realizations, will ask the same questions Egypt asked in the wake of Tunisia. Please don't wait to feel its expression. Time to tear down the wall, widen the stage and clean up the act.
It won't do to merely advise transitions to Mubarak or to inveigh against the inevitable disclosure of America's dark world of realpolitik. America can do anything - but it has to start by challenging itself.
The tired dimensions of American foreign policy were jolted by a neoconservative phantasm in Iraq. But waking from that lapse of reason can't mean plugging into prior formulas. Any more of that just keeps sweeping carnage and lies under the rug. The atmosphere remains choked by the reflexive intonation of "American interests".
American conduct with the wider world desperately needs to move to a different beat. Finding a way out of the horror show may depend on one intuition buried in the dust. It's something we might clue into when we hear voices from Egypt emphasize that "it's not about America". For when America saw its apogee of influence and recognition, it was when we came in peace for all mankind.