The Libyan War Is Decadent and Depraved
by GENERAL REHAVAM "GANDHI" ZE'EVI
Seize an industrial laser — a diamond-bit drill, one of those explosively formed penetrators that wrought so much havoc on soft-skin Baghdad Humvees — because it is apparently going to be a Herculean effort to puncture the Große Lüge that is the Libyan War. Like Austin Powers in Goldmember, we've seen this movie before, and it's not any funnier.
Launching a "limited humanitarian intervention" in Libya with the goal of "securing freedom and perpetuating democracy" is the military equivalent of the third time Mike Myers drinks a coffee pot full of shit. The first time, you were mildly amenable to the gag, succumbed to the word of mouth and bought a ticket (Afghanistan). The second time, you were amped up; you were suckered into the theater, inexplicably expecting a revelation in the second stretching of a thin joke for ninety minutes (Iraq).
But a third time? You don't deserve a refund. You deserve strychnine in your popcorn.
The ogres of Georgetown fleece the country rubes yet again. The labels of "Democrat" and "Republican" are significations as distinct as the difference between Our Gang and The Little Rascals. If you really think the motives for the Libyan War are dramatically different from those of our Iraqi self-immolation, Barack Obama's peals of laughter are only inaudible due to the foot-deep soundproof padding they have blanketing the war room. In the darkened corridors of the West Wing at midnight, the haunting sound of courtier hi-fives and war drum bro-daps can still be faintly heard, echoing off the cranial sinus where this swaggering pig president's soul should nest.
When I think of the Libyan War, anger crowds the mind as tightly as Gaddafi's sweaty gut in stolen girdle, stuffed into a pervert milkman's soiled clothes. So let me try to rasp out the dunce's marquee version of the War before the oncoming coronary robs me even of my capacity for rage.
Much like Saddam Hussein, who in 1991 lost control of fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces before reestablishing his mafia kingdom, by March 19, Gaddafi seemed poised to recapture Cyrenaica, seat of the Libyan rebels. To his credit as an honorary conductor on the "Straight Talk Express," Gaddafi was fairly frank about his desire to massacre the inhabitants of that city "alley by alley." This scared a coterie of Obomber advisers who, saddled with Clinton-era regret for their party's bold "pro-genocide" stance during the 1994 Rwandan holocaust, did not want to see Machete Season greenlit for a sequel.
As when we ranged the "don't fuck with us" technology of the U.S. threshing machine against Saddam's ragamuffin bread-subsidy army, we burned the Gaddafi gang like tuna in a flash-fryer. On April 10th alone, "NATO" forces — a Korean War-style laundering meant to conceal the Americans' viceroy gig in policing the Libyan skies — decimated twenty-five Gaddafi tanks like they were up-armored with marzipan. Havoc rains from high-altitude, so that the pols can keep pretending this isn't a war, just like they did in Kosovo 1999. The Gaddafi boys ate 161 cruise missiles on March 19th, "shock and awe" all over again.
Those missiles plunged deeper than in any ballistic test before; they punctured the fantasy that Obama was different. No one wants to froth with rage over someone they voted for — Barack was against the Iraq War at the start, when it mattered — and Afghanistan, well, the significance of his complicity in that ultraviolent hellride could still be minimized as an unfortunate inheritance from Bush. But Barack Obama owns Libya, the sister of these wars, no matter how gracefully he can spin this low-cost, no-risk "non-war." The same profiteers who grew as rich as Crassus betting on Iraq and Afghanistan have merely been subsidized in a new market, with even less visibility.
The corrupt bargaining that pervades the marrow of America's entire body of Mideast empire has metastasized even to the system's collapse: there is even a buck to be made on the death of the Mubarak Mideast. Raytheon Company, Boston-based arms conglomerate and manufacturer of the Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile, produced a radar-dodging horror that packs the ferocity of a band of Cossacks at potato harvest. By my calculations, the makers of the $1.4 million-a-pop Tomahawk made over $220 million dollars deflating Gaddafi's puffery in a single day.
That blow for freedom was delivered courtesy of a company who spent the last three years lobbying to crack the Libyan arms market through an umbrella group called the U.S.-Libyan Business Association. The first strike of the American War in Libya was spearheaded by a gang of profiteers who three weeks ago were desperate to fill the arms depots they are now destroying with their own weapons. This is the kind of irony that would've made Nero ditch the fiddle.
WAR LIE NUMBER ONE: THIS IS NOT A WAR AND IF YOU THINK SO YOU'RE A WAR CRIMINAL
The smart prediction about the Libyan War is that it's already a disaster that will only get worse, as well-planned as a stoned ecotourist's rudderless windsailing odyssey into the Sahara. It's a depraved misadventure, barely marketed to the masses — the direct mail pitch, something you glance at and throw away. Among the chattering influence-peddling intellectual classes, the War was sold using the exact same cudgels employed to stifle dissent against the Iraq invasion. Anyone stupid enough to believe that a campaign that systematically ravages a country's entire army isn't a war is begging for the draft to be reinstated, in some cleansing rain of cosmic justice.
President Barack Obama, as well as the besotted spin doctoring Osrics who carry the water for his administration, have an artful aversion to using that icky "w" word when addressing the Libyan War. War is yucky. The well-scrubbed white heels who voted for Obama would never like to think of themselves as being pro-war; so whatever you do, don't mention the War. In fact, the only sane demographic in this country is that which rightfully suspects everything the government does: black people. In the worst climate of fear since WWII, as much as 90% of African-Americans didn't buy the WMD bullshit, a feat that if anything, should make affirmative action a priority on par with putting a man on the moon.
Obama should listen to black voters who put him into office, because the only audacious hope these days is that some press pool scribblers revolt against his warmongering — as they did a few times against White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Carney, the older, emasculated version of Froggy from The Little Rascals, croaked out about as winsome an explanation for the "w" word's absence as Garfield would, sitting next to a bare lasagna pan:
"It is a time-limited, scope-limited military action, in concert with our international partners, with the objective of protecting civilian life in Libya from Moammar Gadhafi and his forces," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.Got it? I'm gonna repeat this so that you reporter fags will leave me in peace. It can't be a war because it's time-limited, even though no time limit has been presented. Every press secretary has said this about every military blunder in U.S. history. The Iraq War also had a time limit: troop drawdowns were to begin in December 2003. The Libyan War is limited in scope, even though — inside of one speech — Obama committed both to strictly humanitarian intervention and regime change.
"But not a war?" a reporter asked.
"I'm not going to get into the terminology," Mr. Carney replied. "I think what it is certainly not is, as others have said, a large-scale military—open-ended military action, the kind of which might otherwise be described as a war. There's no ground troops, as the president said. There's no land invasion."
The protection of civilian life does not require the active support of the slipshod rebel campaign. Lifting Iraqi sanctions alone would've "protected civilian life" more profoundly than Ahmed Chalabi's militia of bank fraudster goons ever would want to, even given an infinite number of invasion attempts, like some real-life Half Life tourney. Carney is a liar when he says there are no ground troops; sorry, count the CIA, as well as the likely presence of Special Forces trainers, as our man in Benghazi. But we're not going to get into terminology, and you're a stupid person for asking that.
The mechanized campaign of air annihilation began, and yet it took the President nine days to get with the program and deliver an explanation of why. Brazil is a beautiful country: its open-air drug market favelas, plausibly fetching transsexual gigolos, high-stakes games of "capture the flag" played with people as flags, and Manhattan-sized garbage dumps would certainly distract your average GOP congressman from the global game of Stratego that Obama was playing. Who can blame him for not wanting to spoil his tropical idyll to comment on something as ancillary as a third Middle Eastern war he unilaterally launched without congressional approval?
Obama made his first, throwaway reference to the war of concussive airborne death he had just launched in what appeared to be the lobby of a Rio De Janeiro Days Inn, the kind of place that would attract American gym teachers looking to discreetly play anal dodgeball with boys the same age as their students. Barack took his whirlwind motorcycle diary tour next to Santiago, where he took only two questions: one from a Chilean about U.S. complicity in Pinochet-era atrocities, the other on what the fuck was going on in Libya. The two questions are not as unrelated as they appear; General Augusto, after all, was the Mubarak of Latin America. But Barry bobbed and weaved out of the way.
For months now, I've been wheezing to anyone who will listen — passing motorists, CIA interrogators, mall security — that I was merely waiting to see how the most powerful of my generation, the Gen Y wastrels who popped their cherry to the self-pity of the Garden State soundtrack, would destroy the world. In the best line of that pallid Gatsby, they "smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." Allow me to introduce you to my contemporary patriots who surely wrote the speech Obama gave after his "Rum Diary" tour, men who exemplify the nobility of public service — viz. chief speechwriter Jon Favreau (not the Swingers fatso) and NSC parasite Tommy Vietor, who got personally polluted on beer pong in the ex-Bushie stomping ground of Georgetown while the BP oil well pumped ceaseless poison into the Gulf of Mexico. These are the humanists responsible today for selling the wholesale firebombing of most of the Muslim world. If these boys partied any harder, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would be keg-tipping them into a lobbying job. They are Republican preps in a human skin, hunting Jodie Foster in the White House basement.
Let's talk about that stillborn speech Obama finally coughed up courtesy of the frat pack, over a week after he'd begun whacking Gaddafi's gang from orbit, delivered to D.C.'s National Defense University as if they were the latest class of compliant apparatchiks to graduate from Lyubanka Prison. Inestimably inferior in importance to the actual meat-grinder carnage being visited upon Libyans today, but nevertheless shocking, is what that announcement says about America's political, military and journalistic elite.
Read through this and — literally — read it out loud in your best George W. Bush/Will Ferrell twang. Tell yourself, with ashen face, that Dubya couldn't have delivered it. Tell yourself Obama isn't parroting the Bush Doctrine when he says — he actually said this — "I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively and unilaterally when necessary." It's Dubya cleaned up slightly, like an unkempt child with Downs Syndrome being prepared for church, cowlicks and tangles jerkily combed out.
One could see the flickering, damning apparition of a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner hovering behind Obama as he got to the climax: "In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners." The systematic moral bankruptcy is further exposed as he soothes us that our involvement "would be limited," even as he warns "that's not to say that our work is complete." Indeed, "because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people."
That line says it all. He wants it both ways. He wants to look like the freedom-fighting reluctant warrior while pocketing regime change as the long-term goal. Obama forcefully claimed that "broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake," despite turning a curious phrase: "Even after Qaddafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured."
Dumb question, Mr. President: what if Gaddafi doesn't leave power? Why is Gaddafi's imaginary demise a declarative statement? Is this a commitment by the U.S. to knock off the Imam of Imams, at any price? He hasn't shown much weakness in his western Libyan tribal strongholds; the civil war is a stalemate we jumped right into, its musty battle lines spruced up by Obama's soaring rhetoric. Compared to that Libya address, Nixon's mortifying Checkers tearjerker has the dignity of Lou Gehrig's retiring as the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Any audience with a soul would've become a sea of snarling octopi mid-shame, dousing the president with ink and propelling themselves into a sunless grotto for the next decade.
Of course, we should take it as a given that the pols have no shame. But the "liberal" surrender is especially disgusting, given their eerily similar failure in 2003. "Liberals" have flocked to froth the sloppiest over "Mad Dog" Gaddafi, or simply ignored the war. That's pretty much all, folks. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein is a good example of the latter. Klein, a beigeist twee douchebag who's about as left wing as a "bear right" sign, and who cultivates the look of a GWU senior very good at fucking drunk freshmen, offered a stirring anti-war cri de couer for all those confused by this debacle: "This post shouldn't be read as a statement of opposition to military intervention in Libya. I don't know enough to confidently make that call."
Whoa whoa whoa, Ezra, relax. Have a drink of water before your passion gets the best of you. Reread that sentence: look at the little worm hedging on the call, knowing he might have to share an elevator later with Bill Kristol. He spends the whole post describing his legitimate discomfort at the Obama speech's inconsistencies, and then desperately tries to convince us he's not against the "intervention" (note again the "w" word's absence). That's because Klein craves his Beltway-insider status and the comfy nest he's made from the scavenged pages of yet another former liberal institution turned neocon mouthpiece.
Okay, so a fresh-scrubbed blogger handpicked by Steve Pearlstein to be Alan Colmes 2.0 is not a very tough target. But even the most admirable Mideast experts are out to lunch on this one. A few weeks ago, the University of Michigan's Juan Cole might've been "best in show" in the Mideast punditocracy. But, of course, as a new quagmire bubbles up — in the initial stages of combat when anti-war sentiments are both the riskiest to voice and most important to air — he pens a scolding missive, provocatively titled "An Open Letter to the Left on Libya."
The thesis is as straightforward as it is phony, stuffed with more straw men than a Halloween hayride: Cole urges the left "to chew gum and walk at the same time," arguing that just because the last Middle Eastern war sold on humanitarian grounds was humanity's nadir, doesn't mean we're being suckered again. Gaddafi was about to sack Benghazi as if it were Carthage, and therefore the Security Council-approved Western intervention is the human choice. Cole correctly anticipates the most convincing rejoinder to this line of thinking, and even writes his response in bold: Libya is not like Iraq.
Cole spends a lot of time trumpeting how this war found institutional backing in the United Nations. It's an important stylistic point, because this concern serves as the sole distinction between liberal interventionists and neoconservatives. Neocons believe you should be the boorish kind of drunk who pulls his pants down on the dance floor and hurls racial epithets at the bouncer, while liberal interventionists are the polite, quiet boozehounds who try to get most of their vomit into the toilet. Taunting missives are ugly in any form, but they're especially off-putting from a jeer-hound who was conned into arguing on Day One of the Iraq War that "the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides."
Do pundits understand why committing the most glaring unforced error since Bill Buckner's crotch-glance might somehow vitiate their current warmongering? The New Republic's Jonathan Chait posed exactly this question in an indignant tone so clueless it's adorable, like when senile ninety year-olds scream that the mailman keeps stealing their newspapers:
If you supported the Iraq war, you're disqualified from expressing an opinion on any other future war, unless you're against it? Is it a one-war penalty or lifetime ban? If the Libya intervention succeeds and confounds [Andrew Sullivan's] warnings, is he required to either support the next war or refrain from commenting?Well, no, Jonathan, it's not that Iraq War supporters should be disqualified from expressing an opinion on the next Mideast war; it's that their vocal cords should've been ripped out in a government project and given to cancer patients, while the happy donors were dispatched to a lengthy reeducation at Abu Ghraib University. Whining about "discrimination" because of your Iraq hawkishness is like O.J. Simpson getting in a huff because the salesman at Brooks Brothers won't let him try on the gloves.
Is it not perverse when self-described leftists try out the Tom Hagen "we hit Bruno Tattaglia at four o'clock this morning" line about Libyan air fields they never would personally participate in wrecking, using the finest explosives ever devised by man? The phoniest "lefties" just love burnishing their tough-guy images — Amis with his smoking and sneering, Hitchens with his boozing and youthful gig as a bouncer, even George Orwell, tapping his baton on patrol through colonial Burma. This posturing is about as convincing a projection of machismo as when Snoopy becomes Joe Cool, yet the people with the nuclear codes take these pig people's bar-room bellicosity seriously.
Take Bernard-Henri Lévy. A fraudster frog pop philosopher with the self-importance of some of your more fatuous Qajar princes, Lévy was intimately involved in lobbying Sarkozy to recognize the totally unknown, unelected quantity of the Benghazi "rebel front" as the legitimate government — a decision taken without the knowledge of Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. It's terrifying to know that a prêt-à-poseur guerilla who dresses like an Inspector Clouseau disguise could have that kind of pull, but then, The New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier has been peddling that shtick for a few decades, in an even more embarrassingly effete wardrobe. The only way I'd dress like these guys was if I was sentenced to do so by one of those creative Texan judges, the ones who make people wear "I AM A RAPIST" sandwich boards for their punishment.
Wieseltier, who styles his hair like a gayer version of Oscar Wilde, appeared to urge Obama to intervene militarily in Libya, Egypt and Iran and, as is the case with all of the aforementioned "intellectuals," does so in an unintentionally hilarious, overwritten style of prose. It's not merely unfortunate to Wieseltier that Obama has thus far ignored his pleas to firebomb the Mideast into a barbecue pit; it has rendered his genius writing the "rhetoric of futility." Wieseltier's Libya writing reads like a sixteen year-old anorexic's diary, except instead of pleading for more attention from her stepmom, she's bemoaning that the President won't take war advice from a New York literary critic who looks like the Quaker Oats man.
One would be remiss, in a discussion of overwritten bellicosity, not to pay respects to the untermensch himself, Tom Friedman, who, having reasonably outlined a few of the practical considerations for caution, throws said caution to the wind, tears off his JoS A. Bank dress shirt on Bourbon Street, and flashes his tits for the beads he so desperately craves: "I don't know Libya, but my gut tells me that any kind of decent outcome there will require boots on the ground… those boots cannot be ours. We absolutely cannot afford it… but I am deeply dubious that our allies can or will handle it without us, either."
Follow the logical progression. "I don't know anything about this country. We must invade it on instinct. We don't have any troops to send. We must send our troops to invade Libya." I like to imagine Friedman wrote that in a Vicodin haze, mumbling this mutually contradictory garbage as he staggered to work like brain-washed Reggie Jackson in The Naked Gun, just moaning, "Must... kill... the... Queen... must... kill... more... Arabs...."
So the media figures considered the most "sober" and "serious," who have the most actual influence on policymakers, are just all-unerring truffle hogs when it comes to terrible Middle Eastern ideas. Yes, the price of becoming a neocon truffle pig is that you not only preternaturally adore and yearn for the smell of your own shit, but you'll also come to view it as a privilege once Obama invites you to his Super Bowl party. How damaged is the world when virtually all the public criticism of this war emanates from, of all places, the Republican Party? Even though all of these reflexively anti-Obama GOP hippies are just being opportunistic, and would've goose-stepped into Tripoli had McCain won the election, I will never, ever forgive Barack Obama as long as I live for putting me in the intellectual company of John Bolton and John Boehner. We lost the Libyan War — emphasis: Libyan War — the moment it began.
WAR LIE NUMBER TWO: THIS IS ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS
Indulge me for a moment, as I build up to the punchline, the irony that betrays just how oxygen-starving stupid this war is, because even Yossarian couldn't have been cynical enough to guess the truth of this death from the skies. This war is not primarily about saving Benghazi from a Viking raiding party's revenge. To say, as Obama did, that the war's aim is "to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all" will seem awfully curious to the clay pigeon citizens of Bahrain. That Lord of the Flies island's resident despots, the al-Khalifa boys, were rewarded mid-crackdown with a visit from Defense Secretary Robert Gates on March 11. Bob's mildly critical palaver about "dialogue" with the protestors was requisite, as requisite as his sustained gratitude for King Hamad's gracious hosting of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Manama. Good thing SecDef was holding his nose throughout the meeting already, lest any of that tear gas waft his way.
I want you to read the above article by New York Times repeat offender Ethan Bronner and imagine it written not about Bahrain, but about Libya. This article was published in the most influential newspaper in the country, and any lengthy dissection of it demolishes the idea that America's most influential people care at all about human rights in the Arab world. Let's start with the title: "Crackdown Was Only Option, Bahrain Sunnis Say."
It is a little-know fact, but Ethan Bronner has been writing for the NYT for hundreds of years. You might remember some of his other articles: "Crucifixion Was Only Option, Roman Centurions Say," or "Fugitive Slave Act Was Only Option, Southern Landowners Say," or "Following Orders Was Only Option, Einsatzgruppen Say." From the start, this article blames the victims. The author attempts to ally the reader's sympathies not with the crowds of protestors but with a disgusting class of wealthy, oil-snorting killer sheikhs, who just happen to be allied with America instead of Iran. See, they're not like the obscene funtionaries who made Gaddafi's regime operate; they're civilized Arabs who like KFC and Lebron James! "Crackdown was only option" — isn't this almost exactly what Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said in his televised speech last month? Where's his sympathetic, Barbara Walters soft-focus profile?
The article uses the personae of Bahrain's American-educated, warm 'n' fuzzy Sunni aristocracy to supply the quotations necessary to bash those smelly Shi'ite barbarians in the streets. These vulgarian sheikhs were all for a democratic Bahrain — it's just that:
in the past week or two, the nature of the protest shifted — and so did any hope that demands for change would cross sectarian lines and unite Bahrainis in a cohesive democracy movement. The mainly Shiite demonstrators moved beyond Pearl Square, taking over areas leading to the financial and diplomatic districts of the capital. They closed off streets with makeshift roadblocks and shouted slogans calling for the death of the royal family. "Twenty-five percent of Bahrain's G.D.P. comes from banks," Mr. Abdulmalik said as he sat in the soft Persian Gulf sunshine. "I sympathize with many of the demands of the demonstrators. But no country would allow the takeover of its financial district. The economic future of the country was at stake. What happened this week, as sad as it is, is good."Note the adjective associated with the environment in which this piece of shit applauds the shotgunning of unarmed, democratic protestors for the crime of taking to the home base of the oligarchy that is beggaring, torturing and killing them every day: "soft." Soft Persian Gulf sunshine.
Bronner's writing is so energetic in spinning for the poor victimized oppressors, it honestly makes me wonder whether he has any financial interests in that country. Without challenge, he quotes Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa: "How can we have a dialogue when they are threatening us?" This is like Idi Amin complaining that the decapitated head he's yelling at won't negotiate with him. The armed takeover of Salmaniya Hospital — one of the last refuges for wounded protestors from the secret police viciously hunting them — is subject to the most breathtaking revision Bronner attempts in the entire article. The hospital, teeming with wounded protestors following the wanton machine-gunning of Pearl Roundabout, was raided on February 17th, lest anyone escape the crackdown; it's been under army control since then. Let's hear from a patient the AP found:
It was just after midnight when armed men in military uniforms came to the hospital bed of Ali Mansour Abdel-Karim Nasser, who was injured by pellets fired during a clash with riot police. He said what came next was worse: he was bound, beaten and mocked in the hallway of Bahrain's main state-run hospital. "I did not talk. I did not argue with them. I just cried," he told The Associated Press.Now let's hear the Bronner version:
The takeover of Salmaniya Hospital by the military especially shocked the world. But Hala Mohammed is a Sunni doctor at the hospital and said that in recent weeks it had turned into a mini-Pearl Square with tents and radical posters.I suppose Bronner thinks we should be inspired by this loathsome collaborator's relief that these troublemakers — her patients — are being carted off to a black hole where their wounds will fester in the comfort of endless imprisonment. Bronner probably knows your average beige NYT reader will twinkle at the speaker being a female Muslim working as a doctor; nevermind that it just means women are breaking the glass ceiling on state-sanctioned murder. It's likely at least a few of those patients had their medical treatment "adjusted" for them on the way out of the hospital, courtesy of the Mukhabarat, en route to their next primary caregiver, a shallow desert grave. Remember: first do no harm.
"The doctors who supported the protesters were suddenly issuing decrees on behalf of the entire medical community," she said. "They had politicized a medical institution. The government didn't occupy it, it freed it and I am grateful."
There's a lot more material to tweak in that article — the Iranophobic scaremongering, the casual racism — but you get the point. Obama's biggest soundbite in the Libya speech, the red meat for all the "interventionists," was the following: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And, as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action." In the catalogue of presidential lies, this is like some haunting, vaguely comic fugue, a dirge that sounds more sharply the closer you get to Bahrain. Libya does not get a blind eye; Bahrain does, with the fourth estate batting clean-up.
Funny how we also haven't heard any Obamalarial delirium about a no-fly zone in Yemen, where the hottest new sport to hit the military barracks consists of blocking the arteries of downtown Sana'a with buses and flaming tires, then seeing which American-trained regime lifer can headshot the most trapped children with Western-made rifles. Obama has been awfully brave in ensuring the principles of justice and human dignity in that country, as when he dispatched chief hitman David Petraeus to go smoke Cubans with local tyrant Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hell, before I forget: Yemen and Pakistan are war zones for us too, as they host our moronic Predator drone assassination programs. Petraeus and Saleh had a good laugh, cackling over an aged brandy about the skyborne disaster they had launched in that country. As revealed by Wikileaks, Ali even went so far as to say that he would tell his countrymen it was the Yemeni Army launching the air raids, not the American "advisors" stationed in Sana'a. Conspiring with an Arab dictator to lie to the world about the murder of dozens of civilians — indeed, such is the unerring ardor for human dignity that earned Obama his Nobel Peace Prize and spurred him to firebomb Tripoli.
In fact, as I sit in my wood-paneled study scratching my chin with Saddam Hussein's femur, I wonder if there's any other Mideast canton that might benefit from a no-fly zone. Where 1,300 people were liquefied Red Baron-style. Where a brutal military occupation has trapped over a million civilians in a dismal humanitarian crisis, while the only authorities among them are the functionaries of an increasingly despotic, desperate band of Islamists. Where pasta is a dual-use item subject to crippling sanctions, where the only money to be made is in arms smuggling, where the children of those concussed and incinerated in the chemically unquenchable peals of white phosphorous will grow up as extremists nonpareil. If, and that's a big if — if such a place were to exist, I'm sure Barack Obama would forcefully demand such practices end, lest the human dignity of such wretches be trampled upon.
There are only two other Middle Eastern dictatorships that could ever see a military incursion similar to that of Libya: Syria and Iran. The governments of those two are just as odious as those of Jordan or Yemen or Algeria: they're just not on our team (though Syria wants to be), and therefore they don't get a pass. The mass murders Syria, Iran and Libya commit will provoke sober, "masterful" speeches on American exceptionalism, while the most grotesque Mideast dictatorship — that of Saudi Arabia — will be propped up by the U.S. 'til the bitter end, as if they were Grant's men at Cold Harbor. At the end of the day, dead Bahrainis and dead Yemenis mean nothing to Barack Obama. Nothing.
I'd prefer his spin doctors and hope hacks didn't fake any pain over the dead in those countries, maybe responded to any media inquiries with a two column Powerpoint. One column could be titled: "Despots Who Commit Horrific Human Rights Abuses and Must Be Stopped." The other could read, "Treasured U.S. Partners with a License to Kill Their Uppity Raghead Citizens." They could issue licenses to the governments of Bahrain and Yemen, so as to keep their civvie-hunting strictly kosher: daily haul not to exceed fifty protestors shot, 1,000 protestors sodomized in secret prisons. They are inconvenient in their bleeding. Those asshole victims.
WAR LIE NUMBER THREE: WE ARE A NEUTRAL PARTY IN A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT
NPR aired a remarkable story the other day, they kind of bombshell that can scorch your eardrums into matchsticks. There, on the FM, a reporter announced from Libya that a "freedom fighter" had rammed his explosive-laden car bomb into a Libyan Army checkpoint, and that a heroic pilot named Muhammad Mokhtar Osman had slammed his jet into the Bab al-Azizia barracks outside of Tripoli.
Bab al-Azizia, which translates roughly into "Gate of Awesomeness," was where Reagan's 1986 air strikes killed a baby named Hana, who, probably disingenuously, Gaddafi said was his adopted daughter. Now, a modern-day kamikaze had struck the same low evil, possibly taking with him the charred corpse of one Khamis Gaddafi, the Eddie Dane of Gaddafi sons, now rumored to have been killed in a rebel's last-ditch Lindy hop. The irony was so great, one feared metal poisoning. Here, on whitebread NPR, you could hear one of their hushed-tones reporters describing with mild approval a plane being flown into a military target, in the name of what the pilot believed to be freedom. I don't suppose this reminds you of anything.
The Libyans desperately called for air strikes, and who can blame them? We now have a no-fly zone over Libya, which by definition requires Western air forces to bomb anti-aircraft installations and shoot down Libyan jets, an act of war. Just know the risks. Civilians have been and will continue to be killed by these air strikes, an inestimable boon for Gaddafi. Aircraft may be shot down; domestic travails might doom the mission. We have entered a civil war not as neutral peacekeepers bent solely on the protection of human life, but as combatants, choosing a side, arming them through our Mideast proxy dictatorships Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Gaddafi has the opportunity, motive and even the legal pretext necessary to kill American troops.
Caution is underrated, as Americans learned from another, similar intervention the U.S. undertook not so long ago.
In 1982, the U.S. Marines entered Beirut with intentions pure as the snow of the Chouf Mountains: separate the Israelis from the Palestinian refugee camps while the PLO withdrew, thereby creating a new paradigm in which a conclusive Middle Eastern peace could be drawn. Who could argue with the morality of this blessed peacekeeping, at a time when there was a real fear of Israeli incursion into West Beirut, of the collapse of the Maronite-dominated government, of a heightening of the already-Boschian Lebanese Civil War? We didn't want to see Palestinians slaughtered, didn't want the Israelis bogged down, didn't want a Congo-on-the-Mediterranean.
One slight problem with that Pollyanna approach: it became apparent almost immediately that the U.S. was not a neutral party. In fact, we followed the drumbeat of Israel in propping up the sleazy Catholic Phalangist butchers against the Islamic hordes. Tensions rose, as the Marines were entranced by the same-day skiing and swimming of the Levant, as the U.S. Navy began indiscriminately shelling the Shi'ite and Druze interior so as to keep the olive branch aloft. We slipped into combatant status with all the vitality of a nap. "We came in peace," sighed Marine commander Col. Timothy Geraghty, but "American support removed any lingering doubts of our neutrality, and I stated to my staff at the time that we were going to pay in blood for this decision."
The payment came in two installments. In April 1983, a teenage Shi'ite driving a hijacked truck destroyed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in a blockbuster suicide bombing; the explosion liquefied nearly every CIA agent in the Beirut station. In October, the tactic was repeated, this time at the Multinational Forces Barracks at Beirut Airport. One of the guards on duty at the gate the truck crashed through tearfully recalled to a reporter that he had briefly made eye contact with the driver, and that he was smiling. The Mack crashed into the lobby of the tower, in a blast constituting "the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth," killing 241 U.S. Marines. Blowback, in a big, bad-juju way.
Even a military incursion as justified and deserved as the whole-scale high-altitude castration of Gaddafi's Afrika Korps — and let's be clear, I swell turgidly at the image of Muammar carved à la Mussolini — will have entirely unpredictable consequences. Will a no-fly zone even succeed in halting Gaddafi? What will be the reaction when one of those Western F-15s kills Libyan civilians (a practical certainty), or bombs the Chinese Embassy or fries a van-load of aid workers and journalists? A U.S. pilot has already been forced to bail out, prompting an extraction mission by U.S. special forces. What happens when Gaddafi's goons get to him first? Will Jimmy Carter or Jesse Jackson be able to talk Muammar down yet again? Is this war really going to be dependent on Jesse Jackson's elocution? These are questions that neocon garbage never ask ahead of pulling the kill switch.
In the fussy prejudices of academic-types, there is no disillusionment like the kind that visits your own area of study. Watch your own budding pretensions of the White House as Ashram of Hope, shorn nice and level by the lawnmower of mainline moneyball U.S. politics. Lefty econ majors felt it when that radical "Marxist" Obama gave Lloyd Blankfein a taxpayer-subsidized raise instead of an orange jumpsuit and 24-hour suicide watch, passing the savings onto the fastest-growing U.S. demographic: landless tent-village serf-wreckage. Healthcare wonks felt it when they saw insurance conglomerate stock go up after Romneycare passed Congress. And, boy, if you're a Middle East nerd, there's been no shortage of fire-sale sell-outs.
Obama courageously stood with rape-room maven Hosni Mubarak against the radical hordes of Arab democrats — until the pharaoh was obviously horsemeat — and then made a break for the speeding Tahrir Square love train, kicking aside the spent U.S.-made tear-gas canisters. Don't believe the hype about "no ground troops"; it's already a lie for those CIA special ops boys, a soothsayer's whisper that's already being walked back by his vassals. And now the double fantasy of Libyan and Iraqi Wars, as moving a rejoinder to Lennon's "Imagine" as five in the back from a crazed Salingerist stalker.
The Obummer of this generation is cresting, shot down with its own gun in the quiet cool of an onion field.