Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Green Teen World

More good stuff from Hitchens:

Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read. Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that?

Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: Mr. President, in principle you are correct. The list of flouted U.N. resolutions is disgracefully long. Law has been broken, genocide has been committed, other member-states have been invaded, and our own weapons inspectors insulted and coerced and cheated. Let us all collectively decide how to move long-suffering Iraq into the post-Saddam era. We shall need to consider how much to set aside to rebuild the Iraqi economy, how to sponsor free elections, how to recuperate the devastated areas of the marshes and Kurdistan, how to try the war criminals, and how many multinational forces to ready for this task. In the meantime—this is of special importance—all governments will make it unmistakably plain to Saddam Hussein that he can count on nobody to save him. All Iraqi diplomats outside the country, and all officers and officials within it, will receive the single message that it is time for them to switch sides or face the consequences. Then, when we are ready, we shall issue a unanimous ultimatum backed by the threat of overwhelming force. We call on all democratic forces in all countries to prepare to lend a hand to the Iraqi people and assist them in recovering from more than three decades of fascism and war.

Not a huge amount to ask, when you think about it. But what did the president get instead? The threat of unilateral veto from Paris, Moscow, and Beijing. Private assurances to Saddam Hussein from members of the U.N. Security Council. Pharisaic fatuities from the United Nations' secretary-general, who had never had a single problem wheeling and dealing with Baghdad. The refusal to reappoint
Rolf Ekeus—the only serious man in the U.N. inspectorate—to the job of invigilation. A tirade of opprobrium, accusing Bush of everything from an oil grab to a vendetta on behalf of his father to a secret subordination to a Jewish cabal. Platforms set up in major cities so that crowds could be harangued by hardened supporters of Milosevic and Saddam, some of them paid out of the oil-for-food bordello.

The most recent celebrity I’ve seen throw his dunce’s cap into the ring is Brian Eno, on last night’s Culture Show, who claimed, with all the usual supreme confidence of the person famous for deeds utterly unrelated to international politics, that the Iraq invasion was “completely immoral”. Apparently he’s been one of the big (but presumably pleasantly ambient) noises in the Stop the War jamboree for a while.

Pop stars, film actors and other celebrities are generally leftist because most of them are, in essence, overgrown teenagers. Teenagers naturally want to rebel against the status quo and accepted wisdom, and that’s only right.

But just as it takes a wilful mental perversion for an adult to continue to insist that capitalism is evil, despite the fact that no other system has ever resulted in anything other than comparative misery and oppression, so it takes a wilful sort of blindness to believe that the democratic, liberal, free countries of this world are always in the wrong, or always motivated by greed or imperialism, even to the point of retrospectively pardoning a malignant cyst on the planet like Saddam.


Duck said...

Hear, hear!

Now who is Brian Eno, again? Didn't he produce some of David Bowie's albums?

I think that the teenager analogy is apt, but I think it goes further than that. Teenage rebellion is largely accomplished in an informational vacuum. Most teenagers are pretty clueless about what it is they are rebelling against, it's just an angst-driven, hormone enabled bout of temporary insanity. How is it possible to maintain such a state of willful ignorance into middle age?

Speaking of teenage rebellion, what was that whole "Wall" song by Pink Floyd about? Were teachers really so reviled in England in the 70's? Was that the best that PF could do to find an autority figure to protest, what with the Vietnam War and the Cold War going on and such? I continue to think that the Wall is one of the most immature piles of rubbish ever to come out of the Rock genre, and that is saying a lot.

Oroborous said...

My interpretation is that "teacher" is symbolic of an entire culture, the more rigid and regimented one that the counterculture of the '60s was a reaction to.

Immature or not, I really like The Wall.

Duck said...

If you ignore the lyrics, it is a great song, especially the guitar solo. Yes, the 60's was a kneejerk reaction against regimentation, which they took to mean any orderly social institution that relied on some form of authority, no matter how benevolent.

When I hear the verse where the children are singing, it makes me imagine some feral army of delinquent children running amuck, a la "Lord of the Flies".

Duck said...

I decided to do a little research on "The Wall" and found this website. My memory is obviously slipping, but I thought that the Wall was from the early Seventies, but it was released in 1979. I guess I mentally categorized it with the late 60s & early 70s protest songs.

I never saw the movie or even listened to the other songs on the album, so my whole impression of the song is just from the lyrics. The "Wall" is a wall of alienation, but it apparently had nothing to do with teachers:

As with most art, Pink Floyd's concept album is a combination of imagination and the author's personal life. The album's germinated during the band's 1977 "Animals" tour when frontman Roger Waters, growing disillusioned with stardom and the godlike status that fans grant to simple rock stars, became disenchanted with the seemingly mindless audience and spit in the face of a concert-goer. Drawing on these feelings of adult alienation as well as the those springing from the loss of his own father during World War II, Waters began to flesh out the fictional character of Pink. The band's first frontman, Syd Barret, and the wild stories surrounding his drugged-out escapades and subsequent withdrawal from the world provided Waters with further inspiration for the moody rock-star Pink.

So you make it big as a rock star, and when your fans cheer for you, you spit on them. Then you binge on drugs and sex and become paranoid. But its the world's fault. You are "alienated". I think I understand this rock star thing a little better.

Brit said...

The Wall is a purely personal thing: Roger Waters whingeing about his hang-ups, especially the death of his father in WW2 and the pressures of fame etc.

Despite the self-indulgent moaning, it does have some great tunes - eg. Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell.

Brit said...

PS. Eno started in Roxy Music, and worked on Bowie's best stuff - Heroes and Low. And Talking Heads. Then he invented ambient music with Music For Airports and Another Green World.

He also wrote that little tune when you start up Microsoft Windows.

Musical genius, political idiot - as is often the case.

Duck said...

Well, I'm a fan of Roxy Music and Bowie, I have both their greatest hits collections, so I'm obviously a great Eno fan. Musically, that is.

Hey Skipper said...

I think it is more of a right-brain thing.

Artists are typically right-brained, which apparently is indispensable for art, but hell on analytical thought. As a group, I'll bet the Left can be characterized as right-brained, where the only barrier to the desired outcome is insufficiently fervent desire.

I have visited a couple Left-wing websites recently. When the Iraq war subject comes up, I have posed this question: Give a reasonable precis of the status quo ante, then propose and defend an alternate course of action.

Without fail, they are completely unable to even begin to address the question. Instead, they rarely elevate themselves above ad hominems.

This exchange at Pharyngula is a typical example, but with a far simpler problem: a nucular armed mullocracy.

Hey Skipper said...


You better watch it, criticizing Pink Floyd, particularly when I have just finished erecting my shrine, and preparing my angst genuflections.

May the ears of heretics burn in the searing flame of a thousand thunderous chords!

Or something like that.

Brit said...


I think it is more of a right-brain thing.

In which case, there should be a disproportionate number of left-handed people in the Stop the War coalition.

There must be a study somewhere on that...

martpol said...

Re. your original post: all well and good, but I do sometimes tire of constant assertions about left-wingers being somehow intellectually inferior to right-wingers, or people who somehow never grew up. There are plenty of highly intelligent left-wing thinkers out there, and I have never seen one of them (with the possible exception of George "worst advert for the anti-war campaign" Galloway, though in that case I'm not sure "intelligent" is the right word) conflate opposing the invasion of Iraq with supporting Saddam Hussein.

The fact is that there is an intelligent debate to be had on both sides, and it is not intellectually inevitable to conclude that the war was justified.

By the way, there are several parts of Hitchens' article which don't stand up to scrutiny themselves, whether factually or logicaly. These include the suggestion that certain members of the Security Council threatened to veto an ultimatum against Saddam Hussein. The truth is subtly but importantly different: they threatened to veto any solution which would inevitably lead to war, as this would be against the founding principles of the UN. What the USA and UK wanted was a resolution which would provide that inevitability, by setting out requirements which couldn't possibly be met.

Oroborous said...

"Couldn't possibly be met" ?!?

You seem to be saying that it was impossible for Saddam to step down, and go live out his life enjoying his ill-gotten billions in Paris or wherever.

Or for him to come clean about his WMD and weapons programmes.
Dr. Hans Blix, the head of the UN Weapons Inspectors, gave a report to the UN Security Council in Jan. '03, in which he literally said that the inspectors were being harassed and stymied, which was clearly a violation of UN mandates - but that the teams had still found actual banned weapons, as well as evidence of an ongoing chemical weapons programme.

So. If Saddam steps down and goes into exile, no war. If he throws open the doors and gives up his WMD and other banned weapons, as he promised to do in '91, it becomes a lot harder to justify an invasion, and probably stops any war.

What's so hard to accomplish, about those options ?

martpol said...

Blix - an expert in international law - also accused both the US and UK governments of deliberately engineering a situation which would lead to war, by exaggerating Iraq's WMD position.

The fact is that Saddam Hussein could only be certain of one thing - that whatever efforts he made to disarm in accordance with Security Council resolutions would be ignored by both governments, who would simply claim he was lying. Therefore, it was more expedient to keep whatever weapons he did have, as security against a by-then inevitable war.

If you take the inevitability out of the equation - providing a genuine chance of reprieve (and that doesn't mean forgiving Saddam, as some claim that all of we left-wingers believe) - rather than a fake chance, then things could have been different.

Oroborous said...

You're still ignoring the "comfortable exile" option. There was war because Saddam preferred it, not because the U.S. and UK did.

The Leftist position on Saddam isn't so much "active support", as it is "clinging to myth".
There were only two options for dealing with Saddam in '03: Taking him down, or letting him go, free of sanctions.

The sane Leftists that I speak with rightly reject the latter option, but they don't like the former option, either. They like to pretend that there was a third option, that of continuing the sanctions and no-fly zones, that of "containment".

However, the sanctions were killing 350,000 Iraqis a year, mostly children, and Saddam had bribed officials from Russia, France, and the UN.
The notion that the sanctions and no-fly zones would have continued until Saddam died or was overthrown was very unlikely to be realized.

Therefore, as a practical matter, to be against the '03 U.S./UK invasion of Iraq was to be pro-Saddam, just as opposing an Allied invasion of occupied Europe during WWII would have been pro-German.

Brit said...

There are sane objections to the invasion, but they are rarely given, and even more rare are suggested alternatives to the invasion that take account of reality. It is mostly considered sufficient by the Left to assert that George Bush is not very eloquent, or that it is All About The Oil.

The Leftist opposition also fails to face the blunt truth that in its dealings with Saddam, and above all in its response to Bush's attempts to exert pressure on Saddam, the UN showed that it simply isn't a serious organisation when it comes to enforcing its resolutions.