|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Sermons in Stones
Thursday, August 16th, 2007
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|The rubble of modern Iraq sits on the shards of the failed ancient civilizations that preceeded it. Ruin heaped on ruin, contemporary folly laid atop the remains of the antique variety. A long and complex history, and one well worth studying back to its origins. We should at least accurately recall recent history, if only to gird ourselves against the revisionists. Beware, for they are already amongst us. Such cheerleaders of the invasion of Iraq as Thomas Friedman are redrafting the truth. With the occupation turned into a second Vietnam, the Friedmanites are applying Orwell’s “swindles and perversions” of political speech to justify their original folly.
Wrote Orwell in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language:
"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures
Substitute Bush’s “forward strategy for freedom” or Rice’s “birth pangs of a new Middle-East” for Orwell’s “rectification of frontiers” or “unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods”, replace the Indian, Japanese, and Russian references with Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and it becomes instantly clear just how far we’ve advanced in six decades. Forward strategy for freedom? How about “let’s displace four million people, slaughter or maim hundreds of thousands more, and spend a trillion dollars on a scheme to secure the world’s second largest oil reserves for our own purposes.”
For Orwell, political speech in his day was less choosing words of substance than it was assembling meaningless prefabricated phrases. The meaningless phrase the Friedmanites have hit upon is, “Iraq was a splendid plan poorly executed.” The beauty of this formulation is that it absolves Friedman and his friends of any original errors of judgement or analysis and pins all the blame for the debacle on Bush and subsequent events. Any resemblance to hoary old apologias for fascism like “Hitler had good ideas but went too far” or “Mussolini DID make the trains run on time” is not coincidental.
Friedman cozily confided to NPR yesterday that it was perfectly sensible and even noble to replace Iraq’s vicious despotism with a capitalist democracy, thereby improving the lot of the Iraqis and providing a salutary lesson for the rest of the Mid-East. Orwell would have been pleased with him, especially with the unctuous tone of certitude and rationality masking the mad folly beneath.
Because of course the theory that democracy, along with a consumerist free-market economy, could be imposed in days on a nation that has known nothing of either in a six thousand year history was mere insanity. To have done so by force of arms was criminal insanity. Indeed, Dick Cheney said more or less that in the wake of the first Iraq war, as the justification for not occupying the country at that time. We might conclude that since then Cheney has not so much changed his mind as lost it.
"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows."**
Thus T.E. Lawrence, of Arabia, writing in the Sunday Times of London in 1920. There’s one cliché Orwell failed to cite in his essay because no politician will ever utter it: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. But as the drumbeats sound for a pre-election bombardment of Iran, it’s a useful phrase to bear in mind.
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A NOTE TO READERS
There was nothing new at The Nossiter Net between March 3rd and April 26th, nearly eight weeks. The reason: tech sabotage. Yahoo Geocities, the host for this site, denied access for the entire period. At one point, they even managed to lose all the files. In many discussions with Yahoo staff, no clear explanation was forthcoming. No one seemed able to fix the problem. Ruling out the possibility of Dubbya’s revenge, I finally wrote to Mr. Terry Semel, Chairman and CEO of Yahoo! Inc and described the ordeal the page had undergone since the beginning of March. A week later, a helpful Yahooo engineer named Jason called. He had my letter before him. Though he couldn’t do the repairs on on the spot, he promised a fix by the next day. That was April 26th, nearly two months after shutting me down in the first place.
The Nossiter Net apologizes, which is more than I can say for Yahoo Geocities.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2007
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