"We're an empire now and when we act we create our own reality."

Karl Rove, aka "Turd Blossom," is widely believed to be "Bush's Brain." Rove is a key rhetoritician in the Bush Administration and he can take credit for a lot of the Administration's radical political strategies. That's important to understand. The Bush Administration is radical. It is using the might of the US government and military to wage war for the benefit of corporations. It is rolling back environmental protections, and instituting a horribly regressive tax structure. I could go on and on about my disagreements with the Bush Administration's policies and strategies. But instead, I'll point you to Tom Englehardt's Tomdispatch.com, where you can find Mark Danner's recent epistle on the Executive Rhetoric, from a "reality-based" point of view:
go to original

...in September 2003, the rhetorical construction known as the War on Terror was already two years old and that very real war to which it gave painful birth, the war in Iraq, was just hitting its half-year mark. Indeed, the Iraq War had already ended once, in that great victory scene on the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego, where the President, clad jauntily in a flight suit, had swaggered across the flight deck and, beneath a banner famously marked "Mission Accomplished," had declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

Of the great body of rich material encompassed by my theme today -- "Words in a Time of War" -- surely those words of George W. Bush must stand as among the era's most famous, and most rhetorically unstable. For whatever they may have meant when the President uttered them on that sunny afternoon of May 1, 2003, they mean something quite different today, almost exactly four years later. The President has lost control of those words, as of so much else.
Critical to this strange and unlikely history were the administration's peculiar ideas about power and its relation to reality -- and beneath that a familiar imperial attitude, if put forward in a strikingly crude and harsh form: "We're an empire now and when we act we create our own reality." Power, untrammeled by law or custom; power, unlimited by the so-called weapons of the weak, be they international institutions, courts, or terrorism -- power can remake reality. It is no accident that one of Karl Rove's heroes is President William McKinley, who stood at the apex of America's first imperial moment, and led the country into a glorious colonial adventure in the Philippines that was also meant to be the military equivalent of a stroll in the park and that, in the event, led to several years of bloody insurgency -- an insurgency, it bears noticing, that was only finally put down with the help of the extensive use of torture, most notably water-boarding, which has made its reappearance in the imperial battles of our own times.
...the weapons were a rhetorical prop and, satisfying as it has been to see the administration beaten about the head with that prop, we forget this underlying fact at our peril. The issue was never whether the weapons were there or not; indeed, had the weapons really been the issue, why could the administration not let the UN inspectors take the time to find them (as, of course, they never would have)? The administration needed, wanted, had to have, the Iraq war. The weapons were but a symbol, the necessary casus belli, what Hitchcock called the Maguffin -- that glowing mysterious object in the suitcase in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction: that is, a satisfyingly concrete object on which to fasten a rhetorical or narrative end, in this case a war to restore American prestige, project its power, remake the Middle East.
How, in these "words in a time of war," can I convey to you the reality of that place at this time? Let me read to you a bit of an account from a young Iraqi woman of how that war has touched her and her family, drawn from a newsroom blog. The words may be terrible and hard to bear, but -- for those of you who have made such a determined effort to learn to read and understand -- this is the most reality I could find to tell you. This is what lies behind the headlines and the news reports and it is as it is.
"We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over...

"So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I...

"When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. ‘We identified him by the cell phone in his pants' pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don't know what he looks like.'

"…We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all round it were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side; complete bodies; on that side halves; and everywhere body parts.

"We were asked what we were looking for; ‘upper half' replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. ‘Over there.' We looked for our boy's broken body between tens of other boys' remains; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.

"Millennia later we found him, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony."
The foregoing were words from an Iraqi family, who find themselves as far as they can possibly be from the idea that, when they act, they create their own reality -- that they are, as Bush's Brain put it, "history's actors." The voices you heard come from history's objects and we must ponder who the subjects are, who exactly is acting upon them.
Thanks for that insightful oratory, Mark Danner.

The nation and congress were misled into the invasion of Iraq. It's time to bring the truth to the fore and begin the process of reconciliation and remediation. A good first step would be to hold those responsible for this terrible breach of the public trust to account for their actions.

Certainly an uphill climb awaits. But that does not justify dalliance. I, at least, hold them accountable.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Aldo Leopold: "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

keywords: peace, justice, truth, love, wisdom, common sense, ethics, nonviolence, compassion, communication, community, egalitarian, equitable, society, culture, future, politics, government, public interest, sustainability, economy, ecology, nature, beauty, urban issues, environment, wilderness, energy, industry, reciprocity, karma, dignity, honor, patience, life, photography, music, flowers, and more!