Ten Years After

By Larry Piltz / The Rag Blog / March 20, 2013

The article below was written five days after the 2003 American invasion of Iraq began. At the time, I thought it might have overindulged in metaphor and hyperbole. Now looking back through the bizarre sad prism of the unnecessarily difficult and tragic last 10 years, I see that it was impossible to have overindulged.

Nothing could have been written that wouldn’t have been worth it if it could have even in the least helped delay, stop, or prevent the wild-hair Texan’s demented geopolitical decision that unraveled the imperfect but still much more peaceable world that existed prior. It wasn’t 9/11/2001 that changed everything. It was 3/19/2003. It was Uncle Sam transforming yet again into Yosemite Sam, and no writing, speech, protest, or sacrifice could have been drawn too broadly to have not been worth trying.

In the living air that early spring was an overwhelming feeling of utter dread that led one to wonder aloud:  how actually stupid are Cheney and his people? And there was an overriding and deadening deja vu — that  this could be far worse than Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in long-term side effects alone, like a very long bad drug reaction. Now veterans are overdosing in record numbers and otherwise succumbing to the effects of the neocon imprimatur, their signature book of hubris and death, and every day it’s still fatal for the Iraqi people and beyond.

The cuneiform had indeed been written on the wall, but suddenly the American military in a blaze of gore destroyed the wall, cheered and abetted by the force majeure news media, wan accomplices almost all. Another wall was finally found years later on which could be written a very different story, describing how things had gone to hell and how the Texas oiligarchy boys had sent them there (Remember the Fallujah would be an apt slogan for it all). Then someone was elected who promised to pull us out of Iraq, or the little bit that was left of it, then actually did so but after first luring us deeper into a nightmare of necessity, a quagmire too far.

Now we meet on that great battlefield of Ten Years After, exhausted, broke, great hopes worn deeply around the edges by assault and attrition, and smaller hopes more likely to succeed appearing and beginning to be refined and to grow. Drones to the left of us, drones to the right of us, half fatigued, half fatigued, half fatigued onward, we more than ever need to consecrate ourselves to preserving what hallowed shredded ground of democracy and justice and honesty of government we still can; and we can, even if it’s merely ‘of’ and ‘by’ the people, ‘for’ the people having been tabled for now by Tim Geithner and Mike Bloomberg, but not forever. Forever would be hyperbole.

Better luck to us next time. Let the new metaphor be Now.

V’s Iraq War Coverage Is A Pentagon Snuff Film

Remembering Precious Life Amidst the Unnecessary Carnage and Special Effects of the Iraq Invasion’s Vast TV Wasteland: Bush Creates Desolation and Calls It Peace.

Now that the Bush administration’s Iraqi war campaign has begun in holy earnest, the way that the monopoly U.S. media present this attack needs to come into sharp focus and graphic relief.

I’m talking about the inherently gratuitous prurience of war video footage, which in ethic and effect are no better than the craven exploitation and murderous lust of the fabled snuff film, a mostly urban legend with some rare basis in fact, which shows the literal torture and murder of an unwilling innocent victim.

Viewers worldwide will be watching living, breathing people blown to bloody bits. People will be dying and maimed in real-time video, in loving slow-motion pan and zoom. This will be replayed endlessly as if it’s NFL Sunday or the World Cup. Commentators will clinically describe target acquisition and payload technology, laser-guided to locations very much smaller than the metaphoric football field.

For the most part, newspeople will meticulously avoid dwelling on the suffering of their fellow humans, as well as of animals, who are all 10,000 feet below and a world away. For the embedded and censored lackey journalist and windblown coiffured news-speakmodel, the victims may as well be made of sheetrock, or never have existed at all.

Yet even survivors will horribly suffer. And they will die. From grievous wounds, exposure, thirst, starvation, persecution, continued medicine blockade, diseases caused by intentional destruction of water treatment plants as in Gulf War I, and more cancer from tons more radioactive ammunition, also as used in the first Persian Gulf War as well as now in the present invasion and occupation.

However, because of the way that the war’s presented, its victims will disappear beyond most people’s consciousnesses as surely as people disappeared into the labor and death camps of the 1930s and 1940s, as two million Vietnamese dead seemed to disappear into history, as Rwandans, Bosnian Muslims and Palestinians ethnically disappeared, as Russians disappear Chechens by gradual decimation, and as the POWs at Guantanamo today remain disappeared in an intentionally purgatorial, dehumanizing anonymous nihilism.

This institutionalized and televised desensitization of the public will again be accomplished by willful legerdemain. Nothing up my sleeve here in the Humvee, nothing to look at there in the ruins, and presto change-o-regime, it’s over. No harm done to my recliner. It’s an electronic sleight of omission used as weapon of mass hypnosis. What you don’t see is what they get.

This macabre illusion, however, actually shields a very real torture by voodoo, with countless innocents suspended as helpless as dolls, human sacrifices who never volunteered for the grisly duty, gruesomely struck with calibrated, precision instruments of havoc and doom, in often pinprick-accurate military strike, backlit by media’s proxy acceptance, as well as by bombardment with who-gives-a-shit let god sort them out headrolling.

Deprived of context, they suffer and die, offstage, invisible but omnipresent, yet never to be heard from again, and, therefore, seemingly never to have existed at all. If a bomb falls in a village, and you don’t know to care, was there ever a village in the first place? We know, but we don’t know.

Many viewers will be made to feel safe, thinking they’re watching their fears bombed into oblivion, appreciating only that they’ll continue to see these Pentagon snuff films in the haven of their private homes and thoughts. They won’t make the connection that the people they’re not seeing won’t even have homes or thoughts any more.

They can change the channel, record it for posterity, turn it off or walk away. They will have this choice, even as they rationalize that the people of Iraq have had their choice as well, no matter how ludicrous and self-serving this sop to their consciences would be. It’s a personal whitewash, taking its cue from the collective eye. It’s a dodge from responsibility and feigned personal absolution.

Even TIVO will get into the act, dutifully recording “The Littlest Caesar, Episode I, Revenge of the Prodigal Son, the Emperor’s Cut”, as part of some Stepford family’s preferred viewing choices. Too bad February Sweeps has passed, though the networks could blame the U.N. and the French for that. Oh, well, there’s always Fall Sweeps.

This footage is a 21st-century satellite version of Nazi Germany’s choreographed Riefenstahlian cinema propaganda newsreels, of torchlight parades, blitzkrieg onslaughts, menacing Panzer tanks, and terrifying Stuka divebombers. Today’s version shows the goosestepping automatons from der old neighborhood, sporting the refashioned Nazi military helmets of the modern U.S. military. Deja vu and General Tommy Franks too.

This footage invokes the cathartic apostasy of Orwell’s two-minute hate, stretched to fit the evening news, transforming historic cautionary fiction into great mindless TV. So crucial must this carnage be to the smooth operation of our political ways and means, that the TV networks suspend regular programming. We brake for war, they seem to say, bowing down to face their Mecca – and the real Mecca – yet again.

However, a more important kind of programming, of the viewers, is actually taking place. In a sense, the Bush administration is throwing a real “Heil Mary” pass, desperately trying to both distract from the crashing economy and to condition its citizen-consumers to the junta’s realpolitik: War is good for business; get used to it. SUV’s, stocks, and diamonds can always be sold later, after war boosts confidence in spending. The media are spared a choice between Caesar and Mammon and will have no other gods before them.

The thrills are vicarious and the spills tax-deductible. There’s mayhem every minute and both sexes in the bunkers. It’s war, folks, and since the real thing would be too graphic, instead we get brainstem-tingling special effects from Military-Industrial Light and Magic. Real enough to titillate and excite, and illusion enough to disappear the dead and discomfort. Caveat pre-emptor. Chauncey Gardner wouldn’t watch this must-be TV.

Tolstoy wrote, “And so once more the men who reaped profit from it all will assert with assurance that since there has been a war there must needs have been one, and that other wars must follow, and they will again prepare future generations for a continuance of slaughter, depraving them from childhood”. In “The Aeneid” Virgil adds, “Hysteria soon finds a missile”. News feed frenzy at 11.

War has always been violently obscene. The major media now cynically filter the violence and obscenity, projecting and personifying Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil characterization for yet another generation. Evil does triumph when good people do nothing but watch it. Does your disgust about the war and its coverage always outweigh your fascination? Isn’t it still transfixing?

This media coverage debases all who see it, converting passive observers into material witnesses and war supporters into accomplices, while hiding in plain sight the amorality and sadism of war crimes. Many will say “I didn’t know” that there were people in those buildings, but if they’re honest they’d actually say they didn’t care that there were souls in those people.

Pentagon snuff films assault the mind, subtly alter who we are, and cause profound change in the body politic, introducing serial chaos into the social contract. This causes the very violence that we inevitably observe infiltrating society, after the fact, propagating nihilism like a virus. It eventually takes its toll, usually on the most vulnerable, through scapegoating, ostracism, domestic violence, and random acts of psychotic blindness. However, these films can be antidote, the beginning of knowledge if used as teaching tools. The antidote is to use them as gentle instruments of peace, resurrecting from within their tragic core of pathos, the cherished values of humaneness, compassion and cooperation. There are people in that rubble, and there are hearts in those people watching war coverage. Linking the two together is peace education, and everyone’s an instructor.

We have to keep educating, keep researching, keep writing, keep learning, keep organizing, keep protesting, keep campaigning, keep hoping, keep praying, keep playing, keep loving, and keep the pressure on the media, even locally. They’re all human too and will eventually respond as such.

Keep at it, and ultimately there could be less war to film, and then let’s snuff it out.

[Larry Piltz is an Austin-based writer, poet, and musician. Find more articles and poetry by Larry Piltz on The Rag Blog.]

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