The Ghosts of Norman Morrison: The Betray Us Flap
By JOHN ROSS
These are the end times for Bush and his rancid brain trust. The White House has crossed the loony tunes threshold into legacy land and you can forget about governance as we toboggan towards November 2008 and beyond. From here on out it will all be magnified photo ops and manipulated mythification as Bushwa seeks to lie his way into history: St. George as the slayer of greenhouse gases; St. George, protector of Buddhist monks; St. George crusading for peace in the Middle East–in the last months of their respective regimes, U.S. presidents believe they have a biblical injunction to settle the Holy Land’s hash.
It’s all such bad magic realism that if Garcia Marquez were really dead, he would be twirling in his sarcophagus.
One of the more bizarre adagios in this dance of death has been MoveOn Dot Org’s “General Betray Us” flapdoodle. After the now notorious ad ran in the New York Times on the eve of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, Bush, who deemed the display “disgusting”, sicced Freedom’s Watch, a Cheneyesque dogpack under the direction of once-upon-a-time White House mouthpiece Ari Fleischer, on anti-war liberals, igniting the bonfires of vanity on the pages of the paper of record.
The Democratic-controlled Senate followed in lock step by condemning MoveOn by a 72 to 25 vote. Despite Hillary’s nay (she would vote yay on bombing Iran a week later), the defeat was even more lopsided than the Dems suffered in their flawed and feeble efforts to cut funding and mess with troop levels in Iraq. As is his custom, Obama abstained on both votes.
If you still think these bozos are going to get “our boys” out of Iraq when they actually do move on to the White House in ’09, you are afflicted with terminal denial.
The Dems’ rationale for crucifying their bosom buddies over at the dot org was that by punning on General Petraeus’s good name, the MoveOners were “personalizing” opposition to Bush’s genocide and moreover gifting the Republicans with “talking points” on the 24-hour news cycle. This is what being against the slaughter in Iraq boils down to here in the end times. Talking Points. Even flaming liberals like Norman (“War Made Easy”) Soloman lipsynched this garbage.
The actuality is that General Betray Us marched up to the Hill on maximum anti-Islam day to hoopla his boss’s doomed surge, spout mendacious, cherry-picked stats, and con a congress only too eager to be conned into giving the Casa Blanca carte blanche to conduct its bloody business as usual in Iraq until Bush hands off the baton of war to Hillary or whoever to sink even deeper in the quagmire.
My most acute quibble with the MoveOn Moment is that the ad enhanced the fatal illusion that Petraeus would present an unbiased report to the American People and therefore he “betrayed us” with his self-serving lies. Even the latest revolving door chief of the joint chiefs of staff Admiral William Fallon was forced to concede to congress days later that Petraeus, the commandant in charge of this catastrophe, was obligated to hype the dubious success of Bush’s surge –and, indeed, would have been fired if he had told the truth. Although the blindman’s vision is permanently shrouded, I could see the Bush-Petraeus sucker punch coming at us from a thousand light years away.
Nonetheless, MoveOn’s dissing of a decorated general, which Bush found so “disgusting”, was a public service. I am thoroughly sickened by the “our boys” syndrome that makes any criticism of the homicidal behavior of U.S. troops from Haditha to Fallujah to Abu Ghraib to Blackwater to army sniper Jose Sandoval’s 44-day sentence for murdering two Iraqi farmers (“I was only following orders”) tantamount to treason.
Now with Hollywood busily transforming these murderers into victims on the big screen–witness this perverse role reversal in Tommy Lee Jones’s “Valley of Enah”–the MoveOn move on Betray Us is fair game for flag-waving lynchmobbers like Freedom’s Watch to buy up full-page NYT same-day display ads by the metric ton.
Tagging middle-of-the-roaders like MoveOn “extremists” is further proof, if ever we needed it, of how far right the center of gravity has shifted here in the homeland. In fact, the General Betray Us ad was probably MoveOn’s most intrepid single act of public defiance since the dot.org was invented by Silicon Valley venture capitalists and bankrolled by George Soros’s tainted millions for the 2004 rollover. Up until Betray Us, MoveOn had an unsavory track record. Its mass text messaging to 3.3 million customers last March urging them to endorse the Dems’ refunding of Bush’s holocaust was a stab in the eye of the U.S. anti-war movement and more pertinently, the Iraqi people.
MoveOn and its unindicted co-conspirators such as Orson Wells look-alike Tom Matzzie who heads up the curiously-named “Americans Against Escalation In Iraq” (sic) hoodwink distracted citizens into feeling good about being against the war by doing a little lite e-lobbying from the comfort of their home entertainment centers before driving down to the mall to consume what’s left on the shelves of America (watch out for the lead-painted Barbies) and destroy the remnants of Planet Earth. MoveOn and its cybernetic ilk drain the passion from protest and sell us yet another degree of separation from the horror.
Of course the big winner in the General Betray Us kafuffle is the New York Times (which is now billing itself as “the center of the universe” in in-house full-page daily display ads.) Not only did Move On shell out nearly $150,000 in tax-deductible alms for the ad but the paper subsequently amassed another seventy grand from the ghoulish Rudy Giuliani who seized this golden opportunity to hook up Hillary and the dot orgers, charging them with subversion and sedition for questioning the General’s bonafides.
His taste for blood still unslaked, Rudy went for the NYT’s jugular, alleging that the Gray Lady of 43rd Street had extended MoveOn a stand-by discount on a same day rate due to ideological coalescence. The Times, reporting on itself, denied the bias in news stories published on its own pages and soothed Giuliani’s vitriol by running a front page profile of the former mayor that was flagrantly uncritical of his performance on 9/11. Meanwhile the NYT continues to clean up on Freedom’s Watch and Save Darfour full pagers. In fact, the Betray Us flap has proven a win-win proposition for all concerned except the Iraqi people–MoveOn itself took in a half million in donations generated by the ad.
U.S. genocide in Iraq will not be staunched by full page displays in the paper of record or e-mailing the warmongers in congress any more than it will be by electing Democrats to high office. Yet this is what’s on the docket for the anti-war movement after five and a half years of butchery in Iraq as the bi-annual protest pageant conflates with the opening salvos of the primary season.
The virtual has obliterated the visceral. MoveOn’s new improved style of no-risk dissent means no one is to blame for the million Iraqis who have been murdered in our name. You won’t smell the stench of burning flesh on YouTube or MySpace.
On November 2nd 1965, Norman Morrison, a fanatical Quaker extremist and self-appointed saint, went to the Pentagon with his baby daughter in his arms, handed her to a passer-by, splashed kerosene upon his person, sat down under Robert McNamara’s window, and struck a match, emulating Buddhist monks in Saigon who had taken to immolating themselves to protest a dictatorial U.S. puppet regime. The scent of Morrison’s sizzling flesh is said to have wafted all the way up to the Secretary of Defense’s nostrils.
Although his suicide did not immediately change McNamara’s dedication to destroying Vietnam, Norman Morrison became an instant martyr amongst the enemy. Poems were written celebrating his act of desperation, streets were named after him in Hanoi, postage stamps printed with his likeness.
Norman Morrison was not the first American to burn him or her self to protest the Vietnam War. Eight months previous, Alice Herz, an octogenarian peace activist, immolated herself on a Detroit street corner. A week after Morrison struck the match, Roger Allen Laporte repeated the act in New York City. Eight Americans would set themselves on fire to try and stop the bloodletting in Vietnam. Only one U.S. citizen, Malachi Ritscher, a jazz musician, has done so to protest the massacre in Iraq. Ritscher burnt himself alive in Chicago November 2nd 2006 to mark the 41st anniversary of Norman Morrison’s immolation.
Modest proposals are a dime a dozen so here’s my two cents worth. Given Tom Matzzie’s Wellsian girth, I think he should consider sauntering over to the Pentagon this November 2nd and throwing himself on the griddle a la Norman Morrison, an act of culinary justice that would certainly make a more impressive statement against this terrible war than one more full page ad in the New York Times or yet another e-mail to the White House or your congressperson could ever accomplish.
John Ross is back in Mexico looking for a cheap fake eye–U.S. ocularists are asking an arm and a leg for one. For further info on the John Ross Eye & I fund write email@example.com.