Saturday, May 23, 2015

Blog 5-23

I’m not sure what I’m going to write about today, so I’ve titled this simply, “Blog 5-23.” Not that there aren’t ample things to write about. The news about the latest event where the Repugnant candidates for President were speaking, for example, gives us an accurate preview of what the dominant theme will be: Obama was the one who screwed up Iraq. Obama’s responsible for the latest ISIS triumph in Ramadi. Not George W. Bush, the president they hardly mention anymore. Oh no. Georgie had it all right, had Iraq conquered and pacified—until Barack Hussein came along and withdrew the troops. It’s amazing, really. Completely ignoring the fact that it was the illegal American invasion of Iraq that blew the place up, that destabilized the nation and incited the sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia populations that had always gotten along, that it was Bush himself who negotiated the timeline for American withdrawal, these yahoos appeal to the great American worship of weapons and say ‘we had ‘em beat until that wuss Obama came along and removed all our power. And then ISIS burst into the power vacuum Obama created and took over half the damn country we spent so much life and treasure liberating.’ But wait! Where did ISIS come from? Wasn’t it from the remnants of al Quaeda in Iraq? And isn’t it the case that al Quaeda never even existed in Iraq until the United States destroyed the damn country with its invasion? And isn’t it also the case that the reason ISIS (morphed from the al Quaeda that never before existed) has triumphed so easily is also due to the stupidity of the Bush adminisration’s strategy of canning Saddam’s existing army and bureaucracy, almost all Sunnis, to a man? Isn’t the area ISIS has rolled over almost fully Sunni territory, those Sunnis who were so completely destroyed by the American invasion that they have opted to cooperate with ISIS in order to get back at the Shia-dominated government America put in place? Duh. Facts. Just dull old facts. Who gives a damn about facts? Only eggheads and some democrats. The important thing in an election is emotion, so appeal to the emotional outrage over America’s great ‘handiwork’ being destroyed, over a band of ragtag barbarians overrunning one city after another in defiance of the greatest military power in the world, US, and blame it on the black wuss in the White House.
            But it’s not only that simpleminded diversion that outrages. Because no one can avoid feeling revulsion at the other side, too. At the group calling itself The Islamic State in Syria, or in the Levant, or whatever they’re calling themselves. Fanatics. The world seems increasingly to be falling into the hands of fundamentalist fanatics. It seems that a simple, fundamentalist religious stance is the only way masses of people can be galvanized these days. Yearning for certainty in a world that seems always on the brink of catastrophe, the masses of humans seem zombified except in response to a fanatic reversion to a simplistic worldview. Follow sharia law. Arm oneself to the teeth. Execute those who disagree. Roll over every departure from that simple certainty, slaughter coldly those who don’t conform, and count on bliss in a future life. And now, horror of horrors, these wackadoos have taken over one of the most ancient and precious World Heritage Sites on the planet, Palmyra. Take a look at the ancient ruins left from long centuries of occupation on the oldest of trade routes.

There are Aramaic ruins, Babylonian ruins, Mesopotamian ruins, Roman ruins—each one more precious than the last. This “Bride of the Desert” is like some fantasyland of antiquities in the desert. And now it is controlled by a gaggle of lunatics. Contemplating what these image-destroyers will do to these remnants of “infidel art” is enough to make one weep. And yet, there they are in force, already having taken control of the antiquities museum, posted guards outside, executed everyone they could find with any connection to the Syrian government, and impelled anyone with concern for his head and the means to do so, to flee.
            Whether there is anything to stop them now is an open question. But one thing that comes to mind is this: these Wahhabi warriors are supported, or were originally, by the Gulf monarchies, Sunnis all, despotisms all, that are our purported allies—chief among them Saudi Arabia. Couldn’t a little American pressure cause the Saudis to use their influence (if any is left) with their proxies? Because that’s what they are: proxies for the Sunni monarchies in their conflict with Iran (a Shia nation) and Syria (whose Alawite minority, also Shia, controls the last secular government in the Middle East). It’s a bit like the support the United States gave to the mujahideen in Afghanistan and for a similar proxy purpose: to defeat our Soviet enemies. And the Saudis will live to regret their machinations, just as the U.S. has lived to regret its build-up of the mujahideen into al Quaeda. But in the meantime, couldn’t the U.S. put pressure on our oil-wealthy allies and get them to at least spare the antiquities in Palmyra? But then, that might make too much sense, and the world lacks sense more than anything else these days.
            As we see in yet another outrage that occurred recently. Competely different, but similar in its possible effects. I’m referring to the move by the allegedly environment-friendly Obama Administration to approve Shell Oil’s petition to drill in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic. Talk about an outrage. Talk about ignoring the plea of every sane climate scientist to forego any more drilling of the world’s most dangerously-sited oil. Talk about ignoring the history of accidents in Alaska, in Santa Barbara, in the Gulf of Mexico, all of which tell us that sea-floor drilling is a recipe for disaster. Especially in this fierce sea, miles off the coast, with perilous conditions that would make an oil spill a disaster beyond anything we’ve ever seen—and we’ve seen a lot. Especially since, after the initial approval in 2012, Shell’s Kulluk oil rig ran aground and had to be towed to safety. And yet. President (I love the environment) Obama has just given his second presidential approval to Shell to drill in this (so far) pristine ocean. It is baffling. It is heartbreaking. It is mystifying. It is enough to make one want to vaporize these fools.
            But after all, it’s not that much different from Palmyra, is it? The ocean. There’s so much of it. The desert. So much of it, too, and most just a wasteland. Antiquities. So many of them, and so old and in such bad condition they can’t be occupied by living humans in any case. What good are they? What good is the ocean? What good are all the creatures that live there? We’ll soon be able to synthesize all of the nutrients and vitamins and elements they contain. Just as we’ll soon be able to clone any missing species. What’s the big deal?
            Ah humanity. Shiva the destroyer of worlds must be exulting about now.

Lawrence DiStasi

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