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Candide’s Latest: Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Renewing Vows of Perpetual War

At a theater near you

The guy is nuts. Just plain nuts. No need to sugarcoat it anymore. No need to put on airs. George W. Bush has gone off the edge. Make room, Dr. Strangelove.“This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization,” Bush said Monday night in an address as ineloquently staged and hollow as his floodlit speech from Jackson Square in New Orleans last year. “We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. And we are fighting for the possibility that good and decent people across the Middle East can raise up societies based on freedom, and tolerance, and personal dignity.” This from the man whose war of choice on Iraq has caused some 45,000, 70,000 or 100,000 deaths, depending on who’s doing the counting and on what day of the week. Whatever the number, it’s up there with the mathematics of war crimes. “Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country. So we must put aside our differences, and work together to meet the test that history has given us. We will defeat our enemies, we will protect our people, and we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.” This from the most divisive president since the end of the 19 th century, Nixon and Reagan included (Nixon is a close second, but by the end of his days in the White House even most of his supporters had bailed). To hear Bush utter the words “freedom” or “liberty” is like hearing Brezhnev speak of the Soviet Union being founded on constitutional principles or Exxon fund-raising for Greenpeace. Last night’s speech was the culmination of his Tour for Terror, in which he lobbied for one totalitarian law after another: legalize torture; legalize kangaroo trials for Guantanamo prisoners; legalize spying on Americans. And now this: as close an admission of his embrace of the concept of a war of civilizations as his speechwriters have allowed. What’s the difference between this speech and his famously unscripted bit about America going on a “crusade” after the 9/11 attacks? There is no difference between “clash of” and “struggle for” civilization the moment the juxtaposition is such that the West is posited as the civilization. Could the Islamic world need clearer evidence that the guy is out to get it? The only redeeming feature of the speech is that it also makes plain the only other possible explanation: Bush has, in fact, lost it. He needs help. His speech from the Oval Office was a cry for same. (That it were so simple.)

Le Monde is no longer American: Five years ago, it was Le Monde’s banner headline: “Nous Sommes Tous Américains.” “We Are All Americans.” The editorial was written by Executive Editor Jean-Marie Colombani, who just two years later thought better of it when he wrote of Bush’s intentions to invade Iraq: “Saddam is certainly monstrous, but he is the same monster that the United States admirably accommodated for so long.” And on Monday, Colombani headlined his editorial: “Bush’s Errors” (“Les erreurs de Bush”). “Since Sept. 11, America has not, it's true, been attacked on its territory, but the world has changed for the worse,” Le Monde wrote. “It has become more chaotic, darker. The number of jihadists has been ever increasing. Al-Qaeda’s ideas have met their echo in the Arab-Islamic world and beyond, in Europe. This success of al-Qaeda’s is partially due to the manner in which Americans retaliated.” Namely, by following the legitimate attack on Afghanistan with the illegitimate attack on Iraq. “The goal remains to destroy al-Qaida and delegitimize its ideology. But the task is substantially tougher. In five years, the United States has pushed the world toward the clash of civilizations al-Qaida had wanted.”

Enough about 9/11 having changed America or the world already: Rami Khoury writes in the Beirut Daily Star that much of the looking-back analysis on 9/11 is useless “because 9/11 has been elevated to a place of pivotal global history that is not supported by its true dimensions when measured on a worldwide scale. […] In this respect, the American-led war on Iraq was probably historically more significant than the 9/11 attack itself, though it was also a response to 9/11. There is an irritating chicken-and-egg element to this issue. In remembering 9/11, we should keep in mind a simple but crucial question: Did Al-Qaeda-like terror trigger Anglo-American militarism ("the global war on terror"), or did Anglo-American unilateralism and triumphalism provide the political and psychological nourishment that helped feed the growth of Al-Qaeda and its twisted worldview? The corollary question is: How much of the current wave of Islamist political militancy in the Middle East is a response to Anglo-American-Israeli militarism, and how much is a home-grown form of activism or extremism?” See the full column…

Martin Amis on “The Age of Horrorism…”

And finally, NYC Unveils 9/11 Memorial Hole: “Days before the fifth anniversary of the destruction of New York's World Trade Center by terrorists, city officials gathered on the site where the Twin Towers once stood to dedicate the newly completed 9/11 Memorial Hole,” writes the Onion. “From the wreckage and ashes of the World Trade Center, we have created a recess in the ground befitting the American spirit," said New York Governor George Pataki from a cinderblock-and-plastic-bucket-supported plywood platform near the Hole's precipice. "This vast chasm, dug at the very spot where the gleaming Twin Towers once rose to the sky, is a symbol of what we can accomplish if we work together."”

In Other Worlds

There is no god, I, The Washington Post has hired Michael Gerson, President Bush’s former speechwriter and head cleric, to be a twice-weekly columnist. The Post is trying to be like the Times hiring off William Safire from the Nixon White House. But Safire had an independent streak that could endear him even to a liberal: he was a truth-seeker first (most of the time), a clerical apologist never. Gerson is the reverse. And the Post once again lives up to its habit of playing vassal to the administration’s spin. (Safire, by the way, had been offered the column gig by Katherine Graham in 1972 but turned it down. The pay was too low. Punch Sulzberger’s approach with Safire? “Maybe we can make a deal that would be attractive enough for you.” He did: 20 percent higher than the Post’s offer, according to The Trust, Susan Tifft’s and Alez Jones’s book on the Times.) So while Gerson gets a twice-weekly gig at the Post, MSNBC fires Eric Alterman, one of the few voices of the left anywhere in the mainstream press. Keith Olbermann can’t be far behind.

There is no god, II: Nine months after Ted Koppel left, "Nightline's" audience “is up 9% compared to a year ago, taking its ratings very close to, and sometimes higher than those of CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman" particularly in the younger demographics that ABC was eager to attract. The new team behind "Nightline" accomplished this by softening some of the show's programming, adding lighter features and more celebrity coverage, while still trying to maintain the show's news chops with frequent segments on political and social topics.”

New York Magazine has a bleak profile of The New York Times and Bill Keller, who hints that his days as the paper’s executive editor are numbered: “Where Keller and the paper are heading, though, remains anybody’s guess. With the daily financial pressures and arrows pointed his way, the exit is always a temptation. “Look, this is not what I went into newspapers to do,” he says in a long e-mail discussing the business challenges. “I’m a reporter at heart. I still regard my quality time as the time I spend with reporters and editors, and with stories. (Every time I send someone off to a new reporting assignment, there’s a little voice in my head that says, ‘Take me with you!’).”

The philosopher and animal rights activist Peter Singer answers such questions as “Are zoos immoral” (mostly), whether he’d kill a disabled baby (yes), what it feels like being compared to a Nazi (frustrating), how often he washes (once a month) and much, much more. From the UK Independent.

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