Saturday, October 11, 2003

Clark is irritated with me because he thinks I've been putting too pretty a face on the Iraq situation. Hey, look, I'm not happy with the idea of our guys occupying some country halfway across the world and occasionally getting shot. This is not an ideal situation. I would not call it a good state of affairs.

But it's not nearly as bad as it's being painted to be in some sections of the American media and in almost all the European media. This is not a quagmire. It is not Vietnam II. Violence is not out of control; military forces from a coalition of at least ten nations are on the ground and a local police force are both working to make most of Iraq a good bit safer than certain neighborhoods in East Kansas City. The schools are open, the hospitals are open, the electricity is back on, the tax base necessary for a functioning state is being developed, as is a new national bank, and oil production--the main source of funds for the new government--has begun again.

Perhaps most importantly, the Iraqi people are, in the majority, enjoying their new freedom even if many of them do resent the American presence. Hey, I don't blame them, I wouldn't like for my country to be occupied by foreigners either. But the US has shown its bona fides by its actions since the fall of Saddam. We have already turned over control of a great deal of the country to the locals, and we have an openly published schedule stating when more power will be transferred. Many of the necessary tasks needed to reconstruct the country have already been accomplished, and the Americans are very generously providing twenty billion dollars to help out.

The Americans have not stolen the oil. They have not massacred the people. They are not running the country as a repressive military dictatorship. Millions of Iraqis are not starving or dying from disease. The Americans have shown they are not in Iraq to stay. All of these dire predictions made by the Enlightened and Illustrated Among Us were wrong.

To clear up a possible source of confusion: Yes, I did say, several times, that I thought some American military presence in Iraq would be necessary for several years. One? Three? Five? I don't know. Hell, we're still occupying Germany and Japan, perhaps not officially, but there are a lot of US fighting troops in both countries, only 58 years after the end of the war. But I don't think that force will be necessary for the whole country. I imagine we will continue to occupy the Saddam Triangle for a few years, and that there will be at least a tripwire American force to scare off any possible vultures, but our troops will be out of a lot of Iraq within a few months.

Here are a few articles that help make my point: one from Fox News, one by Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol from the Weekly Standard, and a statement made by Paul Bremer himself. In addition, Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto both link to newspaper op-eds by American soldiers that are supportive of American actions in Iraq.

By the way, here's Mark Steyn on Arnold's victory. Note the horrific grammatical error in the Daily Telegraph's headline, which I assume was not written by Steyn, who does not make the error himself in his text.

Congratulations to the Nobel Peace Prize committee for their award to Shirin Ehadi, an Iranian human-rights activist, and a Muslim woman. I had never heard of her before, but I like it a lot better when the Nobel committee sends a message to the religious leadership of Iran rather than to the United States. And, of course, I'm all in favor of human rights in Iran. The Iranian government's reaction was that they hope Ehadi's message will be taken into account both inside and outside Iran, which is maybe not a sign of a sudden embrace of democratic ideals, but a hell of a lot better than, say, a fatwa. I still maintain that I think we can do business with Iran and that our official position ought to be support for the reformers rather than open hostility toward the whole country. The Iranian leadership is not crazy, unlike megalomaniac Saddam and psychotic Kim Jong Il.

The Vanguardia was really plumping for the Pope to get the Nobel Peace Prize. Sorry, guys, wait till next year. Today they quote "several cardinals" as saying "few thought there was a real chance for the Pope due to the distance between the Protestant world and Rome." Oh, come on. Like there isn't a bigger difference between the Protestant world and Iran? Besides, what Protestant world? My family is Methodist and they certainly don't think in such terms. To them the division is between Methodists and everybody else, not between Protestants and everybody else. See what I mean? Since they are pretty moderate, they feel much more comfortable in a Catholic church than in a holy-roller snake-handling babbling-in-tongues tabernacle.

So what are "several cardinals" saying, that the Protestant churches are all allied against the Catholics or something? And do they think that the irreligious Norwegians and Swedes are so Protestant that they are prejudiced against the Church, and that's the reason they failed to honor John Paul II this year? I smell conspiracy theory all over this one.

Television Espanola also said that the family of the dead Spaniard in Iraq has requested that opposition political parties not try to use their relative's death for political reasons. Sounds like a wish that should be respected to me. Of course, the PSOE and the United Left have already done exactly that. They're looking for the killers; one of them is thought to be Sergeant Bernal's Iraqi bodyguard, who abandoned his post and permitted the killers to approach the front door.

The Socialists' buttwipe of a spokesman, Jose Blanco, Mr. Corrupt Political Insider, tells us, that Aznar should apologize to the Spanish people for "getting us into an illegal, illegitimate, and unjust war that is causing deaths and more insecurity." Convergence and Union is trying to have it both ways; they're saying that they were against the war in the first place but now that it's over Spain has a responsibility to help in the reconstruction and should not just abandon Iraq. That's rather more responsible than the Socialists' position.

The Madrid regional race is on again after the hilarious fiasco the Socialists put on after the last elections. The PP is expected to roundly stomp the Left this time.

Here's Toni Soler, who is a local (currently unemployed) poor man's Jay Leno or David Letterman, in today's Vanguardia.

Arnold Schwarzeneggar is finally governor, and it will be said that, with his victory, the American dream has become reality in California. Because the dream of every American is not to become President--what a drag that would be--but for the President to be an on-screen hero. Not a President who becomes a hero, as Bush is trying to do, but one who's already got his hero suit on, like Schwarzenegger, the "exterminating angel" who has decided to give up fictional battles to take up mundane domestic battles, those of everyday political power, where there is a lack of epic and an excess of common sense and other faggotry (mariconadas).

Huh? We want the President to be a hero? I'll buy that, at least sometimes, I suppose--look at Ike and Kennedy, but also consider Jimmy Carter--but a screen hero? Error Number One: Soler thinks that Americans are too childish to distinguish a legitimate hero, such as a war-winning general or a young inspirational politician, from a guy who plays one in the movies.

Good old Arnold (in Basque, Arnaldo) will be the next governor of California, maybe because in in America they have always believed that the solution to all collective problems is in the hands of one lone individual, if possible gripping a rifle in order to "defend his family", as Charlton Heston would say. The Americans have a constitution, amendments, political parties, parliaments, separation of powers, and a free press, but above any political structure they put a great lone man, with a great woman behind him, making big decisions by himself.

Oh, come on. I'm not even going to debate this except to point out that it is Mr. Soler's unsupported opinion, backed up by zero facts. Oh, wait, he does have some examples! Wonder where he's going to get them from?

I know it's not fair to judge a country by its movies--in Catalonia it's especially recommendable not to do that--but the American film universe offers some details that call one's attention. In "Air Force One" the President was not only handsome like Harrison Ford, but he solved the problem of international terrorism all by his two-fisted self; and in "Independence Day", the President wasn't satisfied with just coordinating the struggle against the Martians, but he climbed up into a fighter plane to chase UFOs, taking advantage of his Gulf War aerial experience. With things like this, who's surprised when George bush dresses up as a pilot, helmet and all, to announce the end of the war in Iraq from an aircraft carrier?

So, Mr. Soler, if it's not fair to judge a country by its movies, why do you then proceed to do so? Your only evidence to support your point comes from two movies and a staged White House photo op. I submit that is not sufficient evidence to opine on a continent-sized diverse society and its attitude toward its political leaders.

As if that weren't enough, Schwarzenegger is a millionaire, which in Europe is a motive for envy and disdain, while in the United States it is a political virtue. Besides, the man is of foreign origin. And that's what most pleases Yankee nationalism, which is not based on the Germanic "being" or the Catalan "will to be" but on "preferring to be". The United States is the homeland of every individual who chooses to live in the best and most powerful country in the world, especially in order to succeed. The rest are "loosers" (sic), and we should not vote for them, because they have no guts, nor money, nor muscles to aspire to so much.

Mr. Soler is here propagating perhaps the hardest-to-eradicate European stereotype of the US, that it is a compassionless competitive land where everyone is scrambling in the rat race, stomping on his neighbors' hands to keep them from climbing up after him. I just do not buy that. Mr. Soler, like most Europeans, is defining "success" as "being rich and powerful". That's not how we define it. Our definition is more like "doing what you like to do". Or, in Californian, "being self-actualized". F'r instance, I'm a success by American standards because I do exactly what I want to do, which is to write and translate and teach. I'm not either rich or powerful, but I've got a wife and a nice little apartment and a pile of cats and a house in the country, and I've been able to live in Catalonia, the place where I most want to live.

What I suspect is that Toni Soler does not consider himself to be successful according to his own wealth-and-fame standards, whether professional or monetary; his last two TV shows bombed and he's unknown outside Catalonia. He knows if he can't even make it big in Catalonia, there's no way he'd be able to do so in the States, and he doesn't like that one bit. This causes an intrinsic dislike of all things American, since he's got the Catalan-American Dream (I wanna be a big TV star, albeit here in Catalonia) and he knows he'll never make it come true. He is therefore infected with envy and jealousy toward those who have accomplished his dream and the society in which the most visible of them have done so.

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