Friday, August 31

"No Wonder We're Going Down The Tubes,"

SEZ Sergeant Dave Karsnia, and it should be made clear at the start that he isn't talking about Larry Craig's penchant for bathroom sex, or Craig's scared silly lies, the ones he'd rehearsed so often for when--not if--they'd caught the bad, bad boy, when he was looking at the punishment he secretly knew he deserved, the explanations for the casual acts that wouldn't have an explanation if they really were casual--"I reached down to pick up a piece of paper"--or even his attempt to cling to a story that made no sense. Karsnia's used to those things. He's a cop. No, that "Embarrassing, embarrassing"--he'll repeat the word one more time in a moment, just before reading the date and time into the tape recorder, and telling it the interview is finished--refers to Craig's embracing the idea that a lie is the equal of the thing it's designed to dispute, and everyone in earshot is supposed to accept it. No, we aren't going down the tubes because Larry Craig is a hypocrite, or even because he's made himself into the poster boy for Republican entitlement (imagine the uproar if a similarly flimsy tale got someone a new trial in a capital murder case!). It's because the truth doesn't even enter into the equation anymore. It's because there's no reckoning with it required, even behind closed doors, even face to face with a man who knows for a fact that you know for a fact you're lying.

I have no way of knowing Sgt. Karsnia's politics, if any, but if he reads the paper every day I wonder if he could have followed that final "Embarrassing" with a "I suppose they'll be digging up Tom DeLay to defend you once this hits cable news."

That's the one thing that's interesting about Larry Craig, or, rather, it's the locus of what theoretical non-scurrilous interest that might lie beneath the tabloid news. Larry Craig, with his trolling dick suddenly caught in a law-enforcement wringer, squeals exactly like Larry Craig, outraged defender of public morality or steadfast defender of giving the surge time to work or outraged defender of outrage over the--it turns out--more traditional places Bill Clinton's wanger got stuck in. There's no fuckin' difference. Larry Craig might just as well have said he was looking for WMDs, or trying to reform Social Security, or blasting off to Mars. The Republican party lies as unashamedly as Craig did, no matter the evidence to the contrary, and it too imagines that merely offering up an excuse, however transparent, always beats trumps. Craig might as well have told the Sergeant, "Hey, it's okay if you're a Republican!"

This is why we're going down the tubes! Tom DeLay goes on Today, which is abomination enough right there, and says that the only important public point here is that Republicans get rid of such miscreants while Democrats re-elect them, and he doesn't have his mike cut by some Christian technician fearful of God's electronic Wrath. It was, indeed, the same Tom DeLay who, as leader of the most criminal House of Representatives in history, had his minions change the ethics rules so he could remain in office despite being indicted. And he's the spokesman. (The Hammer appears to have lost some weight, and we sincerely hope this is due to diet and an exercise regimen, and not some undisclosed wasting disease, by a 51-49 margin.)

This put me in mind of Fred Kaplan's piece in the Sunday Times Magazine, about rising manifest junior officer dissatisfaction with the Army senior command. I'm nothing if not a dilettante of military matters, but the more I read the more I thought, "This is why it takes a Luther." It requires that someone say, "If you try to fix this it will be worse than before. Tear it out and start over." This is well-nigh impossible for the corporate mindset, absent total disaster. It's why the so-called Powell Doctrine, the so-called realistic assessment of post-Vietnam use of US military force always had the air of the hungover recently-ex-fiancé who imagines a heartfelt letter will get him off the hook: My Darling Sharon, I'm sorry, I'll clean it up, and I promise never to hurl in your purse again. Because the Republican/military brass had no real problem with pointless bloodbaths; the only real problem they saw was the effect of public or press opposition. We'd still be in Vietnam if they could have gotten away with it. Even after the engagement ring comes back registered mail they're not going to do anything so reckless as to consider whether to stop drinking.

General officers today are not a product of the soul-searching post-Nam era. They're a product of the Reagan revisionism. We didn't take "necessary" actions in Libya, or Grenada, or the first Gulf war. We took steps towards reviving the brand. Check the histrionic victory celebrations after Grenada, when the Mighty Arsenal of Democracy managed to defeat two dozen Cubans after first contriving to wedge them between us and the people we supposedly were there to save. The hubris born of sheer firepower never left us. We were itching for more Vietnams, because the next Vietnam would prove that we lost only because of poor hippie hygiene patterns.

This is not to say there was a failure of professional responsibility in the military, only that the prevailing political attitude trumped it far too often. Yes, it's a shame more of the brass did not fulfill its obligation to tell the Bush administration to Go Fuck Itself, but to suppose that some sort of careerist cowardice is to blame is to get the thing wrong way 'round. We don't need general officers who'll consider telling Don Rumsfeld his ideas are simply, totally incompetent and risk disaster. We need general officers who couldn't consider not telling him so. Instead it's Larry Craig Nation: so long as we've got an excuse for what we want to do, all objections are just somebody else's opinion.


Anonymous said...

"...but to suppose that some sort of careerist cowardice is to blame is to get the thing wrong way 'round..."

What we NEEDED was an American public who could tell when they were being snookered by fear of frothing Ay-rab terrorists and speedo-wearing queers, and ridiculous baldface lies about a Senator-then-Lieutenant's actual service in Vietnam; an American public who could have realized that the only reasonable choice was to vote against Bush. Blaming the general staff for anything other than voting for Bush (if, in fact, they did) is simply blaming the victim.

Regardless, I love your blog.

Doodle Bean said...

Thank you for this post! I read it in the transcript of the interrogation and knew exactly what the officer meant: our nation is going down the tubes because of 'leaders' such as Craig. I thought it was the most significant part of the tape, but nobody else seems to be discussing it.

Thank you for putting it into such eloquent words.

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