Let’s talk about wonderful phrases, today. Just before the election there was a flurry of declarations on reality-based and faith-based worlds or somesuch. There is room at the table for another one, I think. Future-based. As I was getting ready this morning, Barbara Boxer had Rice pinned on Iraq. Why couldn’t you have dealt with Saddam as we dealt with Milosevic? Why did Rummy visit Saddam in the 80s when he was gassing Iranians? Why did you not tell that to the people when you claimed that we were taking Saddam out because he gassed Iranians? Why were there no WMDs? Why did you tell us the aluminimum tubes were for building nukes when that was not the consensus? Rice didn’t flinch. Let me transcribe her response clearly: ???? ? ??? ?? ????????? ??? ???? ????????????. Yeah. But she did say that we invaded Iraq because the shadow of the future dictated our actions.
The shadow of the future. What a beautiful, Tolkienesque phrase. I have been rolling it around in my head all morning. The future, for millenia a sure peg to hang one’s hopes and dreams on, now casts a dark, disturbing glance at the present; intimidating it, changing it, to ensure its own outcome. Or maybe it is more Borgesque than Tolkienesque: “Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past.”
And there is another beautiful formulation by Rice, outposts of tyranny, stated in her testimony yesterday about which I am sure we will hear much more soon:
Outposts as contrasted with axis gives us a more spatially pronounced effect. It distances the threat, marginalizes it and degrades it from pure evil to tyranny (any one else thinking about Pulp Fiction?). There is more about those outposts in Sy Hersch’s latest in the NewYorker called The Coming Wars. Future as fait accompli:
The Department of Defense responded: “By his own admission, Mr. Hersh evidently is working on an √¨alternative history√Æ novel.‚Ä† He is well along in that work, given the high quality of √¨alternative present√Æ that he has developed in several recent articles.” Alternative present, another beautiful phrase that bifurcates our living reality into several frames. I never realized that bureaucrats were so poetic. Or inclined to fiction writing.
In this month’s Atlantic, Richard Clarke writes a lecture delivered in 2011. Exhaustively footnoted, it contains the many missteps of this administration in the WoT – some already taken and some destined to be taken. A series of suicide attacks on American casinos, malls, subways, railroads and internets by Al Qaeda of North America and Iranian Quds Force causes the arrest and detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslim-Americans, the creation of the draft and the modern day Minutemen.
A future waiting to be born imposes itself on the present to bear it. So the last phrase of the day – my least favorite – the clash of cultures. Which is marginally better than the CofCiv but still off the mark. Me and farangi are hard at work trying to figure all possible permutations of the Clash of … meme.
Aren’t words fun?