Monday, August 07, 2006

The Ways of American Power

The Coming Iraqi Coup: One of the unsettling undercurrents in Iraq is the diversion of interests between Iraqi politicians and the Iraqi military. Politicians like Prime Minister Maliki have to deal with the Iraqi public and are losing patience with American support for Israel and incidents of American brutality against Iraqi civilians. To the contrary, the top generals in the Iraqi armed forces are under American tutelage and are primarily responsible to the American military. The generals are frustrated by the inability of the politicians to overcome sectarian divisions. In the pressure cooker of civil war, such conflicts of interest and organizational culture can lead to military coups.

A Nurturing Society at Home: The Iraqi invasion grew out of the neo-conservative vision of the triumphant projection of American military power. One of the consequences of that vision is the need for American society to care for wounded, disabled, and troubled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Omaha World-Herald mentions today that 79 Iraq/ Afghanistan vets have already committed suicide and that the rate of suicides is higher for the Iraq war than it was for the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Given the traumatic character of the Iraq war, thousands of veterans are going to need extra patience and consideration from their families, neighbors, and loved ones as well as extra physical therapy and mental health services from the government. If the invasion of Iraq was meant to be an exercise in domination, doing our best for the returning vets might make the U. S. into a more nurturing society in the future.

Failure Wears Blackface. Public discussion of the Jane Hamsher image of Joe Lieberman in blackface seems to have faded, but the image resonates. Blackface minstrelsy was a form of entertainment in which white performers staged racial humiliations of blacks. Blacks were represented as stupid, ridiculous, and lazy, and subject to all the varieties of humiliation that whites could imagine. For Jane Hamsher, the representation of Joe Lieberman in blackface was meant to convey an image of Lieberman as a failure. The incongruity between Lieberman's black skin and his eyes, mouth, and hair, the plantation tie, and zoot suit all were designed to use a racial image to emphasize Lieberman's ridiculous attempts to get black support. What's disturbing here is that Hamsher seems to view success as inherently white and failure and incapacity as inherently black. It's a racist image and Hamsher shouldn't have gotten away with it as easily as she did.

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