Saturday, August 19, 2006

Forecasting Today's War from 1869

Last week saw the Second Anglo-Iraqi War endure longer than US troops were in World War II. The Brits, like Thursday's child, have far to go. Their WWII lasted 5 years, 11 months, 10 days while ours was "only" (ha!) 3 years, 8 months, 6 days.

Back when the current war was being promoted in the higher socio-political circles of the capitalist imperial capital on the Potomac, a little bird told the Slangwhanger- in- Chief to consult a certain not-uncelebrated account of the czarist imperial capital on the Moskva during seven years of Napoleon's wars. Pursuing that providential advice, he came across the following equivocal text.
Combat and Tranquility
By Countess Konstantia Garnettovna,
writing over the name of Levtol Stoy
Transfigured into English by R. G. Stonelower,
Mount Tabor, Ltd., 1880

"Well, Senator, so Kuwait and Syria are now just family estates of the Husayns, as the CIA insists on spelling their name. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist -- I really believe he is Antichrist -- I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you -- sit down and tell me
all the news."

It was in September [of either 2002 or 1811; the records simultaneously differ and are duplicative at significant points], and the speaker was the well-known Annette Scherer, Social Secretary to and favorite of the Princesses Royal, Jenna and Barbara. With these words she greeted Senator Beauregard Claghorn, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception. Annette had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe....

All her invitations without exception, ... delivered by messenger that morning, ran as follows:

"If you have nothing better to do, Senator or Representative, and if the prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10 -- Annette Scherer."

"Heavens! what a virulent attack!" replied the Senator, not in the least disconcerted by this reception. He had just entered, wearing an exquisite $1,500 bespoke wool suit, and had ... a serene expression on his flat face. He spoke in that refined middlebrow accent in which our grandfathers ... spoke ..., and with the gentle, patronizing intonation natural to a man of importance who had grown old in society and in Congress. He went up to Annette, kissed her hand, presenting to her his bald, scented, and shining head, and complacently seated himself on the sofa.

"First of all, dear friend, tell me how you are. Set your friend's mind at rest," said he without altering his tone, beneath the politeness and affected sympathy of which indifference and even irony could be discerned.

"Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times like these if one has any feeling?" said Annette. "You are staying the whole evening, I hope?"

"And the reception at the English ambassador's? Today is Wednesday. I must put in an appearance there," said the Senator. "My daughter is coming for me to take me there."

"I thought today's reception had been canceled. I confess all these festivities and fireworks are becoming wearisome."

"If they had known that you wished it, the entertainment would have been put off," said the Senator, who, like a wound-up clock, by force of habit said things he did not even wish to be believed.

"Don't tease! Well, and what has been decided about the UN dispatch? You know everything."

"What can one say about it?" replied the Senator in a cold, listless tone. "What has been decided? They have decided that Husayn has burnt his boats, and I believe that we are ready to burn ours."

Senator Claghorn always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a stale part. Annette Scherer on the contrary, despite her forty years, overflowed with animation and impulsiveness. To be an enthusiast had become her social vocation and, sometimes even when she did not feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order not to disappoint the expectations of those who knew her. The subdued smile which, though it did not suit her faded features, always played round her lips expressed, as in a spoiled child, a continual consciousness of her charming defect, which she neither wished, nor could, nor considered it necessary, to correct.

In the midst of a conversation on political matters Annette burst out:

"Oh, don't speak to me of France. Perhaps I don't understand things, but France never has wished, and does not wish, for war. She is betraying us! The US alone must save the Middle East. Our gracious Preznit recognizes his high vocation and will be true to it. That is the one thing I have faith in! Our good and wonderful Preznit has to perform the noblest role on earth, and he is so virtuous and noble that God will not forsake him. He will fulfill his vocation and crush the hydra of terrorism, which has become more terrible than ever in the person of this murderer and villain! We alone must avenge the blood of the just ones.... Whom, I ask you, can we rely on?... Germany with her commercial spirit will not and cannot understand the Preznit's loftiness of soul. ... She wanted to find, and still seeks, some secret motive in our actions. What answer did the UN get? None. The Germans have not understood and cannot understand the self-abnegation of our Preznit who wants nothing for himself, but only desires the good of mankind. And what have they promised? Nothing! And what little they have promised they will not perform! Germany has always declared that Husayn is invincible, and that all Europe is powerless before him.... And I don't believe a word that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says, or German Opposition Leader Edmund Stoiber either. This famous German neutrality is just a trap. I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored Preznit. He will save the Middle East!"

She suddenly paused, smiling at her own impetuosity.

"I think," said the Senator with a smile, "that if you had been sent instead of our dear Rumsfeld you would have captured Schroeder's consent by assault. You are so eloquent. Will you give me a glass of whisky?"

Continue for half a million words across seven years of history...


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