Elsewhere in our neighbourhood.
Let's all go lupins.
How delightful it was to lose myself in the hinterlands of Newfoundland for 10 days—to be transported to a small (technically dying!) community, with lots of work to do to settle into the old house, no satellite TV and no time to waste in cyber-space. There was the detachment from reality owing to distance and local concerns, plus the detachment from present time represented by reminiscences at every turn, of the days of 70 years ago when the house was once before in present family hands. There was a little spare time to take in undiscovered beauties, all of which harken back to even earlier times—like half a billion years ago when the plates shoved this rock up from the depths of magma to break the surface of the seas.
Back home, drinking up the news and reading the wires, it is tempting to get depressed about a whole world of things. Much healthier, I think, to select just a few and become monumentally depressed about only those.
OH, GRANDMA, IS IT ALWAYS ABOUT POLITICS?
I did something this week I haven't done in more than a decade-- visited a TOYS'R'US. It was all in the name of the Mommet and the Teufelpuppy, expected this year. The store has changed a lot, seems more crowded and a bit run-down, way too much room devoted to video-games. Man at the check-out has a long body, a long ponytail, and spoke as if he had a long acquaintance with magic mushrooms.
I got a few good necessaries, but on the side picked up one of the handful of small football [soccer] action figures left, a little but remarkably accurate statuette of Zinedine Zidane, of ignominious red-card head-butt fame. (Re-live the moment with this ridiculous time-waster from Addictinggames.com-- I've only ever done a couple of these things, and this is the first one I haven't been killed at.) The little figure is in the act of lifting the ball upwards and seems to be preparing for a header, so it's especially appropriate.
I, however, being terminally perverse and politically jazzed, saw it as fitting nicely into my other arrangement of mini-figures, purchased at the exchange on Marine Corps Base Quantico. It's a little grouping of high-quality miniatures produced by one of those makers of model soldiers (not Britain's but something equally good), which I bought and set out to remind myself who it was who changed history by engineering the attack that finally delivered the message about Islamist terrorism-- the late 20th-century evil that may dictate the future of generations long past my kid who was then training at Quantico. So I gave Zizou the opportunity to put his own Algerian pride to better use. And there he stands, poised to make that red card a thing worth having.
It's still great to be a TOYS'R'US Kid.
BACK IN THE REAL WORLD:
I watch, so you don’t have to.
The news finally surfaced that there was indeed graphic/photographic evidence of what was inflicted upon our kidnapped soldiers, Privates Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker, by the twisted butchers who took them. Websites which felt duty-bound to be heralds of this horror to a complacent citizenry posted them for a short time, but thought better of it and removed what they came to consider too horrible to disseminate. Even the site that offered just still screen-captures backed off pretty quickly.
But there’s always somebody who’s prepared to stiffen public resolve, or just exploit the sensational, and the video and stills are out there to be found. In keeping with my previous decision that some among us need to bear witness to the harshest realities, I checked it out.
Fortunately it is of the usual poor quality, probably recorded by a cell-phone camera, so that at first one is not quite sure what one is seeing. The overwhelming image, it should be said, is one of blood-- it is fair to call the video "The Passion of Menchaca and Tucker." One can only hope, as has been speculated, that they were both dead before the mutilations were carried out, killed or severely wounded at the same time their comrade Spc. David Babineau died, whose body was left behind-- this seems a distinct possibility, as Menchaca is clearly dead in the video but still intact, even as he is subjected to what is, to Muslims, the maximum human indignity: a bystander presses the bottom of his running shoe against Menchaca's face and grinds it.
We learned at the time of the fall of Baghdad in 2003, as Iraqis throughout the country slapped or threw their shoes against images of Saddam Hussein, that this was considered the greatest possible insult in their culture, presumably because shoes come into contact with all the filth of an underdeveloped society. It is one of the many peculiarly, one might even say "pervertedly," puritanical characteristics of Muslim culture that they have all sorts of what we would call "hang-ups" about personal defilement associated with dogs, pigs, and women (not necessarily in that order), which manifest themselves in, among other things, hypersensitivity to what's on the soles of one's shoes. Yet, as this and other videos of human slaughter make clear, there seems to be no taboo against bathing oneself in enemy blood-- in picking up a dripping head or wearing the backwash of a jugular puncture. Odd, that.
This week we have witnessed the spectacle of tough talk, ultimatums, and unqualified support for military retaliation issuing from the lips of the American President on the subject of two Israeli Defense Force soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah. If I had to make a guess, it would be that the soldiers will end up being returned, probably alive, or maybe killed inadvertantly during the battle to shut down Iran's terrorist proxy in Lebanon. I would be mightily surprised if the soldiers are returned to Israel in the condition in which we found Privates Menchaca and Tucker. Were that to happen, I'm thinkin' Hezbollah could reasonably expect their Lebanese turf to be flattened into moonscape. Al Qaeda, however, has learned that it can reasonably expect no such response from the United States. The butchery of our two Privates seems to have had little effect on the digestive tranquility of the inhabitants of the West Wing.
I doubt the President has watched the video (he should)-- but even if he has had a look, and even if his stomach did churn and his heart did ache, it SEEMS to have had little effect-- the public has not been permitted to PERCEIVE anything. If this is stoicism on the President's part (which would be giving him much more credit than I'm inclined to do), it is NOT what the moment calls for. It would NOT be appropriate in the mayor of the soldiers' home towns, the governor of their States, the commander of their unit. It is NOT appropriate from their Commander-in-Chief. I have previously called him the "Delegator-in-Chief", and this is not a compliment. In this case, he seems to have delegated the appropriate OUTRAGE so far down the chain of command that it is only to be perceived among the right-wing media and blogosphere.
At some point, Mr. President, we're going to get tired of doing your job for you-- chew your own food, do your own spellcheck, and find a corner in which to lodge your own emotions instead of leaving them to others. This was the time for battle-cry-- GOD FOR MENCHACA! GOD FOR TUCKER! GOD FOR AMERICA, IRAQ, AND FREEDOM! GOD FOR HARRY, ENGLAND, AND ST. GEORGE!
Mr. Bush was caught on tape this week, in private conference with Tony Blair at the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg, opining that Syria should press Hezbollah to "stop doing this sh*t." Leftists pretended shock (puh-h-h-le-e-e-ze), and rightists gushed kudos. I found it more disturbing that Mr. Bush was caught displaying the table manners of a coarse hillbilly (mouth half-open, lips smacking) and couldn't manage the politeness of a lowered voice. Mr. Blair's remarks were often discreetly unintelligible on tape, while Bush's were at a slightly subdued holler, aided by the fact that he couldn't be bothered to look Blair directly in the face much of the time, but was looking out at the business of the room. (Perhaps that was his method of pretended insouciance, of covering for the semi-official gravity of the conversation-- I'll give him that, though I'd buy it more if he'd kept his voice down.)
All in all, it was not a pretty picture. I'm perfectly content with the locker-room vocabulary. I just wish he could speak so bluntly, and act with the forcefulness it represents, on behalf of our own troops in their separate battle. Maybe I'd appreciate the tough talk if the Delegator-in-Chief had heard and acted upon the answer to L. Paul Bremer's $64,000 (or rather, 35,000-troop) question to General Ricardo Sanchez in 2004: Q-- "What can you use?" A-- "Give me two more divisions and I can control Baghdad." Message never received, troops never delivered.
Private Thomas Tucker and Private Kristian Menchaca were kidnapped, murdered, and hacked up like... I can't even say it.
IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE COME TO THIS.
Having come to this anyway, IT SHOULD NOT STAND.
Yet it seems to have passed into the history of the war like just another day in the Sandbox. Two more flag-covered coffins will come home, but this time inside they will contain the most taxing mortician's cosmetic re-assembly, after the most complicated autopsy, of this entire war, or perhaps any war, ever-- because it's probably the first time in history that a people primitive enough to inflict such damage have committed it against a people who care enough to deliver home their dead in some semblance of peaceful repose, with as clear a picture as possible of the circumstances of their death.
SPEAKING OF BEHEADINGS -- THIS JUST IN:
BRAD PITT does DANIEL PEARL
I haven't read any details about how the deal went down, but somewhere along the road between Kandahar and Candyland (read: Hollywood) Brad Pitt obtained the movie rights to Marianne Pearl's account of the life and death of her husband, reporter Daniel Pearl, who was lured to his gruesome death (our first filmed beheading of the GWOT) while reporting on the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002.
Actually, the rights belonged to the production company of the then husband-and-wife team of Bradifer Pittaston or Jennad Anistipitt or whatever the moniker was for the ill-fated couple. The company and its properties were handed over to Brad in the divorce settlement, and he is now slated to do the film with his new squeeze (are they married? I forget) the flabby-lipped, adoptathon, glam-humanitarian Angelina Jolie. (Aniston is apparently FUMING that her potentially Oscar-winning role is now going to the OTHER WOMAN-- film at 11:00.....).
So Brad has recently announced his operating principle for the film project by gushing, “We hope the film can increase understanding between people of all faiths and portray the story and the people involved as honestly as possible without anger or judgment.”
Abby Wise Schachter at National Review Online takes it from there:
Daniel Pearl was...kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists, bound, beaten, terrorized and finally beheaded — all with cameras rolling. In the last moments before Daniel Pearl was brutally decapitated, his killers demanded that he identify himself. Not as an American, not as an infidel, not as a journalist. He was forced to define himself one way and one way only — as a Jew — and then his head was removed from his body.I had but one thought while reading this article (Schachter had it too, making it her closing lines), and that was: I don't need to buy a ticket for this movie-- I've already seen it. If Brad Pitt can make this film without anger, he is a heartless automaton. That he can make it without a scintilla of judgment he has already amply demonstrated.
MEMO TO BRAD: HEROISM LOOKS LIKE THIS
Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute posted an entry on National Review's The Corner consisting of the account nominating SSG David Bellavia for the Medal of Honor, for conduct during the battle for Fallujah, November 2004. Ledeen's only comment is "Who could comment on this?"
I'll give away the ending: "SSG Bellavia single handedly saved three squads of his Third Platoon that night, risking his own life by allowing them to break contact and reorganize." I wrote to thank Ledeen for the posting, and suggested someone should undertake a psy-ops mission to leaflet the congressional Democrats with it. See what you think-- READ IT ALL. (I'll give away another ending-- I expected to learn that Bellavia had died in the action-- he survived, has retired, and was on FoxNews last night with some insights about what's happening with Hezbollah. More about him here.)
The Anchoress passed on a pretty funny bit from the Colbert Report, with comments about Colbert's up-front (albeit liberally diluted in all the right places) Catholicism. I'm in the habit of saying that there is no such thing as a liberal or conservative Catholic-- there are just orthodox Catholics and pretend Catholics. That's not to say that the pretenders haven't one sincere or devout belief in their whole person-- they may well have many-- they just believe in something different from Catholicism. That having been said, Colbert openly gives it everything he's got (and it's sad that he hasn't got everything), and that's rare enough. His take on Unitarianism is BRILLIANT. Watch and grin.
PAGE SIX SCANDALS from the New York Post
Richard Johnson reports:
ELIOT Spitzer's campaign for governor has received a major boost from celebrities like Barbra Streisand ($1,000), George Steinbrenner ($15,000) and Christie Brinkley ($1,250). The Post's Kenneth Lovett reports Spitzer raised a hefty $10.7 million during the past six months, with contributions also from Don Henley ($10,000), Edward Norton ($15,000), Ben Affleck ($1,000), Jets owner Woody Johnson ($10,000), NBA Com missioner David Stern ($5,000), Ivanka Trump ($1,000), Robert (son of George) Soros ($25,000), John Kerry's stepson Chris Heinz ($1,500), Robert Kennedy Jr. ($200), public relations powerhouse How ard Rubenstein ($11,000), and Laurie David, the activist wife of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David ($2,400).What can I say but...can you believe how cheap some of these rich libs are?!!!
Haven't they ever heard of putting their money where their mouth is? Chris Heinz can't borrow more than than 1500 bills from the Ketchup Goddess?!!!
TUCK IT AWAY -- MIGHT BE USEFUL ONE DAY:
"BUSH LIED" myth DEMOLISHED
Absolutely everything you'll ever need on this subject found neatly packaged and shipping your way on the USS Neverdock blog. Captain Jack Sparrow never scored such a treasure trove of truthiness, such B.S.-blasting booty. HAR-R-R-R. Lots of good links from the Neverdock deck.
Oh, and, just in case you ever wondered which side God might be on, this apparition was made manifest deep inside the Battleship North Carolina recently.