The rancid smell of victory

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By Shane Dingman

Most intense fighting of the war yet, blare the headlines. Eleven killed in attacks on U.S. helicopters. In this incident, the fist casualty was a U.S. solider falling out of a helicopter. During the disastrous 1993 Mogadishu raid, made famous by Ridley Scott’s claptrap movie Black Hawk Down, the first solider injured also fell out of his helicopter. Maybe someone should form an oversight committee to investigate the training of U.S. special forces troops?

Jumbalaya! Isn’t this great! I’m telling you, now that things are heating up with the American war machine we are in for even more fascinating CNN reports. You thought the bloodless bombing campaign was fun? Or how about Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Nathan R. Gessup character from A Few Good Men come to life and set lose as a prison warden for Taliban fighters in the real Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall! You don’t coddle these guys, they’d cut our throats in a second if they could! I say, let em sleep in their skivvies under the stars, nyar see nyar!”

I tell you, I’m beginning to really hate Bill Clinton. Eight years of that moron and the world seems to have gone straight from victory in the Cold War and the Evil Empire to encouraging ex-KGB freaks like Vlad Putin to lay waste to Chechen populations to protect the oil pipeline that runs near Grozny. Just because we suspect the al-Qaeda network has supported the rebels in Chechnya doesn’t mean we should let those pigfucking Russians go hogwild over there. Now to be fair, Bill gave the domestic politics of the U.S. a good shaking, but his foreign policy was adrift and his military intelligence spotty at best.

Besides, maybe winning the Cold War hasn’t been as good for the world as we had hoped. There is evidence that more military hardware is flowing into troubled regions of the world than at any rate previously experienced. Russia and China are the leaders in arms sales to psychotic regimes in Africa. There are an estimated 100 million guns on the continent, almost one gun for every six Africans. The story of the 20th century was one of inventive violence, and the most inventive groups have not been governments but rather nonstate actors like rebels or guerrilla movements. Many of the world’s violent organizations fight unwinnable wars where they also present no alternative to government. Sometimes I damn Michael Collins’ success in using the gun to win Ireland’s freedom from the British in the 20s. His rebellion was vicious and brutal but his horrors became inspiration to tin-pot faction leaders because he won.

The scary part is you can’t negotiate to disarm groups like this, because they exist through violence. So without the guns they have no business.

Since the World Trade Centre buried the complacency of American defense specialists under 500,000 tonnes of rubble they’ve been setting the standard for aggression. It used to be somebody blew some shit up, it was a police deal. Investigate. Prosecute. Jail. Now the U.S. has unilaterally changed the debate. Now the question is “how quickly can you jam a missile down the throats of anyone involved in this shit?”

But when you leave some sharp piece of culture lying around, someone’s going to pick it up and gouge his neighbour.

In Israel, where the killing is reaching further into the grab bag of savagery, from Palestinian snipers to Israeli gunships, a deadly equilibrium is being maintained. The Israelis have embarked on a course to politically and militarily sideline. Yasser Arafat, and a group of violent formerly attached to his Fatah party are taking responsibility for the most recent spate of attacks. This al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has attracted the kind of fearful fame that Western audiences gave the militant movement Hamas several years ago, when it seemed no more savage groups existed.

Ariel Sharon’s brutal assaults are predicted on that same U.S. notion that no terrorist act will go unpunished. The time for tolerance is over, and the slightest provocation requires a justified attempt at annihilation. With the U.S. eyeing Iraq, Israel has already raised the stakes by asserting that this time if any Scuds reach Israel, they will not turn their cheek. A full scale response would bring Israel into the war, pitting the U.S. and Israel against the Arab world. This nightmare scenario is brought to you by the makers of smart bombs and stupid generals.

This week we are bedazzled by the macabre spectacle of Hindus and Muslims using a weapon as old and voracious as fire against each other in the worst rioting in western India in over a decade. The death toll hovers around 570 people, mostly Muslims, who were killed in the last few days following a Wednesday attack by a Mulim mod that set fire to a train that was carrying Hindu activists. In this new hair-trigger world, having gross violence explode on a border province of two nuclear powers carries new and awful threats. It has been said before, (but let me remind you in the Cold War at the closest the U.S. and Russia came to lighting it up was the Cuban Missile Crisis. When the big bombs get that close to each other it’s easier for a conflict to go thermonuclear.

The long view? We all have to back the fuck up. The days when you could launch wars over ego ended with the demise of wooden wall shipping and fighting with horses. If we keep going off like frat boys with too much booze there won’t be a frat house to wake up to.

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