For your reading pleasure, The eXiled is reposting one of the War Nerd’s most famous–and hilarious–episodes: The epic battle pitting Gary Brecher against neocon historian Victor Davis Hanson, guru to Dick Cheney and “Scooter” Libby. Like Bull Run, this battle came in two parts: the first part begins with the War Nerd’s devastating opening salvo attack on July 28, 2005, in an article headlined “Victor Davis Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor”:
Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor
by Gary Brecher
I‘ve survived some terrible summers, but this is the worst. Somebody kill me. Fresno’s been putting on a show, crunching a whole lifetime of stupid misery into a few hot months. And I mean hot. We’ve been setting records down here. Today it hit 107 degrees. Tomorrow we’re due to reach 109. Luckily, Thursday should be a cool, breezy 103.
I had figured this summer would be a little easier to handle now that I’ve shucked off a layer of blubber (I slimmed down a bit to try to ease my kidney situation). But no, God just made it a few degrees hotter to make sure I stay as sweaty and miserable as ever, cooking in my own fat.
People here have been going crazy since it started heating up. The Fresno PD managed to get our fine city some international press with a new approach to fighting crime: cracking down on 11-year-olds. In case you didn’t read about it, what happened was this 11-year-old girl threw a rock at some kids who were splattering her with water balloons, so the Fresno cops swooped down with three squad cars and a chopper. They wrestled her down, cuffed her and charged her with felony assault. She did a week in juvie isolation, with no access to even her parents, before they let her go.
Jailbait: Fresno’s Most Wanted!
Naturally her lawyers yelled racism, because she’s Mexican. I don’t buy that. It’s not racism, it’s plain cowardice. That’s the key to understanding what’s happening in the world today: plain old cowardice. Somewhere along the line we lost all the brave people. Now we’ve just got a lot of phony blowhards. The cops who wrestled that little girl around were just like the cops you see on Reno 911, playing tough once they were sure the suspect couldn’t fight back. I drive past gang corners every damn day, and I never see the Fresno PD giving those bastards any trouble-they’re too scary. So they wait till it’s a little girl who defended herself against a bunch of bullies, then they swarm her like a SWAT team.
We’ve got this Fresno intellectual who likes to strut the same way in the local paper. He’s one of these snotty assholes with three names: Victor Davis Hanson. Oh, sorry: Doctor Victor David Hanson. He’s got a Ph.D. and he teaches at Fresno State.
This fool passes himself off as a military historian, writing columns about Iraq and Afghanistan and everything else he feels like babbling about, but he doesn’t have a clue about contemporary warfare. Every war nerd on the net knows more about what’s happening in Iraq than he does. But that doesn’t stop him. He teaches Classics, he’s written a half dozen books on ancient warfare, and he never lets you forget that he’s a professor and you’re not.
In his last column for the Fresno Bee, he sneered at people who don’t have Ph.D.’s for daring to have opinions about the war in Iraq: “What do a talented Richard Gere, Robert Redford and Madonna all have in common besides loudly blasting the current administration? They either dropped out of, or never started, college. Cher may think George Bush is ‘stupid,’ but she-not he-didn’t finish high school.”
Since I never even finished my AA degree, I took that kind of personally. I guess it’s my fault for not getting into Yale on pure merit like Bush did. That column got me so furious I daydreamed about driving down Highway 99 to Hanson’s farm and setting all his orchards and vineyards on fire. I kept thinking of what the Spartans said when one of their neighbors threatened them: “Your cicadas will chirp from the ground,” meaning, “We’ll burn your fucking olive orchards if you mouth off again.”
Professor Hanson is one of these “back to the land” assholes who can afford to live on a farm because he’s got tenure for life at Fresno State-they can’t fire him for anything less than a major felony. It’s classic welfare state socialism that funds his estate, but that doesn’t stop him from moralizing about the benefits of free market solutions. So he writes these columns from his farm in Selma, a few miles down the road from Fresno, about the sanctity of private land and private enterprise and the life lessons of farming.
He doesn’t even suspect what a total hypocrite he is. According to his official online bio, Hanson graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1975. I don’t know if you non-Californians understand what that means. UC Santa Cruz is the official sex-and-drugs campus of the whole UC system. It’s so hippie-cool and mellow it doesn’t even give grades, which are just too bourgeois. You just get little notes from your teachers. The kids who go there are rich brats who don’t have to worry about getting a job-because graduating from there is like telling your future employers you were stoned for four straight years.
And Hanson graduated from there in 1975. I can only dream about what it must’ve been like to be a student at Santa Cruz back then, at the climax of the hippie days. I seriously doubt if anybody on that campus was un-stoned from enrollment to graduation, or un-laid for more than a week.
So here’s a question for you, Professor Hanson, Mister Morality: how many coeds did you screw when you were at UC Santa Cruz? And how many drugs did you take?
But you know, I could take all Hanson’s hypocritical pompous bullshit if he only knew something about contemporary warfare. He doesn’t. All he knows is that he’s in favor of Gulf War II, and to defend that mess he’s willing to slander Bush Sr’s magnificent victory in Gulf War I. This is insane, really insane-taking America’s only outright strategic victory since 1945, our most glorious campaign since Inchon, and turning it into a defeat just so you can make Bush Jr’s fiasco look a little better. Here’s Hanson’s treasonous account of Gulf War I:
“War I (January 17 to March 3, 1991)
“The First Iraqi War : started over Saddam Hussein’s August 2, 1990, invasion of Kuwait. His occupation precipitated the American-led coalition’s efforts to reclaim Kuwait through land and air attacks. Saddam’s complete capitulation was seen as satisfying the war’s professed claim of restoring the sovereignty of Kuwait.
“But despite retreating from Kuwait and suffering terrible damage to his armed forces, Saddam, like the Germans in 1918, claimed that his armies had been repelled while on the offensive. So he passed off a setback as a draw against the world’s superpower – and thus a win by virtue of his own survival against overwhelming odds.
“In any case, we called off our forces before the destruction of the Republican Guard. We also refused to go to Baghdad; we let rebellious Shiites and Kurds be tragically butchered; and we failed to enforce all the surrender agreements. Apparently the U.S. wished to bow to the U.N. mandates only to expel Saddam from Kuwait, or was worried about our Sunni partners who wanted a lid on Kurdish tribalism and Shiite fervor inside Iraq.”
There are so many evil lies here, I don’t know where to start. First there’s the phony comparison to Germany after WW I. There’s no comparison at all. Saddam’s Kuwait invasion wasn’t a nationalist war like WW I, and no matter what Saddam said, every dog in the street in Baghdad knew perfectly well that the Iraqi army had been outclassed and savaged. Moreover, the Germans fought for four years and nearly won, whereas Saddam got his ass completely whipped in a three-day land war. Fact is, we did it right in Gulf War I. We neutered Saddam, destroyed his ability to threaten anybody, and left him in charge of his hellhole country. It was American diplomacy combined with military power at its finest. And this pig tries to say it was a defeat!
Hanson goes on to say that we “refused to go to Baghdad” because we wanted to please the UN. Bullshit. We used the UN to build a huge alliance (something Bush’s idiotic son didn’t think was necessary), and we stayed out of Baghdad because Powell and Bush Sr. knew what would happen if we tried to occupy Iraqi cities. We’re going through the consequences of that mistake right now; how can anybody pretend not to understand, by now, why it was a bad idea, and why Bush Sr. was right the first time?
What’s amazing is that Hanson is actually trying to blame Bush Sr. for not jumping off the cliff first, before his idiotic son did. Like I said, it’s insane-until you realize it’s being done just to make Junior’s disaster look good, which Hanson needs to do because he’s been shilling for Bush Jr.’s war from day one. Hanson isn’t just insane. He’s one sleazy dude.
He proves his sleaze when he moves on to Gulf War II:
“War IV. (April 2003 to present)
“The Fourth Iraqi War (“The Insurrection,” “The Occupation”) began immediately after the end of the conventional fighting and continues today. It was framed by the fact that the United States would not simply leave after toppling Saddam yet had never really gone into the Sunni Triangle in force during the three-week victory. War IV was waged by a loose alliance of Wahhabi fundamentalists, foreign jihadists, and former Baathists against the American efforts to fashion an indigenous Iraqi democratic government.”
Here again, there’s so many lies it’s hard to know where to start. Like, what the hell does Hanson mean by saying we never attacked the Sunni Triangle? As military history, that’s pure nonsense. The only reason he says it is because he has to explain to himself how come the insurgency was able to come on so strong after we kicked ass in the conventional war. And see, Hanson can’t admit to himself that there was a difference in the kind of war being waged, a transition from conventional to urban-guerrilla warfare. If he once admitted that we’re dealing with an urban guerrilla war now, he’d have to face the historical fact that modern armies still don’t have an effective counter for that mode of warfare.
And all that ancient Greek stuff won’t help Hanson deal with urban guerrilla war, because there was nothing like it in the ancient world. In those days conquerors wiped out cities the second they showed any sign of uppity behavior. Urban guerrilla wars were pretty quick and pretty unsuccessful: rise up against the occupier, and literally every man, woman and child gets slaughtered, and the offending city covered in salt. End of story.
One of my favorite examples of Roman “pacification” policy was what happened to the Helvetii, a Celtic tribe that used to live where Switzerland is now. Europe was a feisty, tricky place in those days, like Africa is now. Tribes were always on the move.
The Helvetii decided they’d make a move on Northeastern Gaul, grabbing the land and wiping out the Roman-vassal tribes occupying the land. The entire Helvetii tribe numbered about 370,000, and from that they could field about 110,000 fighting men-every male who could hold a spear. They smashed into the settled Gaul tribes easily, grabbed a swathe of territory and prepared to keep advancing until they had enough good land to support the whole tribe.
What the Helvetii hadn’t factored into their big move was the Romans. Julius Caesar got a message from his Gaul vassals pleading for help against the Helvetii. At this point he had six legions under him in Gaul, almost 300,000 men. But he wanted more, because he had something a little more drastic in mind than just defeating the Helvetii. He was out to exterminate them. So he called up another two legions, which meant he had 400,000 trained soldiers against 110,000 part-time tribal warriors.
It was no contest. The Romans surrounded the Helvetii and started stabbing their way through the mass of warriors, then the civilians. As they advanced, the legions would herd a few saleable-looking women and children away from the killing. They were sent to holding pens in the rear to be sold as slaves. The main body of Roman soldiers kept working through the mass of Helvetii, stabbing and stabbing. Roman soldiers were taught to use the short sword-“gladius,” which is where “gladiator” comes from-to stab, not slash. Stabbing made a deeper wound, more likely to tear up a guy’s guts and give him a fatal infection. The stab was also quicker than the big dramatic downward smash those hammy heavy-metal barbarians were addicted to.
At the end of the battle, they had slaughtered 220,000 men, women and children-60% of the whole tribe. Must have been exhausting too. Imagine the sheer hard work it took to kill that many screaming, scrambling people with the Roman short sword, not much bigger than a Bowie knife.
We could do it, way more easily than the Romans. We’d burn only as many calories as it takes to press a button. If we had the will, we could wipe out the whole population of the Sunni Triangle in a few days. If we used neutron bombs, we could do it without even messing up the area too badly. It would sure stop the insurgency.
Trouble is, that kind of genocide just isn’t popular these days, and nobody, not even Professor Hanson, is ready to argue for it. It’s hard to argue you want to bring democracy to the Sunnis by making them extinct. And what Hanson and morons like him won’t admit is that short of genocide, there is no military solution to urban guerrilla warfare.
So Hanson cheats like a ninth grader, trying to avoid facing the urban-guerrilla problem. He makes fake lists like this one: “From the various insurgencies of the Peloponnesian War to the British victory over Communist guerrillas in Malaya, there remain constants across 2,500 years of time and space that presage victory or defeat.”
Oh, like we’re supposed to believe he chose that Malaya example just by chance, huh? It so happens that the Malayan insurgency of the 1950s is the ONLY guerrilla war that was won by the occupying army, in this case the Brits, and that’s why Bush’s spinners like to cite It. You know why the Brits “succeeded”? It’s real simple: the insurgents were all ethnic Chinese, and the Malays hated their guts. They were a small, easily identified ethnic minority. The Malays never needed much of an excuse to start chopping up Chinese people, and when the Brits gave them license to kill they went at it full time. Then the Brits up and left.
It was a relatively small affair: over 12 years, some 7,000 MRLA guerrillas were killed. Just to give you a real comparison, one American general recently said that in the last year alone, we’ve killed or captured 50,000 Iraqi insurgents, yet, this same general admitted that the insurgency is only gaining strength.
If Hanson thinks we can chop up millions of heavily armed, aggressive Sunni Iraqis the way the Brits mopped up a few thousand Red Chinese in Malaysia, he’s insane. And maybe he is-all those years of the state subsidizing his phony “farm” and students sucking up to him for a good grade have driven him into a psychotic delusional state.
But I don’t really think he’s insane-just a traitor, a liar willing to keep shoving American troops and money into a meatgrinder just so he doesn’t have to admit he was wrong. Sooner or later we’re going to have to face it: these NeoCons don’t care about America any more than Stalin cared about Russia. They’re not just wrong. They’re traitors.
* * *
After a month of recovering from Brecher’s surprise attack, Victor Davis Hanson counter-attacked in miserable comic failure, even going so far as to accuse Gary Brecher of setting fire to his beloved vineyards. The eXile captured the hilarious sequel in a two-part special “Victor Davis Hanson Declares War” pull-out section: the first article, headlined “Hanson Snitches, War Nerd Suspended!”, sums up Victor Davis Hanson’s literary hijinx and email exchanges with editor Mark Ames; the second article, “An eXile phone call to the Fresno branch of the International Dyslexic Association” transcribes a phone call we made out of concern for the great historian’s mental health. These articles were published in The eXile on September 9, 2005.
Hanson Snitches, War Nerd Suspended!
It was a long, hot August, folks. After War Nerd Gary Brecher’s takedown of neo-con mandarin and fellow Fresno-ite Victor Davis Hanson, the ol’ professor counter-attacked from his fortified perch in the National Review, America’s leading right-wing intullekshual rag. As counter-attacks go, Dr. Hanson’s was about as effective as Manuel Noriega’s brilliant defense of Panama City in 1989. Dr.Hanson’s article attacking Brecher was so sloppy and careless, not to mention patently insane (he even accused Brecher of having set fire to his grapevines), that we felt compelled to write a letter to his editor at the National Review. The NR editor forwarded our letter to Dr. Hanson, probably as a passive-aggressive way of alerting his star neocon professor about his terminally shoddy writing. Incredibly enough, Hanson responded to our criticism of his spelling errors– by misspelling the name of the editor whom he was responding to as “Mark Aimes” [sic]. The next week, Dr. Hanson, ever the honorable academic, attached and enddnote to his National Review column to clear up the outcry over his many spelling and grammar errors. Fittingly, he misspelled this endnote, titling it, “Authorr’s note” [sic]...
First, Dr. Hanson, in his own words:
August 26, 2005, 9:09 a.m.
The Paranoid Style
The National Review
Iraq: Where socialists and anarchists join in with racialists and paleocons.
II. THE ANARCHIST HOWL
But if Meyerson’s skewers facts and twists progress into abject failure, take the example of someone using the name Gary Brecher of Encore magazine. In an article called “Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor,” Brecher became incensed about a suggestion that neither the formal education nor the autodidacticism of the Hollywood elite granted them any privileged wisdom about American foreign policy:
“That column got me so furious I daydreamed about driving down Highway 99 to Hanson’s farm and setting all his orchards and vineyards on fire. I kept thinking of what the Spartans said when one of their neighbors threatened them: “Your cicadas will chirp from the ground,” meaning, “We’ll burn your f…ing olive orchards if you mouth off again.”(*
To understand the mindset of the anarchist, consider his similar fury right after 9/11.
“The best war is when you can hate both sides, and that’s how it was with the WTC. I cheered those jets…Until those planes hit the WTC nobody dreamed you could knock down an American corporation building. Nobody ever thought one would come down. And when they did, damn! It was like the noche triste, when Aztecs made the Conquistadors bleed for the first time and said, “Hey these aren’t magic six-legged metal monsters, they’re just a bunch of victims like us.”
“Hate both sides” in fact, is not quite accurate, since in reality more often the invective is reserved only for the United States — as when he cheers for the terrorists on 9/11, not for us. But then compare the recent antiwar hysteria that equates Abu Ghraib with Saddam’s death jails, Guantanamo with the Gulag and Nazi death camps, and the terrorist killers in Iraq with Minutemen.
** How strange that about the time that Mr. Brecher’s article appeared, someone in fact did try to torch our vineyard, but managed only to scorch about 20 vines near the road before the nearby Mid-Valley Fire Department arrived to put out the fire.
“Burn, Fresno, Burn!” War Nerd prepares response to being suspended without pay.
Now here is Dr. Hanson’s correction to his mistakes in the above column. Note that he even misspells the column title, which should be “Dog Days”…
September 02, 2005, 7:18 a.m.
Our Dogs Days
AUTHORR’S NOTE: Correction: In last week’s essay, I referred to the wrong title of the website/newspaper that published Gary Brecher’s article, “Victor Hanson. Portrait of an American Traitor.” The online newspaper is called eXile , and the article can be found in the table of contents, under the subtitle “The War Nerd puts local Fresno academic Victor Hanson (Doctor Victor Hanson) on trial and recommends the firing squad.”
And now here is the email exchange between Ames and VDH:
From: Mark Ames [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: letter from Moscow, Russia on Victor Hanson
Victor Hanson’s attack on one of my newspaper’s writers, Gary Brecher (“The Paranoid Style,” August 26), reveals an appalling level of intellectual laziness. Rather than engage the substance of Brecher’s argument — that Hanson should know, as an expert on Ancient Greek warfare, that the reason why insurgencies cannot be defeated in our post-WW2 world is that genocide is no longer tolerated, since genocide has been a key strategy in defeating insurgencies from the Ancient Greeks up through the imperial Europeans — instead, Hanson merely calls Brecher cheap playground names like “anarchist,” “fascist,” or whatever else helps him avoid serious debate (just as he labels Cindy Sheehan an “anti-Semite,” the biggest debate-squelcher of them all). Furthermore, Hanson suggests that Brecher set fire to his vineyard in his footnote at the bottom, as proof that Brecher is a terrorist. This is a highly irresponsible accusation to make, although it is also highly comical.
Dr. Hanson’s laziness is the most shocking feature of his writing. Consider the transitional sentence in which he mistakenly introduces our newspaper: “But if Myerson’s skewers facts and twists progress into abject failure, take the example of someone using the name Gary Brecher of Encore magazine.” Not only does he get the name of our newspaper, “The eXile,” wrong (this in spite of the fact that Dr. Hanson freely admits to having pored through our archives, suggesting that he spent a lot of time familiarizing himself with Brecher’s works), but the sentence makes no sense whatsoever. It simply stops dead halfway through the comparison to Meyerson, or rather, to “Meyerson’s” – Meyerson’s what? Shouldn’t he remind the reader? Basically, he’s saying, “But if Meyerson’s [sic]…take the example of Encore [sic]…” There is no link whatsoever between the two clauses. One wonders what the ancient Greek rhetoricians would have thought of such lazy logic. Probably they would have assessed Dr. Hanson’s rhetorical skills just as Brecher grades his military logic on the Iraq occupation: an unmitigated disaster.
From: victor hanson
Subject: Re: FW: letter from Moscow, Russia on Victor Hanson
Dear Mark Aimes,
I was sent your letter. Two typos occurred and were corrected in later versions on my website; a note of correction about your website title with a link is planned for the Friday column, along with the full title of the article and its listing in your table of contents.
That someone set a fire is on the record and can be verified with the Mid Valley Fire Dept. who stopped it from doing much more damage. When one writes about burning someone’s property, and thousands read it, it is completely reckless and constitutes a threat, as are other references such as “firing squad.” After your magazine printed that essay, I had numerous calls and emails about threats from your magazine, which prompted me to examine them. What “Brecher” wrote about me, as what he wrote about 9-11 was beyond normal journalism. I should say a number of readers also wrote that you, using a pseudonym, were in fact the real author of that attack, which I don’t put any credence in. In any case, the arson complaint, with pertinent information, is on file with the authorities and hope nothing more ensues.
From: Mark Ames [mailto:email@example.com]
To: ‘victor hanson’
Subject: RE: FW: letter from Moscow, Russia on Victor Hanson
Dear Dr. Hanson,
My first response to this letter clearing up your typos and errors is that you misspelled my name. It’s “Ames,” not “Aimes.”
From: Mark Ames [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
To: ‘victor hanson’
Subject: RE: FW: letter from Moscow, Russia on Victor Hanson
Dear Dr. Hanson,
I am trying to follow up on the arson attack you reported. Could you please tell me the date of the alleged arson report? I cannot get confirmation from the Mid Valley FD without a date (or address, but I understand you might be wary of giving that to me). In the meantime, I am suspending Gary Brecher this issue without pay.
An eXile phone call to the Fresno branch of the International Dyslexic Association
We were so worried about Dr. Hanson’s sloppy writing that we decided it was time for an intervention. Posing as his beleaguered editor at the National Review, we called the Fresno branch of the International Dyslexic Association…
eXile: Hi, is the International Dyslexic Association?
Front desk: Just one moment, I’ll get you that division.
eXile: Thank you.
Dr. N.: This is Dr. N——, may I help you?
eXile: Yes hi, I’m calling basically about a colleague whom I suspect might have dyslexia. I just had a few questions. First of all, I wanted to see if I should confront him with this, and how to do it tactfully.
Dr. N.: Sure.
eXile: This is a person who is quite an accomplished writer and academic, yet seems to make a lot of glaring spelling errors. He’s a professor at Fresno State, he writes for the Bee sometimes and writes regularly for the National Review Online. And even in columns he’s publishing at the National Review, and I work at the National Review, his columns are replete with big spelling mistakes that go online or else there’s a word that should be there and he uses a different word that sort of seems like it could fit. I guess the first question is, Is this a sign of dyslexia?
Dr. N.: Well, he could just be a crummy speller [laughs]. I guess I can’t answer that exactly. This person is educated and I’m assuming has many academic credentials. Dyslexia is a language processing disorder. Spelling is sort of like, like an artistic talent, either you have it or you don’t. You can improve it, if you’re a really horrible speller …
eXile: Well he’s already in his 50s and we have to deal with delicate ego situations and so on. I’m not saying that Dr. Hanson is… well, for example, one of the problems is that even in corrections that he makes online about two mistakes in a previous issue had mistakes. And we’re worried there are issues about editing him. I just got assigned to this and I’m getting sort of chewed out by a higher up. I’m having a problem approaching Dr. Hanson about this. It’s very glaring — I haven’t ever seen something as glaring as this in my professional career. It’s not like every third word, but particularly when two letters in a row that were addressing the issue of spelling errors and words that were wrong, twice in a row he made glaring spelling mistakes.
Dr. N.: You might just ask the gentleman, you might flat out ask him, “This is what I’ve seen, you’re making these errors, is this something new to you?” I mean, what if he had some neurological thing going on that just came on last year or so? He might say, no I’ve never had any problems until last year. Or he might say yes, all my life I’ve had difficulty spelling.
eXile: That’s interesting because just about exactly four years ago, from what another colleague said, some of the things he started writing were different and then there’s the spelling mistakes…
Dr. N.: Have you asked a family member or someone who worked with him five, ten years ago if there’s a difference? If you’re in your 50s — well, I’m older than that — it could be a mini-stroke.
eXile: I was wondering, do you think maybe marijuana use in his youth, does that have something to do with this?
Dr. N.: [laughs] Not that I know of, but they say it’s not good for cognition. If he was a heavy user in the past, who knows how many neurons are gone.
eXile: Well he was a UC Santa Cruz student in the ’70s…
Dr. N.: [laughs] Can you give me an example of a misuse of a word?
eXile : Yes, he was attacking a critic who attacked him at this magazine called the eXile, and he wrote it as Encore, even though he was making a detailed critique of the magazine. He actually attacked mistakes. Then he had an exchange with the editor of that magazine and misspelled the name of the editor. It was A-M-E-S, and he put A-I-M-E-S. And this is in the National Review Online, a big, influential Republican magazine out of Washington. And then in the next issue, when he made an author’s note about his mistakes, he wrote an “authorr’s” note in which he wanted to correct the spelling mistakes he made in the last issue.
Dr. N.: Now this isn’t just a poor keyboarding kind of thing? What about the intellectual content?
eXile: It’s been making less and less sense. He was quite a renowned Greek classicist through the mid 90s, and then something happened. Even for us, and we’re a pretty renowned Republican magazine, he’s been vigorously arguing a position in favor of continuing the Iraq war that even we find — and we’re supporters of it and of President Bush — even we find increasingly loopy and not very coherent. The arguments are not intellectually rigorous anymore. Maybe we are talking about a neurological event. Is that possible?
Dr. N.: From your position, when you’re getting manuscripts from a person who normally had good thinking skills and they seem to be off a little, I’d worry. The spelling things are mechanical and easily handled. As far as the content, if it’s starting to not make sense, you should send it back.
eXile: Well this guy’s a Prima Dona. Let’s get back to the mental deterioration. This is a man who used to write very complex, nuanced arguments tying Greek history to current events. In his last piece, he attacked Cindy Sheehan for being an anti-Semite, he was calling people socialists, anarchists, fascists. He accused somebody of setting fire to his vineyards. And it was full of spelling errors. It was…. I don’t know what to think.
Dr. N.: Well it doesn’t sound like dyslexia. Are we talking about Victor Davis Hanson?
Dr. N.: I read one of his books recently. The one about the valley.
eXile: That was then. In terms of the battery of tests, if I were to suggest it to him…
Dr. N.: He lives in this area, and I could send you a referral list. The fact that this man has been an accomplished writer he obviously had no difficulty with reading and writing in his past. If there is a change going on, I would be worried about other things. A mini-stroke or, well, you don’t want to say dementia, but something awry in the neurology. But you’re way out of my area of expertise.
eXile: One last thing I wanted to ask. Is there much of an ego issue?
Dr. N.: Well, I don’t know. I’d start with the spelling errors, and well, if the content is bizarre, well I don’t know how you’d address that. Other than you just don’t accept it as appropriate for publication. You can’t be calling people anti-Semites and fascists if they’re…
eXile: Yeah, this is a woman whose son died.
Dr. N.: You know, people’s political views sometimes get a little strange. The fact that this man has a doctorate, is renowned and, regardless of his political views, whether I agree with them or not, some kind of expertise in that area would make me think that whatever is going on is not dyslexia. This is an interesting conversation, I’ve never quite had one like it.
eXile: Thank you so much for your help.
Dr. N.: Thank you.
The second I had to quit daily blogging they got Osama. That was just one of the joys of starting a new job: Seeing all that great material wasted on mainstream journalists who have got to be the dumbest, most gullible cage-raised pullets ever born.
I couldn’t do a thing about it. This new job is much tougher than the last one. All the new jobs are much nastier than the old jobs, from what I can see. They know we’re all scared to death, so they can push us all harder. And you better smile too, unless you want to join the Guatemalans standing by the offramp for yard work.
So I’m giving the job most of what little energy I’ve got. But it was hard focusing on civilian paper while all this Osama stuff was happening. I’d groan out of bed, stuff my gut into a starched office shirt and choke myself with the brightest most optimistic tie in the closet—I actually pick the ugliest ones because I figure they say “Cheerful employee!” more than decent ones–and head off to work. The commute was the worst, because I can’t drive without the radio talking to me and that meant I had to hear them talking about the Osama raid. Haven’t heard that much absolute sportstalk stupidity since 2003.
Oh, I planned lots of columns, believe me. I’d have a great idea and plan to write it down when they weren’t watching at the office like I used to. But then I’d catch a sight of my fat neck in the rear-view mirror and think, “God, I have to button that top button!” And I’d try, and realize that even though I buy these 18 neck shirts the damn thing won’t button, so I have to try to hunch the knot of the tie up to hide the gap and watch for sudden brake lights so I don’t rear-end some asshole’s giant truck. I’m the last man in town to drive a sedan, apparently if your car can fit under an overpass you’re a wimp, so I can’t see anything but brake lights at eye level.
And I can’t hear anything on the radio but “Osama Dies Yellow.” You ever hear that line, “Rocky Dies Yellow”? It’s from an old gangster movie, Angels with Dirty Faces—my grandma liked those Cagney things and I sat through them for her sake. Cagney plays this gangster who’s going to the electric chair, still tough as whitleather, and this minister who preaches to a bunch of slum kids (those Hollywood brat actors, they’re the “angels” in the title) goes to see Cagney in the Death House and says, “Rocky, could you please die yellow? For the kids, see.” Meaning: Could you act all chickenshit when they drag you to the chair so the sweet little bad seeds I’m pastoring, who all think you’re the toughest guy in the world and idolize you, will have this sudden Paul-to-Saul moment and go, “Jeez, foddah, I getcha now, dis whole gangstuh rumpus ain’t on da up-n-up”—I can’t do the dialogue but something like that.
Cagney doing “scared”
The preacher’s idea is if Rocky dies yellow, they’ll all be so disgusted they’ll change their ways, stop with the switchblades and go be lawyers and bankers like the guys who got us where we are—and what could be better than that.
So Rocky the gangster puts on a big show of being “yellow” when they fry him, all “No, please, help, Ma, Oh, I’m such a scaredy-cat!” They didn’t go in for underacting in those days. And so Rocky goes to Heaven, because he did it For The Kids. Or to put it another way, lying is fine when it’s for The Kids.
The only difference with Osama is that they shot him first, then yellowed him up. It was as corny, as obvious, as plain ridiculous as that Cagney movie.
The first thing you heard was that Osama used his wife for a “human shield.”
Any time somebody does that in a movie you know they might as well put up a subtitle, “deserves to die horribly” or “bad man.” Remember Heat, that fucked-up movie with de Niro and Pacino supposedly LA cops though they acted more like Hollywood producers with badges? Tom Sizemore was one of the hoods in that movie, and at first you like his character, seems like a good criminal–right up to the scene where Sizemore grabs a schoolgirl and uses her as a “human shield.”
That’s supposed to tell you: “Attention please, Mr. Sizemore’s character is now officially a bad man, so please cheer when Mr. Pacino’s character takes him out.”
One little problem: It wasn’t true. Here’s the headline from the same paper one day later: “Osama Was Not Armed and Did Not Use Wife as Shield.”
They put the little mistake down to “confusion.” But this kind of wartime “confusion” is a cheap out, like Keegan’s stupid cliché, the “fog of war.” While we’re at it, lemme tell you Keegan’s why Keegan uses that catchphrase all the time. His angle is simple: The Brits are always right. That’s hard to argue when you’re doing military history, because most European officers laughed out loud when you said, “British officers.” British troops, yeah—tough bastards, great fighters, but British officers? Waterheads.
So Keegan has a whole lot of idiocy to explain when he takes you through his favorite Empire’s various fiascos—and that’s how “The Fog of War” was born. Churchill wasn’t the dumbest military strategist of the 20th century—oh no, it was just “The Fog of War.” Gallipoli? Not noticing that machinegun bullets are faster than infantry? “Fog o’ War.” Total collapse of Singapore, Hong Kong…sending Repulse and Prince of Wales out with no air cover? F.O.W., F.O.W., F.O.Frickin’ W. Might as well call it “Fog of Sandhurst.”
It’s not fog, it’s smoke, as in “blowing smoke.” That’s what they were doing with the nonsense about Osama going out like Tom Sizemore, guns blazing, poor wifey held in front of him: Put the picture in the suckers’ heads first. Then, by the time you have to give the correction, everybody’s stuck with this Naked Gun scene of Osama shooting it out with the SEALs.
The only time you can blame the “fog” or “confusion” is when it goes the other way—first reports say Osama was shot unarmed, and didn’t use his wife as a shield, and then it comes out he did both. But don’t worry, that’ll never happen.
Next story was the reappearance of Goofy the Bounty Hunter, aka Gary Faulkner.
Faulkner negotiating: “How ’bout TWO million then?”
You might remember Faulkner if you follow news of the stupid. He was a one-hit character straight out of South Park, an unemployed Colorado mental patient who announced he was going to stalk Osama and kill him and claim the $25 million reward:
“Faulkner was found last year in the woods of northern Pakistan armed with a pistol, sword and night-vision goggles. The Greeley, Colorado, man says he believes he had a hand in forcing bin Laden out of the mountains where he supposedly was hiding.”
Faulkner is poster boy, an extreme case, of what’s wrong with the way American war nerds think. When they find him, he’s loaded down with gadgets, armed to the teeth right down to the Samurai sword from some Tarantino movie. But I will bet you anything you want that Gary Faulkner didn’t bother to learn a single one of the local languages before he loaded up for bear and started sneaking around Pakistan. That means the only way he’d ever find Osama is if he hitched a ride and Osama was driving. That’d be a good movie, like an update of that old movie Melvin and Howard where some hick picks up Howard Hughes in the desert and wants a chunk of the old nut’s billions: Osama and Gary, they could call it, and the big climax would be when Gary thanks Osama for the ride and saws his head off with the Samurai sword, which would be kind of awkward actually in a truck cab, not enough space for a real Samurai home-run swing (which is why people use knives, not swords, Faulkner, ya dummy!).
But in the grownup world, you couldn’t find the Fresno Chamber of Commerce by sneaking around with that gear.
Imagine a Pashtun tribesman who gets offered $25 million to go to Bakersfield and find some landmark, say the Barnes Cabin. This cabin is a big thing in Bakersfield, at least it was when the place was Okie. Barnes was an ex-Confederate who invalided out to Kern County—two sure proofs he was an idiot, he fought for the Planters and he moved to Kern County—but we went on a field trip, stood around looking at this Clampitt cabin going, “So?”
Mister Pashtun could try finding the old shed with night-vision goggles, an AK and a Samurai sword. But even if he didn’t get arrested, which he would—even if we just make a rule, “OK, this guy is also invisible to the police”—even then, he would never, ever find that cabin. He might bust into some houses in my old neighborhood where the people had gotten old and crazy because some of them looked a lot like a log cabin after about 40 years of senility and stray cats, but he wouldn’t find the official Barnes Holy Shack in a million years.
He’d wander around Bakersfield for eternity. Maybe that’s what Hell is, actually: billions of Pashtun ghosts wandering around Bakersfield. It’d be my idea of Hell anyway, especially in August. And when us Bakersfielders die, we have to wander around Waziristan like Faulkner. Nasty idea. Good thing Brother Archie never threatened us with that or I’d still be in the pews.
So how could Mister Pashtun actually find the cabin? Duh: He has to ask somebody. He has to schmooze. He has to bury that AK,sell the Samurai sword to the sodomite pawnbroker in Pulp Fiction so Willis can use it on him later in the movie, ditch the night-vision goggles and learn the local language, which in Bakersfield is English more or less—not Spanish, because Mexicans don’t get all weepy about old Anglo shacks. This Pashtun dude would have to shave, and smile like Mohammed Atta at the boarding gate, and come up with a good back story to explain why he’s there. My suggestion: He should tell them he’s a Christian Iraqi who was liberated by our troops. Do that, and the suckers would literally drive Mr. Pashtun to that cabin with tears in their eyes.
So this Faulkner—let’s pretend he was sane and intelligent for a second—would have to do the same stuff in reverse. Learn Pashto, schmooze–Above all,find some excuse for being there in the first place.
There are only two things that’d bring an American to that messed-up backwater; one’s CIA and the other’s opium. (Not that there’s a total split between the two—in fact, I wonder if they found Osama thanks to a drug connection: “Hey Hamid, we’ll let you send 150 keys straight to Manhattan if you give up the big guy!”)
So logically, the way to settle in to Waziristan would be marry a couple of the local girls, put a few hundred thousand into the opium business and sit in the tea houses bullshitting with your in-laws hoping to hear something. If Faulkner had a huge run of idiot’s luck, he might last long enough in the opium-smuggling business to maybe, maybe, hear somebody who couldn’t handle his high babbling about Osama. And if the idiot’s luck held, that one blurt might be the one out of a thousand that’s not bullshit. And that might get him somewhere.
Opium dealers talking product
So there’s another angle on irregular warfare nobody likes (or admits they like anyway): dealing drugs. A huge, huge part of most insurgencies. Pimping, dealing, joining the police or army—somehow or other, you’re going to have to do something totally sleazy. You say you’re ready to kill and die for whatever crap it is you believe in? Killing and dying, those are the easy parts. The clean parts. Not anywhere near the most important parts.
Irregular warfare is a social thing. That’s the last thing most of us want to face because most of you are like me, you don’t like people that much and want a nice clean war to cut down on them a little. I know, I know, me too, but if you want that you need a conventional army, which couldn’t find Osama either. If you want to do a job like that, it’s like my last boss loved to lecture me, “Gary, you can’t be afraid to talk to people.”
This leads me to maybe the most depressing thing I ever thought. You know who’d be good at guerrilla war? Ugh, I can’t say it. No, it has to be said. You know who’d be good at guerrilla war? Cheerleaders. What with the social skills and the pillow talk thing and…it’s too depressing and I’m not going to go on about it, but it had to be said. Jesus, what a world.
Maybe actually it’d be better to hire a high-price hooker, instead of a cheerleader. Yeah, that’s not so depressing somehow. Parachute someone like that into Waziristan and she’d get them talking…no, wait, they like boys—well, the male equivalent.
Or one of these expensive lesbian whores that specialize in women producers in LA. “Portia, America needs you to go to Waziristan! Ellen will wait for you and besides you might learn some stuff she’ll like from them Muzzie girls!” I bet there’s a lot of dykey angry multiple wives in Waziristan and I bet they know a lot more than their idiot husbands think. Slip one of them into the local chief’s harem and see what you get. I The Turkish lobby rented one to screw-and-blackmail Jan Schakowsky, a bleeding-heart Illinois crony of Obama. If it’s good enough for the US congress, it’s probably good enough for illiterate Pashtun wife-stock.
Jeez, I’m going to stop talking about this. War is one thing, drug dealing, OK…but pimping, that’s where I draw the line. I can do that, because I’m just an armchair irregular. But a real guerrilla can’t afford to draw that line or any line. A guerrilla NEEDS to be a pimp—among a lot of other things. A people person, in all the worst ways.
Gary Faulkner was not a people person, unless you count talking the voices in his head. And even if he had been, he was something like 40 years old when he hit Pakistan. He’s going to learn Pashtun at that age, when he’s probably never learned another language in his life, even menu Spanish? Ni modo.
He’s going to do what he ended up doing: Wandering around the hills—the only reason they didn’t shoot him must be they were laughing too hard—seeing if Osama shows up better when he put on his night-vision goggles. It’s the ultimate in gadget-fan stupid: “I got these cool goggles so if Osama is around he’ll light up like ultraviolet rocks!”
Sorry, Faulkner. All credit to you for having the titanium gonads to claim $7 million in reward money for not finding Osama, though. That’s real laser-bright logic: He says he “had a hand in forcing bin Laden out of the mountains.” Yes sir, you forced him to hunker down in a giant mansion in a vacation resort. That’s some forcin’ Faulkner.
Ever hear the joke about the elephant repellent? It ought to be the official joke of the whole counter-terrorism profession, engraved on the CIA’s HQ at Langley. But it fits Faulkner even better than the rest of the phonies. Goes like this: A guest asks asks, “What’s that weird ornament hanging there?”
The host say, “It’s elephant repellent.”
“Elephant repellent? There’s not an elephant in 10,000 miles of here!
“See? It works!”
Once Faulkner did his comic relief bit, the news people got back to the supposedly serious business. Which turned out to be nothing but more gadget-worship. For a day or so, all you heard about was the helicopters they used to get in and out of Abbottabad.
And there were lots of pictures of them, mostly from Pakistanis’ cell cameras. Because, uh…one of these top-secret hi-tech wonders of engineering, uh, kinda…crashed. Whoops!
Wizbang Chopper in Osama’s Yard (with privacy fence)
Now, I’m not making fun of the choppers or pilots or even claiming anybody messed up; choppers are inherently air-worthless under anything but perfect conditions, and the official explanation that it was high temperatures and altitude that sucked the air from under the crashed helicopter makes perfect sense.
Still, it was weird how everybody was looking at the pictures of the crashed helicopter like relics of a higher alien technology. They landed three and lost one; no reason to treat these machines like miracles.
The miracle, if there was any miracle in finding a guy who’s 6’5” (can’t exactly melt into a crowd at that height) after ten years of trying, belongs to whoever told the US where he was. It’s a people thing, in other words. But all we heard was gadgets, the magic choppers.
Jeez, It’s a machine, it’s just a muffled Blackhawk, “stealthed” up to be a little quieter and smaller on a radar screen than the production model, that’s all. And if you have to worship any chopper, why not the standard-issue Blackhawk? That is a truly fine craft, a real success, and nobody worships it. I’d bet any three Blackhawks off the assembly line could have done as well as the fancy souped-up models they sent.
But the hard part wasn’t killing Osama—Gary frickin’ Faulkner could’ve killed him. He looks pretty much dead already on the home video they released. I could’ve walked up and killed him, and I breathe hard going up three steps.
The hard part was finding him. And no chopper, no buffed SEAL, no cool NSA traffic analysis found Osama. A snitch did. Some sleaze of an informer fingered him, that’s how he was got.
It was like somebody finally half-figured out that this was about people, not gadgets, because the next phase of news nonsense was definitely people-focused. But in an embarrassing, totally off-base way, naturally. This was when the Navy SEAL cult that’s been perking along for a while finally percolated down to the great mass of dummies out there.
And what they want is Rambo all over again: muscles. Ripped. For a while it was like the whole world was doing gay porn. Just check out this bit from the Washington Post (I’m noticing that it’s always the Post that runs the most embarrassing, fake stuff. I thought they were respectable, but not from what I see). This is a Post writer quoting the idiot who wrote something called Rogue Warrior on what a Navy SEAL would look like. The guy seems to be just making up something from his own lousy book:
“He’ll be ripped,” says the author of the best-selling autobiography “ Rogue Warrior .” “He’s got a lot of upper-body strength. Long arms. Thin waist. Flat tummy.”
This gets me down even more than squeezing into work clothes. It’s bullshit anyway; Subotai was fat, damn it. Audie Murphy was 5’7.” The average VC had less muscle tissue than a Safeway chicken. They just won’t face the fact that the real hero here was a snitch, a snitch whose name we’ll probably never know. (He better hope we don’t, because if we know, both Talibans know too.)
It’s worth imagining that the snitch was the ugliest, fattest, wheeziest, lyingest, most treacherous Waziri you can imagine. Which he probably was, because snitching isn’t an aerobic exercise. He made it happen, this fat unwashed money-hungry, probably opium-dealing, sleaze. Keep that in mind. It cures you of all this gym-bred muscle-worship.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect the Hell out of the Seals. They’re very good, and unlike those three-letter agencies, they really do stuff, all the time. A lot in the middle east that you only vaguely hear about a long time later. Guy I know in one of those three-letter agencies wrote me years ago, “Frankly, if one of our guys says, ‘We’re doing a lot you don’ t hear about,’ you shouldn’t believe it. But when the Seals say that, you can believe it.”
The news creeps sniffed around for more dirt on Osama’s “compound” for days. As far as I know, they didn’t come up with much. Some of the funniest bits were the “vanity” thing, and the porn.
The vanity charge came from a home video clip released by the CIA showing Osama looking at old TV pictures of himself after 9/11. Whoever shot the video thought he was a great director because it starts out with just the TV screen and then pans back to Osama on the couch. The camera—I think whoever made the video, Mrs. Osama or one of the bodyguards, thought this was a funny joke or something, “Look! First here is Osama on television, now we follow the tv wire and look, ha ha, at the other end of the wire there is Osama himself, live and in person! Ha ha, what a funny joke on the Americans!”
As part of the whole smear-the-dead-guy routine, this video was supposed to show you what a conceited jerk Osama is. That was the official talking point, and it got around so fast that in a few days it was a talking point that you could use for anything else you wanted to talk about. Like here’s a column about, I don’t even know, reality shows or some girly crap like that, and this “humorous” lady writing it drags in Osama watching tv:
“Even Osama, lurking in his bunker, had his eyes glued to the television, huddled in the seasick glow of his own image. It was the one indelible moment of the last week.
Forget Norma Desmond. He looked like Gollum.”
Man, that’s writing, lady. That’s some kick-ass writing you did there, like “lurking in his bunker…” Except, uh, not to quibble, Ma’am, but that “bunker” was a goddamn mansion next door to an official Pakistani military academy, with a lot more than lurkin’ room. (We’re not going to have to rehash the “Did Pakistan know?” question here, are we? Of course they knew, Jesus).
She just goes on with the capital-R riting: “…had his eyes glued…huddled in the seasick glow of his own image.” Whoo, “seasick glow”! I bet you were an English major. Cuz we all know TV looks different when it reflects on terrorists, they’re like vampires that way.
And finally, “Forget Norma Desmond.” OK, fine. Easy, because I don’t know who she is and I’m not even going to google any name brought up by an idiot like this. So instead of our pal Norma, “He looked like Gollum.” Well, at least I know who Gollum is, but here’s a little witty repartee, Ma’am: no he fucking didn’t look like Gollum! He didn’t look like Gollum at all! He hardly even looked like Osama. Gollum looked pretty cool in a starved dangerous way; Osama just looked old and sad, like any Pakistani grandpa. If they say that was Osama, OK, it’s possible, maybe likely, but not on visual ID. On visual ID, that could be about a hundred million sick old Paki or Indian men. Maybe it’s the Nehru hat, I don’t know, or maybe because I used to go over to this half-Pak guy’s house as a kid and he had a grandpa who sat just like that in front of the tv. Same blanket over his shoulders even though it was Bakersfield, same drool, same whole thing, you’d say “Hello Mister Bhullar!” and he’d go, “Eennh” and sort of half wave his good hand and then it was back to Wheel of Fortune.
That’s what Osama really looked like: A sick old man. And he didn’t look vain, he looked depressed as Hell, for obvious reasons: There’s a younger and healthier Osama on TV climbing around Tora Bora in the video (although he didn’t look too spry even back in that video) and here I am now, a trembly old grandpa wearing a blanket in the heat. If this is great movie-making here, it’s the classic “poor old dude remembering his days of greatness” deal.
By this time, a chimp could have programmed the next step in the Osama Dies Yellow story: Some kind of sexual dirt. And right on time, out it came: “Porn Found in Osama Hideout.” And not just porn, either, but “Hardcore Porn.”
Of course Osama had several bodyguards who were young guys, stuck in a compound where all the women belonged to the big fella, so it’s not totally surprising one of them brought some videos to do one-handed curls with. But that’s not the way the story played. It was “…could fuel accusastions of hypocrisy,” which is chickenshit press-talk for “Osama was a perv phony.”
It was hard watching all this when I couldn’t talk back. Doing that blog was getting very comfortable to me, made me feel like I could laugh off all the lies because I got to talk back to them. But with work, no time. So I had to sit there in traffic with a tie choking me and just take it. Suddenly it was angry-world all over again. I’d just sit there waiting for the turn light to go green so I could legitimately honk at the idiots who take three seconds to move, like they need official verification that green means go, and grind my teeth wondering, When did everybody get so stupid?
For some reason I notice it most when I’m driving. I thought when I got to be over 40 I’d notice me slowing down and everybody else getting faster but people half my age drive like grandma. And they think worse than they drive. The same way, but worse: like old ladies. Safe and ultra-cautious and happy to be slow-witted. Safe It’s like if you’re not dumb and super-cautious and scared of being called “inappropriate” now, you feel weird.
What got lost in all the gibberish was what Osama’s death means, what Al Qaeda amounted to—the real questions. I want to talk about them next. If I make it through the week.