Sunday, July 27, 2008

Greasy little sleazy little

My theme for today is Bartholomew Bean's "Greasy little Weasel from Texas," a song you can find in several versions, on the YouTube. (H/t to Eureka Springs of FDL). For the sake of the dial-up folks in the back-country, I'm not linking to it, but it's easy enough to search for. It's a great song and worth the trouble.

Note the directness of it. "Some people call him the prezident, he's a greasy little weasel from Texas." This we call parataxis, the joining together of two clauses without any connector. He doesn't dress it up with "...however some people say he's little more than a greasy little weasel from Texas." He just says it.

Note how different this is from the USIP conference on Iraq. Colin Kahl was there (star of my celebrated "Film-flam" post of March 2007).
Kahl [writes Helena Cobban] had evidently been working hard to attain the efficient, self-confident affect of an ambitious young wannabe government official. (Indeed, he said he had already served one year in the defense Department; he didn't say under what auspices.)
Of course there is more to being a greasy little weasel than mere slick ambition. You have to actually perform. Still, the overwhelming message from the conference was politeness over substance. Another distinguished person said one speaker drew blood "politely" on a particular point; another was "tactfully silent" about an important point; and so on and so forth. Very sensitive, very proustian, you might say. More simply put: not at all in the style of Bartholomew Bean.

But suppose, just as a wild hypothesis, that there are in fact greasy little weasels in Washington that will be helping perpetuate the imperial project in Iraq while appearing to advocate for change. Then ask yourself: How long will it be before they are called by their name? How many years?

One reason for paying attention to the writings of Iraqi supporters of the resistance is for an understanding of the circumstances in which Iraqis reached that "greasy little weasel" moment. For many, it came instantly with the invasion. For others, now an overwhelming majority of Iraqis, it took the gradual deterioration of public services, the rot of sectarianism and corruption, the never-ending insult to human beings treated as objects of "collateral damage", and all the rest of the combined package of filth and vulgar rhetoric.

We need to keep those opposites in mind: On the one hand, the massive rejection by Iraqis of any continuation of the occupation and the bad faith of anyone who supports it, and on the other hand the 19th century atmosphere in clubhouse Washington, where military policy is debated at the US Institute for Peace, and where bad faith is still a scandalous idea and not to be mentioned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Small correction. You linked to the wrong post by Cobban. The post you quote is
this one

1:10 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thanks, now fixed.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uhoh, Badger, I didn't know you read FDL! I guess I can't trash ya over there now...! :-)

Btw, I was the first comment on that thread of ES's...!

2:13 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I can take it

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But suppose, just as a wild hypothesis, that there are in fact greasy little weasels in Washington that will be helping perpetuate the imperial project in Iraq while appearing to advocate for change.

Like this guy.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Shirin said...

"Like this guy."

I hope that was a nomination for Greasy Little Weasel. That is certainly all he is qualified for in this context!

It was difficult to keep my breakfast down as I read that piece (piece of what, I will not say).

6:16 PM  
Blogger JoshSN said...

I divide wrong folks into four categories... the stupid, the ignorant, the duped, and the evil. I think "evil" is actually the smallest portion. There are only a few people who have the power to be truly evil. And what we are talking about is the evil of ideas, so you need someone who can publish a falsehood, to inject darkness and ignorance posing as truth into the minds of the public.

Take the USIP as a whole. Started by Ronald Reagan, we know it serves, in part, to advance US foreign policy interests. But individual researchers are going to be inclined, given a task like studying the conflict in Ukraine, to do the best they can. They won't get hired if their writings are too critical, and they won't get promoted if they don't toe the line, but they do try.

So, if Kahl actually believes what he is saying, because, for example, he's been exposed to many similar ideas from people he trusts and he hasn't taken it upon himself to investigate further, I think he wouldn't qualify for weasel.

Patsy, perhaps.

I listened to the entire USIP panel we are talking about. Did you like some of it? Were any of the panelists almost entirely OK in your book?

7:01 AM  
Blogger badger said...

You have more stamina than I do. I agree the Cambridge group has the right idea, but I think they were there basically in an ornamental capacity. And if Kahl, with his blatant sophistry, is a patsy, then you can argue anyone is a patsy for others, leaving us without any weasels, which is obviously not the case. QED. I think responsibility should be assigned broadly and equitably, not reserved to one or two guys in the black hats.

4:46 PM  

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