Blind And Improvident

by Gilles d'Aymery

October 7, 2002


Upon posting the last issue to the site two weeks ago I promptly received an E-mail from a reader who subscribes to our distribution list. It read: "I know history so this Ridiculous tripe is Nauseating - Remove me from your list. Have Iraq pay for having themselves bombed because Plutocrats want their oil. Come on! Unpatriotic = not retarded if approving of this despicable ploy is the definition." The reader was referring to the Note from the Editor in which I had suggested tongue-in-cheek that the Iraqis would pick up the tab of the costs associated with the war against Iraq in the form of war reparations with free oil deliveries valued at production costs. Hmm, I felt, my irony, bordering on sarcasm, was once again creating havoc... But, just about five minutes later, I received another E-mail from that reader: "Sorry: I thought your article was serious - I just blasted you when I read the beginning. I didn't know you were being facetious." I answered, "'My' article's dead serious -- I mean, the actual article, 'the black golden spigot.' The note from the editor was a teaser. Well, it shows that my teasing can be taken seriously. I need to be more careful. Thank you for letting me know....inadvertently... And thank YOU for reading Swans."

Actually, I was not being facetious. The scenario I advanced is not far-fetched. (1) I was simply showing the obvious in, I admit, a very sardonic way. You see, when I hurt bad, I tend to either become angry or I take refuge in irony, which at least is less hurtful to my partner in crime and companion who usually gets the brunt of my anger, not because she is an American (so am I in some ways) but that she happens to be next to me -- neither a fair nor a pleasant occurrence, to say the least.

And I hurt real bad.

To put it mildly, I feel like a fish out of its element, water, which cannot breathe, haplessly grasping for the oxygen that is no longer there. I feel that I live in a country that has lost all its senses, in a culture of death and destruction, obscene consumption and waste, pathologically self-centered, a society rotting at its core, spiraling into crypto-fascism and adamant to bring the entire world down, in flame, on the road to its potentially ineluctable demise. And I said I am putting it mildly... So, you may understand -- did not say condone -- my inclination to find refuge into derision. It's a venue that is prudent these times -- when civil liberties are being abrogated at an increasing pace -- and that helps keep my sanity alive.

In The New York Times of Sept 16, Katharine Q. Seelye writes (front page) in regard to Guantanamo Bay, "Now, it shows every sign of becoming a permanent penal colony for the human detritus of the campaign against terrorism." Human detritus, in black and white, in The New York Times, and no one objects. But then, I surmise, the Serbs were identically qualified in 1999, to no one's objection either...

Or what about this E-mail, reproduced unedited, and of course sent under the guise of anonymity: "as a fact war is a way of showing these countrys like iraq that they will follow the rules or we will put a boot in there ass as often as we see fit !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! signed a true red white an blue american i served in the marines an i would proudly serve again to show these god forsaken countrys that they can never threaten usa or any other peace loven nation of the world in any way or we will see that they are put in there place as they should be !!!! A MEN !!!!!! an Amen.................."

Do I hear any objection? It reminds me of the Sega generation's "Do you wanna be a Serb now?" or the "smoke them dead or alive" in Afghanistan. The master race cannot even write properly but it can certainly "boot asses"!

"'The policy is regime change, and that remains the American position,' [Bush's press secretary Ari Fleischer said,] even if it was not the policy of the United Nations. He also used the White House podium to encourage a coup, suggesting that there were less expensive ways to accomplish the removal of Mr. Hussein than a military invasion. 'The cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that,' Mr. Fleischer said. 'The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that.'" (NYT, Oct. 2, front page). Blatantly advocating the assassination of a foreign leader in total contravention of the law of the land...and no one protests. Regime change is not even worth pondering or debating since it's been a constant in American history, following in the steps of other powers in times past.

Words and visions of world domination; new, improved imperialism, are debated matter-of-factly by the pundits with the most unimaginable -- and unimaginative -- short-sighted arrogance, lining up to supposedly impose the American way of life to the barbarians (the rest of the world). That in so doing we wreak death and destruction all over the world in the name of 9-11 and Manifest Destiny; that in so doing the very constitution of the United States is being high jacked and stampeded (I do not assert this; Senator Robert Byrd, the most eloquent orator, leading historian and constitutional expert of the US Senate, does); that in so doing our infrastructures are crumbling, the environment is raped with impunity, the well-being of life in all its forms is utterly ignored should not be cause for objecting or questioning. For it is the American way of life; and if one dares to object or question, or god forbid to suggest that our policies and behaviors are ill-founded and their consequences devastating to the whole of humanity, accusations of un-patriotism hit the fan with screeching viciousness, threats -- veiled and not-so-veiled -- to life or liberty are made, debilitating E-mail bomb and virus attacks create havoc to one's daily operations, careers can be shattered, characters discredited, so that in the end, all dissent is drowned out and voices of reason muffled.

We hear a lot about values and morality in America. There must be ten times as many "moralists" per capita in this country than anywhere else in the world, always ready to pronounce King Solomon-like imprimaturs on all possible issues one can think of, especially when the cameras are on and a book sale is in the offing. But you'll be hard pressed to hear even one clear and forceful voice from the moralistic crowds calling our actions toward Iraq for what it is: morally wrong, utterly despicable and totally inhumane (by the way, if you have the name of a true moral leader, please do not hesitate to send me his or her name by E-mail). We've in all practicalities bombed that country ever since the end of Desert Storm, relentlessly, shamelessly, all the same subjugating and asphyxiating the Iraqi people with possibly the direst economic sanctions ever inflicted against a nation in the history of humankind.

Even Robert Byrd, the good senator of West Virginia, cannot come to terms with the crux of the issue; that of the deliberate destruction of a country and its people for the mere fact that they are sitting on the gold that makes the wheel of our economy turn, the same way American foreparents decimated the native Indian tribes for the California gold and the expansionist, imperialistic policies of the iconic, slave-holding fathers of the nation -- and yet Senator Byrd is the closest high-ranking dissenter in the corridors of power that we will ever see. He shows and demonstrates in his remarks how the Supreme Court-appointed president and his administration -- "I cannot believe the gall and the arrogance of the White House" (2) -- are about turning the constitution on its head; and he clinically dissects the falsity of the Administration's argumentation. But, in doing so, he becomes the prisoner of his own oratory for he sticks to the official line, which is about mere technicalities.

Saddam Hussein is a tyrant. To suggest otherwise would be the equivalent of committing hara-kiri. So, as it goes, the world would be better off without him around, etc., etc., etc. From then on, the question is not whether he should be removed from office, through assassination or invasion, but when the deed should be executed. Soon, I can foresee our moralists advocating pre-emptive war against a nation that has NEVER attacked us as a "just war." There will be a book contract or a re-election in the bargain. Meantime, there is no debate.

The American way dictates that the Gulf Peninsula become the 52nd state of the Union. The 51st is nearby. This is what it is all about: The American way.

The American way?

A year ago, as we were replacing the worn-down roof of our small house with a close friend, Frank Wycoff, who came all the way from the East Coast to help, we drove to our local dump, Ox Mountain, next to Half Moon Bay (30 some miles south of San Francisco) to get rid of the old roofing. I had never been there. Once we discarded our load, we took the time to look around at the landfill, an impressive place where a legion of Caterpillars level day in and day out the trash that comes in 18-wheelers and throngs of trucks and small trailers, literally filling and building up the earth. Here is a list of some of the stuff that was being dumped and leveled: redwood steps in brand new condition; chrome dining-room chairs; good condition coach; dresser with drawers in oak; 30 pound felt roll, brand new; an entire bunch of step and eve flashings, brand new (not even painted); a couple of plastic bottle crates in perfect condition; a 16 x 16 inch food cover, brand new, in its package with the price tag still on it; brand new redwood boards; perfectly good single kitchen sink with faucet; a quite usable rake; a brand new galvanized trash can; scores of clothing... This is only some of what we saw. Did I mention computers and monitors? They were there in myriad numbers too. We made a second trip the next day and witnessed the same orgy of waste.

When we bought our small house (1,000 square feet) on a relatively big lot (just under half an acre), it took us over three years to clean the yard from the trash that had been buried over the years (old lead pipes, tons of broken glass, concrete, bricks, barbed wire, etc). It was in other words a mini-landfill! We are now slowly renovating the old house. Old is a relative notion. It's only about seventy years old, but here in California, and in many other parts of the country, houses don't last long. As everybody tell us, we can renovate as much as we want but the moment we sell or we die, whichever comes first, the house will be torn down to make place to a much bigger, "improved" mastodon. Actually, from the moment we purchased the place in 1993, we have been prodded to trash it and build a 3,000 square feet home (why, but why would two people need a 3,000 square feet house?). Who cares whether it is made of century old redwood and Douglas fir with gorgeous sash windows, most probably originally hand-made, French doors, knotty pine all around? Who cares that the house simply requires some TLC and proper maintenance to last for decades to come?

In Atherton, the wealthy community nearby, where the median house price is $3.4 million, the second highest in the country, it is commonplace to see new houses, five or ten years old, huge multi-million dollars houses, torn down to be replaced by the "new" dream 10-, 20,000-square foot house commissioned by some venture capitalist or dot.com entrepreneur with a family of three or four. Every two or three years, one of the main streets along that community, is being gutted out to install who knows what, fiber optic cable, drainage pipes and the like, and rebuilt again and again.

Walk around our neighborhood and you'll see fleets of cars and trucks everywhere -- we have a neighbor, a family of four plus a long term guest, where I once counted fourteen vehicles, fourteen! -- cars and trucks lining the streets and crowding the driveways but almost never parked in the garages adjoining most houses. Why? Because the garages are storing stuff, more stuff, more, more, more, always more.

Then go and visit your local landfill. You'll have an instructive experience with positive destructiveness, that is, in economic terms inventory turn-over in the shortest possible time.

I hear this is called the pursuit of happiness and that we are the envy of the world. It does translate in a few sobering facts though:

Electricity consumption by Country in Billion kilowatt hours   (1999)
Source: US DOE EIA

             South Africa
             South Korea
United Kingdom

Selected Energy Statistics by Country   (1998)
Source: International Energy Agency

GDP (US $)
Electricity consumption
kWhr per capita
CO2 per capita
CO2 per unit of GDP
United Kingdom
United States

Total USA Megawatt hour demand was around 3,300,000,000 for about 280 million people in 1999.
Source: US DOE, 1999 (actual numbers are 3,312,087,081 across 125,945,003 customers)

Total European Union Megawatt hour demand was around 2,300,000,000 for about 380 million people in 1999.
Source: solarbuzz.com (3)

"In 1999, North America's [that is Canada, Mexico and the USA] per capita energy consumption was about 4 ½ times greater than the world average. North America's per capita energy consumption is forecast to increase nearly 10 percent by 2010," according to DOE-EIA. "North America, with about 7 percent of the world's population, accounts for around one-third of world economic output (International Monetary Fund estimates)." "In 1999, North America accounted for major amounts of world energy demand. North America's shares of demand included oil (31 percent), natural gas (31 percent), coal (24 percent), and electricity (30 percent)." (4)

Add industrialized Europe and Japan to the equation and the enormity of the situation becomes astounding. The question that never gets asked and, obviously, answered, is how can the world embrace the American way? How can four-fifths of the world emulate the American way, or even the rich world way? As I keep repeating, it simply does not compute. Have another look at the chart above and compare the CO2 rates of emission per capita and per unit of GDP of China and the USA respectively and ponder the consequences of the American way for the long term. Would it be too much to ask that the debate on Weapons of Mass Destruction be reframed and redefined according to the industrialized paradigm of progress and economic development? Would it be anti-American, or anti-French, or anti-Western to suggest there is more than meets the eye with Weapons of Mass Destruction, that massive destruction can and is happening right now under the guise of a very different kind of weapons, that, indeed, each of us may well be a mini WMD?

Extreme thought, right? It's so much easier, even sexier, more appealing, to accuse the elites and/or the Israelis, at least in the so-called alternative chapels, for the abominations we have done to the Iraqis for over a decade and the present onslaught. How conveniently we forget that the first Gulf War was about "jobs, jobs, jobs," according to then Secretary of State James Baker or that, according to former President Bill Clinton, the 1999 Kosovo War was about the economy. (5) What is it this time around? Greed, oil, power? Maybe, just maybe, we could all take a peek at our driveways, and turn off the air-conditioning, or lower our heaters by a few degrees. Maybe, we could look at ourselves rather than using the Iraqis as dead-meat pawns on an obscene chessboard of our own making, and instead of repeating the same destructive policies we could become instruments of change.

On September 27, 2002, SFGate columnist Mark Morford concluded his article (6) thus:

"You are left only with the frustrated and increasingly obvious notion that the country is being led further down the road of orchestrated self-destruction and casual despotism by a team of smirking politicized demons of greed and oil and power. It feels like a cartoon. It seems like a joke. Except for the part about the rage and the blood and the dead children and Dick Cheney thumping his chest like an angry gorilla, and hacking up a Duracell.

"And all you can do is bow your head and pray to your non-self-righteous deity, try to blaspheme the gods of war as vociferously as you possibly can, work to disallow the frantic political screeching and oversimplified Good vs. Evil posturing from violating your better reason and molesting your honest patriotism and permanently soiling your soul.

"Maybe this is all you can do right now. You just close your eyes, and exhale, and abide."

I'll leave it at that, without sardonic comments or unnecessary sarcasm.

· · · · · ·


1.  "As part of our plan for Iraq ... we're going to run the oil business... we're going to run it well, we're going to make money and it's going to help pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq." - Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)  (back)

2.  Maureen Dowd, "Culture War With B-2's," The New York Times, Op-Ed, September 22, 2002. "The Bushies want to bring back the imperial, imperious presidency. The pre-emption proclamation had the tone of Cheney Caesar and Condi Ben Her. And the resolution sent to Congress seeking authority to go after Iraq was the broadest request for executive military authority since L.B.J. got the Gulf of Tonkin resolution rubber-stamped in 1964. At least L.B.J. had to phony up the Tonkin Gulf provocation. Mr. Bush can't be bothered. 'I cannot believe the gall and the arrogance of the White House,' Sen. Robert Byrd bellowed."  (back)

3.  The two tables and the Megawatt hour demand come from Solarbuzz.com, a site filled with useful information and data about fossil fuels and alternative energies, in particular solar. The tables can be found at Fast Solar Energy Facts - Solar Energy USA.  (back)

4.  Source: North America: The Energy Picture, prepared by North American Energy Working Group; June 2002 (DOE-EIA); http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/northamerica/engecon.htm#_VPID_1  (back)

5.  "Now if we have learned anything after the Cold War and our memories of World War II, it is that if our country is going to be prosperous and secure, we need a Europe that is safe, secure, free, united, a good partner with us for trading . . . and someone who will share the burdens of taking care of the problems of the world. . . .

[T]hat's what this Kosovo thing is all about. . . ."

Source: excerpts from President Clinton's address on March 23, 1999 to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Federal Document Clearing House, The Washington Post, Wednesday, March 24, 1999; Page A20  (back)

6.  Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist, "Bush Crams War Down Good Sure millions of us think attacking Iraq is foolish and dangerous and morally repugnant. So?" September 27, 2002. One of the best-written articles I have read which reflect my sentiments. It can be read in its entirety at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2002/09/27/notes092702.DTL  (back)


The Black Golden Spigot: To Saudi Arabia and China via Iraq, by Gilles d'Aymery - 09/23/02

The 1991 Gulf War Rationale, by Gilles d'Aymery - 08/26/02 (revised Sept. 22, 2002)

Gulf War II, by Gilles d'Aymery - 08/26/02

Iraq on Swans


Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.

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This Week's Internal Links

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No Fanfare for the Common Man - by Paul V. Hursh

Rush to War Ignores U.S. Constitution - by Senator Robert C. Byrd

State of Mind Maladies: Enron and Dubya - by Philip Greenspan

Revival - by Michael Stowell

Distractions - by Milo Clark

Hit Or Myth? The Mythology Of Murder - by Aleksandra Priestfield

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Published October 7, 2002
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