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Thinking about it further:

One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like “boat people,” “re-education camps,” and “killing fields.”

In the same way that one knows that the nubile woman running down a dark hallway in a horror flick will sprain her ankle tripping over her boyfriend’s body, one also knows what the policy in any George Bush Iraq speech will be: a continued state of war and militarization borne of shortsightedness, pique, and disdain for soft power. The only surprises are the length and darkness of the corridor, the state of lockedness of the doors, the proximity of the murderer, and the mangledness of the boyfriend’s body. In this case, Vietnam is just another, darker corridor.

PS. The arguments in that speech are tired.

PPS. George Bush:Wes Craven::War:A Nightmare on Elm Street

PPPS. Laura Rozen notices that the President cites The Quiet American and asks, “By reminding people of Greene’s book, Bush was inviting listeners to recall the mistakes his administration made in entering and prosecuting the Iraq War. Did he really want to do that?” Cynically—when was the last time this President inspired anything other than cynicism?—the speechwriters a) don’t care about full interpretations of literature, b) aren’t worried that anyone will bother to reread the novel and discover what its argument is, and c) don’t care a whit about the judgments of people who do care about full interpretations of literature or who would bother to read the novel.



“bother to read the novel” s/b “bother to read a novel.”

Sorry, was that too elitist and book-smarty? We must take great care not to offend the ignorant these days, lest we seem “out of touch.”

Still, cynicism not withstanding, it’s an odd choice of allusion. Pyle is hardly a figure that inspires the kind of engagement that Bush desires. I don’t imagine his speech writers caught Rozen’s point (and few others will either, I’m afraid), but why turn to Greene to justify your global ambitions? Why not go traditional and go back to an even better neo-con icon, Rudyard Kipling or go “cosmopolitan” with V.S. Naipaul?

To be cosmopolitan isn’t nationalist enough; I’m guessing they figured Kipling is too stain’d by associations with “bad” imperialism and too far distant to matter.

Otherwise, I’m afraid I can’t offer any opinion about TQA—I haven’t read it—but I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what kind of engagement, not only with the novel, but also with history, that he’s GWB’s advocating in the first place. Tell me if this seems right: first, he builds some case that having the U.S. military in the Pacific was an unquestionably good thing. Then, Graham Greene Came along:

The argument that America’s presence in Indochina was dangerous had a long pedigree. In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called, “The Quiet American.” It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism—and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: “I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.”

That’s interesting, but it’s quite an ambiguous assertion, isn’t it? I mean, does GWB (& his speechwriters) accept that Alden was “dangerously naive”? Is that a criticism of Greene’s misunderstanding of U.S. policy, or is it rather an awareness that Greene had valid criticism? Further, is the President implying that it is good to have good motives and to cause trouble? Or is it just that Greene just misunderstands?

Meanwhile, time passes, and

After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: “What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they’ve never seen and may never heard of?” A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: “It’s difficult to imagine,” he said, “how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone.” A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: “Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life.”

So the whatever that Greene novel symbolizes—in the next paragraph GWB calls them, clunkily,“misimpressions”—has overrun public discourse and succeeded in creating the conditions for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, which caused the Khmer Rouge to massacre the people that the U.S. didn’t massacre first millions? i.e., all the wrong dominoes fell, and we therefore must learn from history not to pay any attention to Graham Greene.

If that’s the argument, then it’s really weird and not the least because it’s based on an uncritical use of a character in a novel.

Because it only works if you buy into the vague equation, “U.S. + Asia = Good.”

and associating oneself with Teddy Roosevelt’s nationalistic empire building is…?

i fully realize that my intervention is the worst kind of non-elaborated, cryptic comment that is the blight of the blogosphere, but school has begun….

That’s the GWB I know and love: prim, red-tied, with a horse penis behind his head.

Teddy Roosevelt was many things, but a horse’s penis isn’t one of them. Now, if you’d said a horse’s ass…

But he had style….

style s/b a penis the size of a horse

Nah, fat men are almost never well hung. It’s the tall lanky guys that got it going on. At least that’s what the old black women I worked with at an Alabama Wendy’s told me once.

Also, kangaroos. Anyway, I wonder if your informants’ observations weren’t skewed by perspective? I mean, a big penis on a thin man will obviously look different than a big penis on a fat man, and I’m sure relative obesity plays a really large factor in how one is able to perform, especially with respect to agility, flexibility, and maneuverability.

Yeah, I know cosmopolitanism isn’t GWB’s political style. Besides, he’s busy blaming the liberals in this speech, not the natives. I don’t imagine that GWB’s worried about Kipling’s associations, though.

I think you’re right that the confusing point of the allusion is that we shouldn’t listen to Greene (at least the Greene constructed in the speech). This seems to me to be similar to some recent lamentations on the right that the Rep. party has become only about politics and lost touch with the high ideals that led us into Iraq. Pyle, then, is almost a perfect fit. He’s a reminder that just because the neo-con agenda has failed, monumentally, they should stick to their idealistic guns and keep intervening in the affairs of others countries — not the opposite.

I’ve considered that. There simply needs to be a serious, peer-reviewed study on penis size as a function of height and waistline…that is, if we’re at all serious about finally laying to rest the idle speculations of old women (as well as the idle speculations of idle bloggers).

13: Far be it for me to stifle the idle speculations of all sorts, but it looks like data from the Kinsey Institute would be the place to start. There have already been studies to try to determine whether a large (or small) penis makes you gay, that women like it thicker. I’m sure there’s a lot of data in the penile implant journals, too. It seems clear the data’s there; we just need the researcher intrepid enough to put in the time.

I wonder how much of this sort of research doesn’t get done because people don’t want to be known as “that guy who studies (X)”. One of my teachers at Oxford told me that despite ample data no one has yet done a comprehensive study of homosexuality in ancient Mesopotamia, simply because no one wants people to a) think they’re gay, or b) know they’re gay.

Similarly, I’m told that we actually know very little about human fecal matter, mostly because no one wants to have to say, “I study turds” at cocktail parties.

But I can’t imagine the person who would join the filed of poo studies to be the kind of person who cared about cocktail parties in the first place. Isn’t there sufficient impetus to build an outstanding career to overwhelm the imagined force of social condescension?

Isn’t there sufficient impetus to build an outstanding career to overwhelm the imagined force of social condescension?


i would imagine that human defecational behaviors complicate hominid coprology—first you’d have to get people to crap in a cup for purity of sample reasons… and, urologists can barely get people to pee in one.

Imagined—perhaps should be projected—because the argument is that scientists avoid a field to avoid “being known as” someone who is in the field. Perhaps, yes, they’re discouraged from it by their mentors; but primarily, it’s an imagined self-positioning, a thinking-forward into the unknown. Who knows but that in reality, the man or woman who studies shit well makes a profound discovery that revolutionizes environmental science and garners grants and wide acclaim. Sure, it’s less likely than being shunned at cocktail parties—who wants to talk about work with someone like that around?—but it’s not impossible, especially if the field is just waiting for a brilliant scientist to occupy it.

19: People get enemas for fun. Because that’s easier than a catheter, I say there’s plenty of opportunity to get pure samples.

they would have to be quite sexy… or eugene levesque.

but, i would imagine someone who can shoot the shit well would be a great hit in the cocktail party scene. after all, we all have a scato-fascination, deep-down below the layers repressed by our civility.

3 maritinis and everyone’ll be talking about the consistency of their poop

re 21: tell me about it. i was sitting in the office of a colleague gossiping and we heard the guy in the next office telling his wife all about his monthly enema.

yet, the frou-frou enema loving crowd is really too limited a cesspool… you gotta get the farmer and the cowboy to commit as well. not just the peta, sprouted-bread, and socialite groups

It’s true that the diligent researcher needs to have samples from all walks. Solution: colonoscopies for everyone!

It’s strange the things one overhears from the next office. Was it graphic description or “I had my enema today” matter-of-factness?

It was more the latter…