The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The good, the bad ... and the leftovers

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Lewis Lapham, erstwhile editor of Harper’s, is back after a couple of issues off with a classic lead editorial on the profitable business that is war in Iraq, George Galloway is sucking wind in the Guardian and Nassrallah calls on the anti-imperialist workers of the world to unite... or did he?

The Lapham piece, unfortunately, isn’t online, and I'm not in the mood to retype the whole thing for the benefit of those who won’t fork out the measly fifteen bucks a year for the world’s best magazine-- well, one of them anyway--but I will offer a couple of teaser quotes.

“For the friends of the free market operating in Iraq it doesn’t matter who gets killed or why; everyday is payday, and if from time to time events take a turn for the worst … back home in America with the flags and the executive compensation packages, the stock prices of our reliably patriotic corporations rise with the smoke from the car bombs exploding in Ramadi and Fallujah.�

Quoting turn-of-the-century socialist Upton Sinclair on “‘those pecuniary standards of culture which estimate the excellence of a man by the amount of other people’s happiness he can possess and destroy’� Lapham remarks “Unfortunately, we live in a society that no longer remembers Sinclair’s name, forgets that since the days of the ancient Romans it has been on their way to war that men have found the road to wealth.�

Lapham’s road to war leads him, in this battle, through a nicely calibrated argument that the current situation in Iraq looks pretty normal considered in the context of late Medieval and Renaissance history of mercenary military organizations and the related development of capitalism and corporations.

He makes only one serious blunder that I can see, when he asserts that Machiavelli “codified� the use and practice of mercenary forces “rediscovering the military history of ancient Rome…� Machiavelli, in fact, argued repeatedly that Roman military success rested on the citizen army and begged the Medici, and later the leaders of the Florentine Republic, to emulate the model. But, whatever—his point stands and is a pleasure to read.

Contrast Lapham with the overblown bandwagon bombast of George Galloway (seen above during an appearance on a Brit reality TV show) in today’s Guardian.

Claiming to have just returned from Bint Jbeil, he puffs that “The myth of invincibility is a soufflé that cannot rise twice.� (Unlike, it seems, Galloway’s career of self promotion, which seems to rise more often than... well, do we need to go there?) “If there is no settlement there can only be war, war and more war,� trumpets this balding little Nasrallah wanna-be, “until one day it is Tel Aviv which is on fire and the Israeli leaders' intransigence brings the whole state down on their heads.�

Good grief, why can't someone make him shut up?

You can see him getting really excited toward the end. Thinks he’s Dashell Hammet. The Hizbullah press office has given him a piece of shrapnel or a chunk Katyusha and he’s using it as an ashtray—smoking like hell, knocking the ash into this thing, and pounding away at the keys as the whiskey inexorably goes to his head.

“…make no mistake,� he crows “with the victory of Hizbullah, a terrible beauty is born.�

Why is the Guardian printing this poo?

So Hassan Nasrallah wants the socialists to join in the international war on imperialism, but they have to leave that "opiate of the masses" stuff behind, this according to an interview supposedly given to Turkish daily Evrensel and reproduced in English by Counterpunch. Lots of people saying it never happened and kind of hard to see where to go with it anyway--it's worth a chuckle, though. You think those Che posters are getting to him?