…today Alexandria is an immense Egyptian city more populous than Paris, sanctimonious and poor, but it takes pride in a beautiful library, built by a government in love with pharaonic projects, one of the emptiest libraries on the planet, symbol of the regime of Mubarak the opinionated, a beautiful grey shell in Aswan marble - nothing returns from what has been destroyed, nothing is reborn, neither dead men, nor burned libraries, nor submerged lighthouses, nor extinct species, despite the museums commemorations statues books speeches good will, of things that gone only a vague memory remains, a shadow gliding over sorrowful Alexandria a phantom shivering, and that’s all the better no doubt, all the better, you have to know how to forget, let men animals things leave…

- Zone

This isn’t my favorite excerpt from the 517 page long sentence, but it’s perhaps the most quotable without having to run on for another 200 pages or so.

as the Iraq War began to turn against US forces, the United States Special Operations chiefs held a screening of The Battle of Algiers in the Pentagon

Kazys Varnelis, “Space After the Casbah

Things like this make me unsure of everything and everyone. Screening The Battle of Algiers to justify or re-dedicate to something like the Iraq War seems as bizarre and fucked up and depraved as, say, screening The Boiler Room as an example for financial practices one should pursue or screening Glengarry Glen Ross as an exemplar of how to be a salesman.

Anyway, some small inspection by Varnelis surrounds this tangential point that I got to read thanks to TSparks’s posting.


When we get beyond the idea that George W. Bush ruined a perfect republic, and read a fuller account, like Kolin’s, of what’s gone wrong, it becomes evident that Bush could never have done what he did without Clinton’s efforts to expand war and police powers, including the power of rendition. Similarly, Clinton could never have gone down that path without Reagan, or Reagan without Nixon, or Nixon without LBJ, or any of them without Truman, who would have been lost without the already huge accumulation of power in the White House and the abusive precedents of Abraham Lincoln and those who went before. It appears, as many of us warned in 2008, that what Kolin writes in this passage will determine our fate:

“The ultimate measure of whether or not the Obama administration will roll back the police state will depend on whether or not there are prosecutions of Bush administration officials. Past history says this isn’t likely; whether it was enslavement of African Americans; ethnocidal policies against American Indians; or the consistent, sometimes violent repression of dissent, government has generally not been held accountable. While Nixon left office and a few of Watergate’s perpetrators were punished, the institutional arrangements involving the FBI and CIA that made Watergate possible remained. The imperial presidency was slowed but not halted. When the Iran-Contra conspirators violated the Constitution, President Bush senior pardoned them.”

The grammatical construction of the first sentence above should give us a bit of hope: “whether or not there are prosecutions” — because there may be prosecutions of top Bush officials in Spain, and it will be up to us to communicate to the people and the courts of Spain our deep gratitude and our willingness to take the lesson to heart. Such reversals should, after all, come more easily in Washington if the people of Egypt are able, in the coming days, to remove and — ideally — prosecute the dictator of their country who has had the full support of the past seven presidents of ours.

Obama’s pathetic inability to take the crimes of the previous administration to task are among the greatest disappointments of his Presidency (and it’s working up to be a quite a list) and I’ve wondered for some time if another country (particularly Spain) would step in and do the right thing. With the ICC as toothless as it is, the possible prosecutions in Spain may be the only hope… of course, I am not holding my breath as Wikileaks documents have revealed that the Obama administration has mobilized considerable diplomatic pressure to keep Spain from doing so. Along those same lines, while I am hopeful that the Egyptian people will succeed in unseating Mubarak, the United States and Friends seem intent in installing Suleiman in his place (just as bad, if not worse). The idea that Mubarak may be prosecuted seems like a total pipe dream what with so many of the powerful claiming him as a good friend and of course Mubarak-Suleiman is considered a “good friend” since sometimes their crimes were also the crimes of the United States (and the rest of the West). As long as these same sorts of people (Clinton, Bush, Obama, etc) are always in charge (of the courts, of the military power, of the diplomatic process), how can we expect a different outcome from what’s already come before?

from “Precursors: An Egyptian Priest’s Lament”

In the land of the pyramids, dreadful battles happened,
Clashes with the rabid owners of slaves.
That’s what this papyrus is relating.
It tells us of our nameless precursors,

Of slaves, madly daring, courageous fighters,
And the rich people’s furious hatred,
The impotent priests, long since turned to dust,
Their bellies still bursting with malice.

- Nikolai Buhkarin, Sept. 1937