Paving the Way for the Road to Damascus

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<ul><li><p>7/29/2019 Paving the Way for the Road to Damascus</p><p> 1/5</p><p>1 | P a g e </p><p>Appeared in:</p><p>Asia Times(9/13/13)</p><p>Foreign Policy Journal (9/11/13)</p><p>Paving the Way for</p><p>the Road to Damascus</p><p>ByNorman Ball</p><p>Most of all, [the Syrian conflict] is all about control of natural resources and channels of distribution.</p><p>Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, September 9, 2013</p><p>Like most battered tropes, the tail wagging the dogoffers a durable, if dog-tired, metaphor</p><p>for much that afflicts us. While rhetoricians are apt to groan over rote recourse to tired imagery,</p><p>regular folks use clichs because they strike a resonant, cognitive chord. After all, mass appeal is</p><p>what exhausts language in the first place. The bane of poets, clich is a sign of democratic</p><p>affections. Lets have more of it.</p><p>This particular metaphor derives its power from the sense that, rather than addressing the</p><p>thing-itself, we are forever grappling with epiphenomena, proximate reflections and spunrealities. Everything is mediated. Nothing is authentic and palpable. Manufactured consent is all</p><p>about assembling a coalition of the deceived. True, we are being lied to with Goebbellian</p><p>ambition to a point where deceit becomes, for many, an undetectable ethos. No sooner does one</p><p>explain to a seemingly perceptive friend or colleague the diversionary intent of the current</p><p>chemical weapons debate than they nod their heads in sage agreement, take due note of the</p><p>submerged icebergs immense size and resume stock sound-bites the very next day. Such is the</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Paving the Way for the Road to Damascus</p><p> 2/5</p><p>2 | P a g e </p><p>power of the frame. There is also, Im convinced, a social component. Just as people want to make</p><p>good around the water cooler, no one wants to be the offices perennial, contrarian weirdo. The</p><p>frame du jour is where polite small-talk gathers. Nothing ventured over doughnuts, nothing</p><p>gained.</p><p>Within the mainstream media, we are presented</p><p>daily with messagestailsthat attempt to corral bodies</p><p>of facts on the ground. The messages are illicit rearguard</p><p>actions designed to exert mastery over sleeping dogs.</p><p>Since lies have a habit of demanding further lies, why</p><p>undertake this great exertion of deceit? Hovering</p><p>somewhere between Straussian arrogance and neo-</p><p>Platonic contempt, the elite are loath to address, in an</p><p>open-air forum, the many hellhounds nipping at all ofour heels. Are we wrong to dignify this aversion with</p><p>philosophical pretentions as perhaps it has long since metastasized into pathology? Our leaders</p><p>seem convinced subterfuge abets their power.</p><p>Meanwhile what Syrias reallyabout involves a knotty confluence of water rights, dueling</p><p>pipelines, nation-state reconfigurations, militarized economies, competing CIA and DOD</p><p>fiefdoms, Islamic sectarian divides, the global affliction of nihilism, domestic (US) shale oil</p><p>ascendancy, Saudi panic, the fading Petro-Dollar, French colonial re-visitations, shifting Israeli</p><p>internal demographics, Persian and Ottoman empire re-imaginings, etc., etc. With all due respect</p><p>to the Syrian civilians who (apparently) died at the hands of someagency of chemical weapons,</p><p>this is hardly about them. They are but ghoulish pretense. May they rest in peace all the same.</p><p>Heres where things can get a little tricky, especially in this transparent and skeptical age of</p><p>alternative media. Assads complicity in the chemical attack may or may not be fact. What is</p><p>immutably true nowhowever is the elite have selected it (for better or worse) as the controlling or</p><p>instigating frame through which they will leverage Americas entry into the region for a host of</p><p>covert reasons embedded in the issues cited above and, it should be added, at very real risk of</p><p>sparking World War Three. If the Syrian regime did in fact commit the atrocity, it becomes a</p><p>contributing legitimation within a cluster of larger reasons for American engagement. It is also a</p><p>Trojan Horse hewn to commit Americasmilitary within the city walls of the Levant. Once we are</p><p>there, the road to Tehran will be a long and arduous one; yet one our friends, Saudi Arabia and</p><p>Israel, are determined we should make.</p><p>If on the other hand it is shown the chemical attack was committed by the rebel forces, the</p><p>elite, far from relenting, will defend their rendition to the hilt. (Remember, they exist beyond</p><p>good and evil in the Straussian realm of the Noble Lie.) Thus whether a complete fabrication or a</p><p>genuine Assad war crime, the chemical attack has the practicable effect of being an incidental</p><p>expediency in all cases. The burden and aftermath of collapsing grand deceptions can be onerous</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Paving the Way for the Road to Damascus</p><p> 3/5</p><p>3 | P a g e </p><p>indeed. For instance, the Syrian case for intervention must climb a wall of worry constructed in</p><p>Iraq and Afghanistan. Importantly and in all cases, the elites are practicing deception (certainly the</p><p>sin of omission) when they purport that the use of chemical weapons is the sole reason for</p><p>resorting to force. I would hazard it barely cracks the top five.</p><p>As it is, the plebes are fed a steady, lurid diet of comic book WMDs and noxious gas</p><p>portrayals. Bam! Zoom! Whammo! To coin Guantanamos Jack Nicholson, we cant handle thetruth, or so it has been decided. Platos Republic might be cool with this paternalistic head-patting</p><p>except our elite manage to bollox one Guantanamo after another. (Since were treading linguistic</p><p>terrain let me say that I disparage the term elite as it conjures up notions of sure-footedness and</p><p>meritocratic station. Our elite are more in the vein of Keystone cops.)</p><p>When the Spin becomes King, vertigo rules the land and straight thinking acquires a</p><p>positively eccentric ring. Backwardation overturns causality. People are instructed to believe TV,</p><p>not their own eyes. Yet every time a regular Joe summons his dog in real life, the animal defiantly</p><p>arrives first, its tail invariably traipsing along behind. People have been known to shoot their dogs</p><p>just to silence the doggone cognitive dissonance. Imagine putting down Fido so that Senator JohnMcCain might sound a little more lucid? Such are the inestimable costs dogs of war are routinely</p><p>called upon to make.</p><p>Another hackneyed phrase is sending the right message, something weve been hearing</p><p>probably six times a day of late. For this, were back on TV, only selling soap flakes.Sending a</p><p>message is an attempted seduction via telegraph not unlike batting an eyelash. But I dont want to</p><p>be right back after this message during which a kimono is coyly lifted, revealing a bit of ankle.</p><p>Putins taken great pains to assure us hes not that kind of guy, much less that kind of adversary.</p><p>Dont mediate your intent. Demonstrate it. All these ornamentalisms are features of decadence</p><p>and feckless, late Empire. When the mediated message becomes the thing-itself, gesture has</p><p>swarmed substance. Camouflaged boys and girls from Kansas are sent in to rescue Neros sound-</p><p>bites. Merely embarrassing the elites becomes a veritable Pearl Harbor to be dealt with swiftly.</p><p>With repetition, a Quixotic syndrome develops where people increasingly conflate</p><p>windmill-mirages for clear-and-present foes. This is a form of collective madness which, if not</p><p>unique to the television age, is certainly an emblematic feature of it. Ironically, no group is more</p><p>perilously removed from the visceral (and so convinced of their message-making s existential</p><p>heft) than are our rarified leaders. Surely a certain decadent nadir has been reached when their</p><p>foremost concern involves the veracity and sanctity of the imparted message. Youd think the</p><p>Red Line was pinned down on Iwo Jima with a two-day supply of water. No matter, a command is</p><p>sent down from some high-up place: Summon the kids (well, our kids anyway). The message</p><p>must be preserved at all costs! A contemptible equivalency has been struck: Losing a limb, ours,</p><p>is a reasonable price to avert losing face, theirs. Never mind that the Red Line isnt a cornered</p><p>battalion, but merely a botched metaphor wrapped in a rhetorical gaffe. It happens also to be the</p><p>exoteric casus belli.</p><p>These quotes are revealing:</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Paving the Way for the Road to Damascus</p><p> 4/5</p><p>4 | P a g e </p><p>to communicate with [the Iranians] we have to be very clear, very forthright.</p><p>White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough</p><p>Youd think if America wanted to send a very clear, forthright message to the Chilean</p><p>people, there are better ways to do it than bombing Nigeria. How about Antarctica? Its closer and</p><p>less populous. I would submit that Iran is, far and away, the most forthright target by which tosend the Iranians a forthright message. These non sequiturs are compelled by veiled objectives.</p><p>Then too, had we wanted to push Iraq decisively into the Iranian orbit, there were far less costly</p><p>and bloody ways to go about it than Gulf War 2. Maybe my brain is not cut out for all this strategy</p><p>stuff, but from this low chair, McDonoughs argument suffers all at once from logical indirection,</p><p>geographic inexactitude and disingenuous message-talk. Were also back to hopelessly mixed</p><p>metaphors of sending bulletins with bombs, communicating with shrapnel etc. when Mr.</p><p>McDonough should know that messages dont kill people. Bullets kill people.</p><p>Then theres General Petraeusthe most brilliant military strategist of our generation,</p><p>doncha knowwith this to say:</p><p>Failure of Congress to approve the presidents request would have serious</p><p>ramifications not just in the Mideast but around the world. Military action against the</p><p>Syrian regime is, thus, necessaryto ensure that Iran, North Korea and other would-be</p><p>aggressors never underestimate the United States resolve to take necessary military</p><p>action when other tools prove insufficient.</p><p>Apparently loopy geography and postural message-talk captured central command</p><p>thinking too. How did North Korea creep into a military leaders clear-eyed assessment of Syria?</p><p>Is this guy still running for President? Youd think by now Petraeus would tip-toe around</p><p>message-making like it was depleted uranium. Love missives demolished his career after all. But</p><p>no, everybody is suddenly a purveyor of messages and a dime-store linguist when w eve already</p><p>got Noam Chomsky who knows everything under the sun and then some.</p><p>Are such subtleties forever lost on the powerful? I can kill you, without communique or</p><p>fanfare. Or, I can convey the message that I planto kill you. To the functionary foot solider, the</p><p>former is decidedly more lethal than the latter which is mere telegraphed intention. But then, the</p><p>foot soldier has his feet planted firmly on the ground. He knows the difference between a bullet</p><p>and a bulletin. I truly believe our elites are losing this distinction. Nay, I think theyve lost the</p><p>friggin plot.</p><p>Worse, I believe they fear the effects of a badly drafted bulletin more than they do a well-</p><p>aimed bullet. This is a moral corruption and there are reasons for it. The elite are far more</p><p>accustomed to dying in bed than in combat. What coupon-clipper doesnt yearn to expire</p><p>bedecked in a smile and plunked beside his favorite mistress ala Nelson Rockefeller? Petraeus</p><p>should be so lucky. By the way, having a mistress sends a terrible message to your wife.</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Paving the Way for the Road to Damascus</p><p> 5/5</p><p>5 | P a g e </p><p>I know Ill be accused of some sort of class warfare harangue. But I view this message-</p><p>promoted-to-flesh syndrome as a mental health issue that happens to afflict the promulgators</p><p>more than we the recipients of said missives. Regular folks are inoculated to some degree</p><p>because they still must take out their own trash and drop legs in faraway places. Decadence</p><p>spawns from the enervations of unearned privilege. The mainstream media and the elite mustre-</p><p>engage on an existential level with war. They must rekindle a healthy forbearance towards armedconflict that only noblesse oblige can supply. Whizzing bullets cure armchair commandos. We</p><p>need warrior-kings once again, leaders who can reacquaint word with deed. Through no accident</p><p>warrior-king Eisenhower offered the most actionable speech of the last sixty years. We failed to</p><p>heed his call and have trod a war footing ever since.</p><p>Thats why Im calling for the immediate NDAA rendition and delivery of Senator Lindsey</p><p>Graham to his new role as Damascan warlord for some merry band of al Qaeda psychopaths.</p><p>Only after he has been baptized in palpable fear (a healthy rendezvous with unmediated reality)</p><p>should Graham be allowed to resume frightening old ladies in Charleston with tales of looming</p><p>nuclear holocaust. Its high time we restored fear-mongering in America to its rightful place as aprivilege that must be earned! Of course he will first have to explain to his new charges why he</p><p>just called them crazy bastards in the chamber of the Senate. But I have faith in Grahams</p><p>rhetorical prowess if not his skill with a Kalashnikov.</p><p>NORMAN BALL (BA Political Science/Econ, Washington &amp; Lee University; MBA,</p><p>George Washington University) is a well-travelled Scots-American businessman,author and poet whose essays have appeared in Counterpunch, The Western Muslim</p><p>and elsewhere. His new book"Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in</p><p>Six Easy Payments" is available here. Two essay collections, How Can We Make</p><p>Your Power More Comfortable? and The Frantic Force are spoken of here and</p><p>here, respectively. A collection of poetry Serpentrope is due out early 2014 from</p><p>White Violet Press. He can be reached</p></li></ul>