Monday, December 29, 2008

Irony is Not Dead

I am a great fan of the musical satirist Tom Lehrer. I remember, as a teenager, devouring and memorizing the lyrics to Lehrer’s songs, “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park,” “Be Prepared,” “National Brotherhood Week” “Whatever Became of You Hubert” and the iconic, “Vatican Rag” - - “make a cross on your abdomen, when in Rome do like a Roman, Ave Marie, gee it’s good to see ya, doin the Vatican Rag.” I still have all Lehr’s records. I read somewhere that when Lehrer stopped making personal appearances and recordings, he did so because an international event had killed irony. The event? The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the war criminal, Henry Kissinger. But, as later day events have proved, Lehrer was wrong. Just remember for a moment George Bush awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, Paul Bremmer and Tommy Franks.
I was reminded of all this again last week when a “bipartisan” (oh, that word!!!!!), when a bipartisan task force of former top national security policymakers issued a report calling on Barack Obama’s administration to prevent genocide and mass atrocities overseas as a top U. S. foreign policy priority. What’s so ironic about that, you may wonder? One of the leading lights of that task force is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “The central premise of our report,” said Albright, “is that genocide is unacceptable and that we can and should do more to prevent it.” That the war criminal Albright should be calling for the end to genocide is, well, ironic.
As Secretary of State she stood aside, with barely a word, while more than a million Rwandans perished. More importantly, Albright helped design and carry out the Clinton policy of genocide in Iraq.
Secretary of State Albright confronted military Chief of Staff Colin Powell in 1993 over the use of U. S. military forces when she demanded to know, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about, if we can’t use it?” “Mesmerized by the prospects of putting American soldiers to work to alleviate the world’s ills,” writes Andrew J. Bacevich, “Albright soon enough got her way. An odd alliance that combined left-leaning do-gooders with jingoistic politicians and pundits succeeded in chipping away at constraints on the use of force.” During Clinton’s presidency, the United States conducted “tens of thousands of sorties into Iraqi airspace, dropped thousands of bombs, and launched hundreds of cruise missiles,” enforcing the “crushing sanctions regime authorized by the UN,” but carried out by the United States. The sanctions regime “complicated Saddams’ life” while limiting the amount of funds available from Iraqi oil. But the primary effect was “making the wretched existence of the average Iraqi more wretched still.” As early as 1996, UNICEF reported that the U.S. enforced sanctions had killed as many as half a million Iraqi children. When asked to comment on the UNICEF report, Madam Albright did not even question the figures. “Instead, she replied, ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - - we think the price is worth it.”
Worth it? Maybe Tom Lehrer was right. Maybe irony really is dead.

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At 4:15 AM, Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

Oh the white folks hate the black folks

and the black folks hate the white

all of my folks hate all of your folks

it's an old established rule

But during National Brotherhood Week or something like that...


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