The Calamitous 21st Century

tuchman

W.J. Astore

We’re only sixteen years into the 21st century, but it seems like a “best of times, worst of times” kind of epoch.  It’s the best of times for the aristocracy of the rich, and the worst of times for the poor and disadvantaged, especially when they live close to or in war zones.

Perhaps that’s a statement of the obvious, except the gap between the richest and poorest continues to grow.  Their worlds, their realities, are so different as to be virtually disconnected.  This is a theme of several recent science fiction films, including the “Hunger Games” series (the Capitol versus the Districts) and “Elysium,” in which the privileged rich literally live above the sordid earth with its teeming masses.

Some of the big fears of our present century include the emergence of a “super bug,” a contagion that is highly resistant to traditional drugs.  We’ve overused antibiotics and are slowly breeding new strains of bacteria that modern medicine can no longer defeat.  Meanwhile, many people in the U.S. still lack health care, or they’re reluctant to use it because it’s too expensive for them.  And then there are the workers who lack sick leave.  They force themselves to go to work, even when sick, because they need the money.  How long before inadequate health care and sick workers facilitate the conditions for the spread of a plague?

And then there’s the contagion of violence and war.  America’s wars in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa are basically open-ended.  They are today’s version of the “Hundred Years’ War” between England and France, an on-again, off-again struggle for dominance that sprawled across two centuries.  In fact, America’s “war on terror,” with its “surgical strikes” and reliance on technology as a quasi-panacea, seems to be breeding new types of “super-bug” terrorists who are highly resistant to traditional techniques of policing and war.

In this effort, one thing is certain: No U.S. president will be declaring “peace” or even “normal” times for the next decade or two (or three).

Finally, let’s not forget global warming.  The Pentagon and the CIA haven’t.  Republicans may have their share of climate change deniers, but when it comes to the U.S. national security state, contingency plans are already in place for the disasters awaiting us from global warming.  Competition for scarce resources (potable water especially, but food and fuel as well) combined with more intense storms, widespread flooding, and much warmer temperatures, will generate or aggravate wars, famines, and plagues.

Are we living in a failed or failing world?

In “A Distant Mirror,” the historian Barbara Tuchman wrote about the calamitous 14th century of plagues and wars and a mini-ice age in the northern hemisphere. We seem to be facing a calamitous 21st century of plagues and wars and a mini-hothouse age.  It’s a grim prospect.

The question is: Can we act collectively to avert or avoid the worst of these calamities?  Or are we fated to dance our very own 21st-century danse macabre?

21 thoughts on “The Calamitous 21st Century

  1. Truly a Bracing View, Bill. A trenchant expression of timely, world-wide human affairs and concerns.
    As to acting “collectively” :
    I don’t know the ins and outs of medical research and development, but it may be that too much of it is geared towards high-profit pharmaceuticals as compared to expenditures for strategic infrastructures serving common purpose concerns. But at least there is hope on this score.
    There is some “collective” headway with environmental and energy concerns. Small rays of hope here. Clean water distribution is a big issue. But then, they want to privatize everything, including water.
    Prospects that the open-ended war & open-ended occupation upheld by a politically dominant economic elite will ameliorate itself are dim.

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    1. “Prospects that the open-ended war & open-ended occupation upheld by a politically dominant economic elite will ameliorate itself are dim.”

      “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” — Frederick Douglass

      The endless wars of the global corporate oligarchy will continue until the global citizenry demands that they cease, not before. To date, in the United States anyway, I see very little sign of the American people demanding a stop to the endless corporate wars that impoverish the many while enriching the fabulously wealthy few. I really don’t think that Americans, in general, get the connection. They truly seem to believe that these endless corporate wars have nothing to do with them and do not affect them in any way.

      “History will not judge kindly a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of endless armed conflict so long as they themselves are spared the effects. Nor will it view with favor an electorate that delivers political power into the hands of leaders unable to envision any alternative to perpetual war.” — Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008)

      All very true, but Americans do not believe in history and could care less about its judgments. And something fundamental in the character of the nation has changed — and not for the better. As Barbara Tuchman wrote regarding President Richard Nixon’s strategy of quelling dissent by reducing the number of American casualties:

      “At home, Nixon’s plan failed to recognize that something more than distress at casualties was active in the dissent; that many people felt a sense of wrong about the war, a violation of the way they felt about their country.; that although protest would subside for a while with the return of troops, the deeper feeling was a corollary of the war itself and would grow stronger with continued belligerence.” The March of Folly (1984)

      Today’s political/military servants of the global orporate oligarchy — at least in the United States — do not have to fear any real public disgust at the war itself, its wanton destruction and random killing, since only a concern with American, or “Western” casualties seems to move public opinion in a negative direction. “War” simply doesn’t bother Americans much anymore. So, yes, something called “war” (i.e., war-profiteering) will go on now for many more years, if not decades, until some larger force or event brings it to an unexpected and unwanted (by the ruling elites) halt. I wish I could look forward to the American people rousing themselves from their dogmatic slumber and forcing an end to this Orwellian (or Kafkan) nightmare like they did back in the mid-1960s to early 1970s. But that country no longer exists, and, as Elmer Gantry said: “When I became a man, I put away childish thoughts.”

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  2. Thanks, Greg. A change in mentality is needed if we want to provide for 7+ billion people without destroying the earth. For one thing, the idea that economic growth is always good, that more is better, needs reconsideration. We need to put more emphasis on preservation, on recycling, on downsizing our appetites.

    But that very idea seems un-American to some. Don’t tell me I can’t have it all. And more!

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  3. Actually, Bill, this era recalls to me the horrific summer of 1968. I had just returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam (31 May 1967 – 31 May 1968), and I found myself in the middle of an undeclared war in the streets over the Vietnam War. What I really find interesting is in both eras the country had prosecuted unnecessary, unwinnable wars which the citizens had grown war-weary and these wars, at less in the case of the Iraq War, were based upon specious intelligence that the hawks had used in a massive propaganda campaign based on fear and hysteria. In both eras the Senate bent over backwards, took a big banana, constitutionally speaking that is, up where the moon doesn’t shine and gave LBJ and GWB, both politicians from Texas who had a hang-em-high sense of frontier justice, essentially a blank check to prosecute these wars; while at home dissenters, citizens, whistleblowers. such as Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, journalists who were threatened with imprisonment, and let’s not forgot the family pet, were being spied upon by the very corrupt and incompetent intelligence agencies that had cherry-picked the bogus intelligence to justify these criminal wars of aggression that clearly violated the Nuremberg trials. So during each era, George Orwell must have been spinning in his grave like a lathe. Or as the philosopher Yogi Berra once said to sports reporters in the dugout after losing again the second game in a double-header, “Boys, it’s deja vu – all over again!” By the way, there are many more historical analogies I can delineate but I think you get my drift.

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    1. Good points, George. We can always learn something of value by comparing America’s present-and-continuing imperial wars to our generation’s experiences with mindless, pointless war in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). But the people running our government for the past several decades, regardless of political party, do not want our fellow citizens to make any such comparisons. As Robert Parry of Consortium News (28 December 2014) has written:

      To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

      You describe coming home from Vietnam in 1968 to that “unprecedented popular uprising” which had so shocked and enraged the ruling corporate elite. They asked themselves in genuine puzzlement: How could those average, public-school educated, working-class Americans — normally so fearful, obedient, and easily managed — get the idea into their heads that they could have a say in whether or not the United States should go to war; against whom; for what reason; for how long; and at what cost? When you describe the U. S. Congress as bending over and taking a banana up the butt for LBJ, so to speak, you pretty much describe what our ruling corporate oligarchy expected of us common folk as well. It worked for a few years, but then it all started to unravel when the Draft deferments for middle class white boys began to run out and as the idiotic, inconclusive carnage continued with no end in sight.

      Why don’t we see the same unraveling of the equally idiotic “wartime” consensus today, especially since the U. S. Congress has long since decided to take not only bananas, but cucumbers, yams, and carrots up the proverbial butt as well — all at the same time and for the hardly impressive likes of Bill Clinton, Deputy Dubya Bush, and Barack Obama? No conscripting of middle class white college boys (and girls), certainly, but with plans to do so always at the ready; but in any event, the economic costs and enormous borrowing to finance them, that alone should have long-since tipped the scales against continuation of these mindless disasters. So, with even less to expect from our “representatives” today and pressing economic reasons to redirect our national priorities, why do we citizens not unravel things even more? I have thought much about this for many years.

      The answer, I believe, has to do with the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” and its deliberate neutralization by the ruling corporate/political/military (sorry for the multiple redundancies) oligarchy which set out decades ago to see that no such “popular uprising” ever troubled their comfortable sleep again. So far it hasn’t. Personally, I want to see that it does. I want our so-called and self-styled “ruling elite” to have nightmares, like those traumatized peasants in the Middle East who hear our drones buzzing overhead at all hours of the day and night. I want them to have nighmares, not about losing their lives, but much worse than that. I want them to fear losing their money. And then I want them to lose it. Joining the rest of proles down here on planet earth will do them a world of good and the rest of us far less harm.

      The “Vietnam Syndrome” — or Epiphany — ought to have returned with a vengence. How can those of us who remember bring it back?

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      1. Good points, Michael, and I agree with them. The elites are probably relieved Richard Nixon replaced the draft with a lottery that morphed into the volunteer armed forces. That’s according to a lecture I saw recently on YouTube that Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s former chief of staff at State, when he talked at a college. He said elites can bypass citizens and the democratic process. Citizens can protest against a war; the hawks can sit back, let them protestand then the hawks can prosecute the war. Congress before the war actually starts, of course, can engage in a charade that apes serious debate over said war which it will approve after the chattering for the entertainment of fanatic viewers, chronic insomniacs and die-hard policy wonks on CSPAN. Lawrence’s observation relates to the concept of how our democracy has become an Orwellian visual spectacle. Chris Hedges is always pointing this out in his columns at http://www.truthdig.com and cites as evidence the late Sheldon S. Wolin. He wrote “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.” Andrew Basevich, a conservative public intellectual, notes in his book, “Breach of Trust,” a historical critique of the growing chasm between civilian and war subcultures “civilians have no skin in the game.” So whether these civilians are doves or hawks on the issue of going to war, they are sitting in the bleachers while the real drama is down on the playing field. Their most momentous decision as citizens while they argue about a war, that is, while watching it play out on the field on their HD TV screens at home is having to decide whether they prefer a cheap Bud Lite or a craft beer from a local microbrewery as the war unfolds. What adds to the irony is that baby boomers such as Hillary Clinton are such war hawks and that Vietnam veterans who should know better such as John Kerry voted for GWB’s Iraq War resolution. And of course that GWB sat out the Vietnam War in the Texas Air National Guard Thanks to Papa Bush’s influence and that his VP Dick Cheney, who was playing Darth Vader on news shows always talking about “going to the dark side,” got five deferments from the draft because he had “other priorities” at the time. Now I actually have no animus against any of the personages that I mentioned. In fact, if I could get into a time machine and travel back to the hippy dippy sixties, I would have also avoided the draft. And I should also note VP Joe Biden got five deferments from the draft like Cheney did. But he just doesn’t talk about it openly to the press as Dick Cheney has. Which proves Joe Biden can keep his mouth shut when he wants to. But back to Wilkerson’s lecture that I saw. He believes the volunteer armed forces will yet further evolve in the coming decades into an Americanized version of the French Foreign Legion. He notes that a hook in the recruitment the army offers a fast track to citizenship for those aliens who are willing to risk the gamble of being in a shooting war. He said these aliens are the fastest growing segment for recruits in the army. So I have written about all these writers, from the right to the left, who have reached a reasoned consensus about what the wars from Vietnam to the present moment in the long war on terror have contributed to our moral decline as a nation. We live in an era of decadence. Decadence in the sense of things are spent out, exhausted, in our institutions. Internet porn, at least from my humble perspective, pales in comparison to the war porn we are witnessing in our culture. And the most pornographic things I saw in my life were napalm victims. But we have this perverted Puritan work ethic in the country that we is being refracted through the prism of the military/industrial/ media/intelligence complex. Sex seems to be a minor vice given these wars and how our government is locked in its political inertia. Then of course there is the revolution in robotic warfare which Obama has embraced like a long lost lover with his drones. Now if we can just get over our moral qualms about cloning human beings and then get our scientists to concentrate their energies into the R&D of advanced genetics, a brave new world, a new and improved Silicon Valley for biological reproduction on an industrial scale, we can all kick back on a couch, sip an alcoholic beverage and/or smoke a joint and casually watch the next war against, well, whoever that may be. But of course I fear these damn clones will eventually catch on and demand their rights as fellow citizens, and there we are right back where we started from. But I don’t think building a wall will solve that problem.

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  4. ‘The answer is never violence’ said Loretta Lynch following the Dallas police shootings.

    She might have addressed that comment to Barack Obama or Ashton Carter …. or Francois Hollande whose response to the terrible slaughter of Nice has been to order more bombing in Syria.

    ‘Prospects that the open-ended war & open-ended occupation upheld by a politically dominant economic elite will ameliorate itself are dim.’ Gregory, above

    ‘A change in mentality is needed’ William, above.

    Is not the very first part of that change for all of us to follow Noam Chomsky’s lead when he said:
    ‘My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.’

    When we follow that advice, we come down the scale of responsibility from our own nation, to our own community, to our own family, to ourselves. Me.

    Then the question becomes ‘What am I going to do to change things?’

    And, the answer is never violence.

    Now that would be a sea-change.

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  5. I recall when former U. S. President Jimmy Carter suggested to Americans that they might turn down their thermostat settings and drive more energy efficient motor vehicles so as to help the nation achieve energy independence from Crony Corporate U.S. and Middle Eastern oil cartels. This proved politically unpopular, to say the least. So unpopular, in fact, that American voters summarily ditched President Carter and turned in overwhelming numbers to that “deficits don’t matter” Republican guy, who borrowed and bought with such reckless abandon that U.S. citizens, and not just Navy sailors, now enjoy a worldwide reputation for “spending like drunken Reagans.”

    As for Elysium, you will see it prominently on display inside those corporate sponsored arenas in Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next two weeks. Out on the streets and a few blocks away, however, you will see — if you make any effort to look — the dregs of what we used to call “working class America.” Chris Hedges recently interviewed a lady resident of Kensington — one of Philadelphia’s most desperate neighborhoods — who told him of what her autistic son had said when he saw the police barricades going up to keep the poor away from the wealthy conventioneers: “Hey, mom, we finally live in a gated community!”

    Meanwhile, in the foothills of the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan, America’s Vaunted Visigoths, dogs-of-war mercenaries, and corporate camp followers (but I repeat myself) continue squandering billions of dollars a month (mostly on themselves) propping up pederast war lords who run the world’s all-time-leading narcotics producing emporium. From Kabul to Kensington, courtesy of the now fully privatized oligarchical subsidiary, U. S. Military, Inc.

    As famed Robber Baron Jay Gould casually put the case for Elysium dwellers: “I can always hire half the unemployed to kill the other half.” I don’t know whether he actually said “kill,” or probably just “beat them into submission,” but, whatever, we will no doubt see plenty of his hired hands in Cleveland and Philadelphia making sure that the desperate rabble stay as far out of sight and mind as possible.

    “Perception Management,” our rulers call it, by which they mean their management of our perception. I suspect that it will probably work again this year, but I remember from 1968 to 1975 when Americans from all walks of life wouldn’t tolerate this kind of arrogance, lawless incompetence, and mindless war hysteria from their political parties and government. Not so many of those kinds of Americans left anymore, it appears, at least not where any of the corporate oligarchy’s media minions will point a camera and microphone. A little of that rebellious spirit does endure, with examples like Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, but if most of Ameica never sees or hears of such persons,so who’s to know? The Chinese communists called it “Thought Reform” and “Millieu Control.” In America, our corporate rulers call it Perception Management.

    Meanwhile in Elysium, the self-serving revelry continues nonstop and at full volume. “Make America Great Again!” “I’m With Her!” How uplifting everything must look from up there in orbit. …

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  6. William.

    A few miles north of where I live are acres of boulders left by retreating glaciers. Sure glad things warmed up!

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  7. I was 13 years old in 1974. The Vietnam generation I call my “older brother generation”, because the Vets who came home were all younger than my father, yet significantly older than me. The posts on this thread from my older brothers have granted me needed reflection and reinforced my admiration for men such as yourselves.
    There’s no room for “prospects are dim” thinking. It does nothing to deepen or broaden the thinking or understanding of oneself or of others. It has no part in helping the children of this world somehow come out the other side of all this with worth and compassion. It helps to understand what we’re up against, but dwellers just dwell.
    Positively:
    We can support Jill Stein. The more people know about her campaign, the more support she gains. Significant numbers of Sanders’ supporters are going Green. There is a good chance her polling could shoot past the threshold to be included in the debates. Wouldn’t that be remarkable to behold.
    rewiredhogdog…that Biden line was priceless!

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    1. Gregory, thanks for the reply. But the prospects are grim. That’s just the reality. I too was once young, an idealist like you. That was long ago and in another country, as Ernest Hemingway wrote. But I’m voting for Jill Stein.

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      1. I saw a video presentation on the Internet recently featuring Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party. I found her statements straightforward, accurate, and to the point. I would very much like to see them included in any “debates” held by presidential candidates this election. I have transcribed some of what she said, which I will post here:

        Making the Wars For Oil Obsolete

        [Begin Quote]

        “It’s time to stop a foreign policy which is essentially a marketing strategy for the weapons industry.”

        “We need a Peace Offensive. A weapons embargo in the middle east, and a freeze on the funding on our allies funding and training terrorists.”

        “We can cut that dangerous, bloated military budget.”

        “Because that budget is not making us safer.”

        “It is making us more endangered.”

        “What has it done?”

        “Since 2001, we have spent 6 trillion dollars – that is 75,000 dollars for every American household – for these wars for oil.”

        “We will have killed a million people in Iraq alone which is not winning us the hearts and minds of the Middle East, you can be sure. And we will have killed and maimed tens of thousands of U. S. soldiers.”

        “And what do we have to show for it? (is the other thing)”

        “Exactly what we have to show is (1) failed states, every one of them, (2) mass refugee migrations, which are tearing apart the Middle East and which are tearing apart Europe, and (3) worse terrorist threats

        “And I want to underscore that, because all we hear, ten times a day in the media, is how we have to drop more bombs and shoot ’em up and that’s the solution to ISIS.”

        “Well, actually, who created ISIS? We created ISIS.”

        “And it wasn’t just George Bush.”

        I want to be clear, because Barack Obama fought tooth and nail to keep the troops in Iraq as long as he possibly could.

        It was George Bush who established a deadline by which withdrawal had to happen because we lost the immunity for U. S. soldiers.

        So this is a bipartisan disaster. I want to be clear.

        But it goes far back beyond ISIS. You may know, where did the whole jihad terrorist thing start? It started in Afghanistan as a scheme devised by the CIA and by Saudi Arabia in order to thwart the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. So we created this jihadi terror movement. It went on from the Mujahadeen to the Taliban to Al Qaeda and then to ISIS.

        With each turn of the wheel the cycle of violence becomes more terrible, more unmanageable, more of a disaster.

        More of the same is not the solution.

        It is time to stop a foreign policy which is essentially a marketing strategy for the weapons industry.

        And we need to be able to talk about this.

        This is why the political predator parties, the Democrats and Republicans work so hard to silence us. Because they cannot hold a candle to the facts, to the truth, to the basic American values, which are values of peace, community, justice, and human rights. This is what our foreign policy needs to be based on.

        So we call for, by the way, a peace offensive. That’s what we need in the middle east.

        We need to put a weapons embargo on the middle east. We are arming all sides of the conflict and benefiting from it. A 100 billion dollars in weapons to the Saudis alone in the last ten years.

        So we are applying a flame thrower to the middle east.

        We need a weapons embargo which we can initiate.

        We need a freeze on the funding of our allies who are funding the training and arming of so-called terrorist groups.

        With one hand we are fighting terror. With the other hand we and our allies are funding and arming and training terrorist groups.

        We started it. We can stop it. And we can do this now in our own time.

        [End Quote]

        Got my vote. You sure won’t hear anything like this from either of the other two psychopaths or their demented, browbeaten followers.

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  8. One last note before this topic rolls off the page. I read Barbara Tuchman’s book, as I have several others from her justifiably well-regarded body of work, and I especially liked something that I found at the end of it, in the Epilogue. She wrote of English King Henry V and his successful invasions of France toward the end of the Hundred Years War. In describing his victory over the mounted French knights at the Battle of Agincourt — immortalized in verse by William Shakespeare — she wrote of the ironically tragic consequences of depending upon heavy armor in circumstances not conducive to its use:

    “… No change in tactics had been introduced, and the only technological development (except for canon, which played no role in open battle) was heavier plate armor. Intended to give added protection from arrows, it had the effect of increasing fatigue and reducing mobility and play of the sword arm. The terrible worm in his iron cocoon was less terrible than before, and the cocoon itself sometimes lethal; knights occasionally died of heart failure inside it. Pages had to support their lords on the field lest, should they fall, they be unable to rise again.

    “The armies met in a confined space between two clumps of woods. Rain fell throughout the night while they waited to do battle and while the French pages and grooms, walking the horses up and down, churned the ground into a soft mud exactly suited for the slipping and stumbling of steel-clad knights. The French had not attempted to select a battleground where there superiority in numbers could be effectively deployed, with the result that they were drawn up for battle in three rows, one behind the other, with little room for action on the flanks, and forced to follow each other into the valley of mud. With no commander-in-chief able to impose a tactical plan, the nobles vied for the glory of a place in the front line until it was compacted as the Flemish line at Roosebeke. Archers and crossbowmen were placed behind, where their missiles could not dilute the glory of the clash and were in fact useless.”

    “The English, though tired, hungry, and dispirited by their numerical inferiority, had two advantages: a King in personal command and a disproportion of about 1,000 knights and squires to 6,000 archers and a few thousand other foot soldiers. Their arhers were deployed in solid wedges between the men-at-arms and in blocks on the wings. Wearing no armor, they were fully mobile, and in addition to their bows, they carried a variety of axes, hatchets, hammers, and, in some cases, large swords hanging from their belts.”

    “Under these conditions the outcome was more one-sided than any since the start of the war. In their overcrowding, the dismounted knights of the French front lines could barely wield their great weapons and, hampered by the mud, fell into halpless disarray, which, when merging with the advance of the second line and tangled by flight, panic, and the riderless horses, quickly became chaos. Grasping the situation, the English archers threw down their bows and rushed in with their axes and other weapons to an orgy of slaughter. Many of the French, impeded by their heavy armor, could not defend themselves, accounting for the several thousands killed and taken prisoner in contrast to the total English loss of 500, including at least one probable victim of heart failure.”

    I really loved that medieval expression “terrible worm in his iron cocoon,” since it reminded me of the American troops rushing across the Iraqi desert into Baghdad where they soon became compacted and trapped in close urban quarters in their tanks, humvees, and other armored vehicles, easy pickings for the lethal and inexpensive I.E.D., or “Improvised Explosive Device,” which when detonated remotely by a cell phone, turned an armored cocoon into a compression-multiplication chamber that literally pounded the brains of the American soldiers inside into pudding. As a young Taiwanese relative through marriage said to me back in 2003: “It’s easy to rush into a trap, but not so easy to get out.” The French discovered that at Agincourt and the Ameican army rediscovered it in Baghdad, centuries later. I remember, as well, reading about General David Petraeus, America’s self-tooting military genius, asking a reporter along for the joy ride barrelling unupposed in his tank across the Iraqi desert: “Tell me how this ends.” When I read that, I thought: “Gee, General Dave, if you had ever learned anything from military history, especially the disastrous debacles involving heavily armored Christian knights during the Crusades and European dynastic wars, you might already know the unfortunate answer.”

    Anyway, I liked that colorful expression so much that I wrote a poem many years ago putting it to what I considered relevant use. I believe that I posted it on another of this site’s threads the other day. At any rate, I wish to acknowledge my debt to the late Barbara Tuchman for the inspiration I drew from her book. The terrible worm in his iron cocoon indeed. If I know General Dave and his ilk, we haven’t seen the last of this apalling apparition. Coming soon to a quagmire and “long war” far from you Americans but only too close to those impoverished foreign peasants armed with little for their self-defense but “improvisation.” If you need to know how this ends, General Dave, I can tell you.

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      1. Another great line from the literature that I think captures my attitude toward the either-bad-or-worse “choice” facing Americans again this year, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring (Volume One of The Lord of the Rings trilogy). You probably remember when Gandalf found himself a prisoner of the Wizard Saruman in his tower at Isengard. Saruman wanted Gandalf to join him in submitting to the evil Sauron, in order to “share power” with him. Gandalf replied:

        “Saruman, only one hand at a time can wield the One, and you know that well, so do not trouble to say we! But I would not give it, nay I would not give even news of it to you, now that I learn your mind. You were head of the Council, but you have unmasked yourself at last. Well, the choices are, it seems, to submit to Sauron, or to yourself. I will take neither. Have you others to offer?

        Yes. I think that about sums up how I feel about “choosing” between You-Know-Her (because everyone does) and All-About-Him (because everything is). No thanks. I’ll take Dr. Jill Stein. I really do want to choose what I want, not simply accept what I am offered.

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