February 13, 2003
Bob Perelman: Where We Are

for Kerry Sherin

        We may not have chosen to live inside Dick Cheney’s mind, but we do.
        Wyoming, I read somewhere, is the safest place to live in North America.
        No tornados, no tsunamis, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, monsoons, cyclones, or floods. No major airport: no big planes crashing in the sleet. Not even much traffic: not too many car crashes.
        But if living in Wyoming is so safe, living inside Dick Chaney’s mind, though it was formed in Wyoming and stood for Wyoming in the Senate, is not safe at all.
        How do you get from Wyoming to Shock and Awe?
        Getting from Love to Hate, that’s easy: Love, Live, Give, Gave, Gate, Hate.
        Love comes before life, and since newborns don’t survive on their own, life at the beginning involves giving. It can’t not: breast milk, protection, language, diapers made out of whatever, some sort of attention before you crawl or walk. Everyone living got some of that somehow.
        That gets us up to Give. Gave comes next because giving is tiring. You give and give and what thanks do you get? Nothing. Or worse. They think they’re entitled; they’re madder than ever: They sulk in their rooms, they’re sarcastic, they throw rocks.
        So much for giving. I gave at the office and, since they think they’re entitled and are madder than ever, the next logical step is to build a gate, which will keep things quiet at least.
        But as we know, gates creak at night, they leak, they break, in fact, gates concentrate whatever’s on either side, they distill hate.
        Love, Live, Give, Gave, Gate, Hate: Q.E.D.

        But getting from Love to Hate only sheds a little light on getting from Wyoming to Shock and Awe.
        Shock and Awe? “Shock and Awe” is the Pentagon’s current battle plan for Iraq: 300 to 400 cruise missiles the 1st day (more than in all of Desert Storm), 300 to 400 the next, to demolish water, electricity, communications, government buildings, roads, bridges, infrastructure in general; 6000 satellite guidance kits to convert so-called “dumb bombs” into so-called “smart bombs,” etc. “The sheer size of this has never been seen before,” a Pentagon official told CBS. “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad.” Harlan Ullman drew a direct parallel to Hiroshima: the Iraqi people will be “physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted”; it will be “rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes.” A 1996 report elaborates: the point is “to impose [an] overwhelming level of Shock and Awe. . . . [to] seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and understanding of events that the enemy would be incapable of resistance.”
        This is Shock and Awe, remember, not Wyoming.
        But by the end it gets a little hard to tell them apart: overwhelming levels seizing control of the environment, paralyzing perceptions and understanding of events.
        That works for Wyoming and just about anywhere in the United States.
        That’s the problem with living inside Dick Cheney’s mind, whether we’ve chosen to or not.

        What’s the point of Shock and Awe?
        To free the Iraqi people.
        “No safe place in Baghdad” contradicts “To free the Iraqi people.”
        Since the Iraqi people are enslaved inside Saddam Hussein’s mind that mind must be destroyed. That means destroying Saddam Hussein’s body wherever it is in Baghdad, which means brushing aside Baghdad to find him to free the Iraqi people trapped inside
his mind.
        But dead people are only free in the most limited way. Not much bang for the buck there, really.
        Deeper rationale:
        Forget “free,” “love,” “give”: it’s an adult world. Shock and Awe is adult political theater for a world audience. To reach an audience that big you have to project. That’s the point of Shock, the sheer size of which has never, etc. Otherwise the audience won’t be struck with Awe.
        What’s the point of Awe?
        Awe kills two birds with one stone. For good Arabs, it inaugurates democracy, somehow. For no-good Arabs, Awe will . . . what? Awe will awe them into submission. Then things will be quiet outside the gate.
        I can hear Dick Chaney arguing that Awe worked at Hiroshima.
        But Japan was at war with us, and Awe, or at least Instant Submission, didn’t work outside Japan. The Iraqi people are not only not at war with us, we’re rescuing them from Saddam Hussein’s mind. And as for working outside Baghdad? Destroying it will awe Al-Qaeda? That’s a stretch. There are more Al-Qaedans in London or Berlin than in Baghdad. Maybe we should get Berlin first.
        No matter how big you make Shock, you can’t get to Awe.
        Even with a placid audience like the U.S. electorate, you can’t get there.

        Forget it, we’ll never know the exact route from Wyoming to Shock and Awe.
        Some combination of Gate, Hate, Oil, Worship of Force and Getting Reelected mixed together in Dick Cheney’s mind got us halfway there; and Shock and Awe is already halfway here: Here, Baghdad and Here, Wyoming. We’re half “physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted”; our “perceptions and understanding of events” are half “overloaded.”
        But even half a mind is enough to do the math: we’re half capable of resistance.
        The shocks are huge, disgusting, realer than any hell, but at least they’re not shocking, once we give up our imaginary safety.
        The other half, Awe with its ersatz religious capital letter, we can resist right now, completely.
        The bombs are awful, all the worse because of the thoughtlessness that aims them, but they don’t deserve a shred of awe from us.
        Not a huge victory, but it does mean one weapon is destroyed, the one they always use first.

[The Shock and Awe language comes from various web sites found on Google under “Shock and Awe”: The McLaughlin Group; World Socialist Web Site, etc]

Posted by Brian Stefans at February 13, 2003 10:29 AM

The Germans had a name for Shock and Awe, which they invented. They called it Blitzkrieg.

Posted by: Ron Silliman on February 13, 2003 01:18 PM

Nice, Bob. It strikes me that the quote "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad" could also be usefully played off against "We have no argument with the Iraqi people."

Posted by: Joe Safdie on February 14, 2003 05:04 PM

There's one line in an earlier draft of Bob's poem about us living in Cheney's mind that puzzled me. Turns out Bob was uncertain of that particular line too, so he's changed it (much better version than the one I suggest below), and he suggested that I post part of my email to him. Here it is, from yesterday.


I've tried to let this go, but I seem unable to, so here it is. The line is about the Japanese

[indent] "I can hear Dick Chaney arguing that Awe worked at Hiroshima.
[indent] But the Japanese people were at war with us, and Awe didn’t work outside Japan."

Here, it is the Japanese people, and not the Japanese people trapped in Emperor Hirohito's (sp?) mind, or, in other words, not the Emperor himself (in the people's name, where people = nation = native) who is at war "with us." I figure this was meant to be from Cheney's point of view of history. And if not entirely from Cheney's point of view, then this ambiguity in the
line is also meant to indict "us" for behaving at the time *as if* the Japanese people were at war with us (e.g. by interning Japanese Americans
and Canadians in camps, taking away their property, etc). Even then, however, the point of view of this line still puzzles me, especially in
relation to the piece's theme of the people vs./in the leader's mind. I can imagine someone reading the line at face value as stating that the Japanese people were indeed at war with us. (That's how I read it at first.) There's something further about this premise-seeming face value aspect of the line that I want to say in conclusion, but I can't seem to find the words.

If it read,

[indent]"I can hear Dick Chaney arguing that Awe worked at Hiroshima. The Japanese
people were at war with us.
[indent] But Awe didn’t work outside Japan. The Iraqi people are not only not at war
with us [etc],"

then I as reader at least would more readily assume that the idea of 'a people at war with us' was Cheney's point of view of history (as it was of many at the time -- but the point being, of course, that that was then, and this is now, which is something that Cheney doesn't seem to acknowledge).

Posted by: Louis Cabri on February 18, 2003 03:12 AM

dick needs to drop dead already

Posted by: courtney on November 14, 2003 12:30 PM

dick needs to drop dead already

Posted by: courtney on November 14, 2003 12:31 PM

dick needs to drop dead already

Posted by: courtney on November 14, 2003 12:31 PM

I like your style

Posted by: Mike on November 29, 2003 07:22 AM

Note first that favoriteNumbers type changed. Instead of our familiar int, we're now using int*. The asterisk here is an operator, which is often called the "star operator". You will remember that we also use an asterisk as a sign for multiplication. The positioning of the asterisk changes its meaning. This operator effectively means "this is a pointer". Here it says that favoriteNumber will be not an int but a pointer to an int. And instead of simply going on to say what we're putting in that int, we have to take an extra step and create the space, which is what does. This function takes an argument that specifies how much space you need and then returns a pointer to that space. We've passed it the result of another function, , which we pass int, a type. In reality, is a macro, but for now we don't have to care: all we need to know is that it tells us the size of whatever we gave it, in this case an int. So when is done, it gives us an address in the heap where we can put an integer. It is important to remember that the data is stored in the heap, while the address of that data is stored in a pointer on the stack.

Posted by: Constance on January 19, 2004 03:21 AM