It was one of those horrific juxtapositions that an imperial state breeds in abundance: the emperor joking at a luxurious banquet with fawning courtiers, while his agents are killing innocent children on a distant frontier.
Such was the scene this weekend, as President Barack Obama enjoyed his star turn at the White House Correspondents Dinner, that sick-making orgy of cuddly collusion between the media and political elites. In recent years, the sycophantic shindig has turned into a veritable Oscars Night for the political set. (And increasingly the Hollywood set as well; one of the major stories of the big night was that Dinner guests Sean Penn and Scarlett Johansson were seen holding hands as they left one of the many glittering "after-parties" attached with the event! I mean, OMG! No wonder it got screaming headlines at HuffPo -- that bastion of hard-hitting progressive journalism.)
Obama delivered the usual professionally scripted zingers to appreciative howls of laughter from the savvy Beltway crowd. (The same kind of laughter that the same crowd gave in the same craven way to Dubya Bush when he was the bossman.) These paeans of praise later rippled out across the progressive blogosphere, where stalwarts like Digby rushed to post up video clips of Obama's "very funny speech" at the Dinner. The progressosphere was absolutely aglow with giddy, giggly pride at the sight of Obama shooting fat dead fish in a barrel -- i.e., making fun of Donald Trump.
This was real leadership! This was the president striking back, taking it to his enemies at last, and, hey, having some fun with it too. Oh, what a tonic! What a hoot! What yocks! 2012? Bring it on!
But even as the media mavens and the glitterati and the fightin' progressive keyboarders were lapping up the imperial schtick, Libyans were digging the eviscerated bodies of three young children out of the ruins of the private home where they were killed by NATO missiles Saturday night. They were the grandchildren of Moamar Gadafy, who was the target of the attack, which also killed his youngest son. The dead children were all under the age of 12.
The missiles tore into a residential area of Tripoli, where the Gadafys were having a family gathering. NATO -- along with the nasty little upper class twit now in charge of the British government, David Cameron -- insisted that the Humanitarian Interventionists were not, repeat NOT, trying to kill Moamar Gadafy by sending three missiles into a house where they believed he was staying. No, no, no. That would be wrong; that would be totally outside the UN mandate governing the intervention. That would be attempted assassination and regime change. The good and godly lords of the West would never do anything like that.
So even though Cameron and Obama and that little French guy all wrote a column together declaring that Moamar Gadafy cannot be allowed to stay in power, they are not trying to change the regime. And even though they are sending missiles into his houses, they are not trying to kill him. And anyway, even if they were trying to kill him -- which they're not -- they would be within their rights to do so under the UN mandate which permits attacks on the regime's "command and control" sites. Or as Cameron -- a former PR flack - put it, he and Obama and the little guy can send missiles into private homes and kill small children because they are trying to prevent "a loss of civilian life by targeting Gadafy's war-making machine." And since Gadafy is at the heart of that machine, they are permitted to try to kill him. But they aren't targeting him. Is it all clear now?
It must be clear, for the murder of these children by NATO missiles has occasioned almost no protest -- indeed, hardly any mention -- across the political spectrum in the United States. The progressives are too busy yukking it up at their man's comic cool. The rightwing militarists are too busy applauding this attempt to "cut off the head of the snake." The "centrists" are too busy sleeping off their Correspondence Dinner hangovers.
And so the killing on the frontiers -- the ever-expanding line of imperial dominance -- will go on. But while the yuks and yocks of the courtiers' banquet keep ringing through the Beltway, you can be sure that the people being blown to bits on those imperial lines -- in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. -- will not die laughing.
NOTE: After yesterday's post on the deadly incident, a reader kindly called to mind a previous piece -- originally written eight years ago -- that might have some relevance to these latest imperial juxtapositions:
While you were dreaming While you wrapped your mind in silks Bronze Steel Stone Did their work
While you breathed the fumes Of the oracle's fissure Deranged the senses Settled in soft beds
Rome Sent agents into the streets Hard men pinched men Bronze Steel Stone
To eliminate execute Discredit and destroy
While you stood in the forum Declaimed high words Filled temples with fragrant smoke Scrawled millions of learned disquisitions
Rome marched Somewhere, in your name Fired the village In your name Put steel to the belly
While you were wrapped in silks While you grubbed While you drank degraded waters Drank dark, brilliant wine While you sang, while you dreamed