POST# 12. IRAQ: THE ALLEGORY 3.0

It’s been ten years since the invasion of Iraq; ten years since “They will welcome us as liberators,”  “MISION ACCOMPLISHED”  and  “Major combat operations are now over.”  The Rachel Maddow Show re-aired it’s documentary, “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War”on March 23, 2013. Watching the documentary when it first aired prompted me to look into a few things, and I’d like to update to POSTS #3 and #7, IRAQ: THE ALLEGORY 1.0 and 2.0, respectively.

The documentary suggests that Pres. Bush 43 was preoccupied with Saddam and Iraq, and was already looking for a justification to invade Iraq when he came into office. My instinct was to attribute that inclination to Cheney,* who I always thought was the neo-con Rasputin behind that administration’s foreign policy, but it appears that Paul Wolfowitz was equally responsible. As far back as the 80’s, when he worked in the Reagan administration’s State Department as Director of Policy Planning, Wolfowitz denounced Saddam as a threat to the United States, even as the Reagan administration was offering aid to Saddam in his war with Iran. Wolfowitz was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under Pres. Bush 41, and worked with Cheney, who was then Secretary of Defense. After the first Gulf War of 1991, Wolfowitz maintained that, by remaining in power, Saddam acquired an aura of irrepressibility that made him a continuing threat to the United States. Wolfowitz was a foreign policy advisor to the Bush 43 campaign during the 2000 election. It was in this capacity that his views on Saddam and Iraq shaped the views of the  ultimately successful candidate. Wolfowitz served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005.

It does, therefore,  appear that Pres Bush 43 came into office wanting to invade Iraq and topple Saddam, and that Wolfowitz and Cheney were largely accountable for this predisposition. The September 11th attacks didn’t provide an excuse to invade,** so much as create a climate in which the public was receptive to the administration’s claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, and of Saddam’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To say that these claims were based on faulty intelligence, or a misinterpretation of intelligence, is an overly generous euphemism. In each case, the intelligence relied upon to justify the invasion was considered suspect by the intelligence officials who acquired it, and was frequently passed on with disclaimers, or suggestions not to give it any credence. Nonetheless, administration officials repeatedly claimed to have irrefutable proof of Saddam’s ties with al Qaeda and his efforts to acquire and stockpile WMDs, when they knew they did not.*** The objective, non-euphemistic term for that kind of activity is fraud, pure and simple.

I keep coming back to this because the premise of shadow is that rulers in the Greek coalition started their war in Asia (Troy) for geopolitical and economic advantages, but created the fraudulent myth of Helen’s rescue to assuage the masses who would fight the war or give up their sons to it. POST #2. HIDDEN CLUES deals with this directly, though other posts address it as well. Fraudulent myth making in the Iraq War is easily observed because participants are alive and have written books, been interviewed, or made statements in documents and film footage that have been preserved. Just as Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” has a basic monomyth or paradigm (see POST 11. THE HERO’S JOURNEY), the myths of the two wars, 3,200 years apart, have a paradigm of their own:

 A coalition of western nations invades an Asian nation under fraudulent pretenses. Hoping to conceal the real motives of the invasion (economic and geopolitical advantages that will accrue to the coalition’s elite), the western leaders propagate a myth that the invasion is motivated by honor and the virtuous desire to liberate. After an ostensible military victory, the occupation goes awry, and the economic and geopolitical advantages are lost. The fraudulent myth persists, however, because it resonates with something inside all of us.

Fraud is, after all, a way of getting us to fool ourselves. Bush 43 administration officials not only ignored, they discredited projections about the cost and difficulty of the occupation, because those projections contradicted their ideology. In this sense, they fooled themselves, though they didn’t defraud themselves. Legally, fraud requires the defrauded victim to have suffered a loss, and the officials who led us into this war  haven’t suffered any loss. This leads me to a final point.

Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, recently issued a final report to Congress about the success and efficiency of the post-war reconstruction efforts. His conclusion was that the reconstruction effort was unsuccessful, and what little was accomplished was appallingly expensive. “Not enough was accomplished for the size of the funds expended,” he told the Associated Press. The reason for this dismal outcome was the failure of the initial occupation effort, which let everything spin out of control. Gobs of money were then spent just trying, and failing, to restore the pre-invasion equilibrium. This made actual reconstruction work prohibitively expensive and next to impossible.

On the invasion’s tenth anniversary, Bush 43, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Wolfowitz, and others have been telling interviewers that the decision to invade was correct. They insist that the then-available evidence established that Saddam was acquiring weapons of mass destruction and was associated with al Qaeda. They’re also attempting to change the narrative, claiming that the invasion was successful because it toppled Saddam and improved the lives of the Iraqi people. We now know that the credible evidence was weak to non-existent, that they knew this as they acquired it, but nonetheless told the American people that their proof was conclusive. We should also remember (and many of us do) that freeing the Iraqi people was not then posed as a reason to invade. Indeed, Bush 43 campaigned as someone who didn’t believe that the United States should squander its resources on “nation building.” The Special Inspector General’s Report clearly indicates that the Iraqi peoples’ lives have not improved; they merely suffer different afflictions. With Saddam gone, the internecine conflicts that he’d suppressed are now rampant. No longer in danger of Saddam’s persecutions, Iraqi’s are now endangered by suicide bombings, and tribal/sectarian mass killings. Their economy is still in shambles, as is their infrastructure. And, with Saddam no longer in power, the constraints he imposed on Iran’s ambitions have been lifted. Iran’s anti-Israel and anti-western positions have intensified, Hezbollah, it’s unofficial guerrilla force, has boldly infiltrated Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, and Iran’s nuclear programs are advancing at an alarming rate.

There are still people who persist in maintaining the fraudulent myth. They apparently have an audience, and it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll succeed in the long run. The fraudulent myth is far more appealing than the scenario supported by credible evidence.

As post #7. THE ARCHEOLOGICAL RECORD shows in detail, verification of shadow’s version of the ancient paradigm is unavailable, though it makes so much more sense than the classical myth, for reasons set out in POST #2, supra. I like to think that the force with which the modern myth is disproven by solid evidence, uncorrupted by time and fabrication, shows that the ancient myth is equally suspect and improbable. Our iconic myths and symbols are not what they seem; they never were.

* My first instinct was to attribute it to Oedipal dynamics, because his father, Pres. Bush 41, “failed” (declined is the more accurate term) to topple Saddam and occupy Iraq. Though I was never a fan of Pres. Bush 41, he had once been the head of the CIA, and apparently had a much better idea of the difficulties that occupation would entail.

** When directed to find a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, officials in the intelligence community found the idea bizarre. Al Qaida’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam led them to see Saddam as a heretic; bin Laden probably wanted to overthrow Saddam as much as the neocons did.

***The “aluminum tubes” incident is most illustrative. Saddam had purchased a large quantity of aluminum tubes that were intercepted and seized before they could be delivered. The concern was that these tubes could be used to build centrifuges that would produce nuclear material. An american expert was called in to examine the tubes, but he easily determined that these tubes were not the kind that could be used for centrifuges. Nonetheless, Vice President Cheney made a televised statement that the administration knew, with “absolute certainty,” that Saddam had purchased the kind of aluminum tubes that he would have used to build centrifuges, had they not been intercepted.

POST# 11. THE HERO’S JOURNEY … OR NOT

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell observes that hero myths from cultures all around the world share a basic structure that he calls the monomyth:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

The monomyth is only the basic structure or template. Different hero myths add plot devices and stylistic elements to particular myths, which explains why they appear so unique and diverse to the untrained eye. However, some of the diverse plot devices have common features, and, if they appear, tend to appear at predictable points in the cycle. The monomyth has been diagrammed to illustrate the basic cycle and the most frequently recurring plot devices:

pastedGraphic.pdf

[Source: Wikipedia File: Herosjourney.svg]

Scholars of comparative myths, folk, and fairy tales have condensed the concept of the hero’s journey into the following paradigm:

Separation – Initiation – Return.

From a broader perspective, however, this can be the paradigm for all storytelling, especially if one substitutes the word “conflict” for “initiation.” That very substitution was made in a paradigm describing the structure of one subset of myths, fairy tales. The fairy tale paradigm is:

Childhood – conflict – Marriage.

The monomyth and the above two paradigms are similar in a number of ways. Most notably, they’re all cyclical, going from stability to instability and back again, with an enhancement or improvement at the return to stability.

The Trojan War Myth is a collection of heroic myths beneath an overarching theme: the mobilization of western civilization to recapture its honor from an eastern culture that ‘stole’ it. Though the shadow of Xeno’s eye is a re-telling of that myth, I never thought of it as heroic, even though Xeno, a soldier, overcomes obstacles while on a journey that changes him profoundly. The modern parallel story, our invasion of Iraq, is far from a heroic tale as a whole, though there were countless acts of heroism within it. I found myself unable to completely separate the question of whether shadow is a heroic journey from whether Xeno is a hero, in Campbell’s sense of the word. The starting point eventually came to me when I realized that what shadow was really about, the story it actually told, made it different from the Trojan War myth in which it’s set.

Shadow’s real story doesn’t begin until after Xeno leaves the horse and enters the palace with Menalaous. Xeno’s life history up to that point, and the myth of the Trojan War, are mere background elements. They provide setting, and make Xeno’s dark vision plausible. They position him to be in the horse, and explain his readiness to volunteer for the garrison. As a protagonist, he doesn’t volunteer for the story’s real journey or answer any call to it. He inadvertently stumbles into the real story in the palace’s servant quarters, and even then, mistakes it for something else until he, again inadvertently, backs into the truth of what he saw and did when he saved Menalaous’ life.

Campbell describes the climax of the hero’s journey as follows:

“Eventually, the hero encounters the purpose of his journey, the evil that brought him/her into the unknown, the conflict comes to a head, and the hero’s transformed”

There is no purpose to the journey on which shadow sends Xeno, nor does any great conflict come to a head. Xeno observes evil (power politics and emotion-laden propaganda that eventually becomes mythologized), but he doesn’t confront it, let alone conquer or slay it. He merely adapts as best he can. Xeno can’t be a hero because shadow is not a hero’s journey. Nor can he be an anti-hero, someone who undertakes a hero’s journey for the wrong reasons, or who bravely overcomes powerful forces on a corrupt journey (Huckleberry Finn, Danny Ocean of Ocean’s Eleven et seq., Dexter.)  He overcomes obstacles, but his struggle to adapt is a struggle merely to persevere, like a barnacle or a cockroach.

If Xeno isn’t a hero, what is he, and what does that make shadow? Though Xeno lives in antiquity, he serves as a surveillance camera, an audio-visual bug planted in private places, or on a surgical probe deep in the body’s recesses. He doesn’t go from the known into unknown worlds, or into the jaws of vastly more powerful forces, at least not to confront evil or encounter danger. He remains in the known world, but finds himself (yes, inadvertently) in the rarely observed part of the known world, bearing witness to its often unseen machinations. He’s a “camera eye” (apologies to John dos Passos and, apparently, to Rush), showing the all-too-real but unseen universe that’s right under our noses. Xeno as “camera eye” suggests that shadow is an expose. However, exposing “the face that launched a thousand ships” is not shadow’s climax, and is not followed by a denouement. That exposure merely ends Xeno’s first tour de force as the camera eye. What makes it a tour de force, however, is that the 21st century reader knows things that Xeno doesn’t and can’t possibly know, things that make Xeno’s observations prescient. When Agamemnon, leader of the invading western coalition, shouts “mission accomplished” and leaves only a skeletal occupation force because “they will welcome us as liberators,” 21st century readers realize (hopefully) that a parallel story is being told between the lines, the story of a 21st century western coalition that invaded Asia (Iraq) under false pretenses, with disastrous results. Then, as now, the toppling of an autocratic ruler frees local factions to resume their in-fighting. Then, as now, the stronger local factions eventually gain dominance, and the invading western coalition’s sacrifices (in terms of lives and finances) are rendered pointless.

Ironically, Xeno is transformed, though he doesn’t return to complete the hero-journey cycle, and his transformation doesn’t enhance him “with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” As he survives like a barnacle, just hanging on, he becomes alienated, estranged from his current and former culture alike, unable to take comfort in the iconic myths and symbols that people intuitively absorb and accept without question. Unlike counter-cultures, where the alienated reject prevailing myths and symbols in favor of counter myths and symbols, Xeno’s estrangement is from the very concept of myths and symbols as social constructs, because he’s seen how they were manipulated in a way that led people to deceive themselves. This kind of estrangement doesn’t bring similarly minded people together; they merely see other isolates equally adrift and realize their despair is not uniquely their own. That’s another reason why Xeno is “ … so alone. So alone.” (See POST #10. THE STRANGER) The reader undergoes at least a parallel, if not identical transformation, realizing how iconic american myths and symbols were manipulated to fraudulently justify an invasion of an asian civilization in the 21st century.

If Xeno is a camera eye, rather than a hero or anti-hero, leading us through  an un-heroic adventure that isn’t an expose, what is the shadow of Xeno’s eye? Though I call it a parable on shadow’s Smashwords page, it isn’t really a parable, because it isn’t succinct (far from it) and teaches no moral lesson. It’s allegorical, in that it has symbolic and subtextual meanings, but allegory, as I understand it, is a literary device or procedure rather than a genre, and shadow’s symbolic and subtextual meanings aren’t moral or judgmental. the shadow of Xeno’s eye is thus an allegorical something-or-other, but that’s all I know. I didn’t set out to invent a new genre, and don’t think I did. The story just doesn’t belong in conventional ways of thinking. But neither does Xeno. Neither do I.