Thursday, February 27, 2003

I don’t usually go in for this kind of stuff, but I couldn’t resist. Listened to Democracy Now on the road to work this morning. Amy Goodman interviewed Robert Fisk (from whom the ‘blogging term “Fisking” gets its infamous name) and Chris Hedges, a New York Times reporter and author of a book: War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. They both, naturally, oppose a U.S.-led war on Iraq. So do I. However, their rhetoric and arguments make me wonder why.

After listening to a clip of George Bush’s AEI speech of yesterday evening, Fisk lashed out in righteous dudgeon about how he is sick and tired of Bush and company invoking Winston Churchill. Bush’s statement is as follows:
After all, the United Nations was created, as Winston Churchill said, to "make sure that the force of right will, in the ultimate issue, be protected by the right of force.")
Fisk objects because, of course, “Mr. Bush is not Winston Churchill.” More generally, he is sick and tired of present-day leaders “Trotting out the bloody second world war over and over again.” This is because “Hitler died in a bunker in 1945 and the Second World War is over.” He went on to decry the
“little people; Saddam, Bush, Blair, little men strutting like pathetic Shakespearean actors on the world stage trying to urge us all on to war without any personal experience.”

To his credit he quickly noted that perhaps Saddam Hussein does have some war experience after all. But soon afterwards he returned to the issue of the relative small stature of Bush, Blair, and Hussein referring to

“these little men, these pygmies.”

I was startled by Fisk’s use of the term “pygmy.” This does not seem terribly PC or sensitive to the peoples who used to be known in the Western world by this appellation (for an interesting explication of actual pygmies and their history and position in Africa, see Jared Diamond’s fascinating Guns, Germs, and Steel).

But more interesting to me as a Korea watcher is the fact that President Bush has routinely been taken to task for his labeling North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a pygmy. (more criticism here, and here). Apparently if Bush uses the term “pygmy”, it is a sign of his simple-mindedness, his aggressive cowboy mentality, and his lack of understanding and/or respect for others. But when Fisk uses the term it is merely a vivid description.

Even more interestingly, in the same segment in which Fisk declares his disgust with using examples or rhetoric from the Second World War, he does the same thing himself. In order to illustrate how terrible war is, he invoked the Battle of Seelow Heights, a battle between German and Soviet forces along the Elbe River in April 1945 (Fisk mistakenly says February 1945), noting that 30,000 soldiers died in a matter of days and that we’re still digging up the bodies at “a rate of 1,000 a day.” Leaving aside the fact that if we're digging them up at a rate of 1,000 a day we would be done in a month, why would someone who is sick and tired of people in “your country” (e.g. Americans) “trotting out the bloody second world war over and over again” do the same thing within minutes? Does he even think at all about what he is saying? Does he assume that no one really listens? Does he care?

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