[Marxism] Mercenaries: THE HORROR!

Chris Brady cdbrady at sbcglobal.net
Sat Apr 3 01:46:44 MST 2004

Steele's "Kurtz" hit me.  Not again!  The motion picture Apocalypse Now
was a Vietnamized version of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902),
the literary tour de force against imperialism of the Edwardian Period.

T. S. Eliot edited the phrase "Mistah Kurtz, he dead" out of the
published version of The Waste Land (1922), but he did purposefully
retrieve it to introduce The Hollow Men (1925):


          Mistah Kurtz-he dead.
                    A penny for the Old Guy
Remember us--if at all-- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Mercenaries.  Condotierri.  Well-paid soldiers of fortune.  Violent,
empty souls.  Conrad's narrator Marlowe insisted Mr. Kurtz was "a
remarkable man."  Mr. Kissinger was also a remarkable man.  You have
read some of the *remarks* on this list.  Conrad's Kurtz mumbled his
dying words: "The horror! The horror!"  Yes, indeed.

"Mistah Kurtz's New Job", in full below, was written exactly one year
ago.  It ties the ferocity of the current fiasco to its strategic
values, an overwhelming realpolitik not unfamiliar to imperialists of
any era, and ends with an ironic twist.

Mistah Kurtz's New Job 
America's heart of darkness

by Paul Brennan, OC Weekly (Orange County, California [Village Voice
Media Publications]), April 4 - 10, 2003 

One of the ways I've been getting war news is by listening to the BBC
and the CBC online while I'm working on the computer.  On the whole, I
think I might prefer the Canadians, but listening to the CBC the other
day was more than a little unpleasant.  They had an interview with
Harlan K. Ullman, which they ran multiple times, so I ended up listening
to the repulsive fuck over and over.

If you don't know the name Harlan K. Ullman, you certainly know his
work: he is the principal author of the book Shock and Awe: Achieving
Rapid Dominance and the intellectual father of the strategy.  He is, as
you would expect, morally bankrupt, in a sort of bureaucrat of death

The book Shock and Awe was first published by the National Defense
University Press in 1996.  Ullman spoke of how he tried to interest the
Clinton administration in this strategy to no avail; he could barely
hide his contempt for these nonbelievers.  Naturally, he has a higher
opinion of the Bush regime, but there's still a problem: they aren't
bombing enough.  He's worried they are letting concerns for public
opinion and other political factors dissuade them from truly Shocking
and Awing.  He explained at some length just what a good thing an
unimaginably massive aerial bombardment is for all involved, especially
those being bombed. 

It's not worth recounting exactly what he said, but the high-minded
rhetoric he wrapped around this callous nonsense reminded me of
something-but what?  For the past couple of days, I've been nagged by
the feeling I've heard all this somewhere before.  Last night, it came
to me: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  Shock and Awe-and, indeed,
the whole Bush idea that flexing our high-tech military might in the
Middle East will remake the wicked everywhere into models of democratic
values-sounds like nothing so much as Mr. Kurtz's report to the
International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs (the
Victorian equivalent of the Project for the New American Century?),
which Marlowe recounts for his listeners in Chapter 2: 

He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of view of
development we had arrived at, "must necessarily appear to them
[savages] in the nature of supernatural beings-we approach them with the
might as of a deity," and so on and so on.  "By the simple example of
our will, we can exert a power for good practically unbounded," etc.,

But Marlowe says the report was missing something: 

There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases,
unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently
much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a
method.  It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to
every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying,
like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: "Exterminate all the brutes!"

Shock and Awe.  Luminous and Terrifying.  The famous line "Mistah
Kurtz-he dead" needs updating: "Mistah Kurtz-he got a consulting
contract with the Pentagon."

___________ End ___________

A real Mr. Kurtz did indeed, did indeed.

O'Reilly et al, salute:
"Exterminate all the brutes!"  

The present resonates with the past.
We should know the signs at last,
Yet live in times of farce,
Led into war again by an arse.

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