Each perturbation smooth’d with outward calme,
Artificer of fraud; and was the first
That practisd falshood under saintly shew,
Deep malice to conceale, couch’t with revenge:
Yet not anough had practisd to deceive
~ John Milton, Paradise Lost. Book iv. Line 122 (1667)
John Milton was not writing about the neo-conservative cabal in the Pentagon. He was not talking about Donald Rumsfeld telling American last September that Iraq had amassed vast stockpiles of banned WMD. He did not say it was about the vehement denials of DCI George Tenet and the Office of the Vice President that Dick Cheney’s unusually frequent visits to the CIA and discussions with analysts constituted any kind of pressure to produce certain slants on the intelligence. He certainly wasn’t referring to Doug Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, saying that he asked only for intelligence that addressed the "peculiar conceptual challenges" of war with a terrorist network after 9-11 (you know, like how we can finally get Saddam now that we have been handed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity).
Preceding the opening selection, Milton gives us "Thus while he spake, each passion dimm’d his face, thrice chang’d with pale, ire, envie and despair, which marrd his borrow’d visage, and betraid him counterfet, if any eye beheld." Again — Milton wasn’t referring to our angry President Bush, sputtering that he has been truthful with us, he told the truth, he has been honest and open with the Congress as he led this country into one more Vietnamesque adventure. Not a war, of course, just a conflict, a liberation.
Of course it was. Afghanis and Iraqis have been liberated! Everyone is free now — everyone except those who value their nations’ sovereignty and their freedom to congregate and organize, except women and girls who value safety in the streets, except gun owners, small local businessmen, big local businessmen, home-grown media and religious groups. Did I leave anyone out?
Just to set the record straight, John Milton was not talking about the neocon cabal or King George W. Bush, master of all he surveys, even if he only surveys it from the tilted window of his Boeing at 31,000 feet.
Milton wrote of the devil, naming him liar, prevaricator, betrayer, he with borrowed visage, a counterfeit, artificer of fraud, practicer of falsehood under saintly show, a concealer of deep malice, couched with revenge, and he who smoothes each perturbation with outward calm. However, in Milton’s spirit of calling things by their right names, perhaps we could take a moment to recognize a few people!
Hmmm…Liar….could be anyone. We are looking for boring, simple, a four-letter word and all the possibilities therein. Without wasting undue energy, Frum wins! Goldberg came close, but he goes on and on and on and in circles, in a most unclear way, confusing people…maybe next year, Jonah, if you tighten it up a bit.
Betrayer? The competition is tough — and this is indeed a subjective award. My vote goes for the modern Trotskyite-Straussians — the shallow and obnoxious neocons in Washington would not be claimed by either of their intellectual parents. Wolfowitz and Perle would be the pot-smoking thirty-year-olds still living at home collecting unemployment, while downstairs Momma Strauss and Father Trotsky tell the neighbors their sons are away at school doing well, they hear.
He with borrowed visage? This award goes to the neo-conservative movement, hands down. True conservatives, libertarians, democrats, greens and independents can agree — two invasions and occupations in two years to reshape the Islamic world in preparation for World War IV is anything but conservative. Fascist imperialism touched by Sparta revived can never, even with pretty please and sugar on top, be conservatism. Even for practiced deceivers, this is a bridge too far.
Counterfeit? Oh, this will be tough. The neocon movement can’t win twice, and it is really a tiny movement anyway — thirty-minute shorts may be impressive, but they’ve never had staying power with mass audiences, and this one is has already peaked commercially. I’d have to give this award to Perle. His claim to fame is as one of Reagan’s arms negotiators, known then as the Prince of Darkness. He is slick and superior, but when the French decide to confiscate his home in France — yes, he has a chateau in France and enjoys it frequently, along with his soufflés and the other good things in life. What — you thought his insults of France were for real? About as real as his image of a public servant with no financial interests in selling his access to the highest bidders in both defense and homeland security. Actually, this wasn’t so hard after all!
Artificer of fraud? Many candidates have done well in this category. Krauthammer, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney. But my vote goes to Doug Feith. He doesn’t meet with the press very often, but when he does, his lies are artful, his frauds admirable, and his artifice sublime. You can find this value in just about anything he has ever said. My personal favorite is the time he responded to my question at a Pentagon Town Hall meeting about the role of the Defense Policy Board in making policy, considering that they often used a public forum not available to the actual policymakers, like himself. Feith’s answer included, "When they get together and talk about things, they frequently come up with questions or insights that are real value-added to the work that we do. And it’s — sometimes the value is in the form of their reporting to us what people in Asia or Europe or Latin America are saying or perceiving about our activities, and that’s very valuable input…" Sure it is, Doug. First of all — the DPB so far hasn’t done crap with Asia or Europe or Latin America, and second, are you trying to tell me the Rumsfeld Administration, er, Bush Administration has ever given a gnat’s eyelash about what other countries think? Fraudulation so masterful is indeed joy to behold. Mr. Feith, take a bow!
Practicer of falsehood under saintly show? Hands down, it’s Wolfowitz. In my personal observation of Wolfowitz, I was impressed with his inner glow, his kind demeanor, and his clear intelligence. He invades and liberates because it is good for the Palestinians, and all other Arabs who can do so well for themselves, if only we assist them a little. It is our role — dare I say it — as a [militarily] superior culture — to help push the Islamists into democracies that will be like ours someday — after we have occupied their countries and milked their resources for about thirty more years. He may be right. The Middle East is full of potential Washingtons and Jeffersons and Patrick Henrys, and it will be Wolfowitz’s destiny to help create them.
A concealer of deep malice, couched with revenge? Well — this is a tie between Cheney and Rumsfeld. But due to the egalitarian nature of our awards process, the winner is Dick Cheney. For a million reasons you already know. It also explains the heart problems.
Finally, he who smoothes each perturbation with outward calm? My vote goes to the grandfatherly Rummy, the great poet of neocon mantra chants. Inane repetitive sounds, grammar wrapped in a mystery inside of an incoherent articulation. Soothing enough to put babies and most of the American population into a restful sleep.
Kind of reminds you of that snake in the garden, you know, the talking one?
Come to think of it, they all do!
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.