Friday, March 25, 2011

Dancing With the Corpses



“If you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose”

-Charles Bukowski

Kirstie Alley glided across the dance floor, shaking her stuff, her gracefulness belied her girth and made her the early favorite to become the new avatar of all that is right in America, Dancing With the Stars is finally back. ABC, learning a lesson after last season’s near fiasco when waves of Teabagger activists stormed the online polls and nearly voted Bristol Palin America’s as favorite dancing queen, potentially alienating millions of non-Sarah Palin worshippers. The redultant big ratings turd that would have been floated in the punchbowl had the less talented teenage birther of bastards been allowed to steal the title. Opting for a lineup of less politically divisive ‘stars’ this time around DWTS gave Americans just the sort of sweet, sweet spike of mental morphine delivered digitally through the electronic crackpipe. The two-minute hate directed at whore-mongering cokehead Charlie Sheen has abetted for at least the time being, Obama’s new war and the nuclear travesty in Japan stealing most of the airplay. Americans love this stuff, it’s one hell of a distraction, I am waiting for some savvy entrepreneur to contract out to the oligarchy and start manufacturing giant balloons of Sheen’s head to fill with helium and fly in front of gas station price signs. Such is life on the big star spangled lemming farm , where the inhabitants graze away placidly in front of their big screen living room gods while awaiting the big culling of the herd. 

Ordinary Americans you see can't be bothered with the reality of the corporate wars waged under the big lie of spreading democracy and taking the fight to those who hate us for our freedoms and way of life. Truth is that we really aren't as free as advertised (just take a good look around someday) nor is U.S. democracy any other thing than what H.L. Mencken once remarked as that "every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods". Democracy in Der Heimat today is voting on American Idol and Dancing With the Stars, the real elections are nothing other than a Hobson's choice between two compromised, corrupted and amoral charlatans who were chosen precisely because of these traits by the oligarchy. Elections in American you see are a win-win situation for the pigs that run the system, given a false sense of legitimacy by a naive, childlike belief that change can still be realized at the ballot box/electronic voting machine when the entire democratic process is an illusion in itself. Sure there are the standard cultural populist issues that pollute the ballot and ensure that the most enormously stupid and hateful among us show up in sufficient numbers so as to make it a good show but when it all comes down to it there is no substantial difference between America's two rotten and irredeemably debased and venal political parties. There is really no substantive differences in the policies of the state itself no matter which party 'wins' control over the spoils system, the corporate giveaways only accelerate, impoverishing millions in the process, the police state continues to metastasize as the cancer on a once much more free society that it is and most importantly of all ...the wars continue. Not that Americans want to hear about them rather than the standard idiotic jingoist hogwash smothered in patriotic bullshit, there are dancing and talent contests to watch, ballgames to enjoy and the daily Vulcan style mind meld with their beloved telescreens to continue uninterrupted by any sort of reality lest their exoskeleton of denial be punctured. 

Death Came From The Skies: In Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five the author uses the books of a fictional science fiction writer named Kilgore Trout to insert social commentary into his overall story. One of ‘Trout’s’ tales addressed the strange contradictions of a society that will accept with open arms one who kills civilians with state sanction during wartime while ostracizing one for silly, superficial reasons:

This, too, was the title of a book by Trout, The Gutless Wonder. It was about a robot who had bad breath, who became popular after his halitosis was cured. But what made the story remarkable, since it was written in 1932, was that it predicted the widespread use of burning jellied gasoline on human beings. It was dropped on them from airplanes. Robots did the dropping. They had no conscience, and no circuits which would allow them to imagine what was happening to the people on the ground.

Trout's leading robot looked like a human being, and could talk and dance and so on, and go out with girls. And nobody held it against him that he dropped jellied gasoline on people. But they found his halitosis unforgivable. And then he cleared that up, and he was welcomed to the human race.

Vonnegut was actually present at Dresden on the night that allied bombers laid waste to the ‘Florence of the Elbe’, a historic city as well as a non-military target with little or no air defense system that was packed with refugees and prisoners and was targeted by bombers that incinerated over one hundred thousand civilians. Vonnegut spoke of seeing the boiled bodies of schoolgirls floating in a water tower through his character Billy Pilgrim and also of being forced to dig through the wreckage in the aftermath to find "corpse mines" and described the odor of the bodies:

“They didn’t smell bad at first…but then the bodies rotted and liquefied, and the stink was like roses and mustard gas”

He also spoke of a character, another soldier who died of the dry heaves from having to go down into a corpse mine and being overcome by the stench:

“He tore himself to pieces, throwing up and throwing up”

Dresden doesn’t get much mention when it comes to the history of the 'good war', neither does the decimation of the Japanese homeland by the fire-bombing of civilian areas. Before Fat Man and Little Boy were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima the land of the rising sun had been brought to it's knees by a long-running series of B-29 incendiary bombings led by General Curtis LeMay a ruthless efficiency obsessed madman with the nickname of "Bombs Away LeMay". LeMay led a withering series of bombings on 64 Japanese cities with the worst being the flaming hell from the skies unleashed on Tokyo on March 9-10, 1945 when nearly one hundred thousand human beings were incinerated. So intense was that bombing that according to one writer, Nicholas Von Hoffman, that the heat “boiled the water in lakes and ponds, cooking those who fled to safety there like human lobsters”. LeMay once said that "killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at that time... I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal". The murderous actions of the U.S. government against the non-caucasian enemy du jour in any of our great imperialist wars and conflicts including Barack Obama's humanitarian bombardment of Libya as well as the financial windfall that the destruction of lives and infrastructure reap for the moneychangers and blood barters rarely if ever intrude on the consciousness of the masses of asses who couldn't be bothered with the slaughter that is carried out on their taxpayer dime. Kilgore Trout’s’ The Gutless Wonder is a perfect metaphor for the apathetic and dumbed-down  philistines who allow for the murder of innocents to take place in their name as long as the reality doesn’t intrude upon their futile pursuit of happiness. I know people who regularly flock to local air shows when they take place every year to marvel at the military planes, drool over the displays of armaments, eat, drink and be merry with that one big disconnect from reality ensuring their pleasure. Aerial bombardment and cruise missiles are not only extraordinarily expensive but also representative of the sanitized killing and innate gutlessness of modern drone warfare where airstrikes can be launched from a distance in the comfort of air conditioned command centers by men with video screens and joysticks. Roger Waters accurately described it as the Bravery of Being out of Range:











In something more contemporary than World War II atrocities one needs only to read Chris Hedges' latest gut-wrenching essay The Body Baggers of Iraq. In the piece, Hedges who is the preeminent moral voice in this feculent cadaver of a republic pulls back the red, white and blue bunting on the blessed glory of war that is revered by armchair patriots. He details the story of Jess Goodell, a worker in the Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs unit whose job was to "collect and catalog" the corpses and possessions of those poor, fucked-over "heroes" who paid the ultimate price so that Americans could remain free to be decadent, slothful, timorous, self-obsessed nitwits whose only Earthly purpose is to be ready to bare their jugulars whenever the monsters that are the corporate vampire class are ready to feed. The piece is not for anyone possessing either a weak stomach nor an animal instinct to remain in denial about the glamorous and noble nature of war that they have been sold through movies and television. War is a vile, stinking morass of human misery, blood, vomit, dead babies, shattered lives and those who have gotten obscenely wealthy and powerful in turning the filth, fury and soul-sucking degradation into just more revenue flows that they use to gamble in the markets on more defense stocks that feed the demon that can never be full enough of the gore and gold upon which it feeds. To once again quote the late, great Hunter S. Thompson.."All political power comes from the barrel of either guns, pussy, or opium pipes, and people seem to like it that way." It has worked wonders for the psychotics who run this place now and while that precious nugget of real truth is an even bigger bout of skull-fuckery that is best left to the hard core truth-seekers and cynics...

But I digress....

The Body Baggers of Iraq is just awesome in it's sustained intensity and you will never see anything even remotely resembling something like this in even the most 'liberal' bastions of the corporate propaganda system that serves as the media here in Fortress USA. I excerpt the following from that piece:


The unit processed about half a dozen suicides. The suicide notes, she said, almost always cited hazing. Women, she said, were constantly harassed, especially sexually, but it often did not match the systematic punishment and humiliation meted out to men who were deemed to be inadequate Marines. She said that Marines who were overweight or unable to do the physical training were subjected to withering verbal and physical abuse. They were called “fat nasties” and “shit bags.” The harassed Marines would be assigned to other individual Marines and become their slaves. They would be sent on punishing runs in which many of them vomited. They would be forced to bear-crawl—walk on all fours—the length of a football field and back. This would be followed by sets of monkey fuckers—bending down, grabbing the ankles, crouching down like a baseball catcher and then standing up again—followed by a series of other exercises that went on until the Marines collapsed.

“They make these Marines do what they call ‘bitch’ work,” Goodell said. “They are assigned to be someone else’s ‘bitch’ for the day. We had a guy in our platoon, not in Iraq but in California, and he was overweight. He was on remedial PT, which meant he went to extra physical training. When he came to work he was rotated. One day he was with this corporal or this sergeant. One day he was sent to me. I had him for an hour. I remember sending him outside and making him carry things. It was very common for them to dig a hole and fill it back up with sand or carry sand bags up to the top of a hill and then carry them down again.”

The unit was sent to collect the bodies of the Marines who killed themselves, usually by putting rifles under their chins and pulling the trigger.

“We had a Marine who was in a port-a-john when he blew his face off,” she said. “We had another Marine who shot himself through the neck. Often they would do it in the corner of a bunker or an abandoned building. We had a couple that did it in port-a-johns. We had to go in and peel and pull off chunks of flesh and brain tissue that had sprayed the walls. Those were the most frustrating bodies to get. On those bodies we were also on cleanup crew. It was gross. We sent the suicide notes home with the bodies.”

---

“One of the first convoys we went to was one where the Army had been traveling over a bridge and an IED had exploded,” she said. “It had literally shot a seven-ton truck over the side and down into a ravine. Marines were already going down into the ravine. We were just getting out of our vehicles. We were putting on our gloves and putting coverings over our boots. I was with a Marine named Pineda. I was coming around the Humvee and there was a spot on the ground that was a circle. I looked at it and thought something must have exploded here or near here. I went over to look at it. I looked in and saw a boot. Then I noticed the boot had a foot in it. I almost lost my lunch.”

“In the seven-ton truck the [body of the] assistant driver, who was in the passenger seat, was trapped in the vehicle,” she said. “All of his body was in the vehicle. We had to crawl in there to get it out. It was charred. Pineda and I pulled the burnt upper torso from the truck. Then we removed a leg. Some of the remains had to be scooped up by putting out hands together as though we were cupping water. That was very common. A lot of the deaths were from IEDs or explosions. You might have an upper torso but you need to scoop the rest of the remains into a body bag. It was very common to have body bags that when you picked them up they would sink in the middle because they were filled with flesh. The contents did not resemble a human body.”

The members of the mortuary unit were shunned by the other Marines. The stench of dead flesh clung to their uniforms, hair, skin and fingers. Two members of the mortuary unit began to disintegrate psychologically. One began to take a box of Nyquil tablets every day and drink large quantities of cold medicine. He was eventually medevaced out of Iraq.

“Our cammies would be stained with blood or with brains,” she said. “When you scoop up the meat it often would get on the cuffs of our shirts. You could smell it, even after you took off your gloves. We weren’t washing our cammies everyday. Your cuff comes to your face when you eat. Physically we were stained with remains. We had a constant smell like rotten meat, which I guess is what it was since often the bodies had been in the sun and the heat for a long time. The flesh had gone bad. The skin on a body in the hot sun slides off. The skin detaches itself from the layer beneath and slides around on itself.”


---

Her unit once had to recover two Marines who had drowned in a lake. It appeared one had leapt in to save the other. The bodies, which were recovered after a couple of days by Navy divers, were grotesquely swollen. One of the Marines was so bloated and misshapened that the body was difficult to carry on a litter.

“His neck was as wide as his bloated head, and his stomach jutted out like a barrel,” she writes in the book. “His testicles were the size of cantaloupes. His face was white and puffy and thick. Not fat, but thick. It was unreal. He looked like a movie prop, with thick, gray, waxy skin and the thick purple lips. We couldn’t stop looking at these bodies because they were so out of proportion and so disfigured and because, still, they looked like us.”

It was hardest to look into the faces of the dead. She and the other members of the mortuary unit swiftly covered the faces when they worked on the bodies. They avoided looking at the eyes of the corpses.

Once, the unit had to process seven Marines killed in an explosion. Seven or eight body bags were delivered to the bunker.

“We had clean body bags set up so we could sort the flesh,” she said. “Sometimes things come in with nametags. Or sometimes one is Hispanic and you could tell who was Hispanic and who was the white guy. We tried separating flesh. It was ridiculous. We would open a body bag and there was nothing but vaporized flesh. There were not four hands or a whole leg in a bag. We tried to distribute the mush evenly throughout the bags. We were trying to do the best we could sorting it out. We had the last body bag come in. We opened up the body bag and it was filled with the heads. I looked at four before looking away. Not only did we have to look at them, we had to pick them up and figure out who it belonged to. The eyes were looking back at us. We got used to a lot of it. But the heads worked the other way. They affected us more strongly as time passed. We saw on the heads the expressions of fright and horror. It made us wonder what we were doing here.”

She processed one Marine whose face was twisted at the moment of death by rage. The face of this Marine began to haunt her.

“I had this feeling that something awful had occurred,” she said. “The way he had come in and stiffened he had this look to his face that made my stomach curl. It looked angry. Often expressions on bodies would look fearful and hurt. The faces looked as though they had received death. But this face looked like he had given death.”

She and the other members of the unit became convinced they could feel and hear the souls of the dead Marines they had processed and housed in their reefers.


The pernicious nature of war not only destroys flesh and buildings, it destroys lives of those who survive and then must cope with the horrific and immoral acts that their government has ordered them to participate in. Those with a conscience like Goodell are haunted by the experience and are able to channel it into some sort of action that is redemptive, such as speaking out with the truth. Others, take for example Army Specialist Jeremy Morelock of Wasila, Alaska (how ironic) and the "Kill Team" who was just sentenced to 24 years in prison for his murdering for fun of Afghan civilians. While Morelock becomes the example and the sacrificial lamb for the ongoing carnage in America's wars. How many other Jeremy Morelocks are not going to be brought up on charges and will return home one day, trained killers with sociopathic personality disorders and who will be absorbed into the police state apparatus as law enforcement personnel? Food for thought isn't it?






Outback's Shameless Corporate War Profiteering


To borrow from the Marine Corps vernacular referenced in the Hedges' piece one could accurately peg the majority of Americans as "shit bags", "fat nasties", "money fuckers" and "slaves" so worthless and pathetic they have been during the rise of the fascist state. More of the lemmings here in God's chosen land of plenty pour our their emotions in acts of lunacy like mourning the death of multi-millionaire movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, a woman who lived the good life and through her the inhabitants of idiot nation lived vicariously, just as they do when it comes to all of the false idols that they sanctimoniously deify while the wallow in the shame, cowardice and willful ignorance that passes for their pitiful little lives. I remember back in the days after the prior vainglorious Emperor George W. Bush unleashed the full fury of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex on Saddam Hussein's Iraq back in 2003, at that time gas was still cheap, the grand fraud of the Wall Street housing bubble was years from reaching critical mass and piggish and still traumatized by the 'terrorist' attacks on 9/11 were braying for blood. The roads were filled with mega-sizes SUV's and goddammit if there wasn't one of those idiotic fucking yellow ribbon magnets on the ass end of each one. It was futile trying to convince the average American dumbass that their over-consumption of the precious black gold was what our heroic military 'heroes' were being sent into the meat-grinder to kill, be maimed for life or die for. Back in that day those who dared to question were shouted down as "traitors", "terrorist-appeasers", "enemies of the state" and the worst of all pejoratives..."unpatriotic" back when it was scary to dissent against Bush's maniac crusades for neocon doctrine. Those were disturbing times for those of us who were only starting to come to the realization (as with me) that it was all bullshit, before the early internet insurgents....after years of relative 'peace' it was a total war of civilizations. Eventually though the truth became to seep out, the internet gave many of us a place to organize and educate ourselves and the always greed-crazed corporate carnivores latched onto the wars as another marketing tool. 


The wars have not only not been televised to Americans but are now shamelessly used by corporations who equate patriotic fervor with profits. The participation of national restaurant chains like Outback Steakhouse in Operation Homefront are cynically used to sell steaks and blooming onions to blooming idiots (I wonder how that meat would taste if Chris Hedges' piece were slipped into the menus), Wal-Marts are festooned in the red-white and blue despite an inventory of poorly constructed garbage made in China and "support the troops" has become a guaranteed money maker to lure consumers. The worst offenders of course is FOX and nothing is more indicative of their cheerleading for murder than the NFL coverage, take for example the use of Veterans Day weekend in 2009 to promote the 'patriotism' of the foreign pig Rupert Murdoch. FOX's pregame show was held on a set in Afghanistan (see Militarist Masturbation) where ex jocks and grinning shit salesmen like Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw immersed the FOX brand in the sort of glorification of the war machine that would do Leni Riefenstahl proud. There is no important football game that doesn't feature a tax dollar wasting flyover and this year's Super Bowl in Jerry Jone's gauche Texas temple of avarice was vomit inducing so soaked in red-meat flag waving and war worshipping hyperbole was it. It goes over real well with those who in the true modern American way love to park their fat asses on their couches in front of their big screen televisions and cheer for others to die just as long as they don't have to do the fighting.


I will close with this excerpt from the classic antiwar book by Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun:


You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else’s life. They’re plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and legislatures and congress. That’s their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously. They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.

Hmmmm..

But what do the dead say?

Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I’m glad I’m dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say I’m glad I died to make the world safe for democracy? Did they say that I like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it’s good to think I got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me I’m dead but I died for decency and that’s better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here I am I’ve been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it’s wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I’m happy see how I sing even though my mouth is choked with worms?

Nobody but the dead know whether all these things people talk about are worth dying for or not. And the dead can’t talk. So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead. If a man says death before dishonor he is either a fool or a liar because he doesn’t know what death is. He isn’t able to judge. He only knows about living. He doesn’t know anything about dying. If he is a fool and believes in death before dishonor let him go ahead and die.



So it goes...