Battlepanda: Iraq: Botticelli or Jackson Pollock?


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Iraq: Botticelli or Jackson Pollock?

I spent the six years after high school studying art in one institution or another, so when I glanced below the fold of today's Taipei Times, the following headline naturally caught my eye: Iraq is a 'work of art in progress,' says US general. Major General William Caldwell is quoted as saying " Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire."

Having never been in the armed services, I am loathe to apply scorn and criticism to men and women braver and more dedicated than myself, but with that caveat on the record, I am dismayed and disappointed by the Major General's words. The appeal to history's vindication of this war stands in stark contrast to recent events: the dismantling of checkpoints erected to search for a missing soldier at what is ultimately the behest of Muqtada al Sadr, the leaked chart from US Central Command which depicts unmistakably the country's accelerating slide towards chaos (CentCom's choice of wording, not mine), and reports of bomb blasts and discoveries of headless bodies so frequent as to seem inevitable. When I hear this manner of talk, it brings me back to the unnamed White House aide who coined the infamous phrase 'reality-based community' as a patronizing epithet, and how this Bizarro-worldview is chillingly echoed by the neoconservative dead-enders who, having seen reality fail to conform to their radical philosophy, seem to maintain that it is reality that is in error.

Anyone who majors in art necessarily minors in bullshit. It trains you to spot both when you see them. If Major General Caldwell chooses to refer to Iraq as a work of art, then I must ask who was the inspiration. Francis Bacon? Hieronymous Bosch? At the risk of torturing the metaphor to the point of massive organ failure and/or death, I might add that it would have helped if our commander in chief and his defense secretary had sketched a few thumbnails before breaking out the brushes back in 2003.