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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

John Yoo: Son of Belial

Yet once more, as part of our continuing occasional series of quixotic attempts to think through the Bush Administration by way of early modern politics.

I happened to catch an interview with John Yoo on NPR recently. He's oh-so-reasonable and willing to listen to the opposing side, with a "that's a very good question" here and an "I think that's the most important criticism you can make of my view" there. In the end, of course, his reasonable and carefully considered views have led our government apparently to commit war crimes and have made it rather difficult for several among them to take that long-planned vacation to Germany any time soon. I expected Terry Gross to introduce him as "graceful and humane," adding:
A fairer person lost not Heav'n; he seemd
For dignity compos'd and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his Tongue
Dropt Manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest Counsels: for his thoughts were low;
To vice industrious, but to Nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful: yet he pleas'd the eare,
And with perswasive accent thus began.
John Yoo, son of Belial, welcome to Fresh Air.

As for Terry Gross herself, that soft and honey-dripping voice of hers grates on me like the gnawing hellhounds consuming the bowels of their mother Sin. But that's another story.

  • At 11/14/2006 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    No, I like Terry Gross! She's cool. Her voice is annoying, yes, but she was hilariously dry talking to the apocalyptic evangelical guy who believed that the New Orleans Gay Pride parade caused hurricane Katrina.

    Maybe I have a soft spot for Philadelphians though.


  • At 11/14/2006 04:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I don't like Belial as an analogue for Yoo--after all, "with words cloth'd in reason's garb/[He] counsell'd ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth." And really, I think I'd like Yoo a whole lot better if he were going around counseling sloth.

    Yoo's slickness reminds me most of our boy Satan himself--particularly the way that Satan manages to pretend that the council of demons is a democratic process, and that it's just total coincidence that Beelzebub winds up proposing exactly the same plan that Satan ran by him in Book I.

    But admittedly: in this administration, there's some pretty stiff competition for the role of Satan.


  • At 11/14/2006 05:09:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    You may be right, Flavia; the parallel cannot be extended that far. It's the logic-chopping and pleasing rhetoric in the face of apparent sin that struck me.

    Now, as for Terry Gross, I refuse to budge!


  • At 11/14/2006 07:14:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Flavia raises a good point -- and one could add that *PL* notoriously gives us several different Satans: the smooth-talking, good-looking Satan of Books 2 and 3 (who can still be mistaken for an angel), then the progressively more snaky and debased Satan heading towards Book 10. Ie, that may be Cheney, or maybe mr. epistemology himself, Rumsfeld.

    As for our illustrious President? He's got to be the front: Beelzebub.


  • At 11/14/2006 08:01:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I hate to admit this, but I kind of like Mr. Epistemology. Not the whole war criminal part of his character, but the Mr. Epistemology part. He's right, there are things we know we know, things we know we don't know, and things we don't know we don't know. I understood what he was saying, and even agreed with it--it's just that I knew war with Iraq would be a disaster, and he didn't. And I liked his "Henny Penny, the Sky is Falling!" colloquialisms--found them semi-ironically folksy rather than faux folksy (as with GWB). If I'm ever made Secretary of Defense, you can expect more such Rumsfeldian moments from yours truly.

    Oh, and I definitely vote Cheney as Satan and Bush as Beelzebub. With his deep voice and confident tone, Cheney can convince, and has convinced, journalists and voters that up is down, black is white, etc. Hell, I'd probably raise myself from the Stygian floods if he started barking at me to arise, awake, or be forever fallen.

    (Imagine Bush giving that speech: "Uh, see, what we gotta do is we gotta rise. We got to arise, ya see....")

    And I too like Terry Gross. Don't even mind her voice.


  • At 11/14/2006 08:07:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    On Rumsfeld's famous "known knowns" quotation, the best criticism I've seen is Slavoj Zizek's piece called, "What Rumsfeld Doesn't Know that He Knows about Abu Ghraib." It's really hilarious and contains the following brilliant paragraph:

    In March 2003, Rumsfeld engaged in a little bit of amateur philosophizing about the relationship between the known and the unknown: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." What he forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the "unknown knowns," the things we don't know that we know-which is precisely, the Freudian unconscious, the "knowledge which doesn't know itself," as Lacan used to say.


  • At 11/15/2006 05:39:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    Cheney as Satan doensn't have my vote, I'm afraid. The man's got no remorse, no gruding appreciation for humanity.

    Cheney could only be Satan if you ignore Book IV.


  • At 11/15/2006 10:11:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    But my dear Muse, you're forgetting Cheney's great appreciation for certain segments of humanity, like lobbyists and oilmen, an appreciation I'd be willing to label grudging, if only because in everything he does and thinks he strikes me as somewhat grudging. And he has plenty of remorse, just not for the things we'd typically expect: for example, there were so many economic opportunities that we weren't able to exploit in Iraq, so many defense contracts Halliburton didn't win, etc.


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