Bush: Dumber Than A Comic Book

The Washington Post brings up the the "confused pep-talk" that our Prez gave to his top commanders after four contractors were brutally killed in Fallujah in 2004, according to Ricardo Sanchez, then the commander of US forces in Iraq:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to
stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We
must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close.
It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare
us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is
being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong!
Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe
them out! We are not blinking!"

The usually thoughtful Tom Englehardt of The Nation works this attack on Bush into a larger attack on movies in general and Iron Man in particular, talking of cartoon villains who are "not only fanatical, but usually at the very edge of madness as well."

But this makes one wonder if Englehardt even saw the movie, or if his politics have blurred his vision. Yes, the movie includes some cartoon villains obviously modeled after the Taliban, who indeed are not beyond punishing innocents, including the people of Afghanistan (as in the movie) or their cultural icons. But in the movie they are pawns of fate, as goons in movies (and fiction) usually are, and certainly not the chief or worthy antagonist to our hero.

No, the real villain is a corporate string-puller, Obadiah Stone, whose very name hints at a fanatical devotion of his own, but to money, not faith. As Roger Ebert, America’s greatest movie critic, points out, in a recent review: "Jeff Bridges makes Obadiah Stane one of the great superhero villains by seeming plausibly concerned about the stock price."

Exactly: Stone looks like a villain, with his bald pate and ominously outre beard, but it is his cold rationality — thinly veiled in a cloak of phony concern for the "misguided" Tony Stark — that makes him truly chilling. This is realism, Mr. Englehardt, this is how corporate titans get their way, by making a hero like Tony Stark appear mad because he no longer wants to play the corporate imperialist game.

God! Can’t anyone read a comic book anymore?

Fortunately, someone can — here’s Spencer Ackerman on the dramatization of imperialism that is Iron Man:

…when Stark sees that his company has made him little more than a
playboy version of infamous black-market arms merchant Viktor Bout, his
answer is to both get out of the weapons trade and to use Iron Man to
right Stark Industries’ wrongs. When asked by his personal
assistant/love interest Pepper Potts why he’s doing something that will
most likely get him killed, Stark replies, plaintively but with
conviction, "I finally know what I have to do, and I know in my heart
that it’s right."

Spoken like a true imperialist. Heroism, when applied to foreign
policy, is a moral vanity that usually prescribes a cure more corrosive
than the disease it confronts.

In his analysis, Ackerman focuses on imperialism, somewhat overlooking I think the core fantasy in recent American history, which is that technology has the answer to all our problems.

If only I can merge with a machine, thinks Tony Stark, then all my problems will be solved.

Not, as the movie shows. If only our president had had half the insight of this comic book movie, how much better off we would have been…

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