AMNESIA ÜBER ALLES: Thank God for the Kim Kardashian controversy now engulfing Montecito, as well as the persistent questions about what Sheriff Bill Brown knew and when did he know it? Otherwise, I might feel compelled to focus on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the tsunami of collective necrophilia masquerading as patriotism — as if the tragic loss of 3,000 lives in that attack somehow ennobles the rest of us — about to overwhelm every square centimeter of the nation’s psychic space. In the days to come, we will be exhorted to “Never Forget!” But after the furious mind-scrub that took place in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I’m not sure what’s left to remember. Personally, I’m much happier contemplating the political fallout from Kardashian’s matrimonial blitzkrieg. The good people of Montecito are looking to roll a few heads because it appears Kardashian’s krew did not apply for all the necessary county permits before hijacking a stretch of Sycamore Canyon Road and dispatching two noisy helicopters over the $29-million Montecito estate where the $20-million wedding took place three weeks ago, August 20. They are especially incensed that Sheriff Brown — who had the gall to attend the event dressed in a tuxedo — never saw fit to notify other county permitting agencies of the true size and scale of the production in a timely manner even though he knew well in advance. Others have objected more practically that if Montecito was to be screwed, it should at least have gotten kissed. By that, they mean local government agencies should have gotten a much bigger payoff than a few hundred bucks for a media extravaganza that could ultimately generate $100 million in revenues. Others in the tourist trade are willing to content themselves with the priceless free advertising Montecito and Santa Barbara have garnered from all the secondhand smoke swirling about Kardashian’s nebulous fame. Kardashian is famously famous just for being famous. She doesn’t sing, dance, act, tell jokes, cure cancer, or save starving children. But her ass, I am assured, is one of the marvels of the modern world, epic in dimension and wondrous to behold. To those who regard the mere possession of a beauteous maximus — the attainment of callipygian perfection — a slim reed upon which to fix the global gaze, there is ample historic precedent. Helen of Troy may have had a face that launched a thousand ships, but it was her ass, I have it on impeccable authority, that men followed into battle. That, at least, was something. In stark contrast, former president George W. Bush did not have a great ass or even a good ass. Instead, he just was one. For citizens of the United States, that proved more than sufficient to follow him into futile battle and bankrupting what had then been the world’s reigning superpower.
By now, you all know the math. Three thousand were killed on 9/11; 6,000 American troops have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. But actually, the numbers are a little more complicated. When you toss in the private contractors, the American death toll is closer to 8,351, and according to a Brown University report, when you consider all of the United States’ allies, the number is more like 28,000 killed in battle. These numbers, compared to previous wars, seem extraordinarily low. That’s because we’ve learned better how to care for our wounded. According to the Pentagon, 90,000 Americans were medically evacuated from the war zone, 50,000 of whom were actually wounded in action. But 500,000 of the 1.25 million dispatched to Iraq or Afghanistan have filed medical claims for injuries sustained while on duty. As of 2010, the Veterans Administration reported 192,114 diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder and 195,547 traumatic brain injuries. That’s a lot of scrambled eggs. In terms of killing the “bad guys,” the numbers are all over the map. The English medical journal the Lancet estimated the Iraqi death toll at one million. Brown University puts the combined casualty count for Iraqi and Afghan civilians at 137,000. Who really knows?
In terms of dollars and cents, the United States has spent $1.3 trillion to date waging war in these two counties. According to the Brown University study, that number will mushroom to $3.2 trillion — and possibly as high as $4 trillion — when the lifetime cost of treating our veterans is factored in. The genius of Bush is that he waged war off the books; none of his budgets accounted for these expenditures. Barack Obama changed that policy, and now look at the mess we’re in. No wonder the Chinese are currently rebuilding the San Francisco Bay Bridge and poised to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It is worth remembering how on August 6, 2001, George W. Bush shrugged off warnings by his intelligence agencies that bin Laden was preparing an imminent strike within the United States, possibly using hijacked airplanes as weapons. After ignoring information then readily at his disposal, Bush would argue he needed extra-constitutional authority to wiretap our own citizens to keep them safe from further attack. Later, when his own intelligence agencies failed to provide any evidence linking bin Laden with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Bush and his advisors created a whole new “intelligence” bureaucracy that would tell them what they wanted to hear. Out of this, they conjured a number of threats they knew at the time to be false: that Saddam Hussein was aggressively seeking the capacity to make nuclear weapons, that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for 9/11, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Congress, even the Democrats, allowed themselves to be stampeded by the Bush White House and, in an act of craven calculation that makes even cynics blush, gave Bush the blank check he needed to wage the wrong war against the wrong enemy at the wrong time. Congressmember Lois Capps, to her everlasting credit, voted no.
Never forget? Why remember? In the meantime, we need to get to the bottom of this Kardashian wedding scandal.