The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I found Terry Jones' series Barbarians a little lightweight, as with most BBC documentaries these days, but fascinating nonetheless. The book covers the same ground and presents the same arguments, but in much more depth. I didn't know, though should have guessed, that Caesar's invasion of Gaul was carried out on the pretext of protecting a client tribe from its enemies - who, Jones says, weren't enemies at all, but just happened to be migrating across their territory. The real reason was gold. The Celts of Gaul were rich, and Caesar was broke.

Given how close this is in nature if not time to America's Middle Eastern adventures, I should have remembered the following quote, from Gore Vidal's Dreaming War:

Many commentators of a certain age have noted how Hitlerian our Junta sounds as it threatens first one country for harbouring terrorists and then another. It is true that Hitler liked to pretend to be the injured - or threatened - party before he struck. But he had a great many predecessors not least Imperial Rome. Stephen Gowans' War in Afghanistan: A $28 Billion Racket quotes Joseph Schumpteter, who in 1919,

'described ancient Rome in a way that sounds eerily like the United States in 2001: "There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented....The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbours."'


At 9 September 2006 at 13:38 , Blogger Joe said...

An eternal song of the strong and belligerent, I'm afraid. Just look at our own not-so-distant history and how the British created the biggest empire in world history but often justified it by saying it was to bring peace and civilisation to 'backward' and 'violent' regions.

It's not just on the nation-state scale either, even at the personal level this kind of bullying behaviour goes on, from the thug who bellows "what are you looking at" as a 'justification' for having a go at a complete stranger walking past. It's classic bully-victim archetype behaviour. The bad guy strikes first with a flimsy excuse - think Bill Hicks' joke about Jack Palance in Shane and how he relates this to US foreign policy as the 'bullies of the world' ("pickup the gun"). The good guys have to draw second. Except for Han Solo in the original cut of Star Wars when he shoots Greedo of course :-)

At 9 September 2006 at 13:56 , Blogger Joe said...

Forgot to mention there in Adam Roberts' latest novel, Gradisil, he has an entire legal department of lawyer-officers in the US armed forces who carefully plan out exactlty which legal justification they can use in advance of each campaign, then have to try to stick to that plan or they could violate laws and be sued. So the spin doctors come up with a 'justification' for action (hey, 45 minutes, people, 45 minutes!) then the legal officers draw up a plan with the actual combat officers for how the campaign can be 'legally' prosecuted so as not to expose the US to international law courts. Mind you, this is Science Fiction - in the real world they don't seem to give a monkeys about international law.


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