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First We Take Brian Williams

First We Take Brian Williams

Here’s what Brian Williams said when he cut in on The Rachel Maddow Show to break the news of Thursday night’s missile strike against a Syrian air base:

“I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen. ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’ And they are beautiful pictures of, of fearsome armaments.”

The quote is from “First We Take Manhattan.” While the Leonard Cohen fans I know preferred a verse from “The Story of Isaac”

(You who build the altars now
to sacrifice these children,
you must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision,
and you never have been tempted
by a demon or a god.
You who stand above them now,
your hatchets blunt and bloody,
you were not there before,
when I lay upon a mountain
and my father’s hand was trembling
with the beauty of the Word.),

it was good Brian Williams called the missiles beautiful—which is to say it was appropriate, as Flavorwire pointed out. (I am guided by the beauty of all prior think pieces.) I’d much rather our talking heads find nothing beautiful in war, but seeing as they do, it’s better that they tell us straight.

Compare Williams’s take to those of most pundits, who hid their irrational gratification behind essentialist gibberish. Fareed Zakaria was asked what happened Thursday night. He said, “I think Donald Trump became President of the United States.”

And Michael Duffy said about the missile strike, “But it made me think, ‘Oh, he now is finally putting on this uniform for the first time.’”

Elliot Abrams wrote that “the Trump administration can truly be said to have started only now” that he has “finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.” As in the missile strike.

That kind of pronouncement tells us something important too, namely that war as the quintessential American act is a concept planted deep in our psyche. But vague talk of our responsibility as a world power “to enforce international norms” obscures the selfish and irrational motivations that drive us to kill.

“Whoo! Whoo!” Fareed Zakaria should have said. “That, my friend, is how we do it in America.” Then he should have gone on: “I’m tempted to quote the great Toby Keith. ‘’Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass; it’s the American way.’ And these pictures are of a boot in the ass of, of Bashar al-Assad.”

Param Anand Singh

About The Author

Param Anand Singh

Param Anand Singh is a poet and translator who used to be called R.M. O'Brien. A sticker he made might be in a movie.

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