Archives for posts with tag: WWIII

I hadn’t seen Casablanca in several years when I started this little essay, save for the clip of the Marseillaise which I always pull up on Bastille Day (but before that horrible attack in Nice). I watched it again on a flight back from the US a few weeks ago, though, to make sure my notes made sense.

As we get to know Rick Blaine, the facts of his life come in drips. We learn that he lives by his own code which is honourable but not in the most conventional sense, that he’s carried a torch for a woman he never expected to see again, and that he’s on the run from the US for an arms-related issue. (This is tricky because what we learn from Laszlo is that he fought in Spain on the side of the Loyalists. Is that sufficient to put him on the wrong side of the US? We don’t really know the reason he’s on the run.

He’s anti-fascist on principle, and seems to thrive where there’s little in the way of order.
Having been in Paris at the time of the initial occupation, he packed up for French-administered Morocco and set up Rick’s Cafe Americain, expecting he’d be able to do business there for the duration. The Americans hadn’t taken sides and didn’t look set to do so.

The movie came out in November, 1942, so about a year after US entry into the war. But when precisely does it take place? We get one hint: in a stupor, Rick asks his friend Sam ‘If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?’ only to receive the answer, ‘My watch stopped.'(What is the nature of their relationship? They’ve been together for several years, and Sam is something more than an errand runner, pianist, and drinking buddy, but he’s those things too.)CasablancaJP

Having identified the ‘beginning of a beautiful friendship’ with the French police captain, we can guess that either the next day or the day after that, Casablanca will hear the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Rick will be back in the war.

As we near the 75th anniversary of US entry into World War II (and shortly after that, the 75th anniversary re-release of the film), we find ourselves on a similar precipice. There’s a whole lot of war going on, but we’ve not formally declared World War III. Does Brexit signify that the UK (the Untied Kingdom?) will enter hostilities with Turkey and Russia on a different side than the US and the EU? For example.

In 1991, I was oh so certain that we wouldn’t get out of the 20th century without another great war. I think I figured that by the time I turned 50 we’d be at the other side of it, not just getting ready to enter it. But, as I’ve argued elsewhere (and not originally), we’ve spent the last century fighting the ongoing skirmishes of WW1. Alliances shift, but we’re still keen to be at war. Just because we can’t picture an Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran today doesn’t mean equally strange alliances aren’t afoot. In that category of unintended consequences (you know, everything that’s going on in the Middle East that was predicted in 2002 in some form or another), the results of the Brexit referendum are just all of a piece.

Every time I skim social media, there’s a link to some new atrocity (all the places we’re bombing or the bombing of which we’re financing) or case of legislative poor judgement (today’s example is France banning the burkini – let’s alienate all the people we really don’t want to alienate, shall we?). Each one leads me to the conclusion that the war is just going to get closer even if we don’t declare it. Happily sat in relatively unharmed Nederland, I can claim my own neutrality. At what point to I have to declare which side I’m on?
It’s a strange and dangerous time we’re living in. The article indicates that those killed  in this missile attack in Iraq were members of the MEK, an Iranian opposition group welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein in the early 80s. No source in the article blames Iran, save for a member of the same group based in Paris. She’s adamant that all concerned know  it was Iran who made the strike.
Now that there’s a power vacuum in Iraq, those opposed to the government of Iran there are sitting ducks. (Much like the Kurds in Turkey and Syria now that Russia has joined the fighting there.) With the Revolutionary Iranian government a welcome party at talks about the future of Syria, and with a newly negotiated agreement between Iran and the US a done deal, it seems they have taken a free hand with regards their opponents. And as the MEK are right next door, they were an easy target. The situation reminds me of how Stalin got rid of Trotsky, but while Trotsky was easy to find and relatively easy to off, his murder was committed at close range with a small tool. The MEK was hit with missiles – they weren’t even given the benefit of looking their attackers in the eye. 

While I’ve been a reluctant supporter of the agreement to bring Iran in from the cold, I have a friend who has recently moved from Los Angeles to Jerusalem and she’s been adamant that this agreement is bad for the region and gives tacit support to the mullahs who have spent the 35 years since the revolution calling for the annihilation of Israel. This seems to be the first strike against foes outside Iran’s borders in a very long time. 

And, yeah, as noted above, the Russians are providing air support for Assad in his war against his own people. Dan Carlin recently noted that Putin is at least being forthright about wading in. (If you don’t listen yet to Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, I can’t recommend it highly enough.) He’s making a case for Russian legitimacy as a player in the region and in the current conflict. The US hasn’t been able to train a dozen fighters in the battle against Assad. We don’t even know what that means. Assad’s foes include long time opponents of the regime and new players like ISIS. The West doesn’t know how to distinguish these and hasn’t really made an effort to do so. Carlin makes the case that this is what accounts for the power vacuum in most of the places associated with the Arab Spring including Libya, Egypt, and, yeah, Syria.

And, as I’ve noted, none of this is new. Some of the issues date back to before World War I, others are closely related to other civil wars in the region – Lebanon’s for example. This is gonna sound like a hard left turn into one of my music posts, but bear with me for a minute. In 1984 (when Lebanon fell into chaos), The Human League released a single called The Lebanon. It was the first US single off Hysteria, and their first US flop in about 3 years. Part of the problem was the guitars, and part was the title. In England, that country nestled between Syria, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea has an article. In the US, it’s simply called Lebanon. The lyrics are fairly simplistic, offering a verse each to a man who joins the army and a woman who simply recalls when life was easier, and a chorus that asked ‘Who will have won when the soldiers have gone / From the Lebanon’. I was in high school at the time working at an independent record store.  My boss asked me if I thought it would be a hit. I thought perhaps it would be top 30, as it didn’t have the bounce of Mirror Man or Don’t You Want Me. It peaked at 62.  Looking as deeply as Wikipedia offers into the history of Lebanon’s civil war (which lasted 15 years), it’s a surprise Syria didn’t sink into chaos a long time ago, but the factions in Lebanon were far more diverse and featured only a supporting cast from Syria.

I think brinigng Lebanon into my discussion is simply a way of saying the madness of Iran striking opponents in Iraq, and Russia taking out Syria’s opponents in Syria (not to mention of few of Turkey’s in Turkey who just happen also to be opponents of ISIS as well) is merely an extension of hte madness that region has experienced for decades.