The story is, my parents were wondering what to get me for "Gimme! Gimme! Oooooh! Prezzies!" Day since I was all, like, "I'll settle for a meal I didn't cook, thanks!" My brother--who'll probably make someone a good husband if he ever, y'know, dates--comes up with, "She's always wanted a professional massage but she'd never buy one, so how about buying her a spa day?"
One quick trip on the Internet later and I get me a $200 gift certificate to day spa up in Gloucester. Yay! Finally cashed in today.
Now, I'm not exactly a girlie girl (in fact, in college, the joke among my friends was I was an honorary guy...despite the fact I had a boyfriend, go figure...), but I felt truly ignorant. I only today found out what a "French manicure" was (my first manicure, maybe not my last) and what was involved with a facial (definitely my last--how do people *stand* having their face covered with hot towels and slathered with smelly stuff? Seriously.) and my second-evah professional massage (Heaven!).
The facial person thought I had beautiful skin and fabulous pores (hunh? pores? unnnhhhhh, okay...) and started asking me about my "beauty regimen" that keeps my skin in such good shape. To which I answered: "Beauty regimen?"
What it boiled down to was: I am a water freak. I eat lots of veggies and fruits. I exercise. I don't wear make-up (waaaay too lazy to bother). I wash my face (my whole body, really) with olive oil soap (using the same bar). Once I month I remember something about preventing blackheads and put a clay mask on the face and wash it off.
This apparently is not good enough. I was informed that if I want to keep my skin young-looking into my 30s, I must begin immediately.
Ahhhh, clarification ma'am. I am in my mid-30s.
Genetics apparantly trumps all I guess. (Heeeee!)
Made me feel good to hear that I have beautiful skin for a 25-year-old who doesn't really do much with it, even though that ship sailed a little bit ago. Wheeee!
Anyway, the French manicure is cool-looking. I'll actually try to maintain it. (Unh, right. But I will try. If I can get my lazy ass in gear to do it.) And WOW! Feeling the aftermath of having my muscles relaxed.
In the middle of all this, I bought Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies. I'm 30 pages in and already I want to kick George II's ass for being an idiot.
The sad thing is, none of the testimony before the 9/11 Commission this week was news to me. I'm just one of those weirdo armchair travelers and I knew about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda back in the early to mid-90s.
Now keep in mind, I wasn't obsessed. Certainly not to the level Clarke was/is. In ten years I've read less than 10 books on the subject of radical Islamists, Middle East policy, Islam, or the Middle East anything. Books that were and still are available at your local Borders or on Amazon. Books that you can easily find anywhere. I don't consider myself an expert, I wouldn't even say that I'm knowledgeable about the issue.
But I did know some things:
On 9/11 I was in downtown Boston (scary that Clarke mentions in passing in the first 30 pages they thought on 9/11 Boston might be on the target list because of the liquid natural gas port...and if that happened, bye-bye downtown Boston). I called my dad on the cell as they shooed everyone out of the city and on to commuter rails and told him: "We're either turning Afganistan into glass or a whole lot of Hamas leaders are gonna die in mysterious accidents." This was before it was official that al Qaeda was behind the attacks. I knew this because of the smattering of books I read over the previous 10 years.
I knew Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda, so needless to say, I never bought the Iraq-al Qaeda connection reasoning for the invasion.
I suspected (but didn't know) that someone was lying about WMD in Iraq.
Frankly, we should be a hella lot more worried about North Korea, the Pakistan/India cross-border glare, and our good buddies, Saudia Arabia, and, lest we forget, the still alive-and-kicking-and-revitalized al Qaeda. Why are we in Iraq again?
Assurances from our government that Iraq would be over before we knew it meant someone was lying out their ass or had no idea what we were in for. As I told a friend at the time: "This is gonna make Vietnam look like a walk in the park."
While that last statement is arguable, I think we can safely say that George II is looking a lot more like Nixon and a lot less like Churchill. Just sayin'.
Now, the thing is, I could figure this out by reading, as I pointed out, less than a handful of books over 10 years. None of these "revelations" before the 9-11 Commission, none of the testimony, nothing is new news.
What's new is just how *deep* the denial was and still is in the Bush II White House. That is frightening.
The fact is, the roots go back to arming the Afaghanis during the 1980s against the Soviets. However, I honestly don't believe anyone in their right mind could've ever predicted something like al Qaeda, certainly not at that stage of the game. So much as I didn't and still don't like Ronald Reagan, you can't blame the guy.
I also don't blame George Bush the I. Not crazy about him, but he's clearly the sane guy in the family because he was smart enough to be an internationalist when, you know, we went international. While I was glad to see him go, I don't think a second term would've been anywhere near as damaging as just four years under his sonny-boy.
How sad is it that an experienced Cold Warrior with Republican and Conservative creds like Clarke gives the most props to Clinton...bane of the right wing...Clinton for being the guy who was probably the smartest president in recent years and who actually got the potential threat al Qaeda and other nationless movements possess? That. Is. Sad.
Clinton apparently did more than anyone realized, but even he had his hands tied by lack of national will, scandals at home, and a whole host of other problems.
Note to self: When I'm Empress of the Planet, line up the editorial department of American Spectator and have them summarily shot. While we're at it, let's throw Ken Star on the firing line.
To be honest here: I was making Wag the Dog jokes when Clinton ordered his bombing runs on suspected al Qaeda strongholds in Afganistan and Sudan. And it turns out he was perfectly justified in ordering those runs.
Mea culpa on that one.
But here's the point: there's not a whole lot that's news to me (aside from the depths of delusion from which the Bush II White House has refused to emerge). Me. Who read barely anything. Me. Who found it interesting in an arm chair traveler kind of way.
Yet this is apparently news to a lot of people. Hold me. I'm scared.
I think Clarke had it a little wrong. He apologized for the government failing its people.
I think we should apologize for failing ourselves.
I don't know if 9/11 could've been prevented, but that's not the point. The point is the "maybe."
I apologize for the rant. Now I have to go read Paul O'Neil's book when I'm done with Clarke's.
For those of you interested in a quickie reading list for the historical roots:
From Beirut to Jersusalem by Thomas L. Friedman
Hell, anything by Friedman is an excellent choice.
The World's Most Dangerous Places and Three Worlds Gone Mad: Dangerous Journeys through the War Zones of Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific both by Robert Young Pelton
I have Dangerous Places going back to the second edition...my introduction into what the Muslim Brotherhood really meant, al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden. Be sure to check out the Black Flag Cafe, the message board associated with Pelton.
Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile
About Afganistan proxy war against the Soviets and the right wing--and we're talking extreme right wing--push to support it.
Blackhawk Down: A Story of Modern Warby Mark Bowden
Again, doesn't speak to the issue at hand, and focuses on a Bush I/Clinton fuck-up, but paints a pretty good picture of what American troops can expect when surrounded by armed enemies who look exactly like civilians.
Holidays in Hell by PJ O'Rourke
While not throwing any particular light on the issue, a fun read with some interesting insights, even if some of the info is outdated. Plus, you'll probably be depressed and O'Rourke's wry observations might cheer you up.
That doesn't even include a whole host of other books that focus directly on this issue, including Sleeping with Devil by Robert Baer about the Saudi-U.S. relationship or any book by Bernard Lewis. The list above are books that I've read in the past few years. It also doesn't include clearly partisan books on either side of the political-culture divide.
People looking for interesting an intelligent online debate on this one, I highly recommend visiting the Straight Dope Message Boards, which you can find here. The Straight Dope Message Boards is, of course, associated with The Stright Dope, Fighting Ignorance Since 1973 (It's taking longer than we thought), a syndicated column (and online Web site) showcasing "Cecil Adams." Check it out.
Right. I promise to post another part to "Living History" tomorrow and actually attempt to answer e-mail. I'm wrestling with re-working a part that's in a few chapters, so that's where my brain has been...aside from ranting about Clarke, I mean...