2005 - 2006
R. I. P.
(The queen is dead. Long live the queen.)
a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played.
One of Bush's advisers once explained to the journalist Ron Suskind the worldview of the White House. Whereas the nation-building experts and the war critics and Ron Suskind lived "in what we call the reality-based community" where people "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality," unfortunately, "that's not the way the world really works anymore." The way the world now works amounted to a repudiation of reason, skeptical intelligence, the whole slate of liberal Enlightenment values. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors," the aide concluded, "and you, all of you, will be left just to study what we do."
One month after he survived the bombing in Baghdad, I met Ghassan Salame, the late Sergio Vieiera de Mello's political advisor, in the lobby of the UN headquarters in New York. Looking a little wan, Salame said, "Iraq needs to be liberated -- liberated from big plans. Every time people mentioned it in the last few years, it was to connect it to big ideas: the war against WMDs, solving the Arab-Isreali conflict, more recently the war against terrorism and a model of democracy. That why all these mistakes are made. They're made because Iraq is always in someone's mind the first step to something else."