Welcome the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
In the summer of 2005, a team of 4 US Navy SEALs dropped into Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush, on a mission to capture a supposedly high-level Taliban leader. Only one SEAL survived. He was later played by Mark Wahlberg, a former white rapper and underwear model, in the movie, Lone Survivor .
In the book on which the movie was based, Marky and his fellow pinnipeds were ambushed by between 35 and 50 Taliban. Reconnaissance experts and those with access to intelligence on Taliban activity in the area that day say it couldn’t have been more than 8 or 10, and probably fewer. The man they were hunting, contrary to the contention of Marky Mark’s real-life counterpart, was no big-shot pal of Osama Bin Laden. He was the leader of a small Taliban- adjacent militia who had no link to US casualties.
And so, this very expensive mission that cost the lives of 3 of Marky’s comrades, along with a Special Operations Chinook helicopter and the lives of sixteen elite soldiers inside it who’d come to aid the original SEAL team, was a mission based on lies. Nineteen super-soldiers were killed while performing an operation amounting to a totally bullshit job, and the helicopter was shot down. The little militia that could have but didn’t, recovered three M4 Carbines with grenade launchers, a field laptop whose undamaged hard drive contained locations of possible targets, gear for night vision, and a sniper scope, which gave the US military a chance to order replacements, including a new tandem rotor heavy-lift military vehicle from Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
A side note: April 20 of last year, in the quarter following the start of the pandemic lockdown, the defense side of Boeing did better financially than its civilian side. The last time this happened was in 2008, after the world economy collapsed, proving that if you’re looking for a recession- proof investment, the mass murder industry is where it’s at.
But back to the summer of 2005: Marky was crawling, injured, to an uncertain survival down a cliff-face, when he was found by a Pashtun villager named Muhammad Gulab Khan. Gulab Khan then acted according to the code of hospitality called the Pashtunwali. The entire population of Afghanistan, whether Pashtun or not, follows the Pashtunwali code. When the US government demanded the Taliban turn over Osama Bin Laden to them, the Taliban were following Pashtunwali by defying that demand. It was because of Pashtunwali that the USA chose to attack Afghanistan as punishment for the massacre at the World Trade Center. They blew the living bodies of civilian Afghanis to pieces, hundreds of thousands of them, and tortured some, and ruined the lives of some. In the years before 9-11, the human rights outcry from the women of Afghanistan, even after viral videos of public executions, couldn’t bring about the help of the US military, but the hospitality code of antique herding peoples could bring down the vengeance of an imperialistic state shocked by the blowback from its own covert machinations.
But that gift to the mass murder industry wasn’t enough. Dick Cheney and his blood-brothers in the Project for a New American Century were insatiable. So they invented a reason to do the same to Iraq, creating endless acres of bullshit jobs.
Whatever scenario you can think of, whatever story you’re told of a terrifying firefight and the courage and heroics that snatched warriors from the jaws of death at the last moment – it all takes place on a stage set by lies, poor judgment, callous greed, and craving for power.
The dictates of the Pashtunwali led Gulab Khan to bring Marky to his village. In the movie the villagers engage in a splashtastic firefight against the Taliban militia, who want to take Marky prisoner. In reality, no such fight ever occurred. The supposed bigshot of the militia had too few men. He came to the village and demanded that the US flippered marine mammal be given over to him, but the villagers, all sworn to Pashtunwali, outnumbered the militia, who backed down in the face of an ancient hospitality tradition and skedaddled back to their little outpost.
In that story, hospitality turned away wrath. In the days after 9-11, hospitality brought down wrath.
On the one hand, you have lies, poor judgment, callous greed, conscious or unconscious racism, and craving for power. On the other hand you have a dictate that predates the Old Testament to extend comfort and protection to a stranger in need of aid.
It’s uncertain the human species can survive the current war between these two impulses. But, it’s not entirely clear that they are mutually exclusive impulses. They do both exist in the same species, after all.
To illustrate the ambiguity, here is a bright spot along the squall line between the hospitality and anti-hospitality movements. I speak, of course, of the principle of hospitaliano. Hospitaliano walks that frightening line between unlimited tolerance, with unlimited pasta, and limits on tolerance and pasta. In sum, hospitaliano limits a tolerant society’s tolerance for intolerance.
In 1935, Joseph Goebbels said, but in German, something like, “"We have declared openly that we used democratic methods only in order to gain power, and that, after assuming power, we would deny them to our adversaries."
Goebbels was admitting that he’d warned the Republic: “If you, with your democracy and press freedoms and freedom of travel, allow us Nazis to use these tools of tolerance to gain power, we will then deny these tools of tolerance to any but ourselves.”
There’s a cartoon going around called, “The Paradox of Tolerance,” which has gotten the panties of a few Karl Popper scholars all in a twist. It basically says, “If you’re a tolerant society, and you want to stay that way, you must not be tolerant to the intolerant.” It’s not really a paradox unless you take the terms to their extremes. It’s actually a way out of an apparent paradox.
But we don’t need Karl Popper or a philosophically inaccurate cartoon to find our way out of that paradox, because we have something simpler. The above-mentioned principle of hospitaliano.
I quote now from a well-documented hoax of the last few days:
“It has come to our attention that a few of our guests have taken part in a vicious attack on our nation's Capitol. We have worked with the FBI and the Holiday Inn in Washington D.C. to identify several guests who both frequented our restaurants and participated in the violent uprising against our government this week.
“In response, Olive Garden has revoked our Never-ending Pasta Pass from Sean Hannity.
“Olive Garden is dedicated to creating a safe and delightful environment for our guests with what we call Hospitaliano. This year has been difficult for so many of us, and we cannot wait to see your family smiling in our restaurants once again. Until that time, your favorite dishes from Olive Garden are available to order online for both pickup and delivery.”
And until next time, this has been the Moment of Truth. Buongiorno!