'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Big Con

There's an old book called The Big Con that I highly recommend picking up, if you ever see it anywhere. It's a nonfiction account of the world of con men during their heyday, the first few decades of the twentieth century. A good read if you like this sort of thing ... it's supposed to be the inspiration of the movie The Sting.

It has a glossary of con man lingo in the back, and something I read recently reminded me of one of the entries:

Addict. A mark who believes so firmly in a sure-thing investment that he comes back again and again. See to knock (a mark)

In a truly successful con the mark never realized he had been conned. Hard as it is to believe, there were marks who were so successfully conned they would return to the same con men after building up a new bankroll to attempt to recoup their losses by again playing their part in the phony stock market, the phony horserace, or the phony whatever story that the con men had sung to them. This phenomenon was so common such marks were given a name, addicts.

Anyway, the idea of addicts in this sense ran through my head when I read the following in a Salon article about the neoconservative masturbatory fantasy An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror:

In one of the book's most egregious passages, the authors write, "But of all our mistakes, probably the most serious was our unwillingness to let the Iraqi National Congress, Iraq's leading anti-Saddam resistance movement, form a provisional government after the fall of Baghdad."

Ahmed Chalabi truly is a con man extraordinaire. A former embezzler and corporate fraud practitioner passes on bogus information for years, about weapons of mass destruction and fairy tales about US troops being showered with rose petals, to a group of powerful men. They fall for his story hook, line, and sinker, even lose some of the power they crave in the resulting flap when the INC's lies are exposed. Now they write a book asserting that everything would have turned out all right after all had only old Ahmed the Thief been put in power. Someone cue "The Entertainer".

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