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Battlestar: Iraq

By Matthew Yglesias on October 9, 2006 at 11:28 am

"Battlestar: Iraq"

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Obviously, like all decent people I wasn’t around the house watching television when the season premiere of Battlestar: Galactica aired Friday not. Less obviously, I forgot to DVR it and I thought all was lost. Fortunately, someone or other decided to mail Spencer screener DVDs of the first two or three episodes, so I was able to watch the premiere yesterday. Rather hilariously, what they sent out didn’t have all the special effects completed, so you’d repeatedly see on-screen text like “VFX: Raptor Landing” or “VFX: Explosions.” Nevertheless, I think I understood what was going on.

It’s pretty bold of them to have gone down the path of offering up such a straightforward Iraq analogy. In particular, they’ve done what really nobody‘s been willing to do in American politics which is try to cast a sympathetic eye on the insurgency. Of course, this is easier to do allegorically where you get a chance to paper over the fact that the Iraqi insurgency’s substantive ideas about the nature of a just Iraqi state are rather repugnant. Nevertheless, I think it does do a good job of capturing the basic logic of occupation and rebellion. The cylons say they’re seizing control of New Caprica for humanity’s own good.

But who on the human side is going to believe them, especially given their past history (and note the USA’s previous support for Saddam’s regime, betrayal of the ’91 intifada, decades-long indifference to the question of Arab democracy, view of Israel-Palestine universally regarded as anti-Arab by Arabs)? So people fight back. So the cylons fight back in turn. But cylon efforts to tighten their control merely reenforces their pre-existing bad image. The insurgents have much more leeway in adopting extreme tactics because they’re not an alien force. They have a presumption of legitimacy while the occupiers have a presumption of illegitimacy. That Baltar is, in fact, the democratically elected leader of the Colonies is neither here nor there, for the simple fact of collaboration with the occupiers trumps the legitimacy of elections.

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