The second reliberation of Iraq

by John Q on June 22, 2007

It appears that General David Petraeus, who recently announced that the US is once again liberating Iraq, is a reader of William Tenn. Tenn’s classic story The Liberation of Earth in which two alien races, the Dendi and the Troxxt, repeatedly liberate Earth from each other, was published back in 1953, but has, sadly, never lost its relevance for long. The ending, if I recall correctly, has the planet’s remaining inhabitants gasping for air but taking consolation in the reflection that no planet in the history of the galaxy had ever been as thoroughly liberated as Earth.

UpdateA discussion over at my blog reminded me of a point I meant to make. There’s nothing in Tenn’s story to rule out the possibility that the Dendi (or maybe the Troxxt) are telling the truth when they claim to be the galactic good guys (at least relatively speaking). Unfortunately, to those being liberated, it doesn’t make much difference.



Hidari 06.22.07 at 12:10 pm

I’m a SF geek: why have I never heard of this guy?

‘Visualize our ancestors scurrying about their primitive intricacies: playing ice-hockey, televising, smashing atoms, red-baiting, conducting giveaway shows, and signing affidavits — all the incredible minutiae that made the olden times such a frightful mass of cumulative detail in which to live — as compared with the breathless and majestic simplicity of the present’.

That last phrase really has Swiftian echoes: it would seem to work not just with our current ‘liberation’ of previously ‘intricate’ civilisations, but with any ‘liberation’ (invasion, revolution, whatever) anywhere.


ejh 06.22.07 at 12:41 pm

It’s a marvellous story and it can be read in a collection called The War Book edited by James Sallis which is out of print but available (one assumes) via various book-purchase websites.


Charlie Murtaugh 06.22.07 at 12:53 pm

I really loved this story when I read it, as a teenager in the mid-’80s — I read it in a big anthology of various sci-fi stories, and didn’t know the year it was published, so I assumed it was a Vietnam allegory. It’s amazing how well the satire holds up, and chilling to think about how long it has been relevant — long before Vietnam and even longer after.


chris y 06.22.07 at 1:06 pm

Tenn was a genius. His “Null-P” should be the subject of a written exam for anyone presuming to run for office anywhere.


Cheryl 06.22.07 at 1:07 pm

You can buy the story in the collection Immodest Proposals from NESFA Press And if you also buy the companion volume, Here Comes Civilization, you will have all of Tenn’s science fiction stories.


Chris Williams 06.22.07 at 1:29 pm

Suck air! Suck air!


Edis 06.22.07 at 1:37 pm

Read this way back in the 1960’s and it stuck powerfully in my mind. Thanks for the author’s name. Now I can look up other things of his. A hatfull of lendi for you!

Now who wrote the story about the US being defeated in a war against some bush power because the US weapons were to complex to use?


Shelley Belsky 06.22.07 at 2:28 pm

Henry Kuttner wrote the best analysis of our involvement around the world (and specificly in the middle east.
It was a piece called “Or Else” or as I call it, “Political Science and Imperialism 101”


Randolph Fritz 06.22.07 at 2:43 pm

Edis, I believe the story you are referring to is Arthur C. Clarke’s, Superiority.


joel turnipseed 06.22.07 at 3:11 pm

Too bad Petraeus can’t have the Marines out singing songs with the Iraqi’s… one I fondly recall singing myself went like this:

F-U-C, See–I told you they’d go an do it
K-E-D, ‘D’ for real deep, my brothers

Insert ex tempore lyrics set to Mickey Mouse Club Song for general fucking of the day.

It’s too bad, really, that guys like Pace and Petraeus and many of the other brass are themselves getting bent over by the BushCo.

As for Tenn: wow, that’s definitely something I’ve got to pick up. Thx for the rec.


Ken Houghton 06.22.07 at 3:20 pm

“William Tenn” is still alive, just fyi.


Barry 06.22.07 at 3:49 pm

joel, nobody made those guys sign up for the positions that they had. They’re generals; they have enough time in to retire. By the time that Petraeus took the job, Bush’s character was quite clear, as well as the sheer impossibility of the job.

In Pace’s case, of course, the man was a wh*re, pure and simple. Anybody who says that ‘Rumsfeld is doing the Good Lord’s work’ gets no sympathy from me.


joel turnipseed 06.23.07 at 12:40 am


Surely, these guys are not the Smedley Butler or David Shoup I’d like to see (or even: Anthony Zinni). And yes, Pace’s performance has left a lot to be desired (the Rumsfeld remark was particularly bad–though Pace has also put up some between the lines public resistance, too).

Nevertheless, we’re still happily in possession of a military that defers to the civilian government & that’s where the ire should really be directed, no? And honestly, we just don’t know the full story of whether and how and what kinds of resistance the general ranks have put up (not, certainly, enough).

Anyway, no need to derail the thread–if the Tenn is as good as the Alfred Bester I was turned onto last winter, I just may become a sci-fi fan yet.


Jonathan Edelstein 06.23.07 at 3:49 am

Grab clusters, brother, and mind the giant rabbits.


Barry 06.23.07 at 4:14 am

My major point, joel, is that anything that the generals say in support of the administration is lies until proven otherwise. Any general who is in high enough position that the Bush administration had to select him is just as corrupt as any civilian Bush appointee.

We’re seen that proven with Petraeus’s recent BS (i.e., the 9-10 years of the N. Irish guerilla war, the ‘re-liberation’ of Iraq).

As for ‘secret push-back’, I’ll file that with the idea that the Bush administration is actually doing a good job, based on secret information that only they know.

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