Friday, March 14, 2008

Baghdad Suite by Andrew Phelps

Tape Transcript, Oval Office, White House, Washington DC April 3, 2006

(Recorder #1315 Nouthwest corner directional)

(Start transcript: 02:11:17:41)

Bush: Rummy could you step into my Oval? Condi, babe could you get me a cup-o-joe -- light and sweet?

Rumsfeld: What's happening, Mr. Presi…George.

Bush: Someone mailed me this -- uh -- book to my ranch in Crawford and ah, it's got a name called Baghdad Suite by some feller named Andrew Phelps. Take a look Rummy and tell me what this is -- uh -- about.

Rumsfeld: I don't do book reviews. Quagmires either.

Bush: I ain’t uh -- asking for a book review there Rummy. I remember how mad you got when I asked for the briefing on My Pet Goat but this here book looks kinda like a -- political doohicky.

Rumsfeld: My God! Henny Penny the sky is falling! Are we letting photographers out of the press pools to wander free? Was this Phelps an inbed?

Bush: Whoa -- heh heh heh -- look at all that destruction. Where is this Tikrit? Looks like we opened a can of whoop ass -- heh heh heh -- on some insurgents. Evil-do'ers.

Rumsfeld: George, something doesn't look right here. Something seems suspicious.

Bush: Suspicious. I know it. Look at how these people live. They could use some -- uh -- democracy. Do those buildings look up to code?

Rumsfeld: Please George, focus. What I'm saying is the buildings don't seem real.

Bush: Well not anymore -- heh heh heh -- not after a couple Daisy Cutters.

Rumsfeld: Give me the book George.

Bush: Pretty color pitchers. 8 of them. Kinda like Stephen Sho...

Rumsfeld: Give me the book George!

Bush: It was sent to me! I'm the decider guy here...

Rumsfeld: (Wrestles the book away) Look George, look at this picture closely and tell me what you see.

Bush: Well -- ah -- I see an insurgent compound. I see an insurgent compound cleared of insurgents. I see an insurgent compound where we did such a good insurgent-clearing job that even the dead insurgent bodies have been cleared from the insurgent compound.

Rumsfeld: Thank God for that, death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war. But -- George look closely. The building on the last page is fake. There's no real structure behind it. It's just a façade.

Bush: Façade? I didn't know you spoke French. Is it true the French don't have a word for entrepreneur? How you say Skull and Bones in Francaise?

Rumsfeld: Never mind that! Let's think about this logically. Simply because you do not have evidence that something does exist, does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist. Based on that assumption, I don't think these pictures are from Baghdad at all.

Bush: What the hell do you mean these ain’t from Baghdad? The title of the book is Baghdad Suite! Of course they're from Baghdad. Look at the writing on that wall on page one. That's arabic. Plus nowhere else on earth looks that messed up except for maybe Flint, Michigan -- and there ain't no arab writin’ on the walls in Flint.

Rumsfeld: Let me check out this Phelps guy. I don't know what the facts are but somebody's certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know.

Bush: You gonna look em up on The Google?

Rumsfeld: Yeah just a second.

Bush: Check my ranch on The Google Map. Come on Rummy -- Google Map Crawford -- Pull up one of them satallite...

Rumsfeld: Calm down George. Oh, Phelps is an artist photographer.

Bush: I guess he's the one that took these pictures. A hot-air artist, people who have got something fancy to say.

Rumsfeld: Grew up in Arizona and currently lives in Austria.

Bush: Arizona -- the wild west -- frontlines of the fight to protect our borders. Gotta keep out the terrorists coming in from Mexico.

Rumsfeld: Terrorists from Mexico? No George, it's not El Quada, it's Al Quada.

Bush: Al Quada? That's it! -- Double A's! Where ever this Phelps artist-guy lives, the places start and end with the letter A. Like Al Quada too! Connect the dots with me -- he may be a -- an evildo'er with a camera.

Rumsfeld: I don't think he's a terrorist George, I'm just trying to figure out what he means by this book. I mean, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know. I think this is an unknown unknown.

Bush: Well one unknown thing I know is -- well, maybe he's obviously a supporter of the war and he wants to show the good job were doing bringing democracy to these democracy lovin' Iraqis.

Rumsfeld: I don't know George, I think he's trying to say something more metaphoric.

Bush: Like that Jeff Wall guy?

Rumsfeld: What?

Bush: That Jeff Wall! That other artist guy, Jeff Wall. You remember, we saw one of his pitchers at the National Gallery. Remember?

Rumsfeld: No...

Bush: Yeah Rummy -- you were the one that pointed it out to me. A big Afghanistan photo with the dead Russian soldiers eatin' each other's brains.

Rumsfeld: Oh right. You think this Andrew Phelps character is just out to get his photos into the National Gallery?

Bush: Maybe he wants me to pull some strings? I can see this hangin' in there.

Rumsfeld: Well, um, you know, something's neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said. I'm just concerned that he mailed this to you directly. This must be a statement of some kind.

Bush: Let me take a gander here. See if I can deduce -- maybe -- he -- maybe he's trying to say that the façade of these buildings is a metaphor for how little we really understand Iraq and other civilizations. Maybe that -- our concept of bringing democracy is really only based in the surface appearance of things -- that the true core is -- the true core is not -- ever addressed.

Rumsfeld: Where did that come from?

Bush: Hold it, I'm on a roll -- maybe he's also saying that these façades are kind of like a filmset -- and you know, we are in a -- theater of war and uh -- the whole war is like a fake construct -- uh -- you know like when we were planning it and we created the story about the yellow pie...

Rumsfeld: Yellowcake.

Bush: Right, the yellowcake -- when we made the yellowcake an issue and we got all the people behind us -- you know like manufacturing consent. Maybe that's what this Phelps guy is trying to say. You know -- let us know he's onto us.

Rumsfeld: I'm impressed George. The clarity of your thinking. I've never quite witnessed that before. Even the allusion to Chomsky.

Bush: Chomsky -- he's funny -- you know my daddy said, when he was a part of the CIA -- he read Chomsky and used all of the techniques of manipulation that Chomsky said he discovered. The funny thing was that none of the techniques of manipulation had actually been used before. See my daddy -- heh heh heh -- learned how to manipulate the media and manufacture consent from Chomsky's books! Jokes on you Chompy!

Rumsfeld: I had no idea. But how do you know so much about art?

Bush: I've been -- uh -- reading Artforum. You know Paul McCarthy? I like that Paul McCarthy.

Rumsfeld: I like the title of this book, Baghdad Suite. Nice design and printing too.

Bush: Signed and numbered -- limited edition of 100 -- Wait, I thought you said you don't do book reviews?

Rumsfeld: Oh, er -- So what you want to do about this Phelps character?

Bush: Waterboard em...

Rumsfeld: We can't do that anymore George. In fact I don't even think we can say that word.

Bush: Damn Democrats! Tying up our hands and giving freedom to them freedom-hating terrorists. The question is, who ought to make that decision? Congress or the commanders? As you know, my position is clear -- I'm a commander guy.

Rumsfeld: We can wiretap his phone.

Bush: Good start. But we gotta hit him where it hurts.

Rumsfeld: Rendition him to Guantanamo? I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty.

Bush: Worse -- I'm gonna delay his tax rebate check. No stimulus for you art guy -- heh heh heh -- and you can forget about the National Gallery too! CONDI GODDAMN IT! WHERE'S MY COFF...

End tape transcript (02:11:22:57)

Lecture: Andrew Phelps

Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m., Coor Hall Building 174, Herberger College of the Arts, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ Phone:480.965.6536

Andrew Phelps will speak about his photographic work "Higley" and recent book of the same name. Phelps grew up in Higley, a small farming community in central Arizona, and documented what he described as ..." this moment, where one place, with a definitive history, is rapidly losing ground to an undifferentiated sense of progress."

Buy online at Dashwood Books