I was tired from the trip back to the East a few weeks ago, and fell asleep in a chair while watching a movie about Earnest Hemingway. “Hemingway and Gellhorn.”

My brain kept listening, though. It switched on replay in that weird way dreams have of flipping certainties around but still, somehow, making a kind of insane sense.

In a black and white 30’s newsreel way, a group of people is looking at a movie of the Spanish Civil War.

“The Spanish War is just the warmup act for the next Word War,” Nicole Kidman/Martha Gellhorn says to Clive Owen/Earnest Hemingway. And she was right.

Then, later, there’s a bar scene. Three young men are arguing about how to win the war, in a bar in Spain somewhere.

The first man says, “To beat the fascists, you have to win the propaganda war.”

The second man, in a soldier’s uniform and smoking a cigarette, says “to beat the fascists you have to kill them.”

The third man says, “You’re both wrong. You have to win over the peasants. Give them irrigation…”

The other two men turn away, bored. He’s apparently said this before.

Then something rippled and the scene changed.

To CNN. A panel discussion.

One panelist, a woman from a DC think tank who’d been in the CIA: “To beat ISIS you have  to win the propaganda war.”

A second panelist, a former general, said: “To beat ISIS, you have to kill them.”

And the third, a man who was from an NGO that wanted to get funding for rebuilding projects in Syria, said: “You’re both wrong. You have to win over the villagers and the ordinary people. Give them schools and roads and food.”

And the other two sneer, and start talking over each other. Apparently, they’ve all heard this before.

 

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