by Bruce Patterson
George Orwell noted that 19th Century dictators were content to control our labor. So long as we worked from cradle to grave, always showed up on time, did as we were told and kept our mouths shut, then they'd take their cut of our income, but otherwise they'd leave us alone. Whereas under the 20th Century's great "isms:" Nationalism, Imperialism, Fascism and Communism, the dictators wanted to control our minds. Like African slaves in the Old South, it was no longer enough for us to toil. It was no longer enough for us to obey. Now we were expected to sing. Under the new totalitarianisms, public frowns, whispered complaints, critical comments or even skeptical attitudes were judged to be upsetting to good public order and therefore demoralizing, subversive and dangerous. According to the dictates of the new National Security States, real patriots wore smiley faces.
'Ignorance is Knowledge'
I recently went back and read a bit of Orwell. I have a natural sympathy for him because, out of the goodness of his young heart, during the Spanish Civil War he took up the gun to fight the fascists and — surprise, surprise — he got burnt. Even though in the 1930s nearly everybody in Europe understood that war was a racket, Orwell had to go and find out for himself.
As a result of his bitter disillusionment, Orwell produced some of the most astute political commentary ever written. Even before there was a Mass Audience, Orwell described what it would look like and how it would behave. He also described how the Mass Audience would be bound: "They cannot rebel until they become conscious; they cannot become conscious until after they have rebelled."
While I'm not qualified to be offering pronouncements on the relative merits of the last century's European literati, I do know this: if we Americans had memorized our ABCs according to Orwell, then this war cabal now ruling in Washington could never have seized power. Or, if by some chance we the citizens of this great Republic had stayed asleep long enough to allow them to do so, then, after we had awakened from our slumber, had gathered our wits and had taken account of what had happened to our beloved country in our absence, we'd drag these fear mongering profiteers outside by their neckties, splash them with buckets of boiling tar, toss them into a buckboard full of chicken feathers, tie them to a rail roped between two hot-blooded horses and ride them out of town at a gallop.
That's what Early American townsfolk did when they discovered they'd been played for chumps by some slithering snake oil salesman, or Bible-thumping confidence man, card cheat or any other type of lowdown, fly-by-night swindler. But this current bunch in Washington, these pompous crusading nitwits who have chosen for no good reason to send American boys and girls off to war — they'd be glad to be afforded such kindly treatment if only we Americans were up on our Orwell (not to mention our Paine, Adams, Jefferson, et. al.).
The war cabal in Washington might see themselves as dictators and do their best to act as dictators, but that doesn't let the rest of us off the hook. Now that time has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the American invasion of Iraq was launched on petty lies buttressed by grand illusions, whether we voted for Bush or not, whether we voted or not, whether we read newspapers or not, all of us American adults have the blood of thousands of GIs on our hands. Not to mention the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
The war cabal chose to invade Iraq in order to give us potential American voters a gift. All wars are fought for domestic political reasons, and if we the voters on the "home front" had even mildly opposed the cabal's Mid-East pipe dreams, they never would have invaded Iraq in the first place. Had even half of us American adults opposed their modest proposal to unilaterally launch a 13th Crusade in the name of God, our starry-eyed leaders would have come up with some other way to work out their vainglory. But seeing things from high atop the pinnacle of the "preeminent" military power we had so thoughtlessly left at their disposal, and being mightily encouraged by our unquestioning adulation of them, and moved to resolute action by our heart-rending entreaties for them to do all that is possible — legal or illegal — in order to keep us civilians in the homeland "safe," they decided to start a war.
They promised us a quick and bloodless Military Victory, and we went for it like children for poisoned candy. By boldly and violently striking into the savage heart of the Land of the Infidel, we were solemnly promised, our Commander-in-Chief would prove himself to be our generation's Great War Leader. In the Hallowed Halls of America's Everlasting Glory stand Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and George Bush Junior. Washington led us to Independence, Lincoln preserved the Union, Roosevelt helped save Europe from the Nazis, and now George Bush Junior is keeping us safe from the other side of the world-sitting, rag-hanging, abandoned mud ruin-sleeping, garbage-picking, gruel-eating, AK-toting, alms-pleading Iraqis.
A military conquest like they promised — Christianizing the Muslims, Americanizing the Arabs, providing offshore business opportunities for valued friends, ensuring cheap oil for all — such achievements would no doubt cinch our Great War Leader's re-election and his place in the grateful hearts of all of us forward thinking, gas-guzzling Americans.
But our GIs getting wasted in Iraq hadn't sworn an oath of allegiance to George Bush. They hadn't sworn an oath to take mindless orders from a mass produced, Mass Audience, either. Nor had they sworn to fight and die in the name of cheap oil or Consumer Confidence. In the entire history of the American Republic, not one American soldier has ever sworn to defend anything other than the American Constitution (no matter what the game in Washington was). According to the written wishes of our Republic's founders, in exchange for honoring this solemn blood oath to defend the law of the land, our citizen-soldiers were to be forever protected from the reckless whims of fear mongering, war mongering politicians.
The American Constitution was designed specifically to prevent American boys and girls from ever getting sent to be killed in places like Iraq. The obstacles to choosing war that our founders wrote into the Constitution were one of their proudest achievements (the other was their legal separation of Church and State). Had we their heirs followed the letter — or even the spirit — of the Constitution they fought to establish, then not one American mother or father, not a single daughter or son, brother or sister, lover or friend would have been killed in Iraq.
So where is the "Support Our Troops" crowd now that our troops really need them? Now that more than six thousand American GIs have been killed or seriously wounded (nowadays getting seriously wounded nearly always amounts to life-long pain and some degree of permanent disability), where are the patriots? How, for instance, can the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars endorse the war cabal in Washington even after they have needlessly and foolishly brought disaster to thousands of American families? Now that any GI in Iraq can be killed at any time, what does it matter how much tax money George Bush promises to spend on VA Hospitals or other forms of veteran's welfare? While the leaders of these highly esteemed and thoroughly fossilized organizations are lobbyists who cannot be expected to bite the hand that feeds them, or to refuse in the name of their humble constituents whatever small benefits they might be so graciously offered, in this crisis what accounts for the silence of their millions of rank and file members who, at least not yet, haven't been neutered? Don't they know blood money when they see it?
Not all American military officers, career NCOs and enlisted men are consumed with a burning ambition to bring "Democracy" to our little brown brothers squatting over there on the shitty side of the world. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were dragged against their will into this Iraqi quicksand. This war was force-fed to our people in uniform who were then expected to "win" it without even being provided with a fair chance. Even the Brass now stuck on the ground in Iraq almost daily admit in press conferences that, for us Americans at least, there are no military solutions. By repeatedly mentioning that elementary fact, the Brass are all but begging us folks back home to ask ourselves the obvious question: since there are no military solutions, why are our GIs, isolated in remote Iraqi outposts and cut off from overland re-supply, facing possible annihilation?
So long as we guarantee the de facto independence of the Kurds, they at least will not attack us. But who in Iraq has shown even the slightest inclination to cooperate with us when it comes to killing those who are killing GIs? If the urban battles of the last few months have proven anything, it is that we cannot count on the Iraqis to kill Iraqis for us. Moreover, a good percentage of the guns that we have distributed to the Iraqis have been turned against us. As of today, not one major unit of the new, American-trained and -equipped Iraqi Army can be trusted.
During the "buildup" to the invasion, our Great War Leader was fond of bragging to the world that, so far as he was concerned, everybody was either with him or against him; with Civilization or against Civilization. Now such punk talk has put our GIs in that exact either/or situation. Now, in order for an Iraqi to kill GIs, all he or she needs do is to keep quiet. The hatchery gates have been sprung open and the guerillas are now swimming in a friendly sea. No matter what the "Allies" occupy during the day (and it ain't much), the guerillas control the night.
The implications are extremely grim and, for our GIs, dire. What it means is that our GIs have no one in Iraq to protect them. They have no one to warn them about the next ambush, barrage, booby trap or spy. Armed to the teeth yet 138,000 weak and weary, our GIs may as well be surrounded by 18 million hostiles. After over a year of military campaigns, six thousand American casualties and the expenditure of 117 billion American dollars fresh off the printing presses, we haven't even managed to secure our Baghdad Headquarters against mortar attack. We cannot even guarantee the safety of our own military convoys.
When you are an American soldier and for reasons of your own personal safety you are forbidden to turn your back on any civilian you encounter in the profoundly alien country you've been dropped in; when you go nowhere except during combat operations with your weapons ready; when in the desert-hard gazes of scrounging slum children you see the cold contempt of an ancient tribe; when little girls glare at you like you'd molested them; when you know like you know your own blisters that nothing under this flinty-eyed sun can unite these pride-crazy tribes outside of their almost mystical hatred of you; when you know you are the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons even as your sorry ass is hopelessly and stupidly flapping in the breeze — now you realize it's all a hideous mistake even as you carry on, even as you swallow your fear and humiliation and fight. You fight the war just so that one fine day you can finally and forever wash your hands of it, send your memories of it down the drain like muddy water.
Made absolutely expendable as the result of what could generously be called a long series of bureaucratic snafus committed by faceless committees sitting around tables in rooms hidden somewhere inside of ivory towers in the furthest reaches of some celestial Emerald City, you wonder where your people went and why they didn't bring you along.
The gold plated, silver-tongued, syndicated toadies who insist that there are no parallels between the unprovoked American invasion of Vietnam and the unprovoked American invasion of Iraq have never spent any time in a foxhole. They've never spent any time fighting civilians surrounded by civilians living in their own home turf. The American counter-insurgency war in Iraq is Vietnam all over again, only much worse. It is much worse in the sense that there is even less of an excuse for it.
These days out of the Republican Party I hear lots of old fashioned Manifest Destiny masquerading as old-timey, revival tent Christianity. But what's so Republican about that? When I hear unfettered multinational greed glorified as national economic policy, and Star Wars celebrated as genuine blue ribbon pork barrel (just a small, routine case of honest graft), then I know I'm listening to real, modern Republicans.
But, with regards to Iraq, where are the traditional American conservative values they are always bragging about? Are we to believe that the political party that refuses, on the basis of unyielding moral principle, to feed or to house America's hungry and homeless children, now suddenly wishes to provide for Iraqis free, universal health care? That a political party that takes food out of the mouths of American widows, orphans and cripples now wants nothing more than to pamper, educate and uplift Iraq's helpless women and children?
The professional Republicans who daily parrot the official line about American GIs getting killed for Iraqi liberty may as well be communist apparatchiks. Their loyalty is to their party's Supreme Commissar, their movement's Maximum Leader, and not to the truth, the Constitution, or conservative tradition — much less to our GIs in Iraq and their long suffering families. Tune out their chorus of scripted platitudes, look past their bald-faced hypocrisy, follow the money and you will see no patriotism in these guys and gals. Careerists and opportunists who seek ever more wealth and power the way other people seek food, shelter and a good name, they could just as easily be propagandists for Czarist Russia or Imperial China.
The Holy Crusader in the White House is a dangerous extremist, plain and simple. In his conduct of domestic and international affairs he has been and continues to be so far outside of the mainstream of American political and diplomatic tradition that, when Republicans bow their heads and bend their knees to him, they are acting radical. And, seeing them so far out of line, we're supposed to consider them to be "moderates?" At the absolute minimum, they are moderately bent.
Same goes for the professional Democrats (remember them groveling in defense of Clinton's sophistry?). After all, who are the Republicans, anyway, but turncoat Southern Democrats? Or "Jim Crow Dixiecrats," as they used to proudly call themselves when I lived down there. If it wasn't for the votes of church-going, gun-toting, Southern white men and their allies, the Republican Party would be reduced to bagmen and fixers for multinational corporations, international bankers, gun runners, currency speculators and anybody else who has a suitcase of cash to donate or a vote up for sale.
Like the Republicans, the Democrats turned their backs on the Constitution when they gave the war cabal a blank check. When it was time for them to get serious and to honestly serve their country, they went AWOL. One result is that war profiteers — every battlefield draws vultures and stray dogs — have already devoured the largest chunk of the 117 billion American tax dollars spent so far.
Now the profiteers, their appetites only whetted by our simple-minded generosity, are demanding more and more scores of billions, the printing presses are working around the clock and the Democrats are dutifully signing on dotted lines. The Treasury is being raided, the blood of America's youth is being spilled and yet the Democrats, ever the courageous ones, don't want to appear anti-war and so unpatriotic. As if, at a time when the war cabal is making us Americans so many enemies around the world that they may as well be working for Bin Laden, given that the Democratic Party's sanction to self-defeating butchery is somehow, by some long stretch of the imagination, patriotic.
Ignorance is not considered to be sinful because it is so easily remedied. But what about willful ignorance? How about those who, when it comes to serving their country, check their brains at the door? Since the American brand of patriotism never has been faith-based, how are we to judge those who exhort us to forget the facts and to idolize our Great War Leader, our infallible Big Brother, and to hang on to his every official utterance, his every Proclamation, and to know in our hearts fully and without reservation that he would never lie to us, or ever possess any but the purist of "Christian" motives? Is a chained dog barking at a stranger a patriot? How about a dog barking at the moon?
If bending a knee to abusive power was the mark of the American patriot, we'd still be handing over our money to the Queen of England. The founders of our Republic took their liberty, and America was born in rebellion against tyranny. In this crisis, they who would have us forget such things are not patriots.
Those who insist on throwing in with the war cabal should join the Army and pay up the money they owe. As for the rest of us, we need to talk them out of it. Our silence is deadly.