Everyone knows charging people like Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney with war crimes is a silly idea. It's especially silly to people who have no problem bombing a small nation into the Stone Age or giving an otherwise decent kid doomed by fate to live in a bombed-out ghetto with few life options 15 years in prison for selling bags of cocaine. Like the bumper sticker says: "Kill one person it's murder; kill 100,000 it's foreign policy."
So our leaders avoid The Bummer Myth like the plague. President Obama is no exception. On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, though he once strongly opposed the Iraq War as wrong and unnecessary, he made sure to honor "the courage and resolve" of those who served in the war and didn't mention all the bummer stuff. Vietnam vet Chuck Hagel was also critical of the Iraq War, but all he could do as Secretary of Defense was urge Americans "to remember those quiet heroes this week." No one in government wants to talk about the unnecessary, costly damage-done by the Iraq War or the Vietnam War. That is, except someone like Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina, who said this:
"Lyndon Johnson's probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney."
Here's Mr. Saadawi again about living in Iraq after our little war. "The worst has been observing the gradual destruction of hope and the encroachment of despair." Our suffering from the Iraq War can't compare with that suffered by Iraqis, but there is also plenty of lost hope and encroaching despair in America. Those of us who struggled Quixotically those years against George Bush's wars now only see Plan B, a sophisticated hi-tech surveillance and police state rising like a malevolent Phoenix out of the ashes of Plan A. Plan B also entails a determined campaign to weed out and crush all forms of whistle-blowing. Anything to crack down on The Bummer Myth.
So our leaders speak in simplistic platitudes and carry really big sticks. Everything our leaders say in respect to American actions must reflect only honor and exceptionalism. It would be political suicide to recognize the 100,000 unnecessary Iraqi deaths, the suffering of millions of injured people, all the shock and awe destruction of important infrastructure, the hundreds of thousands forced to flee our lethal advance or to submit to some 20-year-old American kid kicking in their door at 3 AM and going through their belongings hollering obscenities they can't understand. And let's not forget, the ethnic Pandora's Box our blundering helped open and the demons it released. Or how the war empowered Iran, a nation the US war movement sees as our worst enemy.
In such a climate of imperial shame, a man like Walter Jones is a rare profile in courage.
Congressman Walter Jones endorsing a Veterans For Peace effort against US war in Syria
It's hard not to get cynical and just give up. The elite, corrupt platitude-speak that sees itself as nation-rallying can only be translated as this: We elites have the power and you don't. So when Plan A is revealed as a debacle, you have a choice: You can either pump your fist and go along with Plan B or you can stew in your own miserable absurdity as one of "the little people," the term used repeatedly and gleefully by the CEO of British Petroleum during the Gulf oil spill debacle.
It was a time like this that led Albert Camus -- confronted with life following the horrors of World War Two -- to write in The Myth Of Sisyphus, "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide." The absurdity of life is so great, why not blow your brains out? Later in the book he answers his own question:
"Living is keeping the absurd alive. ...One of the only coherent philosophical positions is thus revolt. ...It challenges the world anew every second." Or as my beloved World War Two vet friend Gene Bloomfield use to tell me and other antiwar Vietnam vets, "Don't let the bastards get you down."
The Military-Industrial Complex Eisenhower warned us about has now fully mastered the art of secrecy and public relations. While many aspects of US life and culture are in decline, the MIC is more powerful than ever. It's able to do pretty much what it wants in secret, while using PR to misdirect and confuse the citizenry. The influence of money has made democracy a joke. With the ever-more-rapid rise of technology Kurzweil speaks of, it's not much of a stretch to see all this as an untouchable totalitarian condition.
Many see nation-states as vestiges of the past and fragmented, globalized power as the way of the future. The great Christopher Lasch wrote in The Revolt of the Elites before he died, "The general course of recent history no longer favors the leveling of social distinctions but runs more and more in the direction of a two-class society in which the favored few monopolize the advantages of money, education and power."
As Kurzweil's beloved moment of singularity approaches, hi-tech bread and circus will keep a passive, self-indulgent public from asking too many questions about the various Plans B. "People have no escape," Ahmad Saadawi said. The only honorable solution may be Camus' sense of individual, spiritually-based human revolt -- always keeping a monkey wrench handy to throw into the works.
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