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The Cost of Doing Business with History

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I take the line "doing business with history" from Tony Judt's excellent book "Postwar," but it is an accurate representation of what this administration is comfortable with, the belief that the attrocities they commit now will be justified by magical results to come in some undefined distant future. It's a callous calculation and runs contrary to public opinion, what historian extraordinaire Howard Zinn outlines so clearly in "A People's History." So, where are we the people?

At 29% this President's approval rating is not only low, it's been consistently low. Nixon quickly cratered, Bush has been under 40% for more than two years, and under 50% for more than three click here The lingering distrust (if not outright disgust) of Bush has contributed to an air of impotence, that what the people want does not matter, what laws say does not matter, what basic human decency demands does not matter.

I'm not sure where I read this, but Bush's "protection" of us, put in stark terms, is like the following example: Imagine you are in the Oval Office and Bush sits behind his desk with a hammer poised over a kitten. In order to protect you, your family, your country, he must kill that kitten. What do you say? Say you let him hammer that kitten to death, then all around him you see countless cages filled with kittens, and he plucks out another one and asks the same question. At what point do you tell him to stop killing kittens, that you don't think it's worth the price, and you don't think it's an effective way to protect the country.

Now imagine we're not talking about kittens, but Iraqi children. How many Iraqi children must die before we demand an end to this senseless war? Yet, we sit here and wait out his last months while the killing goes on, and they continue to scare us with Iran, and they prolong this war making another callous political calculation, ie that the next president will have to deal with the mess and if that president is a Democrat then they can revive the canard that Democrats caved too soon, that like Vietnam, had we the will, had we the stomach to push on in the face of the American public's opposition (and all reason) we would have surely prevailed. This is doing business with History. Will of the People be damned, they tell us they know best and they will continue killing kittens until ousted from office, and then blame their successors for failing to achieve a victory which was right around the corner.

The salient point here is that Judt was talking about Communism, about Stalin. He was commenting upon what one Party, consolidating righteousness and might under the umbrella of an unassailable ideology is capable of doing, what horrors they feel justified to commit based upon some imagined future idyll.

This describes Communism under Stalin and it describes America under Bush. They have become what they fought.

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jeffreyleonard is a writer and PR guy living on an island in Puget Sound. Born in Los Angeles on the same day California was admitted into the union (but not the same year), graduated from Berkeley with a degree in History (Russian), walked the (more...)
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