What I often find most astonishing about the scorched earth tactics the regressive right uses to sell its policies is how utterly lame they are. Utterly, and embarrassingly lame.
If you just stop to think for a moment about most of them, they are transparently foolish on their surface, and often laughably so. I realize that that’s a big if for a lot of folks, but still... C’mon, people!
The administration has invested the most energy of all in its efforts to justify its war in Iraq, a war gone so terribly wrong, even by their standards and intentions. That was true before the war when it was relatively easy, with a compliant press and a frightened so-called opposition party, to gear up a giant merchandising machine to get the public – also frightened at the time, though for very different reasons – to believe that Saddam was Satan incarnate, and that Iraq had to be invaded pronto. And it’s been true ever since, when much the same approach has been used to browbeat opponents to the war, which group is increasingly just about synonymous with the entire American electorate.
It helped a lot that Saddam truly was a beast – if not The Beast – and that 9/11 was still relatively close in the rearview mirror. Just the same, and even without mentioning the dirty little secret that we had helped create Saddam originally – and had ignored, when we weren’t abetting, his worst crimes prior to 1990 – it still took some serious propaganda of the kind Goebbels could have admired to move public opinion sufficiently to launch the war. Hey, wasn’t it Osama that did 9/11? Aren’t we supposed to be fighting al Qaeda? True, those Arabs are all alike (even the ones in Iran, who aren’t even Arabs), but this still seems a little fishy.
But just in case you had ever doubted the perceptiveness and prescience of George Orwell before, you knew the man was a genius when a poll demonstrated that by the summer of 2003 69 percent of Americans had come to believe that Saddam had a direct part in planning the attack on New York and Washington. Ironically, it would now appear that George W. Bush had more to do with that little crime – at least by allowing, if not perpetrating it – than did Saddam, but that’s a story for another day and another essay.
Poor, stupid Karl Rove (heck, nowadays even he probably agrees with that assessment). If you could get that many dummies to plunk down for such a transparently absurd little Mid-Eastern war, he probably should have been selling them two-acre plots of green cheese on the Moon, instead. You know, take the money and run. Get while the gettin’ is good. All that. He probably could have set up shop on a beach in the Marshall Islands without fear of extradition (they already do everything we tell them to, anyhow), sipping daiquiris and watching his money grow. Maybe he didn’t cause he knows the truth about that other little scam they’ve been peddling in America, and realized that global warming will soon put that country forever in the drink.
But, seriously, you gotta figure that even the Bush junta were themselves probably amazed at the success of the ludicrous invasion whopper they’d managed to foist upon a breathtakingly foolish public, nearly the only one in the world who went for this walking non-sequitur of a war. Then again, once you’ve put a guy like George Bush in the White House, claiming as one of his great achievements that he licked forty-year alcohol addiction, you probably figure it is impossible to underestimate the stupidity of the American public. Then, yet further, again, you’ve probably also been part of the long-term conspiracy of dumbing down American politics, which makes it even less likely that you’d be surprised.
There was so much that was inane about the claims that were made at the time. Fifteen of the so-called hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, and none from Iraq, but nary a word was said about that. Iraq had never attacked the United States. Iraq had never threatened the United States. Iraq was such a big bad looming power that at the time it controlled a whopping one-third of its own airspace. Iraq was so powerful that half a million of its people had just died from disease and starvation because of the American-led sanctions. Iraq was imminently preparing to use its weapons of mass destruction that the UN inspectors couldn’t find. Donald Rumsfeld knew exactly where the WMD was, but somehow couldn’t get the message to the inspectors (or maybe they just couldn’t get batteries for their GPS units). Bush, out of his deep concern for international law, was going to war to enforce the will of the UN Security Council, which had refused to pass a resolution sanctioning war. Even after the US had nearly snapped off the arm of every member-state, bending them behind their backs to torture them into voting aye.
Iraq was such a ticking time-bomb that we had to get the inspectors out and bomb before they used their WMD they didn’t have. Iraq followed the UN resolution and reported that it had destroyed all its WMD, which proved that they obviously hadn’t. Iraq was somehow singularly immune from the laws of deterrence, which had miraculously kept the Soviet Union, with its 20,000-plus nuclear warheads from attacking the United States because of the sure annihilation which would come in response. But that would never work against the "madman" Saddam. Who was worse than Hitler. Etc., etc. Yadda, yadda and lots more yadda.
Isn’t it amazing? I mean, this is only a partial roll-call of the stuff that was either clearly known or easily logically deducible at the time. Forget about what we later learned (er, some of us, anyhow) from the Downing Street Memos, from the Circus Powellimus tour de force at the UN, from the Libby trial, and more. It is astonishing that so much flat-out dishonesty could be crammed into just one single fiasco, with the American public signing on the dotted line.
The list goes on and on, but the one that slays me most to this day is the small bit of logic concerning opposition to the war that somehow fell through the memory hole.
Those who had the audacity to oppose the war in 2003 were excoriated in the worst terms, whether they were bleeding-heart liberals, perfidious Frenchmen, or even the odd Republican. We were unpatriotic. We were disloyal. We were America-haters. We were weak. We were effete. We were appeasers. We were Defeatocrats. We were moral relativists. We gave aid and comfort to America’s enemies. We were called cowards by super-patriots who had always found ways to not quite make it to Vietnam when it was their turn. We were even called treasonous by those who would later expose a CIA undercover agent, just to discredit her husband for uncovering some of Bush’s lies in selling the war. I’m surprised they didn’t also call us poorly-groomed, but maybe Hannity or Drudge or one of those idiots actually did, and I just (mercifully) missed it.
In fact, we still are called all those things today. But next time somebody lays one of these golden-oldie absurdities on you, just ask them one question in response. Ask them to name one liberal, one Democrat, or – for that matter – one French president, German chancellor or weaselly UN official who opposed the American invasion of Afghanistan. Just one.
Now watch the smoke rise up from under their collar and out their ears as their regressive circuits fry. ‘Cause here’s the problem for them, and here’s the simple tonic to all their efforts and winning through intimidation and character assassination what they can’t win with facts and logic: The Afghanistan invasion was a scant single year before Iraq. If the American-hating, weak-kneed, defeatist appeasers who undermined the troops by opposing the Iraq war were in fact all those things, how is that they weren’t so just a year earlier?
Did something strange happen to them during 2002? Did they start the year with big, brassy, red-white-and-blue balls clanging about in their pants, only to somehow finish it pathetically searching hither and yon for their gone-missing now-shriveled raisins? Did the iron-rich, good-old fashioned American blood that coursed through their veins in January somehow dilute itself down to a thin, ironic, post-modernist French relativist anemia by December?
Yes, yes, it’s all quite possible. Quite possible, quite possible. But usually it is the simplest solutions to puzzles which turn out most often to be correct. So let’s just try this one on for size: Maybe the reason that the same people who applauded the Afghan war then opposed the Iraq war is because they saw the first one as justified and the second one as not. Maybe the reason that virtually the entire world community supported the invasion of one Muslim country and even volunteered to participate (and, yes, that includes the French and Germans), but has reviled the other invasion is because the first country was sheltering the folks who did 9/11, and the second had not a damn thing to do with that attack, nor any other against the United States.