Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Nation that Mistook a Dangerous Zealot for a President

As regular gentle readers will know (that’s you Bob!) I’ve been AWOL from discussion of Bush, Kerry and the election for some time now.
Burn out, depression, same old-same old – who knows? All I know is that I couldn’t sustain the level of horror and disbelief required to continue watching the sad, sick sideshow that the war, the candidates and the run up to the election has become.
(Well, I watched it… fairly pathologically… but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.)
And then I saw respected investigative journalist, author and New Yorker magazine contributor Seymour Hersh on Jon last night, touting his latest offering, the sobering ‘Chain of Command – The Road from 9/11 to Abu Grhaib’ and I found new heights (or depths) for my horror to grow.
(My horror is like the biggest fatty you ever saw – sometimes I give it bonbons in the form of reading the Op Ed section of the New York Times and sometimes I put it on a diet by religiously clicking past CNN without a peep or a peek. But I’m inconsistent – it’s why my horror is consistently flabby…)
Hersh, a veteran commentator (he originally broke the story of the My Lai massacre, winning a Pulitzer for his troubles so many historically ignored moons ago) was appearing on the Daily Show to discuss the book that details the White House’s single-minded pursuit of an attack on Iraq following through to the prison scandal in Abu Grhaib.
There was plenty there to discuss, plenty to ratchet up my already over-loaded horror quotient (or HQ as I now think of it) with speculation on the raw sewage that’s going to enter the atmosphere on wings when the truth about the even more horrific goings on at the Guantanamo prison come to light… the political nature of virtually every decision that surrounded covering up the various nightmares… and the fingerprints traceable to Vice President Dick Cheney visible on nearly every revolting, spine-chilling incident.
It’s funny – I’ve heard so much of it before (though with a few new twists and tweaks each time) that it’s beginning to sound like rote. It’s what makes the situation bearable though; all these ‘no surprises’
surprises, my eye fixed firmly on the White House and the American public, and trying, trying, trying to understand why a good 50% of them don’t see what the rest of Americans and the rest of the world see. How they can be sound asleep to the disconnect between Afghanistan and Iraq, Bin Laden and Saddam, serving in the military and allowing influence to include you out. You know – the usual.
So I guess in a way I’ve become saturated –there’s only so much insanity you can take before you have to step back and start taping 30-something reruns… letting the ‘same old, same old’ discussion swirl about you like so many buzzing, blundering bumble bees. But then Hersh said something that made me sit up and stop speculating on how Jon would look in a double-breasted navy pinstripe set off with a red tie, taking horrible notice of a truth I seriously hadn’t considered.
It’s not about oil and money.
According to Hersh, the real truth, the real horror - and the sorrow and the pity - is that people are on the wrong track if they believe in the conspiracy theories – theories so old and so familiar, they’re in danger of becoming as comfortable as a lullaby.
It’s not a conspiracy… it’s much, much worse.
The real road, the actual path to truth and righteousness, and the reason more than a thousand Americans and well over 10,000 Iraqis have lost their lives (and thousands upon thousands of others are injured or maimed or driven mad by the sights they’ve seen) is that Bush, Cheney, and the gang of neo-con ‘Zealots and Utopians’ that run the White House actually believe that they were right to go to Iraq. Right to bring death and destruction and misery raining down from above. Right to believe – and still believe - they can bring shiny American democracy into the lives of those they have literally and figuratively tortured for going on 2 years now.
That ‘flowers in the street, happy Iraqis welcoming the troops’ crap? They believed it. Setting up a government and patting it into place (and on the head) before cheerily saying a hail and farewell and trotting off to do the same thing to the rest of the Middle East? All in the original plan. Improving the US reputation as the planet Earth’s moral authority? You betcha. Getting the support of Americans who would march like sleepwalkers into the polling booths to endorse four more years of the same? Priceless.
And it’s happening right now.
The first of the debates is tonight and most of the pundits are already handing it to Bush, along with the oath of office and an order of fries – but there’s still hope: Americans must wake up. I believe it, Hersh believes it – he has to.
It reminds me of the film – a true story – about possibly the most famous sleepers ever, described by Dr Oliver Sacks (based on a chapter in his book: ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ and played by Robin Williams in the 1990 movie) who brought them back from frozen eternity for a few short months, before they slipped back into twilight.
There’s a scene that occurs before the ‘Awakenings’ when Sacks (Dr. Sayer in the film) consults with a doctor who had diagnosed many of the patients with the mysterious sleeping sickness years before; Sayer asks the doctor (Max von Sydow if memory serves) if he thinks the patients are are sentient – conscious, aware - inside the bodies that hold them prisoner. The doctor replies that of course they are not. But Sayer persists – why, he wants to know, is the doctor so sure?
“Because the alternative,’ the doctor replies, “is unthinkable.”
Rise and shine America.

1 comment:

BarneyDunn said...

Amazing how one person can be so astonishingly shallow and wrongheaded and yet so utterly convinced of the profundity and soundness of her own formulations, in this case reformulations of loony-left pieties.

Read the papers lately? Guess where this doozie comes from.
It's not even spring yet, but a long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East. Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the impoverished towns of the Gaza Strip. It is far too soon for any certainties about ultimate outcomes. In Iraq, a brutal insurgency still competes for headlines with post-election democratic maneuvering. Yesterday a suicide bomber plowed into a crowd of Iraqi police and Army recruits, killing at least 122 people - the largest death toll in a single such bombing since the American invasion nearly two years ago. And the Palestinian terrorists who blew up a Tel Aviv nightclub last Friday underscored the continuing fragility of what has now been almost two months of steady political and diplomatic progress between Israelis and Palestinians.

Still, this has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. Washington's challenge now lies in finding ways to nurture and encourage these still fragile trends without smothering them in a triumphalist embrace.

Lebanon's political reawakening took a significant new turn yesterday when popular protests brought down the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami. Syria's occupation of Lebanon, nearly three decades long, started tottering after the Feb. 14 assassination of the country's leading independent politician, the former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

* * *

Once Syria is gone, Hezbollah, which has engaged in international terrorism under Syrian protection, must either confine itself to peaceful political activity or be shut down.

Last weekend's surprise announcement of plans to hold at least nominally competitive presidential elections in Egypt could prove even more historic, although many of the specific details seem likely to be disappointing. Egypt is the Arab world's most populous country and one of its most politically influential. In more than five millenniums of recorded history, it has never seen a truly free and competitive election.

* * *

The Bush administration has helped foster that feeling of hope for a democratic future by keeping the pressure on Mr. Mubarak. But the real heroes are on-the-ground patriots like Ayman Nour, who founded a new party aptly named Tomorrow last October and is now in jail. If Mr. Mubarak truly wants more open politics, he should free Mr. Nour promptly.

It is similarly encouraging that the terrorists who attacked a Tel Aviv nightclub on Friday, killing five Israelis, have not yet managed to completely scuttle the new peace dynamic between Israel and the Palestinian Authority... . The good news is that the leaders on both sides did not instantly retreat to familiar corners in angry rejectionism. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, have proved they can work together to thwart terrorism and deny terrorists an instant veto over progress toward a negotiated peace.


National Review, right?