Monday, March 24, 2008

Five Years Ago Continued - Keeping Faith in a Dark World

I've read quite a bit in the last few days from neo-cons wondering who first opposed the war and why. The thought process seems to be that since only dirty hippies oppose wars there must be some other explanation since they were right and the (apologies to Glenn Greenwald) Very Serious People who did their usual cheerleading act from the sidelines were wrong. I suppose it is logically possible that even hippies can be right sometimes in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day, but there seems to be a genuine, almost anthropological curiosity from the Vanguards of Corporate America about the rest of us who proved on this occasion to be uncannily right. So, gosh, how did we get it so right back in 2003? I mean, was there a big secret or was it just one of those oracular hippie trips? In response to that I'd like to make the personal observation that staying sane in a society which is losing its mind is an extraordinarily painful experience. You don't know how much of your individual sense of well-being is invested in your perception of the rationality of others until that warm blanket is suddenly, violently wrenched away from you and you are left to contemplate the possibility that everyone around you may be going completely insane. Try waking up some morning and disbelieving everything you read in the newspaper, hear on the radio, or watch on television. And then tell me how that feels. Pretty bad, huh? That was what it felt like for the millions of us in the winter of 2002-2003 who could see in the most obvious and transparent way that the Bush administration was planning a war that no amount of factual evidence or diplomatic cooperation could possibly forestall. The most mind-bogglingly basic question of the lead-up to the war - if the Bush administration knew for a fact that there were WMD in Iraq, then where the hell were they? - was, amazingly, never asked by the media. After all, there were weapons inspectors on the ground, with unprecedented access to the whole country. All the Bush administration had to do was to call up Scott Ritter and let him know where the weapons were so the inspectors could finish their job. Yet it was stunningly obvious from the obscure scraps of innuendo peddled most infamously by Colin Powell at the U.N. that not only did the proof not exist - because if it did they surely would have used it rather than what they had - but that the "urgency" being blasted from on high through a thousand media outlets all at once was not a result of a threat (to anyone) being posed by Saddam, but the high likelihood that the inspectors would finish the job and prove once and for all that there were no WMD in Iraq. The complete and total obviousness of all of this made it impossible to believe any of the lies, even if I had wanted to. Actually, my favorite commentary at the time was in the Guardian (UK,) which perfectly expressed the insanity of the moment. It read something like, "Bush's claim that the U.S. needs to invade Iraq before the end of the month makes about as much sense as saying we must join with the Riders of Rohan in their battle against the dark forces of Lord Sauron." The case for war was fiction in the most literal sense of the word, as I've stated before. I don't know if that sufficiently answers the neo-cons questions or not. My experience of the war propaganda was one of intense, malicious psychic violation, something akin to being held hostage while everything you hold dear is ruthlessly, systematically destroyed. That may seem like an exaggeration, and I'm not saying it was the healthiest response, but in my defense I took for granted at the time that the war would last for years at enormous cost to each of us, so I got started on that grieving project early. Others may have experienced things differently. I'm in a much better place now, and I try not to take things so personally. This Lent, I even started praying again.

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