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Can’t Quite Face the Snark…


Hello there — I’m Thers, from Whiskey Fire, pinch-hitting today for the lovely and devastating (and vacationing) Watertiger.

I know "Face the Snark" is the place to bring Teh Funny, and I was all set to do so. There is of course no shortage of wingnut stupid out in the ‘sphere, to say nothing of the allegedly liberal "MSM." And usually very little effort is required to spin comedy gold from their straw men and goofball pontificating. The names "Jonah Goldberg," or "Ann Althouse," are pretty much jokes all by themselves: quote, snark, post that sucker! Shazam! Sure-fire hilarity.

But the close cousin of snark is disgust. As any halfway normal child will tell you, clowns make you giggle right up to the point when they make you sad and afraid and you want to cry and the cotton candy turns to ash in your mouth. Sometimes you cannot gaze upon the whole hysterical passing show that is the right blogosphere without deep disgust, unleavened by humor. Sometimes they’re just really, really depressing.

To wit: certain responses to Boston University professor and anti-war activist Andrew J. Bacevich’s heartrending article today in the Washington Post. A few weeks ago his 27 year old son was killed in Iraq. Bacevich writes that he has been pondering the responsibility that he — and, by extension, each of us as Americans — might bear for his son’s death. He could not stop this absurd nightmare of a war by speaking out; nobody could. Mustn’t there be something deeply wrong with our entire national system if it permits this catastrophe to continue even now, when everyone knows the American people wish it to end?

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

To be fair, responsibility for the war’s continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son’s death, my state’s senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son’s wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff. More accurately, after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don’t blame me.

Bacevich  says the devil in the machine is money: "To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove — namely, wealthy individuals and institutions. Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought."

I myself agree with Jim Henley that "money" alone is too simple an answer, but it’s not like Bacevich is totally off base. "Money" doesn’t explain everything, only 90 percent of it… also factoring into the equation would be imperialist ambitions, a horribly misplaced trust in authority, a stupefying lack of integrity or professionalism, and then just plain foolishness.  And that’s just describing the media! When you try to figure out exactly what the hell the Bushites were thinking you’d have to throw in ideological arrogance and delusions of competence. As for, say, Kerry, and the Democratic party… well, I’d diagnose an inordinate regard for the opinions of a corrupt punditry and a reliance on a discredited and discreditable class of consultants and pollsters. And, of course, money.

But at the core of Bacevich’s article is a wrenching call for self-examination, for an unflinching analysis of the system to which we as a people owe allegiance but yet, strangely enough, do not seem to own. That his piece is occasioned by the death of his child makes this call to reflection almost unbearably moving:

I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.

And… Enter Wingnuttia, in the person of Jules Crittenden, whose confusion is as usual comparable only to his mendacity.  According to Crittenden, Bacevich

moves from bad ideas about the war to conspiracy theories and rejection of the value of the sacrifice of American soldiers, in fact reducing it to a dollar figure. He ends with the unusual statement that he didn’t do enough against this war.  Given that he has been a significant and thoughtful, if wrong, voice against this war who happens to be on the losing end of a political process that thus far has worked as it was designed to, I’m not sure what he means.  Insurrection?

Oh, I think I can explain what he means.

The "political process" has been corrupted, is precisely Bacevich’s point. The system does not work. It is not responsive to the best interests of the people. What Crittenden does not and probably cannot understand is that Bacevich believes that his son’s sacrifice was in vain: that he did not die in the name of the American people, but in the name of powerful interests who have misled the nation — in every sense of the word "misled." He does not doubt his son’s nobility or integrity. But he thinks his son was betrayed.

As, indeed, he was. Because Bacevich is not wrong about the war. And that stands to our shame as a people. What have we done? And, almost as badly, what haven’t we done that we should have? What are we to do with all this blood on our hands?

Happy Memorial Day.

(Watertiger will be back with the snark-round-up next Sunday. What with the Capitulation Bill and all last week wasn’t very amusing, for me, personally. Oh well. I trust the wingnuts will once more begin to appear more amusing and less purely ghastly in due course, probably as soon as tomorrow… Can’t stop the snark for long, y’know!) 

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A community college professor from upstate NY. My wife & I have 347 children, all of them rotten.