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The Delusions of Crowds

From the moment the Supreme Court installed George W. Bush as President, it was laughably evident that America was being systematically looted down to the last can of Who-hash, but until Sept. 11, we didn’t realize that the rest of the planet was next.  A distracted twelve year old watching the Axis of Evil speech could have seen that something was dreadfully amiss, and yet the pancaked halfwits “covering” it for us acted as though that surreal charade was perfectly normal.

Long before Andy Card mansplained that “from a marketing standpoint, you don’t roll out new products in August,” what was painfully obvious was that the Iraq War was being waged for several quite tangible reasons that were widely reported at the time.  First and foremost were Bush’s personal reasons: the family grudge against Saddam and that danged floor with Daddy on it (since destroyed, natch), his desire to divide Democrats and thus win the 2002 midterms and reelection in 2004, and most damningly, his stated longing to be seen as a “War President,” with all the even bigger looting opportunities that would undoubtedly entail.

Secondly, the extreme (and politically damaging) secrecy surrounding Cheney’s energy plan essentially confirmed its unmentionable nefariousness, but since it did exempt fracking from Clean Water Act regulations, resulting in poisoned aquifers, earthquakes, and flammable taps, why wouldn’t it also involve knocking over an oil-rich country as though it were a convenience store to steal its oil?  The guy had just (barely) left Halliburton, of all things; this glaring conflict could have been explained to toddlers with a felt board.

But the worst part, which still plagues us today, is the way “War,” no matter how contrived and silly, silences critics by turning them into traitors, thus enabling all sorts of time-honored imperial mischief.   And boy, have we seen a lot of that.  Secrecy, torture, indefinite detention, punitive (and often fabricated) prosecutions, wiretapping, racial profiling, which along with the usual graft and corruption, are the inevitable (and desired) results of putting a country, so speciously, on “War” footing.

Instead of these much more plausible and documented reasons for the war, we talked, endlessly, about mythical Mushroom Clouds, Mobile Chemical Weapons labs, and Rape Rooms (they’d already used the babies and incubators story last time, so they had to get creative and make it sexier…), and pretty much anyone in the media who wanted to talk about known facts, rather than fluctuating phantasmagoria, was tossed off TV or reluctantly run on page 17.

As an (intermittently) sentient liberal, I spent those dizzying months in a fog.  Having just attended the largest peace rally in the country here in Portland, which like the many others worldwide might as well not have happened, for all the effect they had, I found myself in West LA, arguing with a drearily typical war cheerleader.  After meticulously shooting down the absurd claims of Colin, Condi, et al one by one, I still found myself on the”losing” end of the argument when my opponent said, simply, “Well, they know more than we do.”

He was right, of course, but certainly not in the way he intended.  Sure, I could pore over three newspapers a day and spend a disturbing amount of time online, and yet never know as much as they knew.  They knew they could rely on a crooked judiciary to codify their crimes in law.  They knew that a compliant and more importantly, complicit media would eagerly provide them with a mutually beneficial narrative to explain the whole sordid affair away when the time came.  They knew that no one involved would ever pay the slightest price for the thousands dead and wounded or the trillions squandered.

I did not know any of this then, but I do know it now.  Yet unlike Condi, I’m not so foolishly audacious as to say, “no one could have predicted” what would happen.  George Orwell, and many other before and since, predicted it with humbling accuracy.  Maybe Condi was too busy with her Chopin to read him, but I seriously doubt it.

They may have lost the war, but ten years later, it’s clear that they won the battle.  Seems they are better at predictions than previously claimed.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements

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