Saturday, March 22, 2003

The question that needs to be asked, that will be asked, since our victory was assured from the moment we decided to go, is whether the extreme nature of the assault was necessary. Since Harlan Ullman's design was meant to be comparable to Hiroshima, the same questions need to be asked as have been asked since then. And given the nature of our impoverished enemy, and the expense, the justifications ring hollow. How many American lives will be saved as a result of this plan? If we have the option to run a war by remote control, can it ever be called just?

Shock and Awe is the wholesale destruction of a country as an act of propaganda and as such is directed not at Iraq alone but at the citizens of every country other than the US, and to a lesser extent—though not by much—at our own. My disgust at our leadership, and at the majority of our population who neither know nor understand, nor even want to understand the implications of all this, is tempered by my awareness that in the long run this campaign will be seen if not as a turning point—since it isn't one—then as the most memorable and tragic event of our devolution as a world power.

As it has been argued that The Revolution cemented the power of the bourgeoisie in France, and spread out from there, this war will mark a similar break with the past in the Arab world. Bin Laden and all the other reactionaries will fail but will have done their job merely by giving the giant a little rock to stumble over. A bee sting has driven him mad. Capitalism and modernity will spread more quickly than ever as a result of this war, not because we say so and not under our terms, but on its own. The combination of our exhaustion after decades of effort, and our desire by means of any cheap trick and sleight-of-hand to maintain control, is destroying us. But you cannot control desire and greed, you can only manage it and try not to be controlled by it. It takes a lot work to ride a bull or to be a professional gambler, and we are not up to it anymore. It's that simple: We're a country of salesmen, of drug dealers, and we use too much product. The sentimental glamour, the confusion of illusion and reality, our insistent equation of John Wayne with a cowboy, has brought about the confusion in many of us of our politics with those of a small independent republic, and of George Bush with a statesman. What can be said about those people who imagine themselves the virtuous citizens of such a state? Only this: that illusions are important. And that is why this adventure, if it is pushed to its logical extreme will fail. Americans are following their president because, and only because, in their ignorance they think his actions are just. Cheney and Rumsfeld may be commissioning studies of Julius Caesar and Attila, but that is as delusional, as divorced from reality, as any pro-war argument made by a housewife in Iowa. This is not ancient Rome. It is the illusion of fairness that has kept America going. If Bush goes much farther he will shatter his support. He's right to think he has a lot of it. But it's so shallow, and he seems so unaware.

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