THOLOS OF ATHENA

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Once More, Dear Friends by Grayson Harper


In 1964, the United States invaded a little country in Southeast Asia, which posed no threat to us and had never attacked us. Our excuse for that invasion was the Gulf of Tonkin Affair, in which it was alleged that our battleships were being attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. This turned out to be a pure fabrication. A Boldfaced Lie.

But the American people seemed to swallow it without much question. There was a good deal of hysterical patriotism and flag-waving. And then we watched our children, fresh from high school, go running off to the killing fields.

Now, we just got through invading another one. This time, we were told that the brutal dictator of a small, weak country was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, and that he intended to use them against us at some future date. Not that he ever actually spelled out what he had in mind; we simply decided--in advance--what his intentions were, and we acted on that. We launched a full-scale military attack on a country based on its president's alleged state of mind. It didn't matter that we could no more figure out his state of mind that we could determine the future by a careful reading of tealeaves.

And this is now our nation's accepted war policy. Such will determine the fate of human beings, the possible destruction of towns, cities, and even countries.

And so we appear to have left the world of logic and reason.

Not that any war particularly relies on those things. But with Vietnam, at least we were still pretending they attacked us first, thereby upholding a sacred tradition, dating clear back to the Mexican War. Now, suddenly with Iraq, we're being asked (demanded) to throw out one of our most cherished illusions. This is going to take some getting used to.

Well, I'm not buying it. I don't think Americans really ever swallowed any of those lies in the first place. Well, okay, some of them did. All right, maybe a lot of them did.

But let's be reasonable. Everyone knows that the leadership of the U.S.--from the top down through both houses of Congress--is almost completely corrupted by corporate interests, from Halliburton to Lockheed-Martin, from Exxon-Mobil to Walmart. Everyone knows this. And ever since the days of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, everyone knows our government systematically and habitually lies to us. Not even a largely pro-Administration, pro-war press can prevent all the lies from leaking out of the halls of power. They don't have duct tape enough to plaster over all those cracks.

Recent case in point: Colin Powell's report to the U.N. Security Council about nuclear weapons in Iraq, which we later learned was based on falsified documents. This was flashed across the nation by all the networks and made the front pages of most newspapers. Did it matter to Colin Powell? Not much. Did it make an iota of difference to the American people? A high percentage seemed to say not a bit. They just waved their flags, looked the other way, and off we went again.

There's nothing new about any of this. Take the Mexican War--the granddaddy, the crucible for just about all our subsequent wars. There was President James Polk doing everything he could to invade a country without seeming to invade. Meanwhile, the pro-war press reflected what was on the minds of most Americans, stating that Texas was ours by right, that California would soon follow. Moreover, they said it was our "manifest destiny" to acquire this vast empire, put here by God for the benefit of "our multiplying millions." Thus, war against Mexicans, Indians, whoever got in the way, was completely justified. Indeed, sanctified by religion--just as our current president tried to sanctify our war with Iraq.

Americans have always known what they wanted. And if that means having a ripping good war, so much the better. To that end, the blatant lies and feeble excuses are little more than an archaic formality--"sound and fury, signifying nothing." For, even when Americans surely have known they were being lied to, it doesn't appear to have mattered in the least.

How can this be? Perhaps it is simply because Americans love war. They love gunpowder and fireworks and they love waving the flag. They love the trappings of war, the rousing speeches, the pious prayers for victory, the parades, the guns, the ships, the tanks, the planes, the heroes in uniform, and even sham heroes in flak suits. You can tax them to death, take away their jobs, break their schools, bust their pension funds and steal them blind. But just give them the rocket's red glare, and they'll give you their undying love.

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