Ronald Reagan thought it was morning in America, but from where I and some others sit today, it looks more like midnight. Our myths are being punctured, and we are confused; a violent and self-deluded people.
Dont read me wrong. America remains a great country, still better in terms of freedom than most others in the world. But we are in the grip of a group of hypocrites and liars, led by a flaky frat boy whose world view, as columnist Molly Ivins phrased it, simply does not accord with any known version of reality.
Americans still are reeling from the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq. The so-called leaders are claiming these despicable deeds were carried out by a mere handful of our troops and are not representative of American values. Maybe we need to take a hard look at our society.
These soldiers did not grow up in a vacuum. They are products of American culture. What country has an $8 billion pornography industry? Pictures even more raunchy than those from the prison are readily available on cable TV and a zillion Web sites. Whose entertainment industry believes that the only things that sell are sex and violence? What country has the most citizens in prison of the entire world? What country, in 1999, had more than 15,000 murders and 89,000 forcible rapes?
Yes, it was the not-so-good old U.S.A. How can anyone believe that if we are willing to bomb, shoot, and dismember Iraqis and destroy their country, that we would be loathe to use torture? Is it any wonder that the ordinary Iraqis are saying that Saddam was better than we are and that 80 percent want us out of their country?
They have witnessed the U.S. slaughter of their countrymen in Fallujah and Najaf, and the damage to their sacred mosques in both northern and southern Iraq. Then came the extermination of 40 children, women and men at what U.S. authorities claim was a terrorist safe house, and Iraqis say was a wedding celebration in the western desert.
A housewife in Baghdad said: The Americans must have no religion. Anyone with religion cannot torture people, destroy mosques and homes, or kill people at a wedding ceremony. They worship force, not God. Can we prove otherwise?
Saadoun Aziz, who used to work in construction before the invasion, commented: The Americans have fulfilled none of their promises. Where is the rebuilding? He said a great many Iraqis would like Saddam back because the present situation is intolerable. After June 30 the oil, finance and trade ministries will remain in the hands of the Americans, and we will have no army of our own.
An unemployed school manager said the handover of sovereignty will not bring change. They will not pull out after June 30, he said of U.S. forces. But the Americans cannot control Iraq. America promises so many things, but they have fulfilled none of them. They promised prosperity, yet they have destroyed everything. They shot up the wedding party because they are the terrorists. Another man said: They said they would bring real freedom, but we see our people tortured in prison, looted, and their homes raided.
Iain McWhirter, writing in Britains The Sunday Herald, said: The really shocking thing about the Iraq disaster is that neither Bush nor Blair seem to think they should even be contemplating resignation. This is, I fear, because British and American public opinion has not yet reacted with sufficient force. We seem to be able to live with it, abuse and all.
Yet, the very scale of this debacle may produce one long-term good: repudiation of the neo-conservative democratic imperialism. Bush and his Sharonists are not true conservatives, they are fascists. Conservatives are willing to discuss the issues, but this crowd adopts the attitude that they never make mistakes and never need to apologize.
Jack Beatty, in an article in The Atlantic, summed it up succinctly. Like the isolationists, he said, the neo-cons are historys fools. The strategy they championed was the wrongest possible strategy for the wrongest possible moment in the wrongest possible region of the world.
On NPR last week, Ian Lustig, a Middle East scholar, proclaimed that the U.S. may be so desperate to regain some bit of good will in the Arab world that it will force a settlement of the interminable struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Perhaps, but dont bank on it.
As long as Ariel Sharon and his Likud Party are in power, there will be little progress toward peace. Dubya will continue to feel Sharon squeezing his sensibility and will say little of a negative nature about Israeli policy. Where was Bushs common sense when he gave up the long-held bargaining chip on settlements and the right of return? What other U.S. president would condone the massive incursion into Palestinian territory and the massive demolition of homes that have been termed war crimes by human rights organizations? Only George W. Bush and his neo-cons.
The moderate majority of the world is being held captive by the extremists in the U.S., Israel and the Arab world. Bush and Blair must go. Sharon and Likud must go. al-Qaeda and Arafat must go. Only then will a sensible accord occur.
Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core Marine for 12 years. He was in Iraq from the start of the invasion. He quit the service last December after the carnage of slaughtering civilians soured him on the whole war.
Massey said he was in charge of a platoon of machine gunners and missile men. Their job was to enter certain areas of the towns and secure the roadways. A turnpoint incident involved a carload of Iraqis…civilians. The Marines had been told that cars were being loaded with suicide bombs or other munitions. When the car approached their checkpoint it did not slow. The Marines fired some warning shots. They still didnt slow up. So the machine guns opened up.
Massey told the Sacramento Bee: Well, this particular vehicle we didnt destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: Why did you kill my brother? We didnt do anything wrong. That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Author Neal Gabler says we have entered a brave and strange new worldthe world of post reality. That, he says, is where elements of life itself are transformed into a movie and are mentally and emotionally processed the same way.
Gerald Rellick, Ph.D., a teacher in the California Community College system, sums up the current climate with this administration: While inept in the extreme, Bush is still the choice of many because he succeeds in embodying this same revoltthat of the common, plain-spoken man against the cultural elites, the liberal intellectuals who want to tell us what to do. As a conservative speaker WHO? once remarked: In America we dont need experts; we use common sense. If only the neo-cons had some common sense.
He continued: Indeed, it is this anti-intellectual and anti-establishment impulse running through American life that explains much of the Bush phenomenon. The dumbing-down of the American presidency parallels what we see in American education and culture. Normal standards of intelligence and competence give way to superficiality when it comes to anything that is heavily processed through the media, as is the American presidency. There is a failure to appreciate that life is a difficult and challenging enterprise and that truth and wisdom bought on the cheap, as George Bush sells it, will bear ill fruit.
As George W. Bush literally said, Is our children learning?
How about you adults?
Sources: Intervention Magazine, The Sacramento Bee, The Atlantic, The Sunday Herald, Charley Reese, Dahr Jamail