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Sunday, Mar. 30, 2003 at 5:36 PM
A couple of nights ago, the President again emphatically restated his deep caring for the Iraqi people by angrily chiding them with, “You WILL be liberated.”
“Debating” the War
In the interest of having a “democratic protest,” the Columbia University Anti-War Coalition, with the at least passive support of most of the protestors, decided to allow two of the pro-war demonstrators to address the anti-war demonstrators from the pulpit. The idea was to practice democracy by allowing dissenting voices to be heard and by conducting a healthy debate. I agree, in a democracy, everybody’s voices need to be heard, and debating is of paramount importance in deciding what path the country should take.
But can you call a discussion about war with a pro-war person a debate?
What kind of debate is it when the pro-war side’s debating tactic is to go down a list of some three or four pathetic attempts at reasoning on the part of the Bush administration called “arguments,” ignore all of the evidence to the contrary, then, in an incredible display of strategic amnesia, completely forget that the pro-war arguments have been proven totally false and go through the list over and over again? Does that qualify as a “debate”?
The Bush administration first tried to make a case for going to war against Iraq by trying to establish a link between Saddam and the then relatively fresh Osama bin Laden threat. This argument dragged its miserable belly around for a while, but in the end it finally and thankfully died when every agency from the CIA to the Pakistani Secret Service contradicted it. Then Bush said, “Oh, did I say connections with bin Laden? What I really meant was weapons of mass destruction.” A short while later it was revealed that the MI6 intelligence report proving Bush’s and Blaire’s case had not only been plagiarized from a grad-student thesis based on facts from 1991, but that all of the spelling and grammatical errors had been reproduced in the copy! Bush ignored this and continued with his assault on reason. Flagrantly brushing aside World Opinion, the United Nations, and among countless others even the Pope, Bush attempted to justify his murderous campaign by attempting to disguise it as a sincere effort to “rebuild a democratic Iraq.” But then it became clear that the policy with regard to the 20+ countries that the US has attacked in about the same number of years has been to bomb them back into the stone age, steal their resources and whatever is of value, then throw them and their populations in the trashcan. The mines, radioactive shrapnel, extreme indigence, and the despair in Afghanistan say as much.
In an incredible display of what the press calls “resolve” but what is unmistakably a sign of a pathological break with reality, Bush then began to assert what is probably the most preposterous argument yet: We should bomb Iraq because by doing so we will be liberating the Iraqi population. To be fair to this unpopular President, this argument does make sense if you twist it around and chop it up a little: The American soldiers are shooting at Iraqis in order to liberate them; it of course follows, obviously, that Iraqi civilians are shooting back at American soldiers because they want to be liberated. Last night, the President again emphatically restated his deep caring for the Iraqi people by angrily chiding them with, “You WILL be liberated.”
So, again: What debate?
If you have ever tried to “debate” the war with a pro-war person, you must have noticed that their strategy bears a striking resemblance to that of missionaries: ignore reason, repeat your assertions over and over again until the enemy is completely exhausted and confused by your total denial of rationality, and, finally, take advantage of the enemy’s confusion to inculcate in him or her an irrational, millennial blind faith in your cause by demonstrating to him that your argument is stronger than even reason, itself: It makes no sense, but it is nevertheless true! It’s a miracle! Anyone who has managed to escape the groupthink imposed on the public by the media knows that the debate is pretty much closed: absent some new revelation about the war, the arguments for war that have been advanced are all completely bankrupt and debating them is a complete waste of time.
With all of their arguments debunked, the warmongers have withdrawn to the last bastion of pro-war arguments, the “Support Our Troops” one. Warmongers have a special appreciation for this argument because it allows them to take an air of moral superiority: they are for “our” troops; hence, they are superior to those who are, implicitly, “against” “our” troops. Leaving aside the ironies associated with the “Support Our Troops” position, such as the lack of willingness of fighting-age men championing this view to sign up with the army and go to the frontlines, the question of American patriotism is worth looking into.
Much like the way religious fanatics have “God” perpetually on their lips, US jingoists are forever found draped in the red, white, and blue. Lacking reason to defend their ideas, these zealots have a superstitious faith in the magical powers of their respective relics and think that by wrapping themselves up in, say, the flag, they will be afforded a kind of magic shield against what their dim, infantile minds are unable to understand and which therefore produces a lot of anxiety in them—independent thinking.
These same people also like to fly the flag on their cars that, not surprisingly, tend to be SUVs. There is a good reason for this correlation between jingoism and SUVs. First of all, while most intelligent people find offensive the way the narrators of SUV commercials scream at the viewers as if they were in a WWF wrestling match, SUV patriots are attentive to SUV commercials because screams and grunts are pretty much the only external stimuli that manage to penetrate through the ever present static roaring in their minds. More importantly, and contrary to what one might think, the flag flying SUV jingoists do have a dim awareness of who they are: they do suspect that they are overgrown babies that have been raised by the media to consume and excrete at full capacity; people who are so hooked on their out-of-control consuming habits that they consider everything else secondary, sometimes even their children; hebephrenic half-wits that want their tummies tickled, their asses powdered, and someone to step on; people, if you can call them that anymore, who demand that the infantile idiocy that is their lives-spent-watching-primetime be protracted—for ever! Sadly, to them, protection for their irresponsible consumption is what the flag stands for, and of course, George Bush is more than willing to oblige them.
It has been observed that people who suspect they have contracted a life threatening illness are often reluctant to go to the doctor. They are reluctant because they are afraid that their suspicions will be confirmed; hence, rather than face tragedy, they prefer to pretend to be healthy. By the same token these from-head-to-toe-consumers don’t want to admit that they have a huge addiction problem. They would rather go on imagining themselves all red, white, and blue, as if their behavior had anything even remotely to do with the revolutionary actions of the founding fathers. Ben Franklin would turn over in his grave if he saw the kind of people flying the flag today. These “patriots” keep yelling “freedom” but they don’t have the slightest clue as to what the word means; in their minds, freedom means the freedom to consume the resources of the world without restraint even if they have no right to them, take a huge dump on it, and have the media tell them that what they are doing is “normal” so that they are “freed” from even the pangs of guilt, as if they are capable of any emotion other than rapacious greed—an emotion they become aware of as they notice that the impulse to ever more desperately stuff twinkies deeper into their mouths recurs in that oh-so-deep gap between twinkies. And so they eat, shit, and spin their fantasies, saying things that are so patently preposterous that you have to wonder whether the contradiction between who they think they are and who they really are has not resulted in some sort of real, clinically psychotic break.
Accordingly, I was not surprised to see the pro-war “debater” I mentioned earlier mount the pulpit covered in the American flag and with the air of a man who believes that because he is so covered, his patriotism (really, belligerent nationalism is more appropriate) is unquestionable and what he has to say is therefore automatically true. As soon as he climbed up on the pulpit covered by his fetish, the “patriot” began to perpetuate the America-land-of-the-free fantasy, relying heavily on clichés. Several people did not let him get away with it though. When he said, “We are lucky to have a democracy in this country” (or something to that affect), someone from the crowd yelled, “Tell that to Ashcroft.” When he said that “we” treat captured troops humanely, someone said, “Yeah, like at Camp X-ray!” All of his points were shown to be hollow, one by one, in a spirit and manner similar to that in the English Parliament: The parliament members get to have their say, but that doesn’t mean that they can make outrageous arguments without someone pointing out their lies and errors. But when he said, “My father is a soldier; he’s in Iraq right now, and he does not want to come back. Support out troops,” I immediately had the feeling that he had hit below the belt.
When we, the people, ask whether it is in the best interests of the people of this country to go to war with Iraq, we are asking a question that is a public question; when someone even implicitly brings his familial relations into this question, he is not only mixing up his private life with public life, he is doing so for the sake of winning a very Public debate—that is way below the belt. Even on the explicit level, however, his argument was weak, if it can be called an argument at all. His father who is in Iraq apparently believes that by killing people and stealing their natural resources he is doing good. What about other Americans in the United States who have relatives in Iraq? Don’t they deserve support? So, Mr. Patriot, why should I support your father and not the innocent civilians that he is bound to kill? Why? Because were he here he would be waving the American flag and, like you, expecting everybody to believe everything he says just because he has flag in his hand? You must have as much respect for the intelligence of the public as George W. Bush.
Waving the flag in support of the war against Iraq is hypocritical. The flag stands for the United States, and the values of the US are written down in the Constitution; this sounds easy enough to understand, even rather brainless, but judging by the zeal of the “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” chants yesterday, none of the chanting “patriots” had cared to consult the Constitution in their decision to support the Bush administration’s warmongering. Putting aside all of the contradictions inherent in the theory behind the Constitution, let us consider one of its guiding principals for the moment: that all men are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, all men, you say—except those born in Iraq!!! I’m not going to get into the arguments that proves this, that would take too long; I’m going to take it on faith—and, yes, I see that some might say that my faith here borders on the superstitious—that given information, anyone with even a fraction of his or her mind capable of thinking freely understands that George Bush’s order to attack Iraq and effect “regime change” was given with the intention of usurping the oil fields of the country. Does it really have to be spelled out that the Iraqi people, not to mention the people of the whole wide world, already understand that what is going on here, with the war, is the United States trying to take control of Iraqi wells in order to stabilize the American economy, an economy that was doomed long before September 11, one that, on the contrary, was the cause—rather than the effect—of September 11?
The flag-waving “patriots” are hypocrites because they support the placement of the interests of one group of people above the interests of other people—illegally: the Constitution does allow the individual to put his or her interests above the interests of others, but not when it entails harming the others physically or taking away their rights—and rights that they are entitled to, as the Constitution says, not as an American citizens, but as human beings (otherwise, it would say, “All *Americans* are created equal,” which is an untenable position). These rights include among many others the right to fight, whether through political protest or otherwise, to live in a world of responsible nations that is free from that kind of neighbor-nation that would bomb entire populations just to get its hands on what it is addicted to, say, oil. The Constitution draws the line at some very definite point; George Bush, and all those that support him, have crossed this line. That suggests, to put it mildly, that those who wave flags in support of the war against Iraq are hypocrites, and those who fight against the war are willing to take responsibility for the *real* problems of their generation and are therefore the true patriots.
ak! ak! ak!
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