May 24, 2007

Our Disgusting, Sickening, Impenetrable National Narcissism

So if you look at the losers of the situation, there are three -- Democrats, who just reinforced the frame that they are weak and afraid to stand for what they believe in, and the troops who are stuck, away from their families, in that meat-grinder in the desert.

And then there's the American people, who have made it clear time and time again that they want this thing over, yet are denied representation by this Congress and White House.

And the reason is Congressional Dems and their leadership (notwithstanding the rebels fighting them on this), who still don't realize that the way to show "strength" to voters is to, you know, act strong.
Joan Walsh:
While cowardly antiwar Republicans confide they're giving the president until September, more American soldiers are dying. This has been the bloodiest six-month period since the war began. If I had a child fighting in Iraq -- and like the vast majority of the American media and political elite, I don't -- I'd be furious that Democratic leaders were trying to bill their cave-in to the president as a victory.
You can find many similar passages in the writings of various liberals and progressives following the Congressional Democrats' decision to support the ongoing, massive war crimes committed by the United States.

Notice anything missing? Oh, it's nothing much. Nothing very important. Only a few small details.

Over 650,000 dead Iraqis, the overwhelming majority of whom never threatened or harmed the U.S., or even wished to. The number is probably much closer to one million now.

A completely devastated and destroyed country, which huge numbers of people have been forced to flee, and to which they may never be able to return.

And all this with regard to a country that had not attacked us, and that did not threaten us. We had a choice: by definition, we were not compelled, by facts, or morality, or history, or by any other factor, to initiate a criminal war of aggression, an offensive war similar in principle to Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, a pattern most of our national leaders continually announce they may well repeat with Iran.

The Iraqis -- the dead, mutilated, maimed, and displaced Iraqis -- did not have a choice.

In November 2005, I wrote an essay entitled, "American Narcissism: Dangerous, Deadly, Wrong and Futile." In that piece, I excerpted a Norman Solomon column:
If the Pentagon had been able to subdue the Iraqi population, few in Congress or on editorial pages would be denouncing the war. As in so many other respects, this is a way that the domestic U.S. political dynamics of the war on Iraq are similar to what unfolded during the Vietnam War. With the underpinnings of war prerogatives unchallenged, a predictable response is that the war must be fought more effectively.

That's what the great journalist I. F. Stone was driving at when he wrote, a few years into the Vietnam War, in mid-February 1968: "It is time to stand back and look at where we are going. And to take a good look at ourselves. A first observation is that we can easily overestimate our national conscience. A major part of the protest against the war springs simply from the fact that we are losing it. If it were not for the heavy cost, politicians like the Kennedys [Robert and Edward] and organizations like ADA [the liberal Americans for Democratic Action] would still be as complacent about the war as they were a few years ago."

In the United States, while the lies behind the Iraq war become evermore obvious and victory seems increasingly unreachable, much of the opposition to the war has focused on the death and suffering among U.S. soldiers. That emphasis has a sharp political edge at home, but it can also cut another way -- defining the war as primarily deplorable because of what it is doing to Americans. One danger is that a process of withdrawing some U.S. troops could be accompanied by even more use of U.S. air power that terrorizes and kills with escalating bombardment (as happened in Vietnam for several years after President Nixon announced his "Guam Doctrine" of Vietnamization in mid-1969). An effective antiwar movement must challenge the jingo-narcissism that defines the war as a problem mainly to the extent that it harms Americans.
I went on to say:
Solomon concludes his article by noting that the war "has not gone wrong" -- "It was always wrong."

That's true not only and, from a more inclusive perspective, not even primarily because of what it has done and is doing to us -- but because of what it's done and is still doing to Iraq and Iraqis.

It's not only about us. We talk and act that way a lot of the time. It's never been true, and it's not true now. But the kind of "jingo-narcissism" that Solomon accurately describes is immensely destructive, and we may not have seen its worst effects in Iraq even now. It also is futile, on every level, and it only sows the seeds for more resentment and even hatred directed at the United States.

Surely, that is the one result we should do our utmost to avoid.
From an essay I wrote in February of this year, "The Unspeakable Horror of What We Have Done":
Much of the world now considers us to be a barbarian, pariah nation. From the Philippines, through Vietnam, and via many other interventions in Latin America, the Middle East and around the world, there is a monumental amount of evidence to prove the claim. We can appeal all we wish to the "principles" and "freedom" for which we allegedly stand -- but, and here is the point that most Americans refuse even to consider: to the extent those principles were once genuinely admirable, important and good, they are not operative with regard to our conduct abroad. That conduct arises from entirely different motives and concerns, as I am documenting in my Dominion Over the World series.

To continue to believe that we are "the Good Guys" in some unique manner, people must blind themselves to evidence that crashes over us at least several times a day. People must render themselves unforgivably ignorant, and criminally stupid.
And we are indisputably not the "Good Guys" in Iraq.

So to Kos, Joan Walsh (who believes that Michael Tomasky's analysis -- this analysis -- is "smart"), and everyone else who mouths the same empty platitudes, the identical fundamentally false and thoroughly conventional phrases that spring from a perspective drenched in "American exceptionalism," which views the United States as the highest possible point of human development and Americans as uniquely good and virtuous in the entire span of history, and which reduces all other peoples to fifth-rate bit players in an increasingly desperate global drama, I have this to say:


That was very rude. Extraordinarily rude. Yes, indeed it was.

On some occasions, there is just no other accurate way to address certain people.