"It [government] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." ~ Alexis de Tocqueville
Now that the war has started, there are juicy quotes everywhere. One this morning particularly caught my eye:
"'With each passing day and every day an increasingly desperate Iraqi regime violates many international laws and all norms of human decency,' Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clark said Wednesday."
I'm all for human decency. Living in peace, trading rather than stealing. Not going out of my way to pick a fight with someone. Following, in other words, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Nevertheless, Ms. Clark's statement has a surreal glow to it. Unless I've suddenly been transported to some Alternate Universe, it is WE who are violating every international law under the sun. WE who are attacking a country that has never invaded the United States, has never threatened to invade the United States, and could not, as a practical matter, accomplish such a feat even if every Iraqi suddenly got together behind the idea.
I know this quote has made the rounds lately, but let me recall, one more time, words from the Nuremberg trial. No, not Hermann Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe, who said, before being sentenced to death, "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." (Smart guy, that Goering. He must have written some books before he was hanged, because Bush, Rumsfeld, and the whole cabal running this country into the ditch today are obviously fervent disciples of Mr. Goering's philosophy.)
No, I'm talking about the stirring speech made by Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, who was this country's representative to the International Conference on Military Trials in August 1945 and the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials: "We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
Those were the days! The United States was standing on the side of Good back then; today we play Germany's role of naked aggressor instead. All it took to flip from white hat to black was one mentally challenged president with delusions of grandeur ("a legend in his own mind," to borrow Dirty Harry's hilarious phrase), a frightened and ignorant public willing to be sold transparent lies (Saddam was involved in 9-11!), a whole lot of military hardware just begging to be detonated somewhere, anywhere, so that some very rich people can get even richer, and voila! How low the mighty have fallen.
Will George W. Bush and his henchmen ever stand at the dock in a war crimes trial? That's a delicious thought. I'd settle for a lot less: Just running the bums out of power would suit me. Speaking of which, am I the only person who has a nagging fear that something's going to happen in fall 2004 that'll give Bush an excuse (however flimsy) for suspending elections? If you answered, "No way that could happen!" please come on down; I've got a bridge in Manhattan for sale that I think I could interest you in.
But back to Iraq. I will certainly agree that the behavior of some Iraqis is troublesome. If soldiers dress in civilian clothes and pretend to surrender, then open fire, nobody will be able to surrender safely. That's going to result in needless deaths (in point of fact, ALL the deaths in this war are needless, but you get what I mean). That's a shame for all involved, Iraqi civilians, U.S. soldiers, and everyone else.
Ms. Clark is also correct when she describes the Iraqi government as "increasingly desperate." The awesome might of the U.S. military, which surpasses anything in human history by severalfold, aimed right at you, would have such an effect, no? Bush has coyly and pointedly refused to rule out using nuclear weapons (what a guy!). Only a complete fool would fail to be afraid, desperate in fact.
But where does Ms. Clark get off looking down her nose about "human decency?" It's THEIR country, and OUR bombs murdering innocents and soldiers alike. Very clearly, whatever Saddam Hussein's sins (and no one doubts that they are many; he is a classic murderous government thug), a vast majority of Iraqis don't want to be "liberated" by the United States. They'd rather take their chances with Mr. Thug (who's at least a home-grown hoodlum) than with a bunch of imperialistic foreign interlopers. Hell, thousands of ex-pats are said to be crossing from Jordan BACK into Iraq, just to fight against the invasion. Hello??? Does that give us a clue?
Double-edged their methods may be, but Iraqis are resorting to the only tactics that have any effectiveness against overwhelming strength. They are using, to a great degree, the same sort of guerrilla actions that our own forefathers used against the British in defense of our own soil. But perhaps this isn't a good time to remember our roots; we might start weeping, wondering how we got so lost.
We f***ed up. We thought it would be a cakewalk, and we thought people would welcome us. It's not a cakewalk, and no one is welcoming us. Even if those original fantasies had been true, we would have no right to invade another nation on such a flimsy pretext. Now that those pipe-dreams have proven completely false, we have all the more reason, from both a moral and practical standpoint, to get the hell out.
Oh, but gee. That might mess up Bush Junior's re-election next year, a terrible replay of Gulf War I and Daddy Bush's humiliation in '92. I do believe that, for Junior, that's a more important consideration than anything else, including "human decency," of which he seems to have precious little, pious claims of being a "Christian" notwithstanding. This begs the question, what is more important: one man's political career, or the lives of American soldiers and citizens all around the world? The answer seems obvious.
Support our troops! Bring them home NOW!!