A Harsh Mirror
Excerpts from Bernard Chazelle's impassioned, cynical, biting, surgically accurate Bush the Empire Slayer:
Historians will ponder how one gangly caveman and nineteen scrawny associates turned America into the land of the kind-of-free (53rd freest press in the world, tied with Botswana) and the home of the petrified. The sons and daughters of the nation that stood up to Hitler and Tojo now file through airport security barefoot, much as they would walk, shoeless, into a mosque — a mosque, they pray, empty of Muslims.
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Breathtaking as they were, the majestic vistas of Rumsfeld's ineptitude were little more than a convenient excuse for war advocates with egg on their faces. The grand whining parade has already begun, and mealy-mouthed apologists are being wheeled in on bloated floats to proffer lame excuses about inadequate troop levels, insufficient 4GW training, political fecklessness, etc. Eventually, the chest beating will die down as it always does, with the blame for the debacle pinned on the dirty antiwar hippies.
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Until we whacked them on the head, Iraqis had never expressed much desire to attack us. To the lesser minds, therefore, the idea of fighting them there so we wouldn't have to fight them here always teetered on the edge of insanity. To the neocons' delight, 9/11 came to cleanse the public discourse of the yelpings of lesser minds.
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The war has given the American mainstream media a brilliant opportunity to prove its essential worthlessness. It has shown itself to be little more than a circus of entertainers and cheerleaders for whom every season is the silly season.
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Victors are never war criminals. That's because they get to write the history books. Bush won't have that chance. The die has been cast and the hour is too late for him or anyone to alter the unforgiving judgment of posterity. Therein, paradoxically, lies our quandary. For, if freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, then Bush is a free man — free to pursue the most malignant policies, heedless of the consequences to his unworsenable presidential standing. Beware the desperation of a cornered man.
The apostle of imperial dominance, Bush slew the "last empire." The towering figure of our time, he is a piteously small man. The self-anointed emissary of a "higher father," he is servant to no power but himself. The captain of the sinking ship has laid his command upon his fellow Americans: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for me." No sacrifice of life shall be too great, no damage to civil liberties too high, no expenses too vast for a vainglorious man deluded by fantastic dreams of redemption by force.
But who besides the bereaved will mourn? Who besides the orphan will whimper? Who besides the humiliated will stare back? Who besides the thugs and the craven will lead? Patriotism is a lovely thing. In its name, some go dying by the side of an Iraqi road in twitching agony; others go shopping in oversized automobiles festooned with yellow ribbons. We all play our part — and nobody else's.
Yeats bemoaned an era when the best lacked all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity. Today, Kristol blusters and hectors, Cheney scolds and forebodes, Bush struts and smirks. Meanwhile, the giant, timid chorus listens politely to the deafening silence of the outraged — and the mad march of war goes on.