- After all these years, it still amazes how Americans
can remain so disconnected from the world events in which we play so central
a role. I use the term "world events" loosely, since the US today
seems to have lost even its historically tenuous connections with the reality
of the rest of the world. We continue to call our baseball championships
the World Series, oblivious to how quaint and naive, at best--or arrogant
and self-absorbed, at worst--it has always seemed to the rest of the world.
This has been the hallmark of Americans' role in the world--a curious blend
of ubiquitous involvement paired with near-total ignorance.
- But the lovable galumpfing innocent act has worn thin
around the world--innocents don't usually oust your elected leaders and
install their own puppets--and its charm, if it ever had any, is no longer.
Yet the national stupidity persists, facilitated by its enablers in the
headline-addicted US press establishment, to the detriment of the American
reputation around the world. Consider these gems from recent press accounts
of the massacre in the Mansur district of Baghdad: "Oh So Close,"
chirped half a dozen tabloids. So close to what, exactly? Genocide? A War
- No. The reference to a botched raid on a house where
Saddam "may have been hiding" was to how close our liberators
came to catching The Beast. The press has so completely given itself over
to Pentagon propaganda that they can't even see red flags where they should,
sort of like a Bizzarro Running of the Bulls. Before the monotony set in,
my ears perked up at the tedious repetition of the obviously planted party
line: how US forces had come within twenty-four hours of catching Hussein's
security detail, "...and possibly even the deposed dictator himself."
- Imagine my excitement! Almost! Very close! How dumb do
you have to be to infer correctly that, in the pathologically dishonest
code of the worst administration in history, as phrase as weak as "possibly
even" should translate as "definitely not." Almost, we have
learned, only counts in horshoes and WMDs.
- Aside from Paul Simon lyrics, the other reference unzipping
itself from the archive of my subconscious was the memory of Winston Smith,
Orwell's everyman from 1984, sitting and playing chess while listening
to broadcasts of how Big Brother would cleverly defeat the enemy. The parallel
is chilling, and makes me wonder what kind of personal hell we are each
supposed to go through before we all finally love Big Brother.
- "How stupid do they think we are?," the question
fairly screams in our minds. Apparently exactly as stupid as we have proven
to be after all these years. Orwell's Goldstein expounded that he who controls
the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the
future. Of course, 1984 was at least partly fiction, a figment of Orwell's
fertile communist imagination. We never got to see the other side of the
story Winston weaves into a stunning triumph for Big Brother.
- In this reality, at least for now, we are indeed privy
to the rest of the story. We have access to front line reports of the massacre
that unfolded under the name of this botched raid. The Independent's Robert
Fisk takes a different line than the oft-repeated Fish Story: <http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/story.jsp?story=428199>Troops
Turn Botched Raid into Massacre. "At least one civilian car caught
fire, cremating its occupants," reports Fisk. One civilian was brought
to Yarmouk hospital "with his brain outside of his head." Well,
Emily Latilla would have remarked before issuing her trademark "Never
mind," "That's very different!"
- However, the Fish Story about "the one that got
away" is more compelling in our national, self-delusional narrative
than the truth, and far easier to digest. But nobody needs a doctor to
tell them that whether something tastes good is not the best proof that
it is safe to eat. Likewise, Americans should be careful to trace how this
poisonous story was deceptively sweetened into a near triumph--especially
when, under the icing, it reveals an unmitigated disaster.
- The veneer, our seemingly unending capacity to stay Still
Stupid After All These Years, allows our governments literally to get away
with murder. It allows us to ignore the roots of hatred and distrust in
the region, from the CIA ouster of the elected but unacceptably socialist
government of Mohamad Mossadegh in 1953. Equally forgotten is the US installation
of the Shah's brutal regime and tireless efforts to prop up repressive
governments throughout the Gulf, including Hussein himself. He who controls
- But of course, Goldstein collides with Santayana at some
inevitable point. We appear to be indeed condemned to repeat the closed
loop of Occupation 101. The language of imperial conquest is always the
same: liberation, civilization, democratization...all hopelessly self-aggrandizing
concepts to the families of the victim "with his brain outside of
his head." The stupidity gene has been equally inherited by both major
parties over the years, despite the current mutation into the truly monstrous.
Nonetheless, one of the most rational calls comes from Democratic presidential
candidate Dennis Kucinich, who suggests withdrawing US troops, turning
over reconstruction (and contracting) over to the UN, and making the Administration
pay for the reconstruction its bombing made necessary. Cheney's personal
fortune should cover a chunk of it. Sound advice that won't be followed--Simon's
lyrics give way to Pete Seeger's, in the plaintive, almost mournful chorus
to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," a song he wrote in the
wake of his indictment by the Unamerican Activities Commission in 1955:
"When will we ever learn/Oh when will we ever learn?"
- © 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission
- Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA,
with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run <>The
Greenhouse School. He has appeared on radio <http://www.informationclearninghouse.info/article3770.htm>[interview
available here] Past articles, translations are available at <>danielpwelch.com.
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