Tuesday, June 24, 2014
We used to speculate here in the deep Chatham woods, back in Aught Two, that the whole Iraq War deal had to be "about oil." Or in a related theory, "about money." Mr. Cheney was still getting his nice checks from Haliburton, where he'd been CEO before appointing himself Veep after intentionally misunderstanding Mr. Bush's instructions that he "find a Veep for me." And certainly Haliburton found great financial success in the Iraq War, some of which surely trickled down to Mr. Cheney's coffers, as is the nature of economics.
But last weekend Mr. Cheney was on the teevee brushing aside any questions of the past and maintaining that the United States faced a new peril, the rising tide of terrorism all over the world, from Iraq and Syria and Iran and Afganistan and Pakistan, to India and Indonesian and North Korea and gawd knows. Without saying it, Cheney was pretty much saying what that Heritage Foundation's panel of racists were saying to the single brave muslim woman who questioned their narrative. Mr. Obama was wrong because he had failed to keep the US boot firmly on the neck of militant Islam, and now militant Islam had wriggled free again. Not that he used quite those words, of course.
And it occurred to me, in the deep night, that maybe the reason Cheney was so on with the Iraq War Two was simply that if you see the world the way he does, it doesn't matter at all whether Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. Them muslims is all of a piece to Mr. Cheney. This is why there's a whole right-wing "movement" to make Americans petrified of muslims, including American muslims. It's a symptom of a convenient thought mistake, just like Nazism was back in the day, just like racism still is for millions of Americans. And I think Mr. Cheney probably really believes this horse shit, just like Mr. Nixon, in the privacy of his thoughts and interior conversations.
I hope that remarkably brave and well-grounded young woman who stood up to that convention of Hate last week (and Hate is certainly our American Heritage as much as it is a tragic human condition everywhere) gets the opportunity to talk to all of us some more. Her reply to a whole room of jeering racists was far finer than I would have summoned under those conditions. "I guess I represent the moderate Muslims," she said. Damn straight.
That young woman is the man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. Mr. Cheney is the tank. He's already broken a whole country in the service of his racism. He learned nothing, and will not brook any questions about it either. "Let's not litigate the past," he says. What a convenient way to look at our responsibilities. He must have learned that from the absolute master of denial, Donald Rumsfeld, back in the '70s, when they were working together for Mr. Nixon.
If "they're" all the same, a blow against any one of "them" will do. This is the basis for an imperial foreign policy. This is what America and it's Allies briefly "saved" the world from, in the process of World War II. It's not that we're exceptional, but that our parents did something exceptional, if at the same time deeply flawed. (We did, after all, "save" the world with an atomic bomb.)
As with many of these grand historical cliches, there's a hidden elision in the idea that America or the Allies "saved" the world from the subjugation of an imperial foreign policy operated by either Germany or Japan, or both. A lot of people, at the end of World War II, decided that what America "won" was the driver's seat of the imperial foreign policy bus. Somebody had to drive it; it might as well be us. Where there might have been an opportunity to move forward into a more democratic world, leadership in the west mostly saw a necessity for someone to take authority. And of course the cold war, which opened shortly after the end of the war, underscored that mind-set.
Almost every challenge that America has faced since the end of World War II has been met with Authority. This is the objection raised by the critics of Mr. Obama's decisions concerning Iraq. We were to make "them" behave. The easy resort to torture which the previous administration took up in the days after 9/11 reflects the same distrust of our own principles and ideals. So does the sordid "institution" of Guantanamo, our own convenient Siberia, removed from all those annoying rules we profess allegiance to. The so-called American Fair Trial is reserved for Americans, period.
This elision floats along all of American history, from the very start of it. Built into the foundation is the 3/5ths rule and various other doubts added like footnotes to the great Jeffersonian principle: All men are created equal. A tiny band of Saudis and Egyptians flew hijacked planes into our buildings, and so we attacked Iraq. This was racist and totalitarian to the core. And it was obvious that such a blatant injustice would yield more bitterness, hatred and turmoil. It's too bad we don't have a news interviewer capable of at least countering Mr. Cheney's bluster. What's the worst that could happen? He could flounce off the set with a "fuck you". He already did that to Sen. Lehey. The world did not tremble.