Friday, March 21, 2008

In the Shadowlands: Listening to the War Coming Home

Meet the Press interviewer: Two-thirds of the American people now say the Iraq war wasn’t worth it.

Dick Cheney: So?

Webster Tarpley used to be a La Rouchie. I have to admit that’s not really grounds for credibility in my book. He has since distanced himself from the bizarre political cult that is La Rouchism, only to become one of the primary voices among 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Another reason for caution, perhaps—although his book on the subject: 9/11, Synthetic Terror Made in the USA, received high praise from at least one serious reviewer. Be all that as it may, on March 19th, while a few hundred people were disrupting traffic in the streets of San Francisco in order to protest five years of US aggression in Iraq, I was listening to him talk about the evils of monetarism on the local Pacifica radio station. This is one of Tarpley’s big subjects, and it turns out that he is no more fringe-y in his economic analysis or his economic prescriptions than a garden-variety Roosevelt Democrat (which I suppose, in this day and age in America is like saying he is a Bolshevik or a child molester or something).

... And then, of course, there’s this endless state of war. The really disturbing parallel with 20th century Germany for Tarpley is that even though economically we are Weimar, we already have our Hitler in office: his name is Dick Cheney, and he wants us to go to war with Iran. Cheney is nowhere near as popular as Hitler was in 1939, when he urged his generals to invade Poland, and may even have arranged a provocative event to justify the decision once they agreed to do so. But Cheney is no less powerful for all that, no less determined, and for the same reasons: ideology and (voodoo) economics. And now time is really short: only 10 months to go. Like Hitler, in a conversation Tarpley cites from William Shirer’s book on the Third Reich, Cheney knows that the U.S. could soon be too poor and too embroiled in expanding economic unrest to maintain the degree of military might it still possesses. And the banking sector, which keeps grasping for ground and finding that the quicksand is already everywhere, is ripe for uncontrolled panic, from which, as Tarpley says, “the leap forward into war has often come as a relief.” The only heartening news in Tarpley’s worsening-case scenario comes from inside the military itself, which knows better than anyone how overstretched it already is. A desperate struggle is being waged behind the wall of silence that the military brass maintains with the public, and it has to be the main, if not the only, reason we have not already begun bombing Iran.

Because what I listened to and watched these past few days also gave me the sense of an opposition movement that has been utterly outstripped by events. In the San Francisco streets, cops outnumbered demonstrators in every protest. Almost everybody hates the war, but the amount of vitriol being poured out on various media comments pages, from the San Francisco Chronicle to You Tube, against the very notion of protest itself is at least a circumstance to be reckoned with. It is Cheney’s contempt writ large. What else seems to be on the verge of collapse, in our public culture at least, is empathy: we spend so little face-time with our fellow citizens that we are ever-more inclined to lash out at shadow-culprits or Judas-goats online, from the comfortable darkness of anonymity. We’re all strangers to one another in the virtual polity, even to many of the people we euphemistically call “friends.” ...

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