By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
And sometimes worse. An editorial in the right-wing New York Sun recently suggested that peace marchers could be considered guilty of treason. When some readers quite reasonably termed such a statement un-American, frothing James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal's online "OpinionJournal" — who spends his life calling people "appeasers" and "pro-Saddam" — suggested that the editorial's critics didn't grasp that its talk of "traitors" was a joke. Not as sidesplitting, perhaps, as Uday Hussein chopping his family's enemies to pieces, but uproarious nonetheless.
While the anti-war forces are derided, the media have turned pro-war intellectuals into stars. Each time you look up, you find another interview with Kenneth Pollack, the exCIA analyst whose book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq is the bible of war supporters. And there's no escaping the praise for Robert ("Americans are from Mars, and Europeans are from Venus") Kagan, whose new book, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, is a 21st-century imperial manifesto. He insists that it's in the whole world's interest that America live by a double standard: "It must refuse to abide by certain international conventions that may constrain its ability to fight effectively . . . It must support arms control, but not always for itself." Talk about your Martians. Kagan seems not to care that imperialists always think they're the good guys.
Of course, there are profound moral questions that good guys should ask — for instance, how many foreign civilians are we willing to kill in order to feel safe from potential danger? But Americans traditionally care more about technique than philosophy, and as war approaches, coverage has grown increasingly obsessed with how we'll fight it — the spiffy tanks and brainy missiles, the proposed electronic attacks on power grids and anti-Saddam pamphlets being dropped from the sky. The other day on NPR, I heard a report about the army's use of "ruggedized" Phrasalators, talking hand-held devices that U.S. soldiers can use to give commands in Arabic — "Get down on the ground."
Evidently someone has already used them on our reporters, for judging from their willingness to be "embedded" with soldiers by the Pentagon rather than acting as free agents, they are primed for a replay of Desert Storm, when, as war correspondent Chris Hedges says in his compelling new book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, "The press was as eager to be of service to the state during the war as most everyone else. Such docility on the part of the press made it easier to do what governments do during wartime, indeed what governments do much of the time, and that is lie."
The Bush White House is a Wal-Mart of secrets and lies. It suppresses information (reported in the current Newsweek) that Iraq may have already destroyed its WMDs, fobs off plagiarized student essays as top-secret info on Iraq, talks of giving hard evidence of Iraqi weapons to U.N. inspectors (who call the info "garbage after garbage after garbage"), and insists the war has the support of "new" Europe when it only has the support of its governments (the vast majority of Eastern Europeans oppose it).
This last fact should remind us that, even in countries that think themselves democracies, leaders seldom care what their citizens have to say. What makes Bush special is that he doesn't give a damn if we know it. No one was surprised that he didn't care what millions of peace marchers thought. As he told Bob Woodward, "I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
That debate with Saddam could be a real humdinger.