Friday, October 08, 2004

For What Did We Die, Mr. Bush?

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 08 October 2004

War is a wondrous thing. Against mere logic, it justifies itself. We must stay the course, the battered Mr. Bush keeps repeating. Or those who fell in battle will have died in vain.

No retreat. Line in the sand. More must kill and die in Iraq to give meaning to the deaths of the poor GIs who perished there before them.

No matter that Mr. Bush and Vice-President Cheney sent American troops to save us from non-existent nukes and other weapons of mass destruction. Or to avenge 9/11, in which Saddam Hussein played no part. Or to bring the Iraqis "democracy" with hand-picked collaborators, rigged caucuses, postponed elections, and - at least so far - a stubborn refusal to allow the non-secular Shiite Muslim majority to govern.

No matter that Bush and Cheney were so keen to invade that they acted in bad faith with both the United Nations and U.S. Congress. Or knowingly lied to the American people. Or failed so miserably to prepare for the long guerrilla war that now saps so much blood and money.

Let none of their colossal lies and errors distract us. American soldiers died to fulfill the mission, whatever it was, and only victory can give meaning to their sacrifice. Nearly 1100 by now, they stand as a phantom chorus demanding that American troops carry on killing and dying in Iraq until they achieve whatever Mr. Bush sent them there to do.

Or would our dead soldiers say something different if only they could speak for themselves?

Use your imagination. Listen to their voices in the stillness. Watch the drama play out in the theater of your mind.

"What was the mission?" asks the chorus of the dead. "Why, Mr. Bush, did you send us to die?"

"Oil," interject the would-be realists in the wings, both left and right. "No blood for oil!" chant those of a Marxistical bent. "We're running out," counter their imperious foes. "We have to secure Iraqi oil reserves. It's in the national interest, you know."

The chorus looks confused. "Was oil why you sent us to die, Mr. Bush?"

He, too, looks confused. A one-time oilman who lost his shirt in the biz, he turns to his veep, who did not. Cheney smiles. He and his neo-conservative friends had long ago spelled out their thinking through the Project for a New American Century.

The goal, he explains, is not only to secure the oil for ourselves, or rather our corporations. It is also to keep potential competitors like Europe, Russia, China, or Japan from gaining control of the oil and challenging America's undisputed world dominance.

"But what about the Jews?" a voice calls out from the back of the theater. "Mr. Bush, didn't you send the troops to Iraq to protect Israeli interests?"

Again, the commander-in-chief loses his way. He knows his neo-con advisors are good Zionists, but so is he. So are most of his evangelical Christian supporters. Unless the Israelites hold Palestine, Christ will not return to fulfill the Prophecy and usher in the blessed Rapture that will mark the End Time.

"Is that why you sent us to Iraq?" the chorus chimes in. "To bring the Messiah to rule the earth?"

"Hardly a democratic solution," a cynic responds. "And how does it help Israel for the meshuganeh Mr. Bush to go to Iraq and encourage thousands more suicide bombers to roam the world? All that, and a Biblical Armageddon in which most of the world's Jews are condemned to perish? Thank you, all the same, but no."

The chorus snaps to attention, welcoming a new specter onto center stage. A highly decorated, thirty-three-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the legendary Major General Smedley Butler had seen it all in the down and dirty, as he famously described back in the 1930s.

"War is just a racket," his wraith repeats. A racket in which he himself had played a major role.

"I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914," he says. "I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers and Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested."

Grand strategies, it seems, have their corporate bottom line. Are the dead soldiers beginning to understand their mission? Will they soon ask embarrassing questions about Halliburton and Bechtel, the weapons makers and Big Oil?

The chorus stirs. They have died, but for this? And now Mr. Bush cruelly uses their sacrifice to prolong the charade.

Their anger builds. "Stop!" they shout at last. "You have taken our lives for corporate greed, Mr. Bush. Do not steal our souls to sell your effing war!"

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

Jump to TO Features for Saturday October 9, 2004

It Will All Be Over Soon

BushCo? Kerry? SUV gluttony? Your last orgasm? All flashes in the geological pan, baby. Don't forget
- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, October 8, 2004

It's so easy to get all caught up in the everyday spit and hiss and noise and blank presidential smirks. Isn't it?

It is, after all, incredibly easy to get stuck in the white-hot moment, all screaming elections and bland debates and counterfeit terrorism fears and ugly obesity epidemics and Atkins-approved bubble gum and air/water pollution like an afterthought, all commingling with the mad melodrama of your last bad haircut and the scratch on your precious bumper to the point where we forget the scope of it all, the scale, the macro and the micro and the ebb and flow and the imminent flip of the cosmic switch.

This is how we are wired. This is only what we see. The long view is clearly not our forte, a sense of the celestial a concept we just can't quite taste. We forget, for example, how relatively quickly regimes rise and neoconservative empires fall and populations overturn and how nearly every single human biped now alive and walking and spitting and parallel parking and consuming Big Macs and not watching ABC sitcoms on the planet today will be very much completely dead within a short 100 years, if not sooner.

Pause here. Think about that. A hundred years, everyone now alive, dead. Everyone. You. Me. Bush. Your kids. All dead. Guaranteed.

And of course you are not exempt because if you are old enough to read this and if you are old enough to make it through this paragraph without caring all that much about the general carefree lack of major punctuation or a clear thesis statement, then it is indeed proof that you are already well on your way toward some sort of Regurgitative Afterlife Leapfrog-arama, some sort of mystical evolutionary whoop, if not a ghostly dreamy moist sepia-toned afterlife featuring a plethora of nubile long-eyelashed callipygian assistants plying your luminous self with wine and chocolates and fine artisan cheeses, forevermore.

But as true as that scenario may be, on a moment-by-moment basis, we aren't much aware of what might be in store. We block, we dodge, we fill up on grease and poison and anger, and it all seems so immediate, so right now, so present and hateful and suffocating as if there has never been anything else but this, but Bush and Kerry and Saddam and Ford Expeditions like a national cancer, bad schools and staggering third-world poverty and a Dubya-ravaged planet.

And history merely seems like a blurry, unrecognizable movie and the future just a vague intangible notion, a blip, a hint, so much so you can only smell the immediacy in the air and taste the bitter metallic tang of it on your tongue and you want to spit it out and cleanse your palate on something fruity and swooning and just a little bit eternal, which is why we so desperately turn to religion, and religion can only mostly shrug and offer platitudes and guilty doctrine and blind faith and ask for money. You know how it is.

Funny, then, that the mystics and the gurus and the deep thinkers, they always tell us that true awareness, true power of self, comes from living in the now, in the moment, in the deep Yes of today, though of course we look at them and say but wait you can't possibly mean I must commit myself with full unwavering intimate intent to the war and Donny Rumsfeld's black soulless eyes and cancerous McNuggets and hissing policy wonks and Bill O'Reilly digging himself a karmic grave with every shouted sneer and Jessica Simpson's ubiquity infecting us like an STD, right?

No no no, they reply. No, of course that's not what we mean. Then they might roll their eyes and sigh and order another pitcher of mojitos.

What they mean, rather, is to sink so deeply into the hot moment of now that you can actually transcend the mad swirl of heatstroke and hate and bile and Bush and jackhammers outside your window, and learn to see through the raw everyday smoke-and-mirror shell game of blissful agony and corrupted paradise to where you can actually begin to see the eternal in it all, lick the interconnectedness, move like you know you're really just a thousand pins dancing on the head of an angel.

This is the trick, then. To live so intentionally for the wet sticky Now that you dissolve the distinctions and see that it all flows together and it's all just two (one? zero?) degrees of separation between Us and Them, Fear and Hope, War and Love and Porn and Religion and Man and Woman and Self and Divine and Will and Grace and this too shall pass and Bush is just a sad bleak phantasm we have to pass through, like a sewer pipe, a dark reeking cloud, a bad fever dream, a nasty flu you had as a child where you dreamed your hands were two balloons.

Live in the moment, pay attention, participate, delve into the issues as if your life depended on it, fight your ass off for what you believe in and what you care about and what matters most. But then again, avoid toxins, don't get poisoned by it all. Stay clear, be spiritually nimble, physically radiant, transcend at will. This is the balance. This is the flux. This is the only way.

Because soon enough, a small hunk of time will pass and this epoch will flit away and we'll blink a number of times and feel a slight shift and not remember much of it anyway. Which is why we have the Internet. And books. And "I Love the '00s." And faint wisps of memory, like threads, like smoke, like vague hints of something else.

We will very shortly all look back on this and laugh. And cry. And point fingers and lay blame and try to figure out what the hell went wrong and where we screwed it all up and what we did right and where we found our glimmers of hope and our delicious hallowed balms of much-needed temporal salvation.

Do you see? Does it make any sense at all? Are you paying sufficient attention? No?

Then come closer to the screen. No, closer. Even closer, still.

Do you see it now? See how it all begins to dissolve and soften and pixilate? To break apart into a million tiny perfect luminous dots with nothing but infinite space between and infinite potential betwixt? Well, there you go. There's your current event. There's your immeasurable now. Think about it. Now get back to work.


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