"How are ye blind,
Ye treaders down of cities, ye that cast
Temples to desolation, and lay waste
Tombs, the untrodden sanctuaries where lie
The ancient dead; yourselves so soon to die!"
Euripedes, The Trojan Women, (words of Poseidon).
Alas, some lessons are never learned. Each generation—sure that they represent the apex of human development—believe themselves to be immune from history (history is “old stuff” after all) and that their leaders represent the cutting edge of some sort of “New World Order.” Americans were told such back in 1991 by George H. W. Bush, the elder. It is echoed today by his son, George W. Bush, the lesser, who affects an aura of what Mark Twain once called “a Christian with four aces.”
Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the government of the United States has shunned the United Nations, proclaimed the right to attack any country and anyone deemed a threat now and in the future, distanced itself from the World Court and told the world of their intent to resume the manufacture and testing of nuclear weapons. It is no coincidence that the Bush Administration also declared that the Geneva War Crime Protocols no longer apply to the United States. Quite simply, in this “New World Order,” our leaders and their military are immune and above all of that. Well, to beat an old (and reliably dead) horse, Hitler and his National Socialists thought so too.
So why is it important to mention the so-called “reliably dead horse”? For two reasons: First, the Nazis have become the template of evil that all other governments, leaders, troops, etc. are measured against. Second, because focusing on the Nazis allows our government to lead attention away from its own intentions and actions through the use of phony color-coded alerts, disinformation as news and just plain lies. At point: there is almost nothing that our government and their paid hacks said about Iraq that turned out to be true—except that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. The fact that he was our bad guy, supported and equipped by us, is conveniently overlooked.
The truth is that evil is never reliably dead. It is very much alive in each generation, changing names and locales as the situation allows. The populace tends to be unaware of the slippery slope to perdition as long as there is food on the table and an external enemy to focus on. Domestic enemies are useful, too if conditions are particularly bad on the home front. The Nazis focused on Jewish people—an easy target at the time—as they had no means to defend themselves from unfathomable horror. The ensuing destruction was a tragedy for all concerned. It is a thing that can never be fully understood, or mitigated.
The danger we face is to assume that Americans could never be like Nazis, yet human beings are human beings and evil tends to be situational and conditional. It is foolish then, to think that Germans are a different species from the rest of us. Americans tend to think that totalitarianism, state directed murder, genocide and terror are things that only lie within the breast of those who live on the other side of a line drawn on a map. Children learn about those lines in school (or used to) and seem to think that they are set. Yet, anyone who ever looked at an historical atlas knows that these lines are never final. They are like the lines on one’s face. One may not notice them changing, but they are - daily - and like individuals, societies grow, mature, fade and die.
But what is notable is that American politicians and news venues are beginning to use terms and phrases that are quite similar to those used by Adolf Hitler and his propaganda minister, Paul Josef Goebbels. “New World Order” has a nice ring to it and makes the subject populace feel very important. “Homeland” has replaced “country” and “nation.” Within the “New World Order” exist a series of draconian laws designed to keep those who might think (God forbid!) in line. The Nazis called their law “the Enabling Act.” We call ours “The Patriot Act.” Both acts were (are) intended to do the same thing: enable the head of state and his subordinates to act beyond the existing laws, thus becoming a law unto themselves.
Words like “mission” and “sacrifice” have special usefulness for demagogues to gull those who do the fighting and dying. It is notable that the leadership, at least in modern times, seldom go to war themselves, nor do their children. There is only one member of the current Bush II cabinet who has experienced war firsthand: Colin Powell. It is ironic that Powell has been looked upon with suspicion by the others, because he seems less eager to play the war card. This is not a new phenomenon. Pindar of Thebes put it this way:
“War is sweet to those who have not tried it. The experienced man is frightened at the heart to see it advancing.”
Pindar of Thebes, 522-446 B. C.
The point about George W. Bush and his subordinates is this: Leonidas of Sparta, Alexander the Great, or Julius Caesar they aren’t!
They prefer easy targets built up as monsters; scapegoats who take the place of real danger, thus giving their minions in the “homeland” a reason to celebrate without sacrifice. They send the young of poor people off to fight and die in the heat and sands of Afghanistan and Iraq, while they and their corporate cronies reap untold billions in profits from ventures granted in the conquered territories without bid. They have made it a crime to show pictures of the returning dead and have forbidden their troops to possess cameras and camera phones in the war zone. As of this writing, the puppet government of Iraq has extended the ban to news reporters. At home, the president has yet to attend a single funeral for one of these young men and women killed in the line of duty.
Is there something wrong with this?
But as mentioned above, scapegoats, disinformation and lies are useful. The Nazis used Poland as a scapegoat for their entry into World War II and subsequently had to subdue “insurgents” in the Warsaw Ghetto. We have used Iraq as a scapegoat in the so-called “War on Terror” and now find ourselves fighting “insurgents” in the slums of Baghdad and the Shia-controlled areas such as Fallujah and Najaf. The Nazis easily defeated Poland and brutally crushed the Warsaw Ghetto. The American military easily defeated Iraqi forces and are now faced with Shi’ite uprisings—called a “rebel insurgency” in American newspeak. Militarily, the task should not be much of a problem. Equipment-wise it is a mismatch. It should be easy for those with tanks, armored vehicles, naval squadrons equipped with assorted missiles, an air force trained in ground support (to say nothing of sophisticated satellite guidance systems) to subdue those who have none of these things. As with the Warsaw Ghetto, the outcome is only a matter of time, isn’t it?
Well, maybe not. It depends on the long view and the moral strength of the adversaries. There is a cost for all of this. The cost will not be measured in stock options or dollars, but rather in the tragedy of personal loss, blood and the hopes of the people.
Long ago, the American comedian, Mort Sahl, outraged audiences by joking that America would lose the Vietnam War. “We will lose,” he said, “because American kids won’t die for a Porsche.” What Sahl was talking about was the long view and moral strength—why people fight and die. People won’t die for “stuff”—not even expensive “stuff.”
Inevitably, the cost will be to our American vision of who we are and what we represent. Propaganda cannot hide the truth forever and censorship merely points out to where the problem lies. When the populace of the “homeland” begin to doubt the truthfulness of their leadership and the righteousness of their cause, the end is certain.
Historically, those who would dominate the world have learned this the hard way. We are no exception.