HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

May 28, 2007
Implication for the Long Run

Developments Last Week

John Turner


Impermissible

Jimmy Carter is getting an adverse reaction for having said that the Bush foreign policy is the worst in American history. This is another example of how, in America, it's not allowable for a political figure to speak the common truth. Of course Bush's foreign policy is the worst we have ever had. No other president is even in the running. Yet, somehow, it's not a truth to be uttered by people who have a public voice. It is pronounced everyday by millions of common American citizens and it is believed by a great majority of people who have paid any attention to politics or history. But, still, it's taboo for "responsible" politicians.

Someone should write a history of how American political discourse got moved completely out of fact and into mushy platitude.

If Mr. Bush's policy is not the worst then, obviously, some other president's policies must be worse than his. Who is that president? Everyone who is now castigating Mr. Carter for his remark should be asked that question. It would be interesting to see what various media figures would say if the query were put to them insistently enough that they couldn't escape it. I'm afraid, though, that we couldn't expect revealing discourses on the American past.


Ho Hum

News accounts of the carnage in Iraq are no longer at the center of media attention. The horrors are reported, it’s true, but they seem almost to have faded into the background, to be more or less like the weather reports.

If you read the Associated Press story in today’s New York Times carrying the headline, “Iraq Attack Kills Nine U.S. Troops,” you’ll discover that the death of American soldiers is the least of what’s going on in that chaotic country. The truth is that Iraqis are suffering what’s equivalent to about ten 9/11 attacks every month. Imagine the state of mind in the United States if that were occurring here. We went virtually bonkers over a fraction of what happens to the Iraqi people each week.

Meanwhile, experts continue to intone that if the American military presence were withdrawn conditions would get worse. How do they know?

If you read carefully, what you see is that the current government would dissolve. That’s because it’s not really a government at all. It’s a small number of men protected by U.S. military might in a sealed off section of Baghdad. It has no political legitimacy. The constant cries from U.S. politicians that the Iraqi government should step forward and do this or that constitute the biggest lie the American people continue to be told. The Iraqi government can’t do anything significant and as long as it’s seen as the puppet of America it will keep on being impotent. It is now no more than a Potemkin village set up to justify a continuing American occupation that has no purpose other than a desperate ploy by the Bush administration to excuse the most fatuous action ever perpetrated by the American government. People are dying every day so that George Bush and Dick Cheney and their like can save face. The American electorate doesn’t like it and grumbles a bit but seems incapable of any thing other than grumpiness. It’s a sad thing that our democracy has been reduced to this state of decrepitude.


Timidity

In a supermarket in Annapolis I saw glanced at Washington Post headline which suggested to me in a flash a good portion of what's wrong with modern journalism. The story was about the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, and the sub-headline proclaimed, "Kentucky Museum Discounts Science, Critics Say."

Why the "critics say?" This so-called museum is a scientific farce. It depicts scenes of little children playing alongside dinosaurs. The problem is, of course, there were no children when there were dinosaurs. The time between the last dinosaur and the first human child is about fifty million years. There's no genuine question about this. That religious fanatics deny it may be worth examination as the sort of fantasy certain religions attempt to foist upon the public. But it is not an issue with respect to what actually happened in history. Even so, here we have a modern, supposedly, intellectually responsible newspaper implying in one of its headlines that the question of whether humans and dinosaurs lived side by side is an open critical question, worthy of informed debate.

I don't know what else to call this other than timidity to the point of irresponsibility.

Why has it become difficult for a news paper to print the truth as the truth, rather than as something a partisan professes?  The next thing will be critics suggesting that the Empire State Building was erected in New York City.

The problem with saying that established fact is a matter of genuine critical controversy is that it's a lie. And in the past, at least, lies were not supposed to be the stock in trade of respectable newspapers.


Foulness

It's hard to say which is more nauseating: the miserable chaos in Iraq or George Bush's attitude toward it. The president thinks the Iraqis are not grateful enough to us for ripping their country apart and killing hundreds of thousands of their people.

The situation has got so bad it has led even Maureen Dowd to become solemn. In her column this morning, titled "Bush's Fleurs du Mal," Ms. Dowd notes that the president is locked into a continuous loop of sophistry. We have to stay in Iraq so the enemy won't suspect we're thinking of leaving, and so on. Bush's rhetoric has become so farcical it's difficult to imagine how those in his presence can avoid howls of derision whenever he opens his mouth. But, then, we have to recall who gets into his presence.

The experts selected by the mainstream media mostly say that if we pull our military forces out of Iraq conditions there will become worse, even though they are bad -- and show no signs of getting better -- because our forces are there.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis want to pull out. In fact, two million have already done it. Thousands more would like to come to the United States because they know their assistance to the invading forces have marked them for murder once the United States withdraws. But the American government has no loyalty to them. Over the past four years, the U.S. has admitted only 466 Iraqis. Since we have given them freedom we owe them nothing more, says Bush. And the ingrates can't even relish the freedom to be murdered.

It's true that when conditions this horrible have been created there is no easy solution. But to continue making them worse because the president can't think of a way to make them jolly is the height of folly.



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