September 21, 2004


Why Americans back the war (James Carroll, September 21, 2004, Boston Globe)

To the mounting horror of the world, the United States of America is relentlessly bringing about the systematic destruction of a small, unthreatening nation for no good reason. Why has this not gripped the conscience of this country?

The answer goes beyond Bush to the 60-year history of an accidental readiness to destroy the earth, a legacy with which we Americans have yet to reckon. The punitive terror bombing that marked the end of World War II hardly registered with us. Then we passively accepted our government's mad embrace of thermonuclear weapons. While we demonized our Soviet enemy, we hardly noticed that almost every major escalation of the arms race was initiated by our side -- a race that would still be running if Mikhail Gorbachev had not dropped out of it.

In 1968, we elected Richard Nixon to end the war in Vietnam, then blithely acquiesced when he kept it going for years more. When Ronald Reagan made a joke of wiping out Moscow, we gathered a million strong to demand a nuclear "freeze," but then accepted the promise of "reduction," and took no offense when the promise was broken.

We did not think it odd that America's immediate response to the nonviolent fall of the Berlin Wall was an invasion of Panama. We celebrated the first Gulf War uncritically, even though that display of unchecked American power made Iran and North Korea redouble efforts to build a nuclear weapon, while prompting Osama bin Laden's jihad. The Clinton administration affirmed the permanence of American nukes as a "hedge" against unnamed fears, and we accepted it. We shrugged when the US Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, with predictable results in India and Pakistan. We bought the expansion of NATO, the abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the embrace of National Missile Defense -- all measures that inevitably pushed other nations toward defensive escalation.

The war policy of George W. Bush -- "preventive war," unilateralism, contempt for Geneva -- breaks with tradition, but there is nothing new about the American population's refusal to face what is being done in our name. This is a sad, old story. It leaves us ill-equipped to deal with a pointless, illegal war. The Bush war in Iraq, in fact, is only the latest in a chain of irresponsible acts of a warrior government, going back to the firebombing of Tokyo. In comparison to that, the fire from our helicopter gunships above the cities of Iraq this week is benign. Is that why we take no offense?

Mr. Carroll might do well to consider the possibility that, rather than being in the grip of a century long delusion, Americans really did/do think it our role in the world to destroy Nazism, Communism, and now Islamicism. At the moment where you convince yourself that everyone else is crazy, it's a safe bet you've gone nuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2004 9:21 AM

Well, at least he's honest enough to say that America's the problem, not just Bush or the Republicans. It's a handy benchmark by which to judge all he says.

If Bush wins, I expect to hear much more of this -- leftists throwing up their hands and poxing all our houses.

Posted by: Twn at September 21, 2004 9:31 AM

I like the way he says that the US terror-bombed Japan with no mention that the Empire wasn't exactly playing by gentleman's rules either. You could ask the people who were in Nanking at time of the Japanese conquest, except that they all got killed.
I also enjoy the way he says that we "demonized" the Soviet Union. Oh, if only it wasn't for the nasty nasty running dog capitalists demonizing the glorious workers paradise, we'd all be happy workers under the dictatorship of the proletariat! Jesus Christ, is this guy a time traveler from the 60's or what? The Soviet Union was doing a pretty damned good job demonizing itself and what we now know since the great collapse is that they were even *worse* than we gave them credit for! I hate to call people stupid for having differing beliefs than me (it's just so liberal), but mercy is this man ever stupid.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 21, 2004 9:44 AM

> a race that would still be running if Mikhail
> Gorbachev had not dropped out of it.

Wow. He has the point, right there in his own words--he just can't see it.

Posted by: Kirk Parker at September 21, 2004 12:08 PM

After this, what's the difference between the Boston Globe and the Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the Socialist Worker's Party?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 21, 2004 6:10 PM

AOG --

I think the only difference is that the Globe is owned by NYT and the Worker is not, yet.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at September 21, 2004 6:29 PM