Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plug the rat hole


"The arms race is worse than it ever was, the dumping of creation down a military rat hole is worse than it ever was, the wars across the earth are worse than they ever were."

—Daniel Berrigan

A couple of weeks ago, Ari Fleischer, former presidential press secretary for George W. Bush, spoke in Ketchum. During his talk he repeated the doddering, decrepit old tale that faulty information from the CIA about Saddam Hussein's stockpile of "weapons of mass destruction" was the cause of the United States' invasion of and consequent interminable war in Iraq. I have never believed that tattered, tired, turgid bit of neocon propaganda and am amazed at people like Fleischer who still say they do.

Those with a vested interest in the Iraq WMD fable—including but not limited to Fleischer, his boss Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Blair, Rice and Powell—certainly have ample motivation to perpetrate the story that they were snookered by the boys and girls over at CIA. That story doesn't ring true and never did for many reasons, among them the fact that the only CIA employee to see any sort of fallout over false intelligence was Valerie Plame, and that, as it is said, is another story.

The American people were snookered, but not by the CIA. But I don't know which is worse—to think of the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth as so inept at their powerful jobs that they would believe something so demonstrably and obviously false at the time of the Iraq invasion, or to think of them as so false in their persons as to be able to live with themselves after being so deceptively, destructively and murderously inept in their powerful jobs.

The Iraq war and its sister in Afghanistan make up the longest military rat hole in American history. An accurate accounting of their economic costs and human (and environmental) consequences are impossible, but to date between $1.5 trillion and $3 trillion of your and your descendants' tax dollars have gone down the rat hole. And none of it is ever coming back out. And it is too sad and disturbing to think critically about the hundreds of thousands of dead, most of them civilians just trying to survive in their own land, the many more wounded and mutilated, and the destroyed lives and families and hearts and minds. And none of them are coming back, either.


And none of it was or is necessary. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan were or are a threat to America. Nor, by the way, is Libya, but that, too, we hope, is another story.

Hans Blix, the United Nations' chief weapons inspector from 2000 to 2003 and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997, is a man who knows the difference between a weapon of mass destruction, a mission accomplished and an axis of evil. Before the American invasion of Iraq, Blix supervised some 700 U.N. inspections of every possible site in Iraq where any WMD or capability of building them could be, and they found nothing to justify that invasion. In addition, Blix said Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis were cooperating with those inspections. Blix told the U.N. Security Council of his findings and was ready to conduct more inspections when his work was cut short by the U.S. and Britain's invasion of Iraq.

Blix said that the U.S. government of the time had "the same mind frame as the witch hunters of the past." That is, they looked for evidence to support a foregone conclusion. Blix, a kind and diplomatic man, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour accused Bush and Blair of acting not in bad faith but, rather, with a severe lack of "critical thinking." No reasonable person would associate George W. Bush with critical thinking skills and there is a resonance of truth in associating the government that went to war with Iraq (and, not to be forgotten, Afghanistan) with witch hunters.

And one of the reasons this comes to mind today is that it seems that our government hasn't progressed very far—that is, it's still hunting witches with a severe lack of critical thinking. More than half the budget of the United States goes to the military and has done so for many years. A scintilla of critical thinking about the economic crisis this country is undergoing would lead one to make a direct connection between that crisis and the rat hole into which more than half of all our nation's money disappears. Day after day, year after year.

And, yet, today there are theoretically responsible people with powerful jobs—senators, congressmen, governors, state legislators, superintendents of public education—who will tell you with a straight face that a primary cause of the economic crisis is all the overpaid school teachers and their padded benefit and retirement plans, which must be cut. If those theoretically responsible people and their supporters would direct their efforts into cutting a couple of unwinnable, unnecessary wars out of the federal budget instead of liberating the children of America from the opportunity to learn some critical thinking skills in well-funded public schools, then, perhaps, future decisions of consequence will be based on evidence and education instead of the rat-hole thinking of witch hunters.

After all, witch hunters don't have to seek weapons of mass destruction, they are weapons of mass destruction.

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