Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Trust us

It was ever thus … it will be ever …
So … Syria.

Down we go again.

Led by the bloodied nose. Led by lies again? Who knows?!
(I started writing this last Friday, thinking by now U.S. missiles would have struck classified targets in Damascus. Apparently they haven't, but again, who knows?

(This, more than most posts, is me just mulling through my fingers, the half-thoughts of a halfling — no military experience, poor participant in the practices of citizenship.  As always, you're welcome to ride along, maybe advise and consent.)
Let's resume our magical thinking. Where were we? Oh yes:
  • Iraq would greet us as liberators. Our enemies, shocked and awed, would relent after a week of heavy bombing. Peace would bloom anew.
  • Though decades of history confirm utter futility in anyone conquering Afghanistan, it'll be different for the United States and coalition forces. Just you wait and see!
What have been the cases for war? That's right:
  • To clear the way for Desert Storm, we learned of newborn babies snatched out of incubators and left to die on the floors of Kuwaiti hospitals. Which turned out to be a fabrication whipped to froth by a global public relations firm on Kuwait's behalf.
  • The second time 'round, of course, it was weapons of mass destruction. They gotta be around here somewhere! Oh well!
  • Also, whoever destroyed the World Trade Center has to be Iraq itself, or hiding in its boundaries!
  • Or maybe Afghanistan!
Now the case for war is evidence Syria's Assad government used sarin gas on its own people.

This conjures two thoughts, diametrically opposed:
  1. Why should we trust our government anymore? We have marched our children again and again into long horrifying wars begun on lies, and we have barely received our children, our countrymen and women, broken in body and mind, from these wars.

    This news comes out of the mouth of John Kerry, secretary of state, who after fighting as a Navy officer during the Vietnam exhorted Congress to stop that senseless war. Incredible. Literally, incredible.
  2. So what?
I am a callous monster, no better than the bat-shit crazies who gassed innocents. If the gas attack is true, I cannot modify the depravity with my words. It's pure evil, a "moral obscenity" on innocent children and women and men, as John Kerry called it, whoever the culprit.

But so is conventional warfare. So are bullets, bombs, mines, grenades, torture, rape — all of which go on throughout the world, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands. We do nothing, have done nothing, unless and until doing something suits our needs and national interests, depending on who "our" refers to at the moment.
(As to that — what's "our" interest? — I refer you to All the President's Men: Follow the money.)
I grew up thinking the United States, as the force of right, should be the world's big brother, battling inhumanity everywhere with our almighty might. Now I'm grown up and know the United States doesn't act that way, of course. My cynicism has callused over: When my government tells me we are fighting for good to triumph over evil, that we call heavily armed personnel "peacekeepers," that we have declared mission accomplished when really we have just begun to descend into hell — including U.S. white phosphorus attacks on Iraqi people — I barely raise my lips anymore in a knowing smile.

When we turn our backs on atrocities around the world, then express grim indignation at this or that certain savagery as if we have never heard of savageries — as if savageries have never been committed in our name — then I know what really is truth, justice and the American Way.

Now President Obama urges that we must respond to this chemical attack as a violation of the Geneva conventions against such use. And in our magical thinking we should expect:
  • Other of the world's despots and tyrants will get the crystal-clear message: This airstrike against Syria is solely in response to the chemical attack on its citizens.
  • So chastised, the despots and tyrants will refrain from using chemical weapons ever again. Mines, rocket-propelled grenades, machetes, machine guns, rape, yes, but not chemical weapons.
  • Syria's government will reform, its lesson learned.
  • Democracy will bloom.
  • Syria's allies will do nothing in response.
President Obama wants Congress and us to know this response "is proportional, it is limited. it does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, this is not Afghanistan."

Until it does. Until it is.

So we will send weary warriors into another war, send them in again and again in our stead. One more war from which, if they return, they will have to fight their own government for the means to heal from the wounds they suffered in our stead.

We will wage more war with a military torn up from within, faced with its own atrocities of widespread sexual assault with impunity, of broken morale.

We will leverage war from the shaky ground of our broken economy, repairing too slowly for the gashes to close.

It's a schoolyard melodrama. President Obama said he would do something if Syria used chemical weapons, and now that it allegedly has, the other allies in the world's school yard, and bullies of his own clique, are calling "ba-GAWK! Chicken! Do something, or are you chicken?!"

We are made to believe that what few friends we had on the schoolyard will loose all ties of loyalty, will spit in our general direction, if we don't walk our talk. As supposedly happened to Great Britain when Parliament chose (even if for ulterior motives) not to help with any strike against Syria. Supposedly.

But — we are assured — whatever it is, it is not war.

Until it is.

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