"People have often been willing to give up personal identity and join into a collective. Historically, that propensity has usually been very bad news. Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought. Fascists, communists, religious cults, criminal 'families' — there has been no end to the varieties of human collectives, but it seems to me that these examples have quite a lot in common. I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob." ~ Jaron Lanier
The Turning Point in Iraq
Exclusive to STR
In case you haven't noticed, the popularity of our adventures in Iraq is finally starting to dwindle. Now for those of us who have opposed this bloodletting from the get-go, it might seem as if things haven't changed too much. We knew the invasion was evil and idiotic from Day One, and it's been evil and idiotic ever since.
But that's not the way most Americans viewed it. No, most of them supported Bush'some more tacitly than others'and that's why he got away with his splendid little (but growing) war. Even when the WMD didn't turn up, and Bush was painted as either a liar or a fool (or both), the American people still reelected him. And get this, they reelected him because of his foreign policy positions, not in spite of them. If you'll recall, 'defense' (ha) was still a Republican issue during the 2004 election. Yeah, Kerry would be better for helping poor people at home, but you needed a tough, torturin' Texan to keep those Ay-rabs at bay.
Now things are different. We've even got Republican senators and heads of powerful committees openly challenging Bush's proposed 'surge.' This is great, and it wasn't like this even six months ago. So part of why I'm writing this article is to make a record of the progression while it's still somewhat fresh in my memory.
The first major blow to Bush's popularity was Katrina. I remember thinking at the time, that if there were a God, maybe He used this storm as a way to stop people from being murdered in Baghdad. Before Katrina and the backlash from the 'official' American black community, Bush was untouchable. I remember feeling uncomfortable at dinner parties and so forth because I didn't support the war. To voice such an opinion back then was to be a traitor or a na've moron.
Later on, I again noticed that things had subtly changed. You could say you thought we should pull out of Iraq (perhaps 'phased out' to sound reasonable) and most people would at least give a nod to your viewpoint. I don't think there was anything too specific for this, just the gradual realization among the masses that Bush and his boys had no idea how to fix things in Iraq. If I had to pick a specific turning point, I'd say it was the 2,000th dead American. (That happened late October of 2005.) It was around that milestone that I sensed Bush had finally blown through the outrageous amount of trust people had given him.
And then of course the real kicker, the thing that finally gave even elected officials the courage to say the obvious, was the 2006 transfer of Congress to the Democrats. As more and more 'important' people start wondering aloud why our troops are still in that hellhole across the ocean, the war hawks will be beaten back ever more. They know their ship is sinking, and even some of the most rabid members of their choir are quietly inching away.
This whole process fascinates me. What really makes it interesting is that people can agree on something but not know that they agree. For example, I'm sure plenty of people were just as uncomfortable as I was during those dinner parties back when we were still looking for those WMDs that Rumsfeld assured us were around Tikrit. For all I know, a handful of the people at my dinner party were with me. But all it takes is a blowhard or two to take a Bill O'Reilly stance, in order to cow the more thoughtful people into silence.
Now these people weren't ideologically antiwar, but at least they had the prudence to question an invasion based on intelligence reports parsed by Bush's cronies. It is precisely this group of people that needed to step up and start voicing their concerns. The hardcore antiwar activists were shouting all along, just like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk were cheerleading all along. What's really changed over the last year or so is that the undecided people in the middle, who wouldn't have objected to the invasion had things gone as Bush promised, have not only decided in their own minds that this war is nuts, but they've also realized that plenty of other people think the same thing.
You've got to hand it to the politicians. In a democracy (and maybe I should put that word in quotation marks) like ours, the one thing you can say for sure about elected officials is that they were better than everybody else at manipulating others, and in particular in molding public opinion. They know full well how to create the 'official' position on Iraq, and paint any dissenters as traitors. Most of the time, on most 'issues,' the government and its lapdog accomplices in the media can manufacture consent, to borrow a phrase beloved by Noam Chomsky.
But the politicians are in a very precarious position, and they know it better than anyone else. When you come down to it, there are really only a few thousand people who are truly running the U.S. federal government. That's compared to about 300 million people who are directly under its jurisdiction, and some 6.5 billion people on the planet, most of whom would love to see the U.S. empire crumble. Those aren't very good odds. Except for the three Kryptonians in black, you really can't rule the whole planet once everyone realizes what's going on.
That's why it's so important to keep up the intensity. It sounds clich'd and goofy, but every little bit helps. That's why I write articles like this, and why you should email them (use other authors' if you don't like mine) to your acquaintances. If someone writes an asinine Letter to the Editor, you should do the same to correct the score. The point isn't so much to change anyone's mind, but mostly to let other people know that they're not alone and they're not crazy.
Day to day, we won't see any progress. Bush and his crew still have trillions of dollars and nuclear weapons at their disposal. But just look at what newspaper editorials wrote about Bush's surge proposal. A year ago, you would've needed to go on the Internet to see comments like that.
It's ridiculous that it has taken this long for people to realize Bush is a liar and a killer, but they're finally starting to see it. We all need to keep pointing it out until the last U.S. soldier leaves the Middle East. It may not even happen during our lifetimes, but it sure won't happen if we stay quiet.