Moral equivalent of whores

Oct 2, 2002 at 12:00 am

Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception. —Mark Twain

The late, great H.L. Mencken, the closest thing to Mark Twain since Twain himself, once observed that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the masses.

Certainly ExxonMobil and Shell and British Petroleum haven’t.

Make no mistake. In spite of all the dubious justification cited by the Cheney, er, Bush administration, we are poised to make war on Iraq to preserve a system that is utterly, fatally dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.

There are other equally flawed reasons, to be sure. Chief among them is the excitement of nationalism in anticipation of the imminent election — midterm contests that fall as the economy founders in the kind of funk that normally dooms a sitting president’s party.

Want evidence? Look no further than the infamous floppy disk, which revealed Bush strategist Karl Rove’s tutorial on creating “a positive issue environment” before the election. His directive: Focus on war. Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, pooh-poohed talk of war-as-diversion, explaining, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

New products? The Bushies’ chutzpah in acknowledging their manipulations are nearly as troubling as their goals.

PR Week, a magazine dedicated to the study and refinement of propaganda, asks: “But why now? Bush announced his intention to take down Saddam way back in January. Why is the White House only now revving its PR and diplomacy engines? … Jack Leslie, who has served sporadically as a public diplomacy consultant for the government since Sept. 11, 2001, says that’s the way it was intended from the beginning. ‘The White House didn’t think they could get the attention they wanted to get in August, which is traditionally a terrible time to get anyone’s attention, especially Congress, which is not in session,’ he reasons, stating that the plan all along was to get the PR ball rolling around Labor Day, which is precisely what happened. ‘What they can do is make this a major issue at the close of this session of Congress. And better this than a lot of domestic issues that could be at the forefront. Not to suggest that this is all [a diversion], but surely they would rather have a debate around Iraq than other issues.’”

Issues such as economic malaise, corporate crime, Osama’s whereabouts or my personal favorite, energy policy, or lack thereof.

Lost in the tepid debate under way is Bush’s overriding incentive, the perpetuation of the American Way. The way that keeps stockholders smiling, the way that keeps 75 million barrels of oil a day gushing forth from the nether regions.

To believe otherwise is a grotesque self-deception.

Weapons of mass destruction?

Hey, our lifestyle is the most ominous weapon of mass destruction imaginable. Yet it’s real. Global warming is an incontrovertible fact. The past decade was the warmest ever recorded. We Americans are the largest producers of greenhouse gases, yet our esteemed president thumbs his nose (on our behalf) at the Kyoto Protocol signed by more than 160 other nations. Dubya’s reason? It would hurt our economy.

So when we kill for oil, we also kill for the privilege to poison.

We are so set in our consumptive ways, any meaningful shift would trigger a social paroxysm. It didn’t have to be this way, but our expedience has rendered us catatonic pawns in a lavish charade.

Do you doubt that we enterprising Yanks possess — and have possessed — the technological skill to render fossil fuels obsolete? What we have never possessed are leaders with the foresight or will to gaze beyond the next quarterly reports, or the soft money, to plot a course that could sustain America, transform the world and, perhaps, erase hegemony from our vocabulary.

According to the current script, this will not happen until every petrodollar is extracted from the earth’s bowels. Then, Big Oil will dust off all the alternative energy patents it’s bought and shelved, and, voilà, we will be sustained. And still beholden to the suddenly green energy czars. That is, if we can still breathe. Or we’re not treading water.

There is indeed an “evil axis” afoot. It’s composed of ExxonMobil and Shell and British Petroleum and their mandarins — those self-proclaimed lovers of freedom and democracy who huddle with oil oligarchs to plot military, er, energy policy, then defy Congress’ attempts to learn what transpired.

Noam Chomsky: “It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil production and price.”

It’s no surprise that Chomsky is not on “Larry King Live.” The mainstream media lack the ability or fortitude to examine the root of this global dilemma, to engage in any form of national introspection.

I am astonished, however, at the blithe indifference, the simpering callowness displayed by the so-called loyal opposition.

Forget the unfortunately ephemeral question of a toxic and destructive energy policy — the long-term tactical and political risks of attacking Iraq are staggering. Who will blame Arabs for hating us? Hell, I’m beginning to hate us.

War must be the last resort. Not the first.

In April 1977, Jimmy Carter, probably the last honest president, stood grave-faced before the nation to speak about the energy crisis.

“This difficult effort will be the moral equivalent of war,” he said. “Ours is the most wasteful nation on Earth.”

We changed the channel.

So now we will have the immoral equivalent of war, with the destructive equivalent of 10,000-pound bombs, the physiological equivalent of blood, the collateral equivalent of corpses.

My incredulity is enhanced by the memory that Hussein is a man we once counted as an ally. But not before he was an adversary.

When our pal the Shah of Iran was in power, Hussein was such a bad guy that the United States gave arms to the opposition Kurds. Then Islamic fundamentalists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and captured hostages. Overnight, Hussein became a friend, because he made war on Iran. We shared intelligence with him. With Washington’s approval, U.S. companies sold him a witch’s brew of biological agents. We also shipped components that could aid his development of chemical and nuclear weapons. We forgot about the Kurds, whom our new vassal Hussein eventually gassed.

Months before he invaded Kuwait in July 1991, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq assured Hussein that the United States “has no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border dispute with Kuwait.”

Oops. Somebody forgot that where there’s oil, there’s always an opinion.

This sordid history chillingly recalls the words of another great thinker who created an imaginary nation called Oceania a half-century ago:

“On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and the squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to a climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled into such delirium … at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.”

His name was Eric Arthur Blair, but you probably know him as George Orwell. The book was 1984.

Jeremy Voas is the editor of Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected]