James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Iraq escalation votes: worse than nothing

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.” -- Hannah Arendt, philosopher, historian, author and refugee from Nazi Germany.

There have been notes of triumph on the Internet the past several days because the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution disapproving of King George's adding 20,000-plus soldiers to the American occupation force in Iraq.

An attempt to bring a similar ineffectual resolution to a vote in the Senate, which required a super majority, failed.

The escalation of the illegal war goes forward according to the plans of the witless king's wardens, as it would have even if both houses of Congress had passed their feeble symbolic actions. Speaking through the puppet king before either house voted, the neocons said very clearly that they are going to do what they want to do and Congress and the American people can go screw themselves.

Nobody I know is taking seriously the hollow claims of great success from the various liberal activist organizations. Mostly what one hears about the House vote and the not-big-enough majority on the Senate attempt is, “It's better than nothing.”

In truth, it probably is worse than nothing.

Many wobbly kneed members of Congress can now say “I voted to stop the escalation” and run for the shelter of issues that don't offend the lobbyists and executives who make the big campaign contributions. “We did our best,” they'll claim. What they will mean, but not say, is, “Quick, let's vote on something that won't make the bosses at Exxon Mobil and the big pharmas mad.”

Some of those who voted, symbolically, to stop the escalation would not have done so had they believed for a second that their vote would slow the smirking puppet's program to increase the production of human misery. For people like Minnesota's first-term Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, the vote was a godsend.

Coleman, who is widely believed to be removable in the election of '08, has been whirling like the proverbial dervish since November in a desperate attempt to obscure his identity. A complete, butt kissing toady to the Bush crowd since he was chosen by them to run for the Senate, he was one of a handful of Republicans who voted to bring the Senate's version of the meaningless resolution to the floor of that house.

It was a wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of vote, as were those of other Republican senators who came down on the “right” side of the issue. The White House knew the score before votes were cast, and let those guys play Let's Pretend in expectation that it will help save their paid-for hides in 2008.

Might work, might not, but it cost the Republicans nothing to try.

What is likely to be worse than the congressional charade is the reaction of the American public, and particularly many of those who think of themselves as liberals or, in the more fashionable wording of today, “progressives.”

(Progressives, it now seems to me, are by and large people who would be liberals if they weren't afraid that wearing that label publicly would somehow bring them personal trouble, or at least discomfort.)

Thousands of people who usually are “too busy” did take the 30 seconds required to fill out one of the many Internet petitions against escalation in Iraq. It's safe to assume that most of them did so only after assuring themselves that numerous polls show their distaste for the war is shared by a large majority of Americans.


You can bet your tax refunds, if any, that a whole lot of those petitioners now figure – or pretend -- they've done their duty and that they can now in good conscience go back to ignoring that icky old war.

Office holders need bother with them and their opinions no more.

It's wonderful how easy it is to ignore the butchering of human beings when there is no draft, when the war is financed by debt that won't fall due for years, and when other people's (mostly poor people's) kids do the killing and the dying, which takes places thousands of miles away in some peculiar place where the landscapes and the towns look very different from ours and the natives are dark-skinned.

Fact is, most Americans are very afraid of speaking out on important issues, and will avoid doing so if at all possible. That “Star Spangled Banner” line about “home of the brave” mocks us every time it is sung.

An article by Zbignew Zingh, on dissidentvoice.org, has been circulating on the Internet recently. Zingh wrote that a “perplexed European” woman asked him why there have been no general strikes in this country led by citizens who want an end to our illegal aggression against other sovereign nations.

Zingh said he's heard the question before, and he offers answers. Much of what he says is, I think, too arcane and not really relevant. Some root of the problem may lie in our history of slavery, but the real answers lie closer to the surface.

He gets to the real stuff when he talks about the taming of labor by business leaders and their legislative hirelings, the influence of powerful religious leaders closely allied to the economic elite and, especially, the deep fear Americans have when faced with the possibility of confronting their bosses.

Zingh's theory is that Americans have so much stuff, and draw so much of our self esteem and identities from the stuff we have that we are terrified of losing it. People who have less high-priced junk are less fearful.

Then, too, employment at a certain level is required for genuine necessities, notably health care and income safety nets.

Government-run health care systems – socialized medicine, if you will – and the reasonable certainty that they won't become homeless and literally hungry if they lose their jobs gives Europeans and some Asians the confidence to face up to governments and business people who do evil.

I think much of what Zingh says is true.

Additionally, the United States has had 60-plus years of propaganda, embedded in our school systems and our mass media, teaching us that the rich and powerful are almost always right, that wealth is the most admirable quality granted to humans, and that those who govern do so because they have some divinely-delivered superiority -- and besides, they'll break us like matchsticks if we don't behave.

Americans will not seriously fight the escalation in Iraq. Only a tiny minority will actively protest an attack on Iran, while most will shake their heads sadly and head out on their daily commute.

Home of the brave indeed.

Have you ever wondered about the great and growing passion among Americans for football, NASCAR, pickup trucks and so-called X games?

It doesn't take a shrink's training to figure it out. Such love of violent games and macho symbols -- like football (soccer) hooliganism in Europe-- is driven by fear and a sense of powerlessness. The most rabid fans generally are people who display a need to appear “tough” because they daily cower before bosses they hate, in jobs they despise. It's an (ineffective) antidote to humiliation, and it's the ages-old bully profile.

It obviously also lies behind the strutting, jut-jawed “Support our troops” kind of “patriotism” that allows Bush & Co. to hold power.

Millions of fragile egos are sustained by this country's ability to stomp on much smaller and weaker countries with social systems and religions that are regarded with fear and loathing in Tallahassee and Macon and, yes, in some neighborhoods of Salt Lake City and Phoenix and small towns in northern Minnesota.