We earn our livelihood by language — words — each of us in a different way. One, to point out the failings and foibles of the human condition in a way that makes the listener laugh — sometimes nervously so — since the words paint a picture that is a reflection of themselves. The more outlandish the picture, the louder the laughter — which itself becomes an instrument by which they distance themselves from the devastating pictures the words create. They are able, or perhaps forced, to laugh because it is always someone else that is being described. The other of us uses words to convince, to argue a cause, to sway, to use the words as a means to set the listener on an inescapable path to an already predetermined conclusion: the relation between the puppet and puppeteer.
In modern times, from the McCarthy hearings to the trial of O.J. Simpson, we’ve been reminded of the wounding power of words. Because of this, the two of us are very careful with the words we use, particularly words like “traitor” and “hypocrite.”
There is this silly equation that is being peddled both here and abroad about our country’s mission in Iraq. No nuclear bombs discovered equals no threat to the United States, equals no excuse to have deposed the dictator of Iraq, equals tricking the American people by the President, equals more and more nonsense along this semantic foolishness. But would all of this were only semantic foolishness. We believe it to be much worse than merely that, something more sinister, something more despicable, made worse because it is spouted by those who seek to lead us.
The President, after September 11th, went before Congress and stated a simple self-evident fact: Friend to my friend, is my friend; friend to my enemy is my enemy. Sixty-two years ago, Churchill, who had spent his adult lifetime warning his country about the virulence of communism, supported Russia when, in June of 1941, it was attacked by Germany. He explained his change of heart, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”
Terrorism is an old sickness, born in part from ancient ways threatened by the inexorable march of progress. The seeming triumph of modernity over superstition; violent fundamentalist beliefs that suppress human dignity and the right to self-expression; the freedom to practice a way of life not in conformity with those beliefs; the violent subjugation of non-believers and women, torture and rape. A system of beliefs that labels those of other faiths or beliefs “infidels” is incompatible with any sensible acceptance of people whose beliefs are different from one’s own. It is not casual that the fundamentalist Iraqis referred to the Coalition forces as “The Crusaders.” For them the chords of time connect the Christians of the early Crusades with the Coalition troops.
Terrorists have been with us in many guises in the last century. Joseph Conrad wrote about the terrorist who walked the fog-bound street of London practicing the arming of a bomb in his pocket, “I walk always with my right hand closed round the india-rubber [sic] ball which I have in my trouser pocket. The pressing of this ball actuates a detonator inside the flask I carry in my pocket.”
Those of us members of what Tom Brokaw called “The “Greatest Generation” who remember Saturday at the movies perhaps remember what in those days passed for an epic film, the movie Gunga Din. Sam Jaffe improbably dressed in native tatters, chillingly exhorting a throng of mesmerized followers to “Kill for the love of Killing.” That Saturday afternoon big-screen fantasy is not far removed from our reality.
In 1945, Eisenhower had the good sense to order that all the Germans living in the vicinity of the concentration death camps be forced to file by the mounds of corpses their country’s insanity had created to forever indelibilize it on their souls.
Under other circumstances, but for quite the same reason — the purpose of indelibilizing the outrage upon their sensibilities — the politicians who are taking cheap shots at the President and our efforts should have been made to file by the World Trade Center when it was a smoldering crematorium.
David Kay, the former U.N. arms inspector dispatched by our country to look for WMD, gave an interim report that revealed signs of a biological weapons program, a container of a deadly toxin, evidence of a long-range missile program, industries and factories that were designed to serve dual uses, both for peace and war. This is not to mention a dictator who has sought to build an atomic bomb, and actually used poison gas against his own people. All of this is not enough for the politicians. A handful of lunatics armed with nothing more sophisticated than box cutters killed three thousand people in America, wreaked havoc on our economy, and forever changed virtually every way we live our lives from traveling to mailing a package. Iraq, armed with the impedimenta of modern war, had no need for box cutters.
The politicians, particularly the bunch seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, are not ignorant people. They understand that in the world as is exists to day, evil in one place is evil everywhere. That when there is celebration over the murders of 9/11 anywhere in the world, there is but a short time span from the celebration to the act — measured by the time it takes to acquire the means to carry out the act.
Armed with such knowledge and arguing in favor of complacency or palaver is at best hypocritical, at worst treason.
History, if not a teacher, is nothing. Without learning and acting upon historical precedent, we are but collections of atoms, locked in a block of present time, hurling though the continuum of time and space.
These packs of political jackals, away from the microphones and cameras, would not themselves want to have a President who sat back and negotiated and negotiated until the next batch of mad men launched, in the name of some imagined wrong or religious perversion, another assault on America. There are names for them and those politicians, and we have suggested a couple.