Let Them Say So and Be Damned

From Arthur Silber’s Once Upon a Time

A Nation of Stupid Children, Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies

By the age of eight or nine, most children realize that Santa Claus isn’t a real person, just as they know the Easter Bunny and similar pleasantries are only make-believe, tales of imagination offered to add a bit of fun to the holidays. The great majority of children give up these fantasies without experiencing emotional upheaval that remotely approaches serious trauma. Those very rare children fortunate enough to be raised by adults who accord them the seriousness and respect they deserve know such stories to be ones of invention from the beginning.

Unfortunately, the great majority of Americans — led by a relentlessly trivial and mendacious political class and a comparably anti-intellectual media — never approach again the psychological achievement of children who undergo this transition. Still more unfortunately, most of these same children, while able to recognize fabrications of the Santa Claus variety, become prisoners of the American mythology that I recently discussed. Their pathetic plight is understandable in one sense, since almost no one will disabuse them of the lies with which they comfort themselves. Nonetheless, one can legitimately hope and expect that upon attaining adulthood, more individuals would be prepared to exercise even limited independent powers of assessment. But if you have such expectations, you will almost always be disappointed.

Thus it is that we have repellently idiotic episodes of the following kind:

A tempest has been brewing today over something Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said while on CBS-TV’s Late Show With David Letterman.

“Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be,” about the situation in Iraq, McCain said. “We’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.”

The word “wasted” drew a sharp rebuke from the Democratic National Committee:

“Senator McCain should apologize immediately for his comments,” Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney said in an e-mail to reporters. “McCain should also explain this poll-driven change in his tune. How is it that John McCain now believes American lives are being ‘wasted,’ yet he so stubbornly supports the President’s plan to escalate the war in Iraq and put more American lives in harm’s way? Clearly in looking at his sinking poll numbers, he really will do or say just about anything to win.”

McCain’s wording was similar to that of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., another presidential contender who got criticized for saying last month that “we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.” He quickly apologized, saying that “even as I said it, I realized I had misspoken.”

McCain has moved to calm the waters. His staff just e-mailed a statement from the Republican senator, acknowledging that he too agrees he shouldn’t have used the word “wasted”:

“Last evening, I referred to American casualties in Iraq as wasted,” McCain says. “I should have used the word, sacrificed, as I have in the past. No one appreciates and honors more than I do the selfless patriotism of American servicemen and women in the Iraq War. We owe them a debt we can never fully repay. And America’s leaders owe them, as well as the American people, our best judgment and honest appraisal of the progress of the war, in which they continue to sacrifice.

“That does not change the fact, however, that we have made many mistakes in the past, and we have paid a grievous price for those mistakes in the lives of the men and women who have died to protect our interests in Iraq and defend the rest of us from the even greater threat we would face if we are defeated there.”

“The selfless patriotism” of those “who have died to protect our interests in Iraq…”

What “interests” are those precisely, Senator? Iraq had not attacked us and did not seriously threaten us. Both facts were known to our leaders before the invasion of Iraq began, just as they were known by many “ordinary” citizens, both here and abroad. This was a naked, criminal war of aggression, now continued by means of an equally criminal occupation, against a third-rate country that was virtually defenseless before our onslaught. We have murdered more than half a million innocent Iraqis, and destroyed an entire nation. If by “interests,” McCain and the rest of our ruling class mean the “right” of the United States to uncontested world hegemony, then let them say so and be damned. No other “right” or “interest” explains or “justifies” our monstrous acts — but that one most certainly does.

Read the rest here.

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