Extra Chapter 10
The war we should be fighting
By Peter Meinke
After 9/11 a commission was appointed to investigate the World Trade Center attack. But the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress stonewalled. The Bushies didn’t want the American public to know how badly they had screwed up. The FBI had negligently ignored a memo warning about Arabs intending to fly planes into buildings. One reason: two hundred FBI agents were investigating Monica Lewinsky’s semen-stained dress so the Republicans could embarrass President Clinton. They should have been paying more attention to Al Qaeda.
Fifteen of the nineteen highjackers involved in 9/11 had come from Saudi Arabia. The mastermind was identified as a Saudi by the name of Osama bin Laden, a member of a wealthy family the Bushes had been doing business with for years. When the towers fell, all planes were grounded. But President Bush allowed the two dozen bin Ladens living in the U.S. fly away no questions asked. Why did he let them go? With a Republican Congress, no one in the federal government bothered to look into it.
More curious, Bush retaliated against the country of Iraq. He said Iraq had nuclear weapons, even though he was told they didn’t. He said Iraq had chemical and biological weapons even though the experts told him it didn’t. The great irony was that the United States had supplied Saddam Hussein with these so-called weapons of mass destruction during the Reagan/George H. W. Bush years for use in the fight against Iran. But Hussein had stopped using them ten years before.
The biggest lie, repeated by President Bush, vice-president Dick Chaney, and the flaks from Fox news: Iraq had ties to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Bush repeated this over and over. Gen. Wesley Clark was asked to connect the two but refused. There was no evidence, he said. Colin Powell, the good soldier, said it. But it turned out that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein not only were not allies, they hated each other. Osama was angry at Hussein because his attack on Kuwait had brought the Americans onto Muslim soil.
As the Iraq war drags on into the fifth year, untold and uncounted billions of dollars are wasted fighting it. Meanwhile, George W. Bush has us believing that terrorists are everywhere, just as J. Edgar Hoover had wanted us to believe that Communists were everywhere. Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my.
Brooklyn-born Peter Mienke, winner of many prestigious awards for his poetry, is one of the large majority of Americans fed up and disgusted with George W. Bush’s neo-con administration. He decries the policies of the Bush administration, the use of torture, the use of imprisonment without constitutional safeguards, and the policy of choosing religion over science when it comes to such issues as global warming and stem cell research. Mienke reflects on the harm brought to his beloved country by the years in office of this toxic president.
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
Peter Mienke: “Who can doubt that the great Scots poet Robert Burns, were he living today, would be writing poems denouncing the Iraq war, along with scurrilous diatribes against the powerful men who have caused it? (O, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous Cheney/ what lies 're sprowtin' in thy wee brainee!) And not only because of Burns' natural democratic sympathy, but because he championed the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich.
“Americans used to be this way: We rooted for the underdog. A large part of the excitement of NCAA basketball's March Madness has always been the fun of seeing "little" schools like Winthrop, Old Dominion and Niagara take on traditional giants like Duke, Ohio State and UCLA (though the underdogs didn't do so well this year).
“But we don't translate this attitude to our ideas about war. When our enormous military might surges against tiny 10th-rate primitive countries, a large section of American fans begin waving pompoms and chanting, "U! S! A!, U! S! A!," urging it on to further shock and awe. The common-sense idea of fairness never enters in. We used to be the country that held its large hand out to the world, to those in need, even our enemies. Now we snub the Kyoto treaty, scoff at global warming, redefine torture, invent "rendition" and start wars for no good reason: We don't need a reason. Who's to stop us? Step by step, this administration has broken down our well-earned reputation as a gentle giant, and now most of the world, East and West alike, see us as bullies. We've aimed the most powerful army in history against a dusty little country that every impartial investigation has shown had nothing to do with 9/11. We spend more on our military than the next 14 countries combined, including Russia, China, England and Japan -- and we're supposed to be afraid of terrorists? The drumrolls of fear are an old tune that authoritarian rulers have always played; it's disappointing that it's worked so well here.
“Terrorists are real. So are drugs, disease, cigarettes, pedophiles, the Mafia, drunken drivers, loud music, neighborhood muggers. Nasty things all, but not the biggest threats our country faces. Here's the biggest threat, underlying all others: our disintegrating educational system. Maybe subconsciously, our leaders add to the problem by a general anti-intellectual attitude, by promoting Creationism, resisting science (global warming, stem cell research, environmental alarms, etc.), and by being neither truthful nor practical with "educational programs" like No Child Left Behind.
“As long as we're going to be bellicose, why don't we declare war on ignorance? Imagine if over the past four years we had invested 500 billion dollars in education instead of the Iraq war. As it is, two Americas are emerging, and one of these, partly exposed by Katrina, is indeed falling far behind, and its ranks are growing. Instead of fighting this human-and-money-devouring war, why not try an experiment and pay teachers like lawyers and bankers, or even like insurance executives? It would be better, morally and practically, than throwing our money away on the benighted streets of Iraq. If we had done this in 2000, the 3,000-plus young casualties would still be with us.
“Of course brave men and women are fighting and dying for "us"; of course they have made, and continue to make, enormous sacrifices. This being true, why is the vast majority of the world's population against us -- even those, like England and Italy, whose governments support us? It's because their people see the other side, too. A European friend said, "The Americans go in with tanks, helicopters, cannons, body armor, helmets and night goggles against groups of guys in sandals and pajamas carrying old AK-47s and homemade bombs." The Arabs know the territory, but when you think in terms of teams, you can see the problem.
“The Iraqis know they can't "beat" us -- no one can beat us! We kill our enemies at a 20- or even 50-to-one rate, a ratio to make even the most bloodthirsty American proud. Thousands and thousands of Iraqis have died, perhaps a million displaced, each one an individual tragedy, spreading like oil over the Mideast.
“And we started it. Our newspapers mention this on occasion, but not often enough: Many Americans still think there were weapons of mass destruction, but the world knows better.
“The real March Madness is that this war is entering its fifth year, longer than World War II or the Korean War, and that instead of cutting back, we're "surging." Our soldiers are still dying, their wounds multiplying. The psychological damage hasn't been faced, but evidence that it's mounting is huge, perhaps particularly for women. And the financial cost? We're paying for it the easy way, by going into debt, which means that it's coming out of our children's children's education.
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy!
While Bush and Cheney swill champayne
An' cownt their pay.