Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fifth Fourth of July for the U.S. in Iraq

A typical Fourth of July: Lots of flags waving in stately slow motion on television this morning. On AOL the headline reads "Music Stars Rock the Flag," and it's illustrated by a picture of Kid Rock wearing a flag poncho and Jessica Simpson on the cover of GQ wearing a flag bikini top.

But these days, when I think of the flag, I think about cemeteries, like the one where I spotted this memorial flag that had been blown down by the wind. And I think about impeachment.

It's the fifth Fourth of July that our troops have been in Iraq. For more than four years, they've been holding bravely to a tragically misguided course that began with the Neocons' lies and their belief they could remake the Middle East in the image of their own arrogant dreams. And what do we have to show for it?

The flag-wavers can put down their flags, but the burden of Iraq is not as easily set aside. The emotional cost will continue to be paid not only by the soldiers, but their families as well, often in ways that are not immediately visible and that may continue to exact a hidden toll for years to come. I am reminded of A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, Sue Griffin's haunting meditation on war and its continuing emotional toll.
Now I can see clearly that my mother's alcoholism and the small suicides of omission practiced by my father are part of the history of the Second World War and the Cold War that followed. That terrible stunning violence and then the silencing pall which proceeded from it did not stop at the doorsteps of our homes. Everyone became less visible, less. (Page 305)
A Chorus of Stones was published in 1992, and Sue Griffin was working on it during the buildup to the first Gulf War. The last chapter is made up of notes about the themes she was writing about -- the emotional costs of violence, repression and forgetting, without which war is not possible. Interwoven with these notes are passages from a journal she was keeping at the time. And now, as I reread the book I first read in the nineties, I am struck by a passage (also on page 305) from her journal, written in November of 1990, that I passed over the first time.
One day public opinion polls announce that the only reason Americans would suport a war would be to prevent Iraq from having nuclear weapons. And the next day Bush announces this as the principal reason for going to war.
There it is -- the lesson learned in 1990 that stuck in Dick Cheney's reptile mind, a little detail nobody mentions these days: The nuclear threat works. It worked last time, it will work again. Let's generate some evidence.

Griffin's passage forms a connecting link reaching back to the first President Bush and the first Gulf War, a link that leads directly to the web of lies spun by Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and all the rest, the web which ultimately led to Libby's perjury conviction and the younger Bush's obstruction of justice by commuting Libby's sentence while leaving his conviction intact, meaning he cannot be forced to testify while his appeal drags on through the last days of the Bush administration.

My representative in the House is Tammy Baldwin, and she is one of the 23 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee whose vote is needed to start the impeachment process. Today, I'll let her enjoy her Fourth of July and reflect on what the holiday stands for. Tomorrow, I'm calling her office.


Nonanon said...

I couldn't agree more with everything posted here. Must now also read "A Chorus of Stones." Must also suggest three superlative nonfiction works on the destructive power of all wars:
Trained to Kill: Soldiers at War, by Theodore Nadelson; The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam, by Tom Bissell; and Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale. Happy 4th of July, indeed.

Madison Guy said...

Thanks for the reading tips. I've reserved the books at the Madison Public Library.