War and peace, again.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear America’s latest enemy described as
a "New Hitler" my eyes glaze over and I assume I am being assaulted by
fear-mongering propaganda. Invoking the shadow of Hitler is a way to bypass
analysis and sway opinion, to silence dissent, to rally the troops.
Mr. Bush invokes this shadow when he speaks of "Islamic fascism", and we
have argued about similar terms on this weblog in the recent past. I wonder if
this tendency to call one’s enemies "fascists" is not some residual habit left
over from the Leftist pasts of some of the leading neoconservative thinkers. To
those of us with similar pasts it is embarrassing to remember throwing the term
around so carelessly.
Those who defend such language will usually point to some combination of
aggressiveness, expansionism, and ideological agenda on the part of the radical
jihadists to justify such rhetoric.
Or they will mention anti-Semitic comments from Mr. Ahmadinejad, though
from what I have read these are taken out of context: "What will you do if
Israel bombs Iran?", the interviewer will ask. "We will destroy Israel!", he
will bluster, and the next day the headlines blare "New Hitler vows to destroy
I wonder at the selectivity of this.
The last two issues of the international version of The Jerusalem
Post have contained two paid political advertisements. The one obliquely
suggested using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran. The other was a petition to
annex southern Lebanon.
These ads- in a mainstream Israeli newspaper- clearly show the existence of
violent, expansionist, ideological Zionists. Do you think Mr. Bush would call
them "Jewish fascists"?
Don’t hold your breath.
I fear we are seeing the demonization of enemies that is necessary in
preparation for war. And I have become convinced that there are those in the
Bush administration who think that the only way out of the mess they have made
in Iraq, the only way to proceed with their stated goal of American hegemony in
the Middle East, is to provoke a major war. Too many of them are crowing about
World War III. Others are preparing us to accept total war, citing Hiroshima as
a model, telling us that we are too soft-hearted, that we need – in John
Podhoretz’ chilling phrase- "the cold-eyed singleness of purpose" that it takes
to incinerate the innocent by the hundreds of thousands.
Personally, I resist this cold-eyed propaganda by invoking the image of the
blind Iranian boy, Muhammad, his devout granny, and his adorable sisters from
the Iranian film The Color of Paradise whenever I hear the word
And I invoke the image of the Hasidic Jews Moshe and Malli from another
favorite film, the Israeli Ushpizin, whenever I hear the words "Jewish"
It works for me; just a little tactic to keep everyone human.
And if it is aggressiveness, expansionism, and ideology that qualifies one
to be the latest Hitler, then the neocons meet the standard.
Of course, I am not saying it is only our leaders who demonize. They call
the Iranian president the new Hitler, but the ayotollahs of Iran have long
called the United States "the Great Satan", which is a very literal
So. The war that is shaping up is going to be Hitler vs. Satan?
I hope no one minds if I declare my neutrality right now.
I received a press release about this interesting-sounding book about the problems and prospects for the Democratic party a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to post a notice. From the description:
What has happened to the national
Democratic Party? It’s easy to blame it
all on the machinations of evil Republicans, but honest Democrats know that
their own party needs to take some responsibility for its failures. In the last presidential election, a
distinguished senator who was also a decorated war veteran was unable to defeat
someone widely viewed as a failed president and an ignorant if not stupid man,
someone tainted by his association with “religious extremists,” corporate
criminals, and an unpopular war. Why?
Click on the title above to go to a blog with much more info.
2008 approaches. The nation faces perhaps the greatest dangers I have seen
since I was a small boy. Many suspect that powerful forces in the government are
intent on provoking a world war.
Do you really want to choose between Hilary and Newt for president? Or Gore
and McCain? Or any other candidates likely to be offered by the Evil Stupid
Party or the Stupid Evil Party? Whoever runs, the choice appears destined to be
between Endless War and War Without End.
For those of us who believe that the time is ripe for an ambidexterous
Third Force in American politics, an alternative- in Bill Kauffman’s words- to
the "two for the price of one parties", the discussion always ends with the
question of leadership: who in the world could lead us?
The great American populist- alright, technically he is Canadian- Neil
Young, in his recent album Living with War, has a song called "America
Needs a Leader". This is true enough: boy, do we ever. But when he names names
it is a bit pathetic. The best he can do is Barack Ubama and Colin Powell
(though he does suggest Powell run to atone for his sins).
And the whole thing sounds a bit desperate, like we are eager for a
I am not eager for a demogogue.
I am not eager for any sort of politician, even a Catholic one.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of his conversion, but like most American
Catholics, I don’t think he realizes the social implications of his faith.
And no Santorum. If his career survives prolife Democrat Bob Casey Jr.’s
challenge, I’ll let Specter take up his defense.
No nobody on the current scene.
Any candidate in the Last Hope movement- or perhaps the "Last Ditch"
movement- would have to at a minimum:
a) Not carry undue Leftist or Rightist political baggage, which pretty much
eliminates Nader and Buchanan, whatever their merits.
b) Offer an alternative to politics as usual.
c) Not be any sort of Mass Media pundit.
d) Not be politically ambitious, for the desire for power is itself the
prelude to corruption.
e) Appeal to every patch of the crazy quilt coalition some of us dare hope
for: decentratlist Leftists, Paleo and Traditionalist Conservatives, the better
sort of libertarians, Greens, Catholic Worker type anarchists, working class
people, farmers, po’ folks, and all the other assorted malcontents that may,
just may, in the best American tradition, pull together to save the country from
the neoconservative nightmare that has fallen upon us, to tear us away from the
grinning proclaimers of World War III, to call America home.
There is someone on the periphery of the national scene who offers an
appeal to the better sorts on the Right and the Left, someone who flies with
both wings, who has written for both The American Conservative and
The Sierra Club magazines, who is at once antiwar and antiabortion, who
is quintessentially American without being a rabid nationalist, whose analysis
of the national dilemna reaches far beyond politics to the cultural and
agricultural roots of the problem.
What’s more- and this to his credit- he has shown absolutely no political
He is a poet and a farmer, an honest man. He hails not from the Beltway or
one of the little beltways of the New America, but from a real place, a holdout
from the Old Jeffersonian America.
And he is a prophet.
Draft Wendell Berry for President!
More fodder for the debate still going on under the "Crunchy Conned" thread: this article from the Touchstone archives. It seems to me that what’s missing from the thinking of those who argue for practical pacifism in the face of a Hitler is some acknowledgment of a duty to protect the innocent. I’m bothered by a kind of glibness in the logic that says "Well, it would be immoral to resist, too bad, die." Real circumstances are likely to be rather more ambiguous than that, and I thought this article was excellent (I ran across it a few days ago while culling my back issues of the magazine, which I heartily recommend–it’s the subscription I would keep if I could only have one).
Let me reiterate, emphatically, that this is not a rejection of the principle that it’s wrong to target non-combatants.