Thursday, March 30, 2006

Plausible Deniability: When America Is the Rogue

Expose an individual to violence and depravity long enough and he’s likely either to join in or become numb to it. Something along those lines seems to be happening to the American public regarding those vague vile wars on Iraq, on “terror,” on themselves. The scandals aren’t diminishing. To the contrary. Tales of mayhem and massacres are verging on the routine. But the reaction, aside from obvious discontent and an abandon-the-Bush-ship signal for a slew of once-upon-a-time warmongers, is either more calls for blood from that quickly diminishing corps of diehard Bush brigades (because we haven’t dropped enough bombs in three years) or… tired indifference.
Abu Ghraib, it turns out, was summer camp compared with what has happened beyond Abu Ghraib, what keeps happening since. Americans don’t recognize themselves in their projections on Arab lands. Their little “Support Our Troops” stickers are becoming increasingly ironic badges of imbecility, of insults to Iraqi civilians to whom troop support translates into daily humiliations and outright killings at the hands of trigger-jittered soldiers, who see a suicide bomber behind every bush. So the American public is retreating to itself, as if not looking is a way of staving off the reckoning. Break scandal after scandal. Reveal that GIs may have executed a couple dozen people, some of them too old to fire a weapon, in a mosque, reveal that the president has been having Ngo Dinh Diem fantasies about the Iraqi prime minister. The reaction is the same. A little outrage in a few editorials, a column or two, a few dozen blogs. But from the public at large: Inattention. Focus only on “American Idol.” Grasp for innocence where you can more readily find it, on the sound stage of a Fox Television variety show where it’s still possible to believe that the best talent can still win and the greatest threat to western civilization is the clash between Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell—the dim and dour of America’s moral compass. And for a little relaxation from the tension later on, there’s always Bill O’Reilly and the rest of Fox’s brown-shirted line-up of puff-swaddled bullies. “Support Our Troops” indeed—just as long as they stay out of our faces, the reminders of their inglorious fate safely and soundly distant. Like rogues. The troops are living up to the expectations. And when the press discovers it, the reaction is, of course even more virulent toward the messenger: The media have it all wrong. The media are the enemy. Isn’t that what Bush’s recent PR offensive cheerleading for the war has been all about? Let’s call it waterboarding with whitewash. Read the rest...