Friday, March 10, 2006

Genesis of Gullibility: Beliefs, Superstitions, Lies

It can be astounding to what extent Americans will believe anything. I’m not using the phrase lightly, as a cliché, but in its literal meaning: they’ll believe anything. Belated epiphanies aside, they’re back to their Eisenhower-era naïveté, when anything spilling out of a marginally governmental mouth had the ring of gospel. It wasn’t to be questioned, merely transcribed and played up as news, whatever it happened to be. Any progress since? Not when a majority of Americans thought Saddam and al-Qaeda were in cahoots over 9/11, when more thought so on the eve of the invasion of Iraq three years ago (they had to hang the illegalities about to unfold on something), or still think the link was fact rather than one of those inventions out of the Bush junta’s treasure chest of slithers and lies. I’m reminded of one of the letters Air Force Capt. Jerry Shank wrote home in January 1964. He was flying in Vietnam and losing heart. He didn’t think the U.S. was bound to fail, but he saw the nonsensical ways the military was going about fighting the war. “If we keep up like we are going, we will definitely lose." Read the rest...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Baghdad Does As Beirut Did: The Makings of a Civil War

[This is the first of two parts]
One of my sharpest memories of growing up during the Lebanese civil war is of the daily concurrence of horror and normalcy—of playing Monopoly at a friend’s while rumors of beheadings were serrating the neighborhood, of shooting marbles in the driveway while the town across the valley got its five o’clock shelling. So it was around the country: Feasting in one sector while another burned, sometimes because another burned; a sector thronged with shoppers and typically wild drivers in the morning (road rage being a Lebanese talent going back to the Phoenicians, who must have invented seafaring rage) only to be deserted by afternoon as snipers or fugitive checkpoints drenched the place in terror. Read the rest...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Veteran's Letter to President Bush: "I Return Enclosed the Symbols of My Years of Service"

[Joseph DuRocher was for 20 years the elected Public Defender of Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties. Since retirement, he’s been teaching law at the University of Central Florida and the Barry University School of Law. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, serving as a Naval Aviator in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. On Monday, Mr. DuRocher returned his Lieutenant’s shoulder bars and Navy wings to President Bush, along with the following letter.]
Dear Mr. President:
As a young man I was honored to serve our nation as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U. S. Navy. Before me in WWII, my father defended the country spending two years in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-14). We were patriots sworn “to protect and defend”. Today I conclude that you have dishonored our service and the Constitution and principles of our oath. My dad was buried with full military honors so I cannot act for him. But for myself, I return enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my rank and my Naval Aviator’s wings. Read the rest...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Many Deaths of Pat Tillman

If Peter could betray Christ three times before the rooster crowed, and still be forgiven, maybe the U.S. military, in these days of faith-based deceptions, thought it could do the same to the family of Pat Tillman and get away with it. And if the military could do that in Tillman’s case — a hero from the day he enlisted as he gave up a $3.6 million NFL contract to join his brother in the trenches — imagine the fate of less famous families. Imagine the fate of non-Americans. Dirty wars make for dirty stories. Tillman’s is one of them, not only for the way the Army initially covered up his death by “friendly fire,” then whitewashed investigation after investigation, but for the way a whole narrative was invented and imprinted on Tillman as the prototypical 21 st century American soldier fighting the “global war on terror.” He was to be the embodiment of that virtuous “Army of One” making the world safe from terrorism. What a crock that has turned out to be. Read the rest...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Conscience-Challenged: Conservatives' Hollywood Complex

Conservatives have gerrymandered their way to a virtual lock-down of American government and culture. They control all branches of the federal government, most state legislatures and governorships. The overwhelming majority of newspapers are right-of-center bland, and Hollywood, for all its vaunted liberalism, is still essentially the place Louis B. Mayer created—a venal money machine whose producers are about as principled as a pound of cardamom. But it irritates conservatives to no end when, despite the cultural muck and political imbecility of the nation as a whole, a few voices manage to buck the trend and score a counterpoint or two. This year’s Oscars are a case in point, fleeting and feeble though it may be. Read the rest...