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|The Iraqi War and Un-Americanism
by Brian S. Wise
10 October 2002
Too much time and effort has been wasted confusing the public's sense of uncertainty with apathy and un-Americanism.
What America needs right now is one of those old fashioned slavery resets. For this we turn to Harry Belafonte, who in a radio interview suggested Secretary of State Colin Powell is, in reality, nothing more than a slave being allowed the rare privilege of entry into the master’s home, but at the exact moment he speaks too forcefully against the master (President Bush, of course), it’s back to the pasture with him. And you don’t, according to Belafonte, “hear much from those who live in the pasture.” Harry Belafonte is wrong, and not smart. Secretary of State Powell has spoken against the administration’s prevailing policies on several occasions, most notably mentioned in this space, his stated preference for teen condom use over the President’s teen abstinence preference. The Secretary of State has yet to be thrown back into the pasture.
But these are the sorts of inflamed passions one can expect when America beats the drums of war, most especially when a Republican is holding the drum sticks. Bill O’Reilly wondered whether or not the lack of ratings for President bush’s Cincinnati speech, 17 percent of the total viewing audience, represented a certain apathetic un-Americanism. To this a few points should be made.
One: When you consider the broadcasting cards dealt against the president – that he was competing against Fear Factor, The Drew Carey Show and ESPN’s pre-Monday Night Football show; that none of the major broadcast networks carried the speech; that word of the speech first broke on a weekend – 17 percent of the total audience is not only acceptable, but downright admirable. Now, there is certainly something to be said about the priorities of a populace that chooses Fear Factor over a presidential address, but on the other hand …
Two: It’s safe to say that most people, even those of the most modest intellectual means, have long since decided whether or not they believe Saddam Hussein should be forcibly removed from power (for example, my mind was made up, in the affirmative, a decade ago). Nothing President Bush said on Monday was going to dissuade a single hawk, and none of the pivotal evidence necessary in converting doves can be openly discussed. Those for or against the removal Monday morning thought no different of the matter on Tuesday morning.
Three: Presidents of the United States get network television time by asking for it; on the Daily Show, Peter Jennings went so far as to say that presidents get the time even if the networks couldn’t care less about the chosen topic, so long as the time is requested. Advisors are paid, and we are to presume they are paid well, to know the difference between what warrants a request for network time and what doesn’t. The latest in a continuing string of public speeches (i.e. away from the Oval Office, where speeches of great importance are generally made) before a sympathetic audience, in this case, didn’t warrant consideration, and they knew it.
Four: Identifying and combating un-Americanism has become the Right’s latest Great Cause (its first since impeachment), and understandably so. But so much time and effort has been wasted in confusing the public’s sense of certainty with apathy and un-Americanism, the Right is too often missing not only the above points, but other relevancies as well.
There cannot exist in America a more stable position than Iraqi speechwriter for the president, who has, with only a very few exceptions, been saying the same five things every day since June, just differently from the day before. Being forced to hear the same few points day after day may be necessary if you’re married, but a public is justifiably wary in hearing them from their politicians. This doesn’t make them un-American, just cold to the concept of war being bludgeoned into their conscious, especially when there’s nothing new to be said or heard. A populace which lends its support to the war effort, either passively or aggressively, has done its part; to expect much more is, to use an awkward phrase, overkill.
Five: As the matter stands today, war isn’t the necessity some on the Right would have you believe, but it appears less and less likely Saddam Hussein will allow the United States a diplomatic solution for what ails us. What keeps going through reasoned minds is the first time they saw the second plane fly into the World Trade Center, the knowledge the Tragedies couldn’t be an accident and the fear that, if left to his own devices long enough, Hussein will directly set into motion a similar or greater threat against the United States and / or its allies. Because stepping aside and allowing unfettered access to any building in Iraq would be seen as Hussein kowtowing to the enemy, diplomacy isn’t as grand an option as we may like. So the solution is to give Hussein small, definable options, including stepping aside and allowing a peaceful regime change. At the time those options become impossibilities, war should begin, at which time ideas like un-Americanism can be more fully, and more seriously, considered.