A Season for Knives

Declaring a war seems a casual (and eternal) business.
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Posted March 28, 2012 by GRAYSON HARPER in News
nuke

It’s spring again. Must be time to start another war. Now it appears the target will be Iran. Or maybe Syria. John McCain wants to bomb Syria. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter as long as we bomb somebody.

On the issue of Iran’s alleged nuclear program, President Barack Obama says he is “in lockstep” with Israel — an unseemly choice of words, I should think. Israel’s Netanyahu  is so anxious to bomb his neighboring country that I suspect he has fist-sized bruises on his chest. So too our presidential candidates, who (Ron Paul excepted) are trying to out-snarl one another. Meanwhile the mainstream press has about reached the level of hysteria it achieved when it sold us the war in Iraq.

Missing from all the scattershot reportage is the fact that neither U.S. nor Israeli intelligence has produced one iota of evidence that Iran has a nuclear bomb or plans to make one.  So … no WMD. Sound familiar? Also not mentioned: Their country is encircled by 45 U.S. military bases. Yup, they’re surrounded. We have carriers, destroyers, and amphibious assault ships all over the region. We’ve all but taken over the Middle East. But Iran is the country preparing to attack.

Yes, like the boogeyman and bad dreams, those nonexistent nukes can terrify. Remember Condoleezza Rice conjuring the mushroom cloud that would appear if we didn’t bomb Iraq? Meanwhile, Israel has more than 300 real nukes,  yet refuses to allow inspections. We, of course, have thousands. And while the U.S. and Israel have launched wars of aggression and beat up on others countless times, Iran — the crazy one, over whom we must all be frantic with worry –– has not attacked anyone outside its borders in more than 200 years.

When it comes to preserving and nurturing life, we humans habitually come up short.  But war –– the machinery of death –– always gets unlimited funding.

Beyond the fact that attacking a country that poses no imminent threat is a war crime, I’m struck by how casually we threaten others nowadays. More than once, Hillary Clinton has threatened Iran with total obliteration, while Obama has almost worn out the phrase, “All options are on the table.”

The late Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse Five and other books) observed this casual indifference in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as they planned their invasion of Iraq. Calling them “psychopathic personalities,” Vonnegut said he believed they knew full well the suffering their actions might cause, “but they do not care. They cannot care, because they are nuts. They have a screw loose.” So when the city of Baghdad was lit up by our bombs, the name they gave it –– “shock and awe” –– suggested gleeful children witnessing a fireworks display rather than the premeditated lethal attack that it was.

By now, we’ve killed upward of a million people in Iraq and driven five million from their homes. The bloodletting continues in Afghanistan. Like Rome of long ago, our legions are everywhere. But if we now invade Iran or if Israel does –– it amounts to the same thing since we supply the weapons –– where will the money come from? We’re broke, aren’t we? Everyone says we are.

The Republican candidates have all drunk the austerity Kool-Aid. Millions of people are homeless, out of work, or struggling to keep their jobs. But rich, corrupt politicians pound their fists and say no to unions, no to a living wage, no to public education, no to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and no to protections that have been the bedrock of progressive reform for more than 50 years. One candidate counsels us, in lieu of universal healthcare, to just let ’em die. The pinnacle of statesmanship.

Funny, isn’t it? When it comes to preserving and nurturing life, we humans habitually come up short.  But war –– the machinery of death –– always gets unlimited funding.

James Goldman’s superb 1966 play The Lion in Winter contains a passage that might be instructive here. When Queen Eleanor’s son Richard suddenly threatens brother John with a knife, Eleanor says, “Of course he has a knife … . We all have knives. It is 1183, and we’re barbarians. … Oh, my piglets, we’re the origins of war. Not history’s forces nor the times nor justice nor the lack of it nor causes nor religions nor ideas nor kinds of government nor any other thing. We are the killers; we breed war. We carry it, like syphilis, inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can’t we love one another just a little? That’s how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for. We have such possibilities, my children; we could change the world.”

Grayson Harper is a Fort Worth writer and artist.

 


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