Dover Bitch

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Clearer Than Truth

DB should probably be happy to see that conservatives are beginning to ask questions and are trying to learn lessons from the failures of their movement, which are abundant. It's probably too much to ask that they ask the right questions and learn the right lessons.

Once again, with thousands of lives lost, millions of families destroyed and billions of dollars down the drain, it's all about them. And hippies.

Rod Dreher is as conservative as it gets -- a contributor to National Review and the Corner, a current columnist for The Dallas Morning News, a self-described "practicing Christian and political conservative."

Today, Dreher has an extraordinary (oral) essay at NPR in which he recounts how the conduct of President Bush (for whom he voted twice) in the Iraq War (which he supported) is causing him to question, really to abandon, the core political beliefs he has held since childhood.


I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Dreher's oral essay is highly commendable and I would encourage more like it. I certainly don't want to insult him for it.

But still... Is there any chance America's conservatives will stop soiling themselves over the Sixties? Really, what is wrong with these people? The problems facing America today are bigger than their personal hang-ups. It would be nice to see conservatives questioning something other than their playground social skills.

Lyndon Johnson famously and wrongly predicted "If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we'll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco."

John McCain says this time it will be different.

We left Vietnam, it was over, we just had to heal the wounds of war. We leave this place... and they'll follow us home," he said on a news show recently. "So there's a great deal more at stake."

It was bad enough that 30 years after it was made as clear as possible that the Domino Effect is a load of crap, the "grown-ups" running the country thought they could start tipping dominoes of their own in the Middle East. But now, with that total failure nearly complete, we have a fresh example, burning on our televisions in real time. And conservatives still think entire nations have the same properties as children's toys.

Johnson worried "what will happen to the other hundred little countries" if we didn't keep trying to prop up the South Vietnamese government. Yesterday, on KCRW's "Left, Right & Center," Tony Blankley responded to a question about what could go wrong if the U.S. pulled out of Iraq:

Nobody can predict. But an awful lot of experts who are not supporters of the president think there's a high likelihood that if civil war breaks out completely and were not there to contain it in any way, that Turkey will get sucked into Kurdistan, that Syria will be lapping over to support the Shias, that the Saudis, Egyptians and other Sunni countries will be giving more and more support to the beleaguered Sunni 20 percent. And in the middle of all this of course is little Israel, which according to the London Times last week, a paper of some repute having been in business for a few centuries, that they have a plan, not that they're necessarily planning to execute, they have a plan to use nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities. Now, you can't... you know, plus 19 million barrels of oil flowing through the Hormuz Straights, keeping the world's economy functioning, all in jeopardy, the Saudi oil fields, which are unfortunately for the Saudis or those Sunni country, the Shias happen to live on the Saudi oil, the danger there... so that is the most flammable possible setting.

Robert Scheer responded by asking what criminals running the country could have possibly thought it would be a good idea to set that in motion? He also pointed out that nobody is suggesting that we just pull out in 24 hours, screaming and running as fast as we can.

Finally, Scheer noted that smart people think the answer is, as the Iraq Study Group suggested, to "stop demonizing" all these other countries and start trying to work with them.

Yesterday, DB wrote about Dean Acheson, the Cold War and the neocon's dangerous and ridiculous belief that "Arabs only understand force." It's clear that the Cheney Administration is incapable of seeing the world as anything other than full of demons. But getting the public to stop thinking like Cheney is going to be a tall order.

Acheson is famous for a lot of things he did and said, but one of his quotes stands out above most -- Acheson said he advised Harry Truman, during the Cold War, to paint a picture of the world that was "clearer than truth."

Clearer than truth is a concept that our current government has embraced more than any other. Dreher is wise to be reconsidering the blind faith with which he has accepted Bush and Cheney's pronouncements. It is obvious that other conservatives aren't even ready to get as far as he has. But DB has serious doubts about the extent of his and others' epiphanies.

When I was a teenager, I was stunned to hear my grandmother explain to me that she "would never buy a Japanese car because of the war." Even though my grandfather was in the Pacific, I never heard a single pronouncement like that. No sentiments like that about any group of people from any member of my family. Ever. To this day, that statement is singular in my recollections of all my conversations with her or any of my relatives, which is probably why it has stuck with me.

In his excellent book, "War Without Mercy," historian John Dower writes about the demonization of the Japanese during WWII. Calling them "Japs," cartooning them as monkeys with thick glasses, treating them as sub-human... It was all part of the war machine. And when the war ended, so did all the institutionalized hatred, just like that (finger snap). But decades later, you still wouldn't see my grandmother piloting a Toyota.

I wonder if even the conservatives who get as far as questioning their leaders will ever get to the point where they can consider having a civil conversation with the countries we fear the most. In a never-ending war on terror, orchestrated by a cabal that thinks that Arabs can uniformly be defeated with sexual shame, I wonder if the American public will ever have a chance to think more clearly than "clearer than truth" as we interact with the rest of the world.

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