Those Whose Opinions Will Not Be Counted
What shall I say? That it’s been damnable?
That all the time my soul was never my own?
That we’ve slaved hard at endless make-believe?
It isn’t only actual war that’s hell,
I’ll say. It’s spending youth and hope alone
Among pretences that have ceased to deceive.
The Great National Debate continues.
The President and the Vice-President glide through the city in armored convoys, exquisitely isolated, omniscience at their fingertips, more regal and self-important than any Louis of any reign. Their black processions scatter the masses like coveys of quail before the thresher.
Overhead, important generals, admirals, couriers, and contractor wealth-suckers thunder to and fro in the cocoons of their whomp-whomping armored helicopters.
War is swell, ain’t it?
Thumb-sucking journalistes, posturing “members” of Congress, and tanked thinkers furrow their brows, preen and opine, thrust and riposte, play at paper wars. The luckiest get audiences with the Even Greater, thence to regurgitate the latest talking points.
The August Madness of 1914 lives! It has risen from the stench of its rotten grave and become the September Folly of 2013.
There is no escape to the Isle of Reason. But there are occasional glimmers of light: sharp, scathing, cleansing, antiseptic to easily uttered cant. Such might be found in Col. Andrew J. Bacevich’s latest book, Breach Of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers And Their Country (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company).
Here is an excerpt from a review in The New York Times by Rachel Maddow. The message? Do not send to know for whom the avenging harrow comes. It comes for thee.
Andrew J. Bacevich starts from the assumption that our modern militarism is unsustainable and unwise. He then proceeds to assign blame, mercilessly: to the public (for our consumerist apathy); to the Pentagon (for its “generals who had slept undisturbed back when Warsaw Pact commanders had ostensibly been planning to launch World War III” but who “now fretted nervously over the prospect of their budget taking a hit”); to the contractors (whose profiteering steals honor from the soldiers they serve alongside); and, naturally, to the politicians. Even Fenway Park and the Red Sox come in for blame, for the staging of a sailor’s homecoming at a July 4 game that left Bacevich all but retching over the “convenient mechanism for voiding obligation, . . . a made-to-order opportunity for conscience-easing.”
Bacevich saves particular vitriol for pro-war writers of both the right and left: Christopher Hitchens, the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and the New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier all get filleted and neatly stacked in the corner, to make room for the unleashing of all hell on David Brooks for his commentary before, during and after the Iraq war — followed by what Bacevich sees as an unconscionable repeat of the same mistakes in the late phases of the war in Afghanistan. Bacevich’s scorching litany of what he sums up as “grotesque and contemptible irresponsibility” is a bracing indictment of my profession, and how no one suffers consequences for even the most humiliating failures in prediction and analysis, as long as those failures favor the use of military force.
We teeter at the very razor’s edge of a precipice whose dark bottom we cannot know. Drink this gall and eat this bit of responsibility that we all share. It is the body of folly.
Draft Dodger Celebrating War at the Hallowed Ground of Arlington National Cemetery. He Had “Other Priorities” While His Peers Were Dying in Muck.