The story of how the Bush administration used that
primordial rage to build a Rube Goldberg-like bridge all the way to
Baghdad is an age-old tale of wartime hysteria, racism and ignorance.
Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but it was part of the Arab/Muslim
world, and in conditions of hysteria it becomes possible to sell people
on grand clash-of-civilization theories.
After 9/11, the neocons in the
Bush administration insisted that the Arab/Muslim world had become an
incubator of terrorism and violent religious extremism, and we needed
to punish it. Traumatized and enraged by the terrorist attacks, and
ignorant of Middle Eastern history and politics, Congress and most of
the media went along. And most of the American people, looking for an
enemy to blame, went along.
Just how potent the forces of vengeance and resentment are
can be gauged by the wild popularity of right-wing figures like Rush
Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage. These
resentful demagogues — who sounded like Conrad’s demented Kurtz,
hysterically calling for Bush to take the gloves off and exterminate
the brutes — gave voice to the inchoate passions of millions of
Americans, who correctly perceived that the Bush administration, for
all its fancy talk, was really bent on good old all-American revenge.
Once unleashed, the desire to take vengeance is very hard to stop.
violent self-righteousness of war supporters like Andrew Sullivan, who
accused opponents of making up a coastal Fifth Column, stemmed from
their certainty that revenge was not just morally justified, but
necessary. America was finally unshackled, its noble and “authentic”
fury unleashed; anyone who got in the way was a combination of Neville
Chamberlain and Tokyo Rose.
We remain ensnared in an infinite bloodthirsty space — never-ending — never moving.
We are in perpetual Check without a Mate in sight.
We are caught in a Mobius strip existence.
Even the war dead are spinning in their graves.