Saturday, April 10, 2004

what must be said

There is much to be said about the current warfare in Iraq, especially in terms of political history. But for the moment, what must be said is that although everything that is happening now was foreseen in character, as part of the warnings against invading Iraq more than a year ago, it is in any case a cause for intense and bitter sorrow.

The names of Americans scroll by on the CNN and PBS honor rolls of the dead, the only time these names are mentioned, or probably ever will be: these young men and women from towns we know in Illinois and Pennsylvania, and places we've never been, in New Mexico and Florida. Perhaps we saw their faces once, heard their voices as they talked to the cameras about their tasks---standing strong, talking with intelligence and hope.

Their deaths are tragedies for all of us. They died for a mistake, a willfully arrogant mistake. Their faith and their hope were betrayed.

And they at least flash before the media imagination for a moment. Not so the hundreds of Iraqis, and not even the soldiers from the UK, Italy, Poland, Spain, Japan, the Ukraine, all of whom came under fire this week. We never hear of their deaths, not even the numbers of their dead and wounded, let alone names. So much for the pretense of a coalition. A coalition of cannon fodder.

Those young men and women who are still there, some of whom just arrived, jumping head-first into hell, and some who have been there for a weary year, days or weeks from going home, who now must remain, in more peril for their lives than ever. What kind of confidence can they possibly have in the people who are sending them to kill or be killed?

By and large they have not earned the enmity they face. That dishonor goes to others, most of whom have lived long lives in luxury, some of whom are in the morally repugnant class of those who supported the war in Vietnam yet avoided the dangers they advocated for others. They sit in the comfort of their U.S. homes and their deadly certainties, while innocents die for their lies. These are the sacrifices of this Good Friday. And there's nothing redemptive about any of it.

No Silver Bullet? Condi Got It All Wrong, Lone Ranger Complains

by Morgan Dash

In an exclusive American Samizat interview, the Lone Ranger (otherwise known as the Masked Rider of the Plains) broke his decades-long silence to complain about the misuse of his most famous symbol by National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice in her testimony before the 9-11 commission.

"'There was no silver bullet' that could have prevented 9-11-she said it several times," Lone said, his deep baritone voice rising in distress. "It makes a great soundbite, but what does it mean? She made it sound like my silver bullets were especially accurate or foolproof kinds of bullets, but that's nonsense. I never shot a silver bullet in my life. That wasn't the point."

In fact, the Ranger explained, it was quite the opposite. "I made my silver bullets to remind me that a life, like silver, is too precious to waste. Sometimes I would leave one behind with people I'd helped, so after I rode away, they would be reminded of the same thing. Those silver bullets got to be identified with me, so people knew what I stood for."

What he stood for was tolerance, fairness and a sympathetic respect for the rights of others. "I never killed anyone," he says, "not with a silver bullet or any other kind of bullet. That was true for all the stories in the Lone Ranger television series---and it was a very popular series for a long time." So popular, he points out, that it played on all three of the existing national networks in the 1950s and 1960s-including two of them at the same time. "A lot of children watched it, and I felt a special responsibility because of that," he recalls, "but about half the audience was made up of adults."

The Lone Ranger is still diffident about being called a hero, but he insists that his principles be fairly represented---and his silver bullet symbol is particularly important to him. "That malt liquor was bad enough," he said. " I guess you have to live with that kind of thing. But this was a real violation. It twists what I meant with the silver bullet. It was my statement in very violent times. Of course, the Old West doesn't hold a candle to today, but maybe that's why my message is needed."

After checking the interview tape, we turned back to ask a final question---but the Lone Ranger was gone.


She brought her scowl and teeth briefly flashing in a contorted smile to the 9-11 hearing, and the media build-up for it virtually guaranteed that if she didn't flat out fall on her face (and probably even if she did), then the Bushies would hail it as a great success and lots of people would agree.

The overall media reaction was as schizophrenic as anything else in national politics these days, but the 9-11 families---especially the three widows known as the Jersey Girls---seemed pretty near unanimous in being underwhelmed. Condi Rice, as the vast world now knows her thanks to the instant intimatizing media, tried to be gracious, acted as if her participation in the Bushies attempted character assassination of Richard Clarke had never happened, and she had never refused to testify in the first place...but basically she was on the defensive. And her defense sounded pretty narrow: none of my underlings (which must include cabinet officers, CIA etc.) gave me a paper entitled Threat Assessment indicating that al Quaeda operatives were going to highjack airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Such a defense, accompanied by evidence that there was a lot of information buzzing around to raise suspicions, and a lot of warnings (even if they weren't in reports from her deputies entitled Warnings!) of what did happen, but no actual evidence that anything in particular was done in response, tends to point to Condi Rice as the person who screwed up, at least in the sense that she had way too narrow a view of what her responsibilities were, if not her job description in the Bush bureaucracy, as National Security Advisor to the President.

This certainly was the view of the Jersey Girls on the talk shows, but care must be taken not to make Condi Rice the scapegoat here. The widows must resist what could be a psychological displacement, a kind of survivors' guilt, projecting onto the only woman in sight. Besides which, it leaves others off the hook---especially Dick Cheney and the other Nixon/Kissinger/Reagan Cold War/Hot Oil warriors---but also Sleepy George himself. Rice may be an exceptionally bright but exceptionally passive National Security Advisor, but she was working in a particular culture, best described by New Yorker writer Ric Hertzberger as "real men care about missile defense and Iraq," not skinny terrorists in shacks, miles away from a B-1 bomber or a decent restaurant.