Thursday, June 01, 2006

What about War?

Burt Prelutsky, in his latest article, argues that War gets a bad rap.
I realize that some folks are going to bring up innocent bloodshed as an argument against war. But, the truth is that, one way or another, everybody dies. Why is it only a big deal when they die during warfare? For instance, in America, alone, 35,000 people will die this year from influenza; another 50,000 will die in traffic accidents; well over 100,000 will die of tobacco-related diseases.

Most of them will perish because they neglected to get flu shots or because they insist on drinking and driving or because they'd rather risk cancer than give up their cigarettes. So, while Americans go nuts every time a soldier dies while doing his duty, you don't see people demonstrating in the streets against the flu, and you don't see Susan Sarandon all over the tube haranguing against booze, and you sure don't see Michael Moore producing message movies about the horrors of nicotine and tars!
The reality is that while bad people--be they Napoleon, Hitler or Hussein--fight bad wars, good people fight good ones.
A few points.

First of all in the first season of the Awful Truth, Michael Moore did take a "voice box choir," made up of people who had lost their voices to cigarette related diseases, around to sing Christmas Carols to Tobacco Company Executives, which I always thought was a strong image.

Not technically a movie though.

Secondly, I'm so tired of the "everybody dies" excuse. I mean come on - imagine a murderer sitting before a judge, arguing that he or she only killed one person; cigarettes kill many times that. The truth is we make a moral distinction between people who die and people who are murdered. Granted it can be a fine line in some cases. Some people don't want to hold factory owners or mine owners responsible for creating unsafe conditions, while others do.

If Iraq were a legitimate war fought for legitimate reasons, than the deaths of American soldiers is the price we would have to pay. Regrettable but necessary. If the war is illegitimate and unnecessary (as many people believe) than how many lives do you want to piss away fighting it?

Which brings me to my third point. I totally agree that bad people start bad wars, and I'm grateful that Prelutsky noted that. I leave it up to my audience to consider whether President Bush is good people or bad people.

At any rate, Sidney Blumenthal notes that the Bush Administration shares Prelutsky's warm feelings towards war in his latest article.
In the beginning, the elements of the war paradigm appeared to be expediencies, conceived as a series of emergency measures in the struggle against al-Qaida. But, in fact, their precepts were developed in law review articles before Sept. 11 by John Yoo, promoted to deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, where Vice President Cheney's office assigned him to write key secret memos on torture, surveillance and executive power. Once Bush approved them, the clerisy of neoconservative lawyers, at least as tightly knit as Opus Dei, put them into effect. The war paradigm is Bush's "Da Vinci Code," the difference being that its high priests acknowledge in private that it is real.

They fervently believe that the Constitution is fatally flawed and must be severely circumscribed. The Bush administration's "holy grail," another phrase officials use in private, is to remove suspects' rights to due process, speedy trial and exculpatory evidence. The war paradigm, which they contrast with a caricatured "law enforcement paradigm," is to be constantly strengthened to conduct a permanent war against terror, which can never be finally defeated. There is no exit strategy from emergency.
I do have one question for Blumenthal. Is it you or is it the Bush Administration who sees terror as something that "can never be finally defeated." Because I agree that it doesn't seem like we can really defeat it; but I'd be surprised if the Bush Administration felt like that. Shades of 1984 there. While there are plenty who believe the Bush Administration that sinister, I see them more as ideologically driven dunderheads.

Setting that aside, the Bush Administration's ideologically driven dunderheads do seem to be getting a lot out of the "war paradigm."

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