Remember the Cold War? It was about the future. It was about which modern system of organizing society, capitalism or communism, would win the world. You could read a library full of books by deep thinkers arguing for one side or the other. It was a scary and repressive time, but also an intellectually stimulating one.Our latest epic conflict with the Islamic equivalent of our holy rollers is all about the past and not nearly so edifying. The other side relies on just one book, the Koran, which one is supposed to peruse only in the original Arabic. Our side reads Twitters.Their side is characterized by semi-literate theocrats who’ve beamed up from the seventh century to sow stupidity and slay infidels. Our side stands for a decadent empirium that calls itself the greatest when it means the greediest. For all their detestation of each other, both are compatibly reactionary. They clash mainly on eating pork rinds.The great declaration of this conflict was My Pet Goat, read by George W. Bush as the World Trade Center and Pentagon burned. It was his equivalent of Pope Urban II’s marching orders to the soldiers of Christ back in 1095 “to let the deeds of your ancestors like Charlemagne and his son Louis move you to destroy the kingdoms of the pagans and extend the territory of the Holy Church.”Our invasion of Iraq and investment of Iran were perfectly understandable. Their peoples resembled, at least to us, the presumed authors of the 9/11 atrocity. What's more, their pagan kingdoms were ripe for conquest and conversion. We wanted their oil and we wanted to use them as bases to dominate the region. We still do.Afghanistan, however, I just don't get. Bombing its rubble into dust? Killing the survivors of countless massacres? Nation building by way of Predator missiles? For what? Afghanistan is not a state but a congerie of feudal clans who have mastered just enough western technology to fight off the infidelic present. Even if the Taliban harbored Al Qaeda, invading Afghanistan to get at them made as much sense as assaulting Italy to shut down the Sopranos.After eight years of fighting off the world's most powerful military, the Taliban's elusive Mullah Omar says his side is just getting warmed up. “We would like to point out,” he offered in recent days, “that we fought against the British for 80 years from 1839 to 1919 before defeating them and gaining our independence."Meanwhile, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, worries that we are losing the battle of ideas in Afghanistan to people who had their last fresh thought fourteen hundred years ago. What an insult to our country!Back in the Cold War, the righties were glomming onto Burke, Kirk, Hayek and Rand, while the lefties were devouring Marx, Marcuse, Mills and Sartre. There were study circles, teach-ins, free universities, alternate schools. Everyone was an ideologue or an analyst. Brains rather than boobs were on display on campuses. Not any more.Today our politics are populated by Palinites who don’t know an ideology from an ice cream cone. They say there are also intelligent progressives out there somewhere. If they got involved they could outsmart the cretinous righties at every turn and restore the country to membership in western civilization. One wonders why they’re not marching on Washington, crowding the yahoos out of the town hall meetings, and massively mocking the pols and the media like a million Michael Moores and Bill Mahers? Let’s go, folks!
Pete Karman began working in journalism in 1957 at the awful New York Daily Mirror, where he wrote the first review of Bob Dylan for a New York paper. He lost that job after illegally traveling to Cuba (the rag failed shortly after he got the boot). Karman has reported and edited for various trade and trade union blats and worked as a copywriter. He was happy being a flack for Air France, but not as happy as being an on-and-off In These Times editor and contributor since 1977.