“The Old Lie”

Brian Cook

As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate into a nightmare (and as President Bush continues to insist--Iraqi sovereignty and Sunni participation be damned--that national elections will be held in January), I'd like to recommend the following two articles that stare unflichingly at the horrors we've collectively unleashed. The first is Chris Hedges' review, "On War," in the New York Review of Books. Its opening paragraph reminded me of Wilfred Owen's poetry from WWI. (Click here for Owen's "Parable of the Old Man and the Young.") Hedges begins: The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief…The vanquished know the essense of war--death. They grasp that war is necrophilia. The second is Tom Englehardt's essay on TomDispatch.com, "Icarus (Armed with Vipers) Over Iraq." After establishing that "the history of twentieth century war" is "the history of bombing cities," Englehardt goes on to examine the poverty of the U.S. media's coverage of our indiscriminate bombing in Iraq. A stunning indictment of the horrors we've inflicted (and simply allowed ourselves to internalize as acceptable, normal reality), Englehardt's essay proves that "the loosing of airpower on Iraq's cities is the greatest missing story of the post-war war." That conspicuous lack suggests we may already have past the point of Hedges' cautionary last sentence: If we do not confront our hubris and the lies told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, we will not so much defeat dictators like Saddam Hussein as become them

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Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.
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