the dying summer. I have known
No truce with Time nor Time’s accomplice, Death.
~ Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
What a surreal
moment – this faded end-of-summer 2005.
We are locked
in an evil lost war of staggering costs. Some flail at the atrocity
in a cause that seems equally lost. Most play on in the ebbing season’s
sun, oblivious to reckonings.
rules the worst regime in memory. Yet it falls to a fiercely bereaved
48-year-old mother, camping beside a dusty ditch in Texas, to embody
the conscience of the culture, at least until the media move on.
in its outrage struts essentially unopposed in our supposed democracy.
Protest rises powerless. The oblivious go uninformed, unled.
the issues, cravenly afraid of risking privilege for principle,
hostage to corrupt advisors and a corrupted calculus of national
interest, Democrats not only mistake the public mood and fail the
minimal duty of opposition, but join the folly. From Hillary Clinton
to Barack Obama, Capitol Hill barons to camp-following bloggers,
they stand bravely for more fodder more efficiently fed to the calamity,
huddling earnestly to the right of the most egregious right-wing
aggression in our history. Add to the Iraqi disaster the defining
debacle of our second intellectually and morally derelict party.
Even if Democrats
poll to find courage convenient, as some surely will, it will do
us little good. Like the odd rebel Republicans (Senator Hagel &
Co., who exhibit, ironically, what conservatives always said about
enlisting more integrity than the other side of the aisle), they
will find this Presidency peculiarly, frighteningly immune to advice
There is quixotic
talk about George W. Bush reprising Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon,
variously undone by intra-party revolt, demonstrations, defection
of the Establishment, scandal. I was in the White House when the
“Wise Men” of postwar American foreign policy told LBJ that Wall
Street as well as Main Street had deserted the Vietnam War. I was
there later as Nixon sullenly, anxiously watched a million protesters
engulf Pennsylvania Avenue. I saw those politicians, however grudgingly,
however slowly, respond to reality.
We must be
clear. Bush is no Johnson or Nixon. This president is not simply
the least competent ever thrown up. He is also the most pathological.
Every shred of evidence of the man and his rule, every witness,
leak, and gesture reek of it. Freshman psychology students and amateur
therapists smell it instantly. To quote a distinguished analyst
who’ll remain anonymous for the sake of his Republican patients:
W. is a narcissistic personality. He is self-referent. He sees
things only from his point of view – and by extension sees
and represents the America that reflects it. He is able to create
a seamless ball into which nothing else can penetrate. As with
other narcissistic personalities, he lives his entitlement and
grandiosity – in his case even seeing himself as fulfilling
God’s wishes on earth. He does not need to check any other reality.
He knows that what feels right to him is right for everyone. The
rules do not apply to him (college, the reserves, etc.) –
only to those who need rules to do what is right. Unlike Senator
Frist, I tend not to diagnose in absentia, but with George W.,
all of us could go on and on.
On and on
is how the pathology will be manifest in the torment of Iraq. It
hardly matters how vested Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, the Generals,
corporations, media claque, complicit Democrats. Bush is enough.
The cowardice and blindness, craftiness and stupidity of the war
policy, and of the whole myth-encrusted and corrupt mentality around
it, will persist so long as Bush and all who used and accepted him
remain in office.
seeming death of politics, we have never known a crisis and opportunity
more political. The moment cries out for politics fought as never
Not for more
wailing at how venally awful it all is, marveling at how the reactionaries
did it, as if Churchill’s British spent the autumn of 1940 shaking
their heads and endlessly writing one another about how it happened
Nazis were at the gate. There is no time for that. The poet is right.
For this generation of progressives, time’s accomplice is death
– senseless, generations-haunting death in Iraq, and all the
other deaths of body and spirit inflicted by America’s misrule at
home and abroad. What to do is plain.
Fight everywhere. Take the battle first and foremost to where power
must contest all 435 House seats and all 33 Senate seats up in 2006,
along with every governor, legislator and local official not unequivocally
against the war and more, everywhere a Republican or a compromised
Democrat presumes to govern. Never mind Beltway braying that it’s
not practical and a waste, the myth of non-competitive races reinforcing
the one-party system. The point is to stop playing by the old rules.
Like the RAF in 1940, we must take on even the impossible. In the
underlying volatility of the American electorate, every challenge
is a threat, every spark a potential burn clear. Politicians know
this. No Democrat will face a primary challenge on the war, no Republican
will face it in the general, without risk. No progressive will run
without gain. No lesson will be lost.
everywhere is simple. Stop the dying. Stop the lying. In Iraq and
beyond. About foreign policy, energy, jobs, and so much, much more.
To carry that
message progressives have never been stronger, never so mobilized,
conscious, savvy. If they are serious about spending their money
to save the century, the new progressive donors will add to the
strength by funding genuinely new policy thinking and answers to
arm our candidates. From dealing at last with the scandal of our
health care system to conducting at last a civilized foreign policy.
From finding the tipping point in lifting the root oppression of
campaign money to adopting non-lethal alternatives to guzzling away
as if there’s no energy or environmental crisis, as if a global
warming-unleashed hurricane were not now pounding away to ravage
25% of the nation’s oil supply off Louisiana, with more like it
None of this
will happen in old ways and institutions under yesterday’s men.
We will never have a chance to stop the dying and lying until we
stop the irrelevant and self-indulgent, the jockeying and empty
debating. Winning means unity, and unifying means ready sacrifice
of credit, precedence, postage-stamp domains of power and prestige
we substitute for serious politics. It is an ancient adage. We cannot
lead without humility, govern a nation without governing ourselves.
our fatal attraction, we must go unseduced by the Democrats, who
have made seduction and abandonment of progressives a lucrative
We can, of
course, stand by wringing as the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton
and the Republicans Giuliani, McCain or some more transparent throw-back.
We can easily go on blogging and bandaging in this half-mad twilight.
Or we can act
as the free people our soldiers in the deadly sun of Mesopotamia,
however deluded, misused or misled, think they are defending. We
can take up the fight for them and more, street to street, door
to door, with $20 bills or $20 million. We can turn weakness into
strength, retreat into advance, defeat into victory.
We lost the
invasion of Iraq and the election of 2004, not our souls. We lost
battles. The war for the future – America’s and the world’s
– is only beginning. But there can be no more waiting to fight.
No truce with time nor its accomplice.
Morris [send him mail], an
award-winning historian and investigative journalist who served
on the National Security Council Staff under Presidents Johnson
and Nixon, has just completed Shadows of the Eagle, a history
of American policy and covert interventions in the Middle East and
South Asia, to be published early next year by Alfred Knopf. He
serves as a Senior Fellow of the Green
Institute, where this column appears originally, along with
his previous and ongoing work on American politics, on the Institute’s
world affairs web site.