Paul Wolfowitz: Statist, Warmonger, Art Aficionado
For a refined intellectual type, Paul Wolfowitz has a lot to answer for in the arena of human life and death. I suppose I shouldn't single him out. Personality-wise, he beats Rumsfeld, Cheney, Feith, and Perle, hands down. To be in a room with him is to feel a confident cordiality. There is no sense of the tension of a Rumsfeld, the falseness of a Cheney, the haughty coldness of a Feith, or the subtle but arrogant aggression of a Perle.
But when the blood toll is paid, Wolfowitz's soul will resemble the Civil War painting he keeps in his office. The painting, known as "The Bloody Lane," represents the deadliest single day in the Civil War. It is a ghastly reminder not only of death and war, but a powerful symbol of the tyranny of the state and the sacrifices it requires, machine-like, in Its Name.
I am not sure why Wolfowitz chooses this painting for his office. Perhaps he finds it stimulating, a reminder of the actual military experience he doesn't have with a soldier's sweaty panic, wet fear and explosive unthinking reactions, the unmatchable noisy elation of being alive in a particular moment, leaping suddenly like a white-tail doe from a field of silent dread.
In the Civil War — a state-demanded war on itself — there were strong feelings on both sides about the various "reasons" for the dying put forth by Washington and Richmond. In Wolfowitz's war, a war of security for Israel, security for global oil and the petrodollar, and a war of occupation, the reasons fail to inspire the kinds of sacrifice seen in The Bloody Lane. Not that the artificiality of rationale is much less than in 1862 — but even the bones of the arguments today ring false. To unseat a dictator, to end WMD proliferation in the Middle East, to bring "democracy" to Iraq — since when have these types of hypocritical imperial explanations meant anything other than state corporatism spiked with a dose of the righteous evangelical?
A recent story in Washington Post should inspire rage. A twelve-year-old boy, one of a set of twins, was shot by a U.S. soldier as the boy perched on the roof atop his home. A later Army search revealed an AK-47 somewhere in the house. The official U.S. story is that the soldier saw an armed figure on the roof and was defending himself. The Iraqi version of the story has three key points. A young Iraqi on the street says he told this soldier that the boy was unarmed and just watching the activity at 10 p.m. that night. The mother wails that the bullet that killed her Mohammed will be worth a million bullets. And the father, in an attempt to rationalize what has happened to his country and his home and his family, with dignity, informed by his own culture and ethics, asks why no American has yet apologized to him and his family. The father asks that, traditionally, he should be able to speak to the soldier who killed his boy, and also that soldier's supervisor.
Of the stories told by the young Iraqi onlooker, the mother and the father of the slain child — only one will matter. The one who warned against the action and the one who desires a just and appropriate response to the death of his son will be ignored. The American Army, the Department of Defense, and the Commander in Chief do not listen and they do not apologize. Occupiers and invaders cannot listen to opposing views or apologize afterwards without the whole house of cards falling in on them. Everyone must collectively continue to deny the ugly and laughable nakedness of the emperor. But the woman's loss, her rage at the injustice and the Stygian depth of her sadness — this will not be healed quickly. The bullet that killed Mohammed will indeed be measured by a million Iraqi bullets.
The Wolfowitz vision of externally imposed democracy — which of course he doesn't really want because it will either be Shia dominated, or else a Kurd-Sunni-Shia split of the 20th century-drawn nation called Iraq — has painted its own picture. Unlike the fleshed out bodies in The Bloody Lane's portrayal of the biggest single massacre of men during four bloody years of civil war, the characters in the Iraq occupation are only stick figures to him. They cannot but be, in order for him to sleep peacefully at night. Wolfowitz is an intellectual fan of the War of Northern Aggression, as he is an intellectual father of today's aggression in Iraq. To flesh out the sacrificed souls for neo-conservative imperialism — to make these souls real, to hear their crying, to consider their demands for respect and national autonomy, to perceive their suffering, to sense their frustrated anger — this is unacceptable for neo-conservatives in general, and it is unacceptable for Wolfowitz in particular, as a key thought-donor in this ill-conceived aggression.
So we have a painting hanging in the Deputy Secretary's office. Will there also be a painting of young Mohammed's death? Intellectually, the death of one 12-year-old could never equate to the masterful stroke of 23,000 American casualties in one day at Antietam. Now there was a state-imposed blood-letting worthy of art.
In any case, Wolfowitz has other concerns, such as his new role controlling the lives and rights of the accused terrorists (we are still not sure of the actual or eventual charges) we are holding incommunicado in Guantanamo. Well, give the man time. He's done plenty already, and with the new responsibilities delegated him by his bosses, we may be able to have that painting after all. I hope there is room on the wall.
June 30, 2003
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.
Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com