Laundering the War

As with drug dealers after a successful caper, who must confront the problem of turning dirty cash into spendable income, the job of the US government after the invasion is to launder a grim and dreadful war, and turn it into political and moral capital.

No, the analogy isn’t perfect, because drug dealers at least have customers who demand what they supply; war, on the other hand, is a wicked imposition on everyone but the merchants of death.

But the analogy concerning laundering helps us comprehend the depth of the chasm — from immorality to morality, illegality to legality, destruction to creation — that the US must cross now that it has proclaimed itself victorious.

I don’t believe this war can ever come clean.

The celebrations of victory, in which shock and awe at US military power displaced shock and revulsion at what the US had done, lasted about 36 hours. Soon, the looting began and hasn’t stopped. The death counts began to appear. The political fallout began to rain down on the US. Day by day, the news has gotten worse.

Those of us who check Eric Garris’s selection on everyday can only stare in astonishment at the calamity. The horror that remains cannot be swept aside. A host of practical difficulties for a postwar Iraq have appeared. Here is a sampling of the blizzard from just one day of news.

How the defenders of this war are planning to try to launder all of this (which is only a tiny sampling of the hourly avalanche of bad news) is also becoming clear. They will try to keep the focus on the supposed tactical brilliance of the US war victory and the glory of US troops. This is just about the only subject discussed in their magazines and websites.

After that, they will try to keep the focus on the usual patriotic symbols of American power. Finally, they will refuse to discuss any of the costs, just as they have done with every previous war.

In short, the warmongers are hoping that anti-intellectualism, ignorance, and blind loyalty to the US state will carry the day.

They may. But one suspects it could be different this time. World opinion has been alerted to the imminent danger that the US poses to world peace, and the entire globe seems to be coalescing in an effort to stop the next war. The costs of war, particularly a war led by the biggest government in the history of the world and employing the largest stock of weapons of mass destruction ever assembled, are more obvious and exposed for all to see than ever before.

One doesn’t have to be a libertarian to understand the ancient principle: the king is not above the law. States cannot, with clean hands, commit deeds rightly illegal for the rest of us. Just the one armless, burned, orphaned 12-year-old boy invalidates the entire project. Not even government may do evil so that alleged good may come of it. However, it seems that this war did evil so that evil will come of it.

This war cannot come clean. Indeed, people who supported it have written me to say that they have changed their minds in the face of the evidence. This time, its sheer ugliness and horror may be too much for any thinking person. The American empire might, just might, have its wit’s end in sight.

Lew Rockwell Archives

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts