Scared, Trigger-Happy Young Males

The war in Iraq is going to fail, utterly and disastrously. There are many reasons for that, but one more lies in the prevailing psychological mindset of the U.S. military. I’m not referring so much to the young grunts, who are driven mostly by a combination of testosterone, prospective college money and reflexive jingoism.

Scores of thousands of scared trigger-happy young males set loose with heavy weapons in an alien culture, where they don’t have a clue about anything except that all the locals hate them, is enough of a formula for disaster. But, worse, their leaders — from Bush down — not only fail to temper their charges, but embolden them with righteousness. This is because the U.S. military has a strain of Christian fundamentalism running thick and deep through it, something I was reminded of as I watched the invading troops take part in Christmas observances, surrounded by Muslims.

And don’t think that the Iraqis are unaware of what Lt. Gen. William Boykin, the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, stupidly said to various church audiences, while in uniform, to the effect that the Americans were a “Christian army” battling Satan, and that Muslims worship an “idol” and not a “real God.” It’s vaguely reminiscent of the rabid Anne Coulter’s comment to the effect of “we’re going to conquer your country, take the oil, and convert you to Christianity. Get used to it.”

The real reason Bush started the current wars, contrary to popular opinion, had nothing to do with hidden nukes, or freeing the common Iraqi. The real reason may just be he’s a religious loony. Who else could say, with a straight face, “God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”

And that’s really all the proof you need that the war is going to become increasingly disastrous. B.H. Liddell Hart was the author of many books on military history and theory. And I think he was dead accurate when he said: “The profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battle is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men.” In that case, game over in Iraq.

Meanwhile, even as the bogus War on Terror escalates, the horrendous War on Drugs drags on. I was shocked and disgusted to see that actor and comedian Tommy Chong began a 9-month federal prison sentence on Oct. 7 for operating a glass-blowing shop that sold bongs. He wasn’t selling dope (not that that should be a crime), but just “paraphernalia,” a totally artificial class of things.

As unbelievable as I found this, what was really shocking and disgusting was that the U.S. attorney’s pleadings sought a severe punishment because his films “trivialize law-enforcement efforts to combat drug-trafficking and use.” It’s not just that they put him in jail for a phony non-crime, twice removed. But they really did it because he was a comic, making fun of them. Even the First Amendment, one of the few parts of the dead letter Bill of Rights that at least still receives lip service, no longer means anything.

Speaking of the First Amendment, in the last few months alone there have been at least three foreign journalists who have been denied entry to the United States on the grounds that they were journalists. My own experience is that most repressive (mainly communist and Third World) countries have always required special visas for those who might report on internal conditions — but certainly not the United States. But, in the last few months alone, at least three journalists (and these are wholesome types from Australia and the United Kingdom, not Arabs dressed in mufti) have been detained, fingerprinted, photographed, body-searched and deported, based on a U.S. rule that requires journalists to get a special visa.

It almost makes me nostalgic for the Clintonistas. As readers know, I despised the Clinton administration. It was hard to imagine how things could get much worse than the cabal Bill surrounded himself with — the scary Hillary, the robotic Algore, the warlike Madeleine Halfbright, the ridiculous ODonnanah Shalalala, and the murderous Janet Reno (who I always suspected of being Chelsea’s actual father). How could it get much worse?

And then the Baby Bush, anticipating his shock and awe approach in Iraq, trumped Bill with his personal Axis of Evil Advisers: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and their neocon minions. And with himself. Although Bill — abetted by his high IQ — was a skilled and enthusiastic liar, his most famous lie was the relatively benign “I did not have sex with that woman.”

Baby Bush — actually aided by his low IQ — is what might be called a sincere liar. Perhaps because he actually thinks Jesus wants him to be president, and talks to him, he’s an even more dangerous liar than Bill. What could be more dangerous than a whole series of lies that got the country into the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars?

It’s strange how you never know what you’re going to get with a president. Few people remember that Franklin Roosevelt ran on what was almost a radical free-market platform in 1932, decrying the tax, spend and regulate policies of Hoover. One might have thought you’d have gotten a fiscal conservative with Reagan — “If not us, who? If not now, when?” — but his policies sent the deficit through the roof. It was reasonable to anticipate a socialist disaster with Clinton, but government spending grew slower than the overall economy. Baby Bush, few now recall, made noises about personal freedom, and no more “nation building” in foreign hellholes.

I’m not sure what conclusion one can draw from all this, apart from the fact the kind of people who survive in the game of politics long enough to become president are, almost necessarily, pathological liars. It would appear that Boobus Americanus doesn’t much care. Certainly not if the domestic economy is good. In which case who cares who’s lying? Or if there’s a war-emergency going on — in which case they believe that almost anything is justified in the interest of the most stupid and nonsensical catch-all concept I’ve ever heard of: “national security.”

Actually, the only hope of things getting much better may lie in bad economic times. It was the high interest rates, high unemployment and bad stock market of the late ’70s and early ’80s that fostered the tax revolt and underground economy movements of the era. That could be a bright side of the Greater Depression. But perhaps that’s just my natural optimism coming out.

Of course, anything can happen. But my guess is that the era of really big government is here. Since Bush has been in office — even though reported inflation was extremely low — government spending increased over 28 percent, the highest rate of government growth since LBJ tried to build the Great Society out of “Guns-and-Butter.”

Completely unacknowledged by supposedly “small government” conservatives, Baby Bush is the only president since Millard Fillmore in 1851 (with the exception of James Garfield who was assassinated shortly after taking office) who’s never vetoed a single bill.

Just as the Romans didn’t think it could get much worse after Tiberius, they got Caligula and Nero. They didn’t know how good they had it. My fear is that, after Bush, we’ll get somebody worse yet. Dean later this year. And then, perhaps Hillary. But, in keeping with a well-established tradition of lies, perhaps she’ll turn out to be a libertarian.

January 17, 2004