America's IQ in Inverse Proportion to Its Yellow Ribbon Count

by Michael Nolan by Michael Nolan

Consider the following three propositions:

  • H. L. Mencken was right when he said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
  • Joseph Goebbels was right in his observation that the bigger the lie, the easier it is for people to believe it.
  • George W. Bush is lying when he insists that his administration supports the troops.

Quick now, what two-word phrase gives truth to all three statements? The answer is, of course, Iraq War.

The fact that Americans sit still, repeatedly, to be told that the war in Iraq enhances their safety at home makes fresh Mencken's famous and timeless insult. That they carry on like ladies and gentlemen when told that US soldiers are dying in order to advance democracy and peace in the Middle East illustrates Herr Goebbels' point quite nicely.

And then there's item three: Mr. Bush's assertion that he and his administration support the troops is a lie so big, so monstrous, so transparent, so insulting to the nation's intelligence that one fears for the future of democracy when, after all we have seen, there is anyone out there who still believes it

At the onset of the war, President Bush sent our troops into the jaws of hell without the proper armament on their vehicles. And why would they be armored? Dick Cheney had just finished telling them that they would be welcomed as liberators. Cheney knew better. It was a deliberate lie to rush us into a war that he and his buddies at the neocon stink tanks (like JINSA, whence Cheney came) had hoped for since before 9/11.

And yet, in a wartime re-election campaign, the War Machine convinced a bare majority that Bush was a better man than his opponent because – you guessed it – he supported the troops.

In December of 2004 Donald Rumsfeld was asked, publicly, by a US soldier in Kuwait why the humvees still didn’t have the proper armament. Rumsfeld forthrightly blamed it on a backup at the armor factory. But there was no backup at the armor factory. Factory spokesmen verified that – in fact – they were operating under capacity, for lack of orders. Had this administration really supported the troops, Bush would have fired the murderous old coot before his plane had returned from Kuwait. How did Americans react to this debacle? Did they demand Rumsfeld’s head on a platter? Did they call for Bush’s impeachment? No, these latter-day Thomas Paines affixed yet more Yellow Ribbons to their SUVs, admonishing anyone stuck behind them in traffic to support the troops.

Just this August, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that US troops were faced with the possibility of third-time deployments to Iraq. Why would not George Bush, a self-described war president, get on the bully pulpit and ask for volunteers to replace the young men and women who have suffered far beyond their fair share in serving the nation? The Bush handlers know damned well that no one would step forward. What support that does exist for this war is rotten at its core, based on obscene, imperial fantasies and assumptions that other people's kids will fight in it. Still, isn’t it Bush's duty to look the camera in the eye and say to the nation, Uncle Sam needs you?

Richard Perle, former Defense Policy Board chairman and adviser to the defense department, remarked to writer and military expert Tom Clancy that Colin Powell was a u201Cwussu201D for having worried about the safety of American troops. Did those in the administration condemn this outright? For the well-being of the soldiers, did they pledge never to utilize Perle in any capacity, official or advisory, again? Did our de-clawed media make an issue of it? Fellow neocon, Michael Ledeen, in a 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, asserted our nation's insatiable lust for war by claiming that u201CWhat we hate is not casualties but losing.u201D Ledeen is a close adviser to Karl Rove (and therefore, at times, Bush’s brain’s brain). Can it be that American parents don’t hate casualties, since no one has raised hell about the presence of a monster like Ledeen in the administration?

None of the above is arcane knowledge, gleaned from academic sources or obscure web sites. Even the mainstream media (no slaves to the u201Cafflict the comfortableu201D school of investigative journalism) reported this stuff. That America still dispatches its young men and women to the slaughterhouse, knowing the character and the track records of the men in charge, demands a refreshed view of American witlessness that, in balance, will render Mencken's grousings kindly and avuncular.