Clyde Wilson: Whom the Gods Would Destroy

"The Afghan air defences still pose a threat to the United States." So Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, the latest in a long line of robotic technocrats who have held his post (remember McNamara?), informed the world on the airways recently. If you resist Americans bombing you, then you are a threat to the United States. To resist the U.S. government is to embrace prima facie evil and to deserve destruction. Doubtless, General Sherman is smiling through the sulphur fumes. You can hear "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the background.

And the President himself is so incoherent that he can nasal on about enemies that are "cowardly," "faceless," and to be understood simply and only as "evil" attackers of "freedom." The first moment of clear thought tells anyone that the perpetrators were not cowardly, whatever else may be said about them. And they were not "faceless" either. They were known to the government and had been operating freely in our country. September 11 was a vicious attack on life and property. It was an attack on freedom only if we allow it to be. To misconceive your enemy is a dangerous fault.

Words are not everything, and can be used for evil (remember Clinton). However, Bush’s crippled style indicates more than a problem of articulation. It indicates a lack of thought, a lack of focus, a disconnection between the words and the realities for which they are counters. And that betrays an inability to encompass the big picture, to grasp the essential elements of the situation, which is the sine qua non of good leadership and administration. Every successful statesman (and soldier) that I can think in history has been eloquent (though often laconic) in crisis, for eloquence is simply clear thought. In the President we have not a lack of articulateness, but a lack even of simple plain-speaking shrewdness.

Was ever so much deadly power at the command of one so lacking in wisdom and gravitas?

After briefing by his handlers, the President shifted from describing the situation as terrorism to describing it as "war." In law, international and domestic, "war" has a rather exact meaning. Constitutionally, that grave evocation can come only from a declaration by Congress of the existence of such a state between the United States and another state.

But the rhetorical "war" allows a shift from hunting terrorists to a war against the institutions and civil population of another state alleged to have sheltered the terrorists and one that is surely not on board the "New World Order" proclaimed by George Senior.

George Senior had the same disconnect. I recall his fuming about Panamanian rowdies harrassing the wife of an American officer. There was an unacknowledged racist implication, but the disconnect was that, thanks to the federal government, such incidents occur a thousand times a day in the United States. And Senior was "sickened" by the video of Los Angeles police officers’ tactics in subduing a muscular felon high on PCP. At the same time he was authorizing the "turkey shoot" that murdered thousands of unresisting non-felonious Iraqui soldiers (not to mention the civilians).

And then, our born-again leader proclaims "Operation Infinite Justice." One would think that a Christian would understand that there is only one Source of infinite justice. But America and God are the same thing in minds like those of our leaders. We had to get rid of that slogan, not because it offends a Christian majority but because it offends Muslim sensibilities.

And while fighting a war against Muslim terrorists, we must be so obedient to ethnic sensibilities that airport security must body search little old ladies whose families have been in the country since the 1600s – to avoid "profiling." And how about the disconnect between fighting Muslim terrorists in the East while killing Christian men, women, and children in the Balkans in aid of Muslim terrorists?

A few weeks ago, our long-time member of the US House of Representatives from my district in South Carolina, Floyd Spence, passed away. He was, as politicians go, a pretty plain and honest man. He left instructions that a Confederate flag be displayed and "Dixie" be played at his funeral in the country town near which I live. However, one of the princes, Vice Emperor Cheney, refused to make his ceremonial appearance at the occasion if anything reflecting the South appeared. So, the family, the community, and the wishes of the dead must defer to the ideology of an imperial government that, with billions in treasure, cannot fend off murderous mass attacks on the population. One would think that in a crisis, some of the best American symbols of courage and loyalty would be celebrated (as they were in World Warr II).

Instead of correcting and punishing the incompetence and failures of the bureacrats, Congress rises to the crisis by voting them still more billions. And our solons, in peacetime, blithely vote away personal liberties against search and seizure that are the products of a millenium of struggle, in pursuit of an illusory security.

I hope I am wrong, but so far as one can tell, the people at large have not displayed much reason or morality in their responses to the crisis. Enthusiasm to get the enemy (never mind which) resembles the fervor displayed for the favorite athletic team – a stupid but potent force. (In my area lots of people now have two flags on their vehicles – the Stars and Stripes and the banner of their favorite college team.) In decadent Rome the citizens engaged in bloody battles over the respective merits of the Blue and Green chariot racing teams with the same zeal they held against the foreign enemy.

"The increase in barbarity goes on until everything is dissolved in blind violence...and the pleasure of destroying and punishing," wrote Richard Weaver in contemplation of World War II. The end result, he said, is nihilism, the loss of all humane values. Long before Weaver it was common wisdom that: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

Clyde Wilson

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