Jan/Feb 2003 Miscellaneous

The War on Ignorance

by Jaap Stijl

Why, of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

This salacious, bitter truism about the public's easy acquiescence to war and killing under the right sort of guidance is brought to us courtesy of Herman Goering, Nazi Reichsmarshall and Luftwaffe-Chief. Unlike Herta Däubler-Gmelin's tactical comparison of the methodologies of the George Bush War Machine and that of the Nazis in clearing a path to war, the question here is not the mode of the machinery but the tractable subordination of the the hoi polloi to the issue of war itself, and how it comes to be that so many people in America have made the decision to become such hearty, pococurante war groupies for a war effort that has demonstrated little more than a cabalistic Big Brother Bush-knows-best campaign that slithers around the rocks of truth and licks its tongue over the bewildered herd instead of proving the reasons of why a war against Iraq would be a just war.

The sluggishness of an American audience so consumed with banal jingoisms should bear the heaviest burden of blame itself. In the absence of evidence and information, instead of digging deeper into the legitimacy of the rationales for a war effort against Iraq, the patriae instead enlists the arguments of those whose self-serving interest is in the propagation of the war effort, to do their homework for them. They are told they are (going to be) attacked eventually, if not sooner. In fact, they were already attacked on 9/11. The problems is, Iraq didn't attack us, Al Qaeda did. And the leader of Al Qaeda, despite the Bush's blustering cowboy "dead or alive" hyperboles and efforts, is very much alive, is very much a threat, much more a threat than Saddam Hussein, but perhaps not as much a threat as an eviscerated, leaderless and hostile Iraq, the kind of Iraq we might envision once this rush to topple Saddam is finally over. Logically, if we were to wonder who was a bigger threat to our security, we would point to that which we already know is a threat, what we already know wants us all dead and which we already know has the ability to strike us, shockingly, on our own turf. That isn't Hussein, that is Al Qaeda.

So how come the American people are too stupid to distinguish between those who are attacking them and those who are merely "a threat" to attack them? Why can't they make the distinction between a war against one who hasn't already attacked them over one who has? Because the Bush Machine wraps itself in a hypocritical patriotism and hides behind chilling elucidations like "terrorism," utterly absent any digestible exegesis.

This is Goebel's point, and this is the cynical thinking of a warring government that must give lip service to justifying its actions. Does it not make more sense, if one is "under attack," to protect against the immediate threat and not against a "possible threat"? Of course it makes more sense. Certainly the Bush Administration cannot be considered too stupid, no matter how accurate or inaccurate the portrayal of the President as a coke-snorting, alcoholic, reformed for Christ, simpleton-puppet-whose-strings-are-yanked-by-a-cynical-and-power-mad-camarilla—and certainly they know as well as we do it makes more sense to eliminate the first threat before jumping on to the next one. If it can be agreed that he is not as stupid as he is made to appear and that the logical course of action would be to destroy Al Qaeda before beginning a massive resource-diverting invasion of Iraq, then what is the real deal behind the motivations of an invasion of Iraq?

That we do not know, because such knowledge would only obfuscate the mad rush to war against Iraq. As Mark Twain wrote in The Mysterious Stranger, "Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

The one way around a steady diet of lies, beguilements and marketable ignorance, is knowledge. Is it too much effort to avail ourselves to knowing more than just the steady recitation of fake rationales the Bush Administration invokes through the mainstream to thrill and amaze us and provoke us to support this war? James Madison, our fourth president, once wrote that knowledge "will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."

So it is up to the citizens to arm themselves in America, not with guns or terror or fear, but with the power of knowledge—the same kind of knowledge our own government claims, while skillfully eroding our future constitutional rights to privacy, is critical in fighting the war on terrorism.


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