For the first time, depending on how you slice it, since 1898, or 1846, or 1812, all of which had at least a pretense of not being offensive.
Nobody's really made a compelling case for why --- even if everything is true, there's no reason not to let the inspections happen, and see what they turn up; in the best case, all the fears of my country's leadership will turn to naught, and in the worst case, they'll get the evidence they want and the country would unite behind them.
But this? It feels like the country is going to war because nobody could think of a good reason not to.
I spent most of the day today listening to the debate on C-SPAN2, pretending to get work done. It was immensely frustrating.
I listened to the debate eleven years ago on authorizing the first Gulf War. At the time, the debate was civil, almost pleasant; the members of Congress had deliberated, and thought, and were torn, and this showed in their every speech; the legislature had entered into a great debate with itself, and reluctantly made a decision that, while controversial, was reached after extensive deliberation. We'd all known for months what the outcome would be, of course, but there was a sense of gravity about the process, and the people making the decisions had truly wrestled with them, and with their souls.
I didn't get that feeling at all during the debates of the last two days. Some people had wrestled --- McCain, on the hawkish side, and Byrd, on the doveish, are good examples of this; people who looked at their situation, and thought about it, and reached deep down into the center of their souls to figure out what they thought was 'right'. But others ... Hillary stood there, reading a prepared speech, flat, emotionless, mouthing words that sounded right but were delivered without conviction; am i to believe she thought long and hard about the issues, and what is the right thing to do? She didn't look it ... she looked like she was reading a speech calculated for its political appeal, not speaking from her heart.
It was a potemkin debate. Those who were speaking from the heart were talking at each other, not listening, not discussing ... and the rest were reciting prepared speeches designed to make their supporters at home enthusiastic enough to vote for them next month.
It was tremendously depressing. I'm sure, when the history of the time is written, that historians will say that an America still dazed by the reaction to the events of september 11, 2001, allowed themselves to be led into a war they hadn't really thought about ... but that doesn't feel right, that's not what happened, even though the easy way to think about it is to say that it is.
A friend of mine, in a heated debate about how angry liberals should be at being betrayed by the Democratic party leadership (the leaders of the opposition party supported this war; they were terrified that failing to do so would cost them the election, and were too chickenshit to make a stand and ask the voters to decide), remarked that, whenever anyone asks 'why do we have to do this now', the reaction rfom the administration is always 'because of the events of september 11' ... and thinking leftists are always puzzled by this because it's totally unclear how they are related. He suggested that maybe what's going on is that, in the minds of conservative idealists, the events of sept. 11 convinced them of the absolute rightness of what they've thought all along --- that the world is a dangerous place and the only way it is safe is for the US to go out and destroy anyone who might threaten us, and enforce our political and economic system everywhere. I think he's hit on something; that describes quite well the attitude of many in the administration. The US, in their view, isn't just the "indispensible nation", it's not just the world's policeman --- it is the new world order, and it is our moral responsibility to bring western democracy and capitalist economies to every spot on the globe.
This is terrifying to me: the US is basically embarking on an adventure which is the first instance of a new foreign policy doctrine that alleges we have the right to intervene anywhere in the world for any reason, as long as we can trump up charges that there are bad people there --- a doctrine which is ten times, no, a hundred times, more open to abuse than the anti-communist doctrine was. And we're doing it without a significant national debate about whether this is what we should be doing, and why.
Part of me feels like this must be a hallucination, a nightmare, a great national fever-dream that will pass. I hope that the people look around and notice what is being done in their name ... but i'm not convinced they will.
I am 100% certain that there are congresspeople who voted against their conscience today because they thought that voting their conscience would cost them votes. The Democratic party leadership chose not to make a stand on this issue because they were afraid they would lose --- because it is easy to paint anyone who is opposed as being unpatriotic, a harborer of enemies, a scoundrel; and it is harder to fight off the man waving the jingiostic flag than it is to wave it. But they also did so because they believe that the average American doesn't care; that as long as his pocketbook isn't effected, the death and carnage in the lives of wierd people from a country halfway across the globe where they speak a funny language and worship a different god and have bizarre political customs just doesn't matter.
In a sense that's the real tragedy. We've gone from not wanting entangling alliances because they would embroil us in intrigue that would threaten our liberties and undermine our moral character to not wanting entangling alliances because they would prevent us from doing things that other people think are bad; and our moral character, and our liberties, are threatened of our own free will.
I weep for the difference between what my country is and what it could have been, and weep even more in fear for what it is going to become.
my country, tis of thee
sweet land of liberty
of thee, i sing.