"America, where are you now? Don't you care about your sons and daughters? Don't you know we need you now? We can't fight alone against the Monster."
– Steppenwolf, "Monster," 1969
A woman shoved a piece of paper into my hand, actually several sheets, and pleaded, "I need you to read these names." She passed other sheets to people standing nearby. Another woman stuck a candle in my hand.
So it went at Monday's anti-war vigil on Moreland Avenue. I paused briefly, deciding whether to keep my reporter's notebook out or read the names of America's sons and daughters who have fallen in Iraq. But I've written too many times of blood on the hands of the press lords who opt to cover war as if they were cheerleaders at a University of Georgia football game, the journalists who refuse to acknowledge that their passivity and credulity when confronting the Bush regime have contributed to so many, many deaths – about 3,200 Americans and probably close to 700,000 Iraqis.
So, I read: Army Cpl. Luis Tejeda. Army National Guard Sgt. Denise Lannaman, Army Staff Sgt. Joe Narvaez, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jane Lanham, Marine Lance Cpl. James Chamroeun ...
Heidi Braxton, a worried mom, waited until I paused and started telling me about her son, Durelle. "He couldn't find a good job," she said. "He told me, 'I can't afford to move out to my own home. I can't get anywhere.'"
It's no secret that an economy that is decimating the working and middle classes is a powerful force to fill the ranks of the "volunteer" military. A recruiter had pitched Durelle on enlisting, promising that he would get job-skills training and wouldn't go to Iraq for "a while."
"I told Durelle, 'What the recruiter means by "a while," and what you think he means are two different things,'" Braxton said. "I was right. After basic training, they sent him to Iraq."
Durelle had a South Atlanta High School friend, Jonathan Smith, who enlisted at the same time. "He came home before my son," Braxton said with a wry, very sad smile. "They buried him yesterday."
Braxton wiped her eyes, and then spoke unchallengeable truth: "This war, this war is a war against all people, against us."
ALMOST 40 YEARS ago, my career as an investigative journalist kicked off with an incident that also confirmed my critical despair over what America was doing in Vietnam.
Jim Fine, a University of Florida graduate student, and his schoolteacher wife, Linda, were eating breakfast when police kicked in their door. The ostensible reason was that Fine had violated probation for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
With help from Fine's ACLU attorney, plus some intuitive digging on my part, the true story came out: The raid was instigated by military intelligence agents in Jacksonville. The Navy was distressed that Fine had been so successful in getting the word out among sailors about anti-war demonstrations in Washington, Atlanta and various Florida cities.
Veterans and many active-duty soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen were stepping into the vanguard of the anti-war movement. They became such a potent component of the mass marches that by 1970, Richard Nixon had surrounded his White House with machine-gun nests to fend off a feared attack by the dogs of war who had turned on their masters.
Fine had broken no laws. The federal agents' star "witness" was a woman who claimed she had attended sex and drug parties Fine supposedly threw to entice military personnel to the anti-war marches. He hadn't, and my reporting disclosed that the woman was a prostitute. The agents were holding her infant child to coerce false testimony. A very angry judge dismissed the allegations against Fine, condemning what he decried as a "political prosecution."
I grew up in a military family. I served in the Navy, where I was privy to reports that made it clear the brass knew we weren't winning in Vietnam, and probably couldn't. Yet until the Fine case, I still didn't believe that the government would turn on its own citizens.
THE THORNY vine of Nixon's imperial presidency was uprooted. But it's hard to kill the lust for power, which found new, fertile soil in the neoconservative movement. The neocon propaganda echoes that of dictators from previous generations -- convince the public that it's threatened by an almost unconquerable enemy, forge alliances with corporate war profiteers and denounce critics as traitors.
Dick Cheney, who is clearly the capo di tutti capi in the regime, and not the pathetic George Bush, made that point (as he repeatedly does) this month when he described Democrats' efforts to bring some order to the chaos in Iraq as "a full vindication of the al-Qaeda strategy." That slander fittingly followed the announcement that Halliburton, the company Cheney headed, will move its headquarters to Dubai – in order not to pay so many taxes. The company – which has larded Cheney with about $40 million since he changed roles (well, at least titles) – has lost, stolen or squandered billions of dollars in Iraq. But the idea that the wealthy, whether individuals or corporations, should actually pay their fair share of the war is anathema to the American elite.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi puppet government frets that it will be turned out on the street if it doesn't pass a law this month turning over the nation's oil wealth to American corporations.
It would pay Americans to search a little deeper into what's going to happen next. We'll soon have four mighty aircraft-carrier groups in striking distance of Iran. Those in power are determined to have a clash of civilizations. The gamble is that our superior military might well leave them (if not many common Americans) as the last men standing. Paying the price will be tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of young Americans, and many times that number of innocent residents in the Middle East.
The Bush war – as was Nixon's – is being waged against Americans as much as any foreign enemy. That's why no argument will unsettle the regime. No, our departure from Iraq won't create bloody chaos; it's already horrible beyond belief. No, "redeployment" won't accelerate Iran's ascendancy in the region; we've already turbocharged the mullahs. And, no, a war based from its inception on lies and implemented in part by destroying the lives of loyal Americans who spoke truth, such as Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, can never claim moral high ground.
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