by David Smith-Ferri
Some things you thought you could count on: the prevailing westerlies, temperatures according to the season. Forget it. Washington now controls the weather. That chill you ve felt in your bones despite the calendar is a cold wind blowing east to west. It is the breath of war. It carries the message, "Prepare for war." Yes, the Bush administration really intends an unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Yes, our government has actually come to talk openly of plans for overthrowing foreign governments, and to do so without stirring immediate public outrage, without sounding alarms in the media, alarms in the universities. But the fire burns, nonetheless, with or without the alarms.
85 years ago, D.H. Lawrence philosophized: "If people lived without accepting lies, they would ripen like apples," a metaphor for living full, satisfying lives. Lawrence, of course, wasn t writing about foreign policy, but about the Victorian values that still bound English attitudes and behaviors. He saw the ropes cutting the skin; he saw the blood. Military and foreign policy planners pushing for an invasion of Iraq are no less aware of the ropes that bind American minds today, and they are intent on tightening the bonds.
If the devil really is the great deceiver, then the Bush administration is one of his most fervent disciples. Consider four major lies of the present public relations campaign. First, the lie of clear and present danger. Condoleeza Rice told it in typical fairy tale imagery on August 15th, "If Saddam Hussein is left in power doing the things he s doing now, he ll wreak havoc again. This is a threat that will emerge in a very great way. History is littered with cases where inaction has come back" to haunt people. The message here is quite clear: "An enormous threat looms on the horizon. As we go out to meet the challenge, don t hamper our efforts to disarm it." It is a code language written in condensed symbols. It is not meant to be considered thoughtfully; it is meant to evoke an habituated response.