If one were of a biblical frame of mind, one might respond to openDemocracy’squestion by asking another: what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and destroy the soul of his country? It is time to point out just how un-American Bush and his incompetent crew are. Behind the mask of this puppet we have a staff of right-wing fanatics totally out of line with the mainstream America they manipulate with a brazen braggadoccio that is, as our teens say, awesome.
The republican virtue of Lincoln and Eisenhower has been tattered by those who inherit the name. Would even my Republican mother, a supporter of Barry Goldwater in 1964, have supported these people? When Goldwater ran, his opponents warned the people should not be confused by his avuncular manner. If he were elected, he'd staff the White House with loonies who'd drop nuclear bombs on Vietnam. Well, look where we are today! I pray they will not prevail.
For in threatening war to realise their geopolitical fantasies, they would sell our very souls. I am worried about my soul. It is against the law, the moral law, to invade a foreign country that has not attacked you, just because they might sometime attack you. There is no connection between Iraq and 9/11. None. These fanatics are out on a limb. The whole lot of them needs to be confined, with their weapons taken away from them, until we can throw them out of office.
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," Goldwater taught us back then when the radical right was fighting as if it were a saving remnant. Now, it behaves like a Leninist vanguard leading by the nose people it regards as dumb or "just following orders". It is up to American liberals and leftists to stop talking as if Bush is dumb. Let him rather be accountable. We must demand he speak. He may be an agent of a faceless military-industrial complex, but he has a face and voice. We must demand that he stop hiding behind a bureaucratic iron curtain and explain himself. We have to insist on his individual responsibility - and our own.
Are there grounds for hope? In the last week, opinion polls have registered a 5% fall in Bush's popularity; some large surveys report only 24% supporting the war; 18 January saw a huge antiwar demonstration in Washington. I have confidence that the American people will reject this war. The idea that politics is contemptible has been promoted by zealots who want the general public to stop paying attention. America is an idea and an open practice; to work well, it needs the engagement of its citizenry. Americans need to become political again and take back their country. We will be answerable when the last days come.
Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.