Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Which War IS It?

Our of our local radio stations has some quirky contractual arrangments. Each morning they break into a talk show to bring in Paul Harvey, a guy notorious for seamlessly blending news and commentary even before the current generation of audio barbarians took power. Today, Mr. Harvey informed his elderly audience that our current conflict had been renamed (by the White House, who else?) as the "War Against Islamic Fascism", as if the term were new. Readers of this blog, all three or four of you, know the term from reading this blog just last week.
The whole administration is now behind the name change, not to be confused with a policy change. Secretary Rumsfeld used it as a jumping off point in a long ramble in front of the American Legion convention just yesterday, comparing again this war to the last war with true popular support, WW II. We don't really know who thought up the term, but I'm guessing that it was a staffer in Karl Rove's office who found a little something extra in his paycheck as a reward for his/her creativity.
Of course the comparisons go way back before we saw fit to attack Iraq. Part of the runup to that involved then White House Security Advisor Condi Rice talking about how Europe failed to stop Hitler's advances in the late 1930's when there was still a chance to avoid war, implying that attacking Saddam Hussein would be something done in the interest of world peace. I wrote last week how using the term fascism wasn't accurate, but did serve a purpose of giving a subtle reminder of that good old war and its memories of American military might.
Now I think there's something even more subtle at work here. It's Condi or Rumsfeld or Cheney or Bush trying to imply that they were there, shoulder to shoulder with Churchill making plans for what we would later call the Free World. It's a little condescending: "We understand HISTORY. Most of you dopes couldn't tell fascism from fettucini. WE'LL make the decisions, just like we helped Eisenhower and Reagan. We've been doing this since before those Democrats even learned how to smoke pot."
The executive branch has great power to promote its message, and some people get fooled all of the time. I bet you don't know of a single conservative pundit who hasn't used the tactic comparing this war to WW II. Newspaper letter writers all think they invented it, and invariably close with the words "We are at WAR!" The Radio Right (especially after the JonBenet deflated balloon) has almost literally nothing else to talk about. The war cry means that the Constitution has to be ignored for awhile, funny things have to be done with the budget, and Muslims worldwide get lumped in together because there's no way to tell the "good" ones from the "terrorists". The only folks of Middle East descent we let off the hook are Paula Abdul, Andre Agassi and Ralph Nader. Senator Barak Obama would probably like to change his name to Michael Jordan.
Just for perspective, let's differentiate the two wars:
yes, many none
1939-1945 unlimited
dozens of countries shrinking "coalition of the willing"
rationing gas price creates profit
Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo Ahmed whoever-we-shot-last
shared sacrifice tax cuts for wealthiest 1%
GI Bill veterans benefits CUT
"Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" "Are You Ready For Some Football?"

Well, you get the picture. Before we forget the subject entirely, I'd also give credit to our fathers and grandfathers for NOT making torture a regular feature of a long and difficult conflict. Too bad we now have a vice president who stands UP for torture, and a president who, in effect, says "We don't torture unless you catch us doing it". Come to think of it, I can see why Bush and company want WW II, NOT Vietnam, to be the model war for this one, but it's not.


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