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January 22, 2004

Little White Lies

Blackfive has a photoshopped picture of a soldier with a backwards American flag and several others that makes a snarky political point. The fact that it's a fabrication is either the whole point or beside the point.

A number of people make the point that GWBush lied to the American people about WMDs. I think it's reasonable to say that most folks bought what it was he was selling. I don't think he lied. I think he persuaded. We all saw Colin Powell's UN presentation and we all bought it. By we, I mean those of us near the tipping point.

If you were like me, you always had suspicions about buried reciepts in the Pentagon. Why did Saddam have WMDs? Because we sold them to him, that's why. I have been satisfied for so long with matters of his murder that I'm never quite sure if I've spelled them out clearly here. What is a weapon of mass destruction? Well, that depends on how massive the destruction must be to get your attention. In order to get together a reluctant, heel dragging international coalition, the destruction has to be an affront to powerful nations the likes of which survived WW2. Thus, dramatic slide shows at the UN. Keep this in mind.

Imagine you are a striker at a supermarket. You hate the fact that there are people going into your store while you're out in the cold without work. So in sympathy if not agreement, I've gone to other supermarkets. They're crowded. How crowded is a crowded supermarket? Ten registers with 7 people in each line, plus 14 baggers cashiers and stock clerks. You've got 4 people in line for the butcher and 4 for the baker and at least three shoppers in every one of 10 aisles. In middle class suburban America, that's considered chaos. In math its just 126 people.

How long would it take Saddam Hussein with one helicopter gunship to destroy a supermarket full of people? Forget that they're Americans for a moment and imagine that they're Kurds or the Ma'dan Iraqis. Instead of supermarkets causing headaches, you'd be equally aware of certain places in your neighborhood being deadly. According to this strategic assessment, Saddam had about 100 helicopter gunships. It wouldn't take him much time at all.

I don't understand why the Clinton and Bush administrations did not want to use the term 'genocidal' to describe Hussein's activity, but I think it's appropriate to describe what he was all about. So the question about the truth-telling somehow focused on the how but not the what. I don't know the cause, but many in the American public have been snookered into looking for a smoking gun rather than a genocidal maniac. Perhaps it's because the Bush family doesn't spend much time in supermarkets.

For my peace of mind, and specifically to look beyond the squabbles in Israel and Palestine, I decided to behave like a powerful nation which has survived WW2. I invented the Lynch Factor so that anything below 3k murders wouldn't pass muster and I wouldn't need to comment. Saddam passed that threshhold easily, but I must say that I regret that arbitrary decision. It's the same kind of blinder that makes mass homicide something other than genocide, the same kind of lie that makes it necessary to raise the stakes from proving intervention requires nukes and chemicals rather than helicopter gunships destroying villages. This is the same kind of self-deception that justifies hair-trigger reactions and overkill. I'll try not to do so in the future.

In the meanwhile we are faced with lies and deception about the nature of international conflict, but Bush couldn't have lied to us if we weren't already lying to ourselves.

Posted by mbowen at January 22, 2004 08:03 AM

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FYI, I believe the backwards US flag isn't photoshopped -- unlike the rest of the flags. Some/all infantry traditionally wear a backwards US flag on their right shoulder. I believe it's to suggest that the flag is blowing backwards as the infantryman runs forward.


Posted by: Andrew W at January 22, 2004 08:58 PM