Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The unwinnable war

"Citizens of the United States are a decent, fair-minded people," writes James Carroll in his return to the opinion pages of the Boston Globe following a six-month hiatus. "The only reason we tolerate what is being done in our name in Iraq is that, for us, this war exists only in the realm of metaphor. The words 'war on terrorism' fall on our ears much in the way that 'war on poverty' or 'war on drugs' did.

"War is an abstraction in the American imagination. It lives there, cloaked in glory, as an emblem of patriotism. We show our love for our country by sending our troops abroad and then 'supporting' them, no matter what. When images appear that contradict the high-flown rhetoric of war -- whether of young GIs disgracefully humiliating Iraqi prisoners or of a devastated holy city where vast fields of American-created rubble surround a shrine -- we simply do not take them in as real. Thinking of ourselves as only motivated by good intentions, we cannot fathom the possibility that we have demonized an innocent people, that what we are doing is murder on a vast scale."