It’s 4am, you’re walking across a bridge, a bridge to the future, your face is the mirror of Munch’s Scream. Licking your heels are the flames from Iraq. The lunatics who started the blaze are running ahead. Not that they are running away from justice, as you would expect, because justice is dying. These lunatics are on their way to rule the world.
You feel so alone on this bridge. And yet you know you are not alone. Millions of others are walking beside you, similarly baffled and distressed, gritting their teeth. Through the fog of war and the falsehoods of State, we cannot always see each other. But we can see what’s going on.
Posing as granny, Mr Wolf is sent to the World Bank to devour the poor. Another wolf, John Bolton, is sent to the UN to give war a chance. The new US ambassador to Baghdad, Mr Negroponte, is renowned in Nicaragua as a mini Saddam. (This former ambassador to Honduras is implicated in the slaughter of 10,000 citizens by “death squads”; a man well versed in the apparatus of torture, assassination and secret jails). Here comes the new Secretary of State, Condy the Oil Queen, a serial liar with a dazzling smile, who once boasted Iraq was never a threat to the West … until she was told to change her mind. The Devil in George W Bush is not without humour, as proved by his treatment of Mr Gonzales, the lawyer who mocks the Geneva Convention and says that torture is cool. Now he jangles the keys to courthouse and dungeon. On and on it goes, rippling through the entrails of the Coalition and beyond; a toxic brew of deceit, cruelty and denial.
On the bridge to the future, the icy winds blow also from the South.
In the nasty new Australia, immigration goons march into high schools and drag children off to detention centres, their classmates weeping. Among the letters-to-the-editors from holocaust survivors, who liken the scene to their own childhood kidnaps, one asks: “At what point do Australians intend to stop accepting this horror?” When they open their eyes. Years ago, some of our Liberal Party Ministers were half decent humans, until the Grey Medusa turned their hearts to stone.
Our Attorney General resists the evidence that Australians have been involved in torture - - both as accomplices and as victims - even as he flashes his Amnesty badge. Our Minister of Defence denies he knew of such crimes, until the “revelations” at Abu Ghraib, even though an Australian officer had been helping the Pentagon to deceive International Red Cross. But you know all this. To re-phrase the question of the holocaust victim, we must ask: At what point will citizens of the West accept that an addiction to oil and gold does not justify the pillage and bombing?
People chirp about an Arabian spring, but at four in the morning on the bridge of the future it looks like winter to me.
The deep denial by pro war supporters of what’s being done in the name of “freedom,” is hard to shake. Not even a hundred Abu Ghraibs give them pause, or a thousand Fallujahs. "I don't need an investigation to tell me that there was no comprehensive or systematic use of inhumane tactics by the American military”, proclaims Senator Jim Talent, a Republican from Missouri, “because those guys and gals just wouldn't do it. Everything about the culture and the training in the military and at home works against that." How can you eradicate this kind of stupidity?
Last week two docos on SBS (by Danny Schechter & Robert Greenwald) nailed the deceptions of those who led us to war, as well as the lies and crimes of those who lead the troops. (Meanwhile, the bulk of the TV audience was glued to fictional depictions of vile murders in New York and Miami, happily solved by heroic forensics and a lust for justice). In one of the SBS docos a surgically masked reporter from Germany stands beside a tank in Iraq, brandishing a Geiger counter. Viewers had earlier been reminded of the use of depleted uranium (DU) by the US military in the first Gulf War and its link to the surge of children born with deformities. Despite this, DU is again being used by the freedom loving West in its missiles and armour, although the Pentagon tries to bury the issue. So here’s this masked German reporter with a crackling Geiger counter, warning a soldier: “Your tank is radioactive”. No it’s not, comes the reply. Crackle, crackle… The exchange is repeated in a surreal loop, like the dead parrot scene in Monty Python.
It’s so sad. The soldier could end up with leukaemia. Iraqi mothers will carry deformed foetuses. George Bush will be lauded as a hero. The DU denial is also symbolic. The Geiger counter is the truth revealed. The soldier is the public blocking its ears.
Sure there is a flicker of hope in the Middle East, which is due more to the death of Arafat than the genius of Bush. Let’s hope it works out better than the Afghan spring, with its harvest of heroin and, according to the Guardian, now the hub of a global network of detention centres: “one huge US jail”.
How quick are the warmongers to chant Bush is right, while his actions are wrong. We’re back to the jungle: back to the end justifies the means. How can this be acceptable? It is the ethic of the criminal. It is the ethic of the Nazi. It is the ethic of the Inquisition, of the damned, of the demented. It is the ethic of the Bush White House.
It is still chilly on the bridge to the future, though a little less lonely on this anniversary dawn of the invasion, the sunlight struggling against the fog, the people struggling for justice. No-one knows how many we are. When will it end?