Military interventionists are still cynically manipulating public opinion, says Matthew Carr
While the foreign policy think-tank Chatham House declares Iraq to be on the point of total collapse, the intellectual architects of pre-emptive war continue to attract surprisingly respectful media attention.
One can be revolted – but not surprised – at the spectacle of Bush and Blair, the Laurel and Hardy of the War on Terror, congratulating each other on their strategic vision from the White House lawn. But whose bright idea was it to let Richard Perle, the US hawk known as the ‘prince of darkness’, make a PBS documentary arguing that the world needs more military ‘interventions’? And what explains the ubiquitous media presence of John Bolton, the troglodyte former US ambassador to the UN?
Only last week Bolton was interviewed by John Humphrys on the Today programme.
Listening to that conversation was a grim experience that was not unlike being trapped with the Kevin Spacey serial killer character from Seven.
It wasn’t just that Bolton’s arguments were bizarre and illogical to the point of insanity, such as his description of Humphrys and the millionaire philanthrophist George Soros as members of the ‘extreme left’. Or his ludicrous assertion that the invasion of Iraq has laid the basis for a more stable and peaceful Middle East. It wasn’t even his fanaticism, his arrogance and his utter contempt for the opinions of the non-American world. What is striking about Bolton is the savagery and homicidal intent that shows through the statesmanlike patter.
In the same week that Bolton was explaining why ‘we’ should act against Iran, the son of Andrew Bacevich was killed serving in Iraq. An ex-US Army colonel and a political conservative, Bacevich has been a passionate and outspoken critic of the Iraq war from the beginning.
Having served in Vietnam, Bacevich knows war at firsthand and wrote a book analysing how the American public has become ‘seduced’ by a fantasy version of cost-free militarism.
This process of seduction is partly due to the tireless efforts of war trolls such as Perle and Bolton. To the imperial mindset of these desktop warriors, foreign policy always boils down to the cathartic killing of America’s enemies, generally of the darker-skinned variety. No matter how great the carnage, they are unrepentant and utterly indifferent, dismissing the destruction of entire societies as strategic victories.
These men are cynical, shameless and without honour. Asked by a distraught young American widow whose husband had died in Iraq why the administration went to war, Perle replied without batting an eyelid that the information on ‘our desks’ kept saying that Saddam had WMD. Perle does not mention that such information was essentially commissioned – a manoeuvre that enables men like him to lie without actually lying.
Perle, Bolton and co often pontificate on the unique moral evil of terrorism. But in their contempt for human life and their appetite for war they are not that different from Osama bin Laden. Unlike Osama, they will not be found in the Hindu Kush carrying a Kalashnikov. They are war trolls, endlessly manipulating the public from TV studios. In this sense they are more like the Roman senators who grew rich and fat while the legions went out to ‘create a wasteland and call it peace’, as Tacitus once put it.
The war trolls would have us believe that they are the grown-ups, defending us from the coming barbarism. But watch out next time you see them on Newsnight. Behind the oily gravitas of the prince of darkness lies a different kind of barbarism. And look closely at the gleaming eyes of the ex-UN ambassador with his walrus moustache. You might just detect a big kid, living out a fantasy of violence and control, while he operates the PlayStation game that just happens to be the world the rest of us live in.
The next time you hear these people being interviewed, try and keep a mental note of how many lies they use to support their arguments, not to mention the fact that every one of them is benefiting financially from the war state.