Do you feel it? That electric charge in the air? That faintly metallic taste
of gunpowder on your teeth? That renewed sense that you just really really want
to run people over with your shiny new knobby-tired Escalade and not only would
it be fully justified, but righteous and Christian and good? That's patriotism,
It is a time of renewed bitterness and fabricated rage and many heavyset white
males who scowl and prognosticate and claim they're in power to make you feel
all safe and secure and cuddled in big swaths of paternal nuclear quilts, but
who only manage to make you uneasy and chilled and more than a little bit ill.
It is a time of stern warmongering and a renewed macho kick-ass American attitude
in which this country will no longer stand idly by like some pansy doe-eyed wallflower,
pretending to be a nation of rationality and peace and warmth and good microbrews
and open-heartedness and caution and careful consideration of our military actions
and reactions. That is just so, you know, wimpy.
Cheney announced it and Bush mispronounced it and it will be in the new national
security strategy document presented to Congress this fall: We will now become
"strike first" nation.
We will no longer wait around for an excuse to bomb swarthy countries whose
names our president has difficulty spelling. We are officially Changing Our Tune
to include lots of heavily beating war drums and angry oboes and "The Ride of
the Valkyries" on infinite loop.
We are now apparently going to be nimble and mean and quick and foolproof,
just like in the movies. We will now attack the evildoers first and ask questions
later except we'll just skip the part about the questions.
This is the message. This is our new attitude. Boom crash attack. Utter destruction
of our enemies. Crush through mostly violent means any sign of anti-Americanism,
no matter the cause, no matter that we can't actually pinpoint the source, no
matter that we claim to be the most peaceful and progressive and intellectually
advanced superpower on Earth. Be pre-emptive and destructive and bomb-happy, or
be a tree-hugging traitorous liberal commie sympathizer. There is no in-between.
The Cold War is over, Cheney & Co. remind us; ideas of negotiations or compromise
or a possible reassessment of our hate-generating foreign policies are useless.
Because they said so, that's why.
And if there was any doubt about how flagrantly this current administration
intends to leverage the horror and sadness of 9/11 to turn America from a place
of nonpanicky relatively calm defense into a seething pit-bull death squad of
desultory military aggression, this announcement killed it for good.
Sure you could see this new kill-'em-all American posture as an excuse to bomb
whomever we want for just about any reason we desire and call it "homeland security"
and no one will ask questions. But of course, that would be unpatriotic.
Sure you could see the recent rash of falsely manufactured terrorist attack
warnings from the government as a hollow ploy to generate more fear among the
populace to the point where more Americans cower and whine and forsake even more
personal freedoms, allowing
the FBI to read their email and cavity search their daughters, all so no one
will dare question anything when we start a full-scale assault of Iraq and Iran
and maybe parts of Egypt and what the hell, let's say Colombia. What, you're going
And sure you could see how this new attack-first policy provides a beautiful
and even poetic, circular excuse for us to enrage more nations and spawn more
terrorist factions, who will then make ugly noises against America that will then
give the Cheney war machine a fresh excuse to blow them up and build more missiles
and thus create more terrorists and keep the whole machine rolling along as long
as possible. Do you see it? The brilliant self-regenerating loop? This is the
How easily we forget there was more than one possible reaction to 9/11. How
quickly we forget that a massive raging ongoing multibillion-dollar military assault
on a nearly defenseless and rubble-strewn Afghanistan was not the only path to
Or that declaring war against an abstract term only served to validate the
religious zealotry and perpetuate the terrorist cause and make the relatively
tiny imbecilic fringe factions much more looming and omnipresent than they really
are. But maybe that was the point.
We forget that maybe a unified and aggressive UN police action combined with
a thorough reassessment of our oil policies and Saudi Arabian connections and
general Mideast egomania might've gone a lot further and served a much greater
good than simply bombing for six months straight with zero tangible results, except
for a lot of very happy Bush pals in the military-industrial complex.
Yes there were other alternatives. And yes there are still other options than
becoming a nasty first-strike violently pre-emptive nation. But that is not up
for discussion. We are being told what to believe in, and apparently most are
believing in it. Or else.
Will this new thick-necked first-strike posture actually intimidate some terrorist
groups? Possibly. Will it gratify and satiate the more paranoid and gun-happy
God-fearing right-wingers among us? Very likely.
Will it also make us more loathed and tumultuous and combative and confrontational
and openly despised among the international community for our isolationist attitude
and immature cockiness and love of ham-fisted reactionary politics? No question.
But so be it. It's Us against Them, baby. This is what they want you to believe.
And as the saying goes, if you don't like the way America drives, stay off the
©2002 SF Gate