There are so many of us who know, in spite of the skewed polls, the fear mongering,
the slanted reports, the lack of support from Congress, and the refusal of the
media to question. All of it is meant to deny us the power of knowing. But the
amazing thing is, we know anyway. It's been greatly helped by the Internet, but
that doesn't entirely explain it. Ask a tentative, "What do you think about what's
going on in the country," and you'll probably find you're surrounded by people
who are outraged. For many the knowing started on September 11 itself, where it
sat in the gut like a stone and could serve no purpose, since it couldn't be shared
or verified, but could only raise nausea and make us feel isolated and despairing.
The power we have, unspoken, not even needing words to share it with each other,
is evident. The implications are enormous.
So why, why, are we letting Bush prepare to do the unthinkable and unnecessary
From all sides, experts say that there are better ways to deal with the potential
danger of Hussein. There's a total absence of present threat from him, far less
from his people. But many thousands of them will die in any form of this war Bush
is pushing, whether it involves "precision" bombing or 200,000 troops. For the
first time, the only rationale we'll have for their deaths is our fear of a possibility.
Blind yourself, the seduction goes, and I'll save you from your greatest fears.
Surely there's a sickening dissonance inside us at the distance between the facts
and this relentless push for war. But many appear willing to wait and see, the
fear of another deadly assault just edging out the knowledge that this war is
desperately immoral. If we continue, the trade-off will be that thousands more
innocents will die. Then perhaps the sickness will rise to our throats, and we'll
have to own what we're now refusing to know.
We've placed a lot of sacrifices on the altar to fear lately. Over two centuries
of freedom from snooping and paranoia. The lives of hundreds of immigrants locked
up in secret for months. The privacy and peace of mind of thousands of others
rounded up and questioned by authorities with initials for names who don't have
to give a reason. The deaths of hundreds of Afghan civilians. This particular
god is very hungry, insatiable.
It's been said that Bush is acting as if he doesn't need the approval of Congress,
or our allies, or of us. And it's true, he doesn't, as long as we keep giving
our power to him. It's a classic setup: a frightening event, power handed to one
who seems able to save us, and the possibility of other frightening events are
held continually over our heads until power becomes abuse of power. The abuser
seems much more powerful than he is, all out of proportion to reality, and we
come to believe we're powerless, feeding the cycle of increasing abuse, until,
desperate and exhausted, we face the worst fear: that no one's going to save us
The worst of what has been done since 9/11 has been to try to deny us knowledge,
and it has failed miserably. If, as some fear, something devastating happens to
provide an convincing rationale for war on Iraq this fall, many, perhaps most
of us are going to be looking past the great and terrifying face on the screen
to the man frantically pulling levers behind a curtain. It would be good to make
that clear right now.
We were thrust into the mythical hero's journey on September 11. The way out,
the hero discovers, is always in rediscovering the power that was always there.
This may be the knowledge we must turn and look upon: that we've become too afraid
of our own government to challenge what it is doing. We know now. We do. It is
done and will be done in our name. We must own it now, and say no.
Linda O'Brien is a freelance writer who lives in Bethesda, Maryland. E-mail: