Whenever my beloved America makes the mistake of choosing might over right I turn to Bob Dylan's early masterpiece, "Masters of War,"
As he wrote for all time, "Like Judas of old/You lie and deceive/A world war can be won/You want me to believe... You fasten the triggers/For the others to fire/Then you set back and watch/When the death count gets higher/You hide in your mansion/As young people's blood/Flows out of their bodies/And into the mud."
We are the most powerful country on the planet and we should be leading the world with grace. Yet our leaders have chosen to lead with sanctimony, lies and war. No matter how evil Saddam Hussein might be, he is weak and isolated. We can only look like sandbox bullies to the world, and in truth, we are acting like sandbox bullies in the world.
That is why I spent the hours leading up to President Bush's "Moment of Truth" speech Monday night trembling with fear. In truth, I couldn't fear that man any more than if I was an Iraqi mother living in Baghdad.
Although people berate the news media for giving Bush and his henchmen a free ride, we know, thanks to the efforts of many serious journalists, far too much about this man and his plans.
We know, for example, that "The Bush Doctrine" calls for unilateral American global hegemony. This Hitleresque doctrine was created by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives during the 1990s, long before the terrorist attacks of 9-11.
Their plan calls for the United States to indefinitely dominate Europe, East Asia and the Middle East and to prevent Western European countries from developing the ability to challenge us or to defend themselves without us.
That is why the right-wingers were frothing at the mouth when Bill Clinton took the presidency away from them and stalled America's domination of the world for eight long years. It was never about oral sex in the Oval Office. You can almost hear them screaming, "It's about making war, not love, you fool!"
The war against Iraq is only the first stop on the train of blood lust and madness that is now pulling out of the station of rational thought. We know that Iran, Syria and North Korea are on the list. We already have soldiers fighting in the Philippines. We can only pray for the Palestinians.
Speaking of prayer, these wars are being cloaked in a perverted form of Christianity that gives new meaning to the expression "killing them with kindness." Dylan was right on the money when he wrote, "Even Jesus would never forgive what you do."
One of the "justifications" for this war is that Saddam Hussein is so evil that he has stockpiles of chemical weapons. We know this is true, mainly because American companies were the ones who sold them to him - all the gases, the seed stock for anthrax germs, and the chemicals to make the nerve gas sarin.
"The United States, the world's leading arms supplier, is taking the world to war to stop arms proliferation in the very country to which is shipped chemicals, biological seed stock and weapons for more than 10 years," writes Paul Rockwell in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The fact that these terrible weapons may now be turned on American soldiers can only drive us to despair. We also despair for the people of Iraq, who have been living in fear under one dictator and now might have to die so he can be replaced with another who will allow America to suck dry the country's oil resources.
Bush's mastery of propaganda has convinced 43 percent of Americans that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks, and millions of others that dissent is treasonous.
"There is a case for getting tough with Iraq," writes Paul Krugman in The New York Times. "But it's not a case the Bush Administration ever made... So now the administration knows that it can make unsubstantiated claims, without paying a price when those claims prove false, and that saber rattling gains it votes and silences opposition."
Is it any wonder that so many of us are afraid?
Millions of people around the world have demonstrated against Bush and this war, but their protests fall on deaf ears. Not to make fun of the seriousness of the situation, but comedian Bill Maher was right when he said, "How bad do you have to suck to lose a popularity contest with Saddam Hussein?"
Being among the millions who chose to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, my husband and I went to the peace vigil at Wells Fountain in Brattleboro on Sunday night. We were both deeply moved, but in my heart I knew we were there less to pray for peace than to mourn for the many, many coming dead.
The only way to defeat a bully is to stand up to him, so despite the odds, we must continue to fight against Bush, so wrong and yet so full of moral certainty, and his destructive policies abroad and at home.
It feels like Dylan was talking across the years to Bush when he wrote, "Is your money that good/Will it buy you forgiveness/Do you think that it could/I think you will find, when your death takes its toll/All the money you made/Will never buy back your soul."
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Dummerston, Vt. and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel for a variety of newspapers and magazines.