Tuesday, August 31, 2010

War without victory: Laughing all the way

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/31/10

The war in Iraq does not end with a victory march. There will be no sailors kissing nurses at Times Square. It ends with discord and dissent at the exact place where it started, Ground Zero. It did not even end. It just stopped.

In some ways we are worse off than when we started. Today when liberals oppose conservatives they will do so in support of Islamic opinion instead of Marxist opinion as in the debate today over the mosque near Ground Zero. Islam now has faces of dissent in opposition to the West worldwide with varied different degrees of hostility, opposition and territoriality. Much as Marx became the uniform face of global dissent after 1917. Whether it is Taliban in the Punjab, school girls wearing the burka in France or the Iran state media calling the French First Lady a prostitute and threatening Israel with extinction, minarets in Switzerland, car bombs in Baghdad still, or that upscale public service ad now airing on TV of so many Hollywood handsome and striving Islamic faces yearning to be free in America which so closely resembles Obama's “yes we can” video. Marx is dead. Islam has a new face and it is the rising face of global dissent in the new millennium.

Reader Sebastian writes commenting that Colbert and Stewart inappropriately make the news funny. I think it is one of the worse directions in this war. Making the news funny especially as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart do, appeasing and accommodating both sides, tragically deflects responsibility. This was especially harmful during the war in Iraq. It led a young generation to neither support nor oppose in any sincere, committed and authentic way. It was a purely narcissistic avoidance by what John Kenneth Galbraith called a “culture of contentment” from the stoned elite in the yogurt shop to expedient and weakling Congress (featuring then Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden) known by their works as neither hot nor cold to the post-Vietnam professoriate which has never left a college campus.

One of the most important moments in our post-World War II destiny was June 11, 1963, when a Buddhist monk in yellow robes burned himself to death in Saigon. It focused America on to what we were becoming and what we had become. Nothing made more clear and immediate to us the density of our moment. In Iraq, there was no such moment. In Iraq, there was Colbert and Stewart laughed all the way. I am convinced that we will have to face it again because those who oppose us knew we were no longer capable of either serious opposition like that of Thích Quảng Đức, or sustained serious committment like that of George W. Bush.

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