Across the nation, America 's newspapers announce the same headline, handed as is so often the case to our media poodles by their masters in the White House: "Moment of Truth."
It is a moment of truth, a pivotal time, one of those fateful points where you have to decide - left or right, in or out, smile and play along or say "the Hell with the Masters" and step down from your assigned spot on the killing line.
Bush and the
other fundamentalist arch-imperialists and corporate-military plutocrats in the White House are prepared now
to go beyond their bellicose Orwellian rhetoric. They are ready to enter the War Criminals' Hall of Fame by
launching an unjust, illegal attack on a weak, impoverished and effectively disarmed nation that poses no
serious threat to the American people. They are prepared to launch a truly terrible act of aggression,
launching 800 cruise missiles into
Their chicken hawk hearts are quickening as they gear up to fight a "war" from behind their well-guarded desks, walls and computer screens. To quote from Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," they've "fasten[ed] the triggers, for the others to fire." They will "sit back and watch while the death count gets hire."
Bush and Blair are prepared to destroy untold numbers of innocent Iraqi civilians - United Nations put 500,000 Iraqis at risk - in the name of "democracy" and "freedom," code words for empire when uttered by American statesmen, as is well understood outside the United States . Bush and Blair see the civilians they are about to butcher in Iraq pretty much the same way al Qaeda saw the thousands of Americans it killed in September 2001 - expendable "offal" on the path to higher political and doctrinal objectives.
It is a moment of
truth for the world state system. Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest are prepared to put the last nail in the coffin
of a multi-lateral world order. At the moment that the first bombs land in
The ultimate regime change the Bush cabal seeks is international. It wants to overthrow the last hints of serious global cooperation and undo international law. It seeks to enshrine America as the unchallenged hegemonic power, ruling alone, by sheer preponderance of military force.
It is a moment of truth for America 's rising number of poor, stuck at the bottom of in the industrialized world's most unequal and wealth-top-heavy nation - the leading prison state on the planet. The American rulers of the New World Order are happy to spend half a billion dollars a day on overseas conquest and empire even as the crises of their "homeland's" many impoverished communities grow deeper. The cries of those communities fail to elicit significant response beyond expensive mass surveillance, arrest and incarceration from a supposedly "cash-strapped" public sector whose cup runs over when it comes to serving wealth and empire.
It is a moment of truth, a moment of terror, for the people of Iraq , in ways too obvious to state and too painful to contemplate.
It is a moment of truth for America 's corporate-state media, falsely labeled "mainstream." The owners and managers of the nation's "private" communications empire have emerged as full-fledged Masters of War with flying colors both print and electronic. They have enabled the imminent massive high state crimes in numerous ways, conveying Bush's idiotic claims that Iraq threatens America and that Saddam was linked somehow to 9-11. They have worked to relegate the American citizenry to spectator status, treating fateful questions of state policy as if they are beyond the sphere of legitimate popular input and agency. They have treated the "war" (massacre) as "inevitable" even as millions march against it. They have failed to adequately register the protests and fears of the people in whose name they claim to speak. The blood of dead Iraqis is already showing on their hands.
Next to the White House and the Pentagon, I can think of no structures more deserving of massive citizen protest than the America 's great media corporations.
Now those great
manufacturers of mass consent and diversion, these giant cultural charnel grounds, these massive, deadening
structures of neo-Orwellian/Huxlean thought control, have another important task. They must work provide
ex-post facto justification for the imminent war crimes by pretending to discover proof that Iraq really was a
threat, that it really was connected to 9-11, that it really was building nuclear weapons and so on. It is
their job, as in 1991, to ignore and hide the mass civilian casualties, to relegate the crumpled bodies of
Iraqi children, mothers and grandfathers to history's dustbin while trumping the pyrotechnics above
Watch them as they work to manipulate mass opinion in defense of empire, slavish and supine before the awesome march of the Great White Men and the carefully chose subordinates of color atop the world's leading rogue state. Behold the media Masters as they "lie and deceive, like Judas of old" (Dylan). They manufacture images, transmit high state falsehoods, and frame deceptions that promise to set the world on fire. Like the chiefs of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other "defense" contractors lining up to cash in on the New Imperial Century of Permanent War, the vampire corporate media executives will "hide in their mansions, while young people's blood flows out of their bodies and gets buried in the mud" (Dylan).
It is a moment of truth for the citizens of the western democracies. We are free to express our opposition to the plans of the warmongers without fear of being shot or incarcerated. But how shall express our dissent in the wake of the decision for "war" (massacre)? Shall we remain content to write letters to our public officials? Shall we stay pleased to write letters to the editor and to draft opinion-editorials for the newspapers? Should we be satisfied to write, perform and applaud protest songs? To write articles in the alternative press and for antiwar web-sites and to speak at antiwar teach-ins and demonstrations? To hand out buttons, collect signatures, send out mailings, construct e-mail lists, and identify protest targets? To target pro-war politicians for removal from office? To march and chant and hand out flyers in peaceful demonstrations?
We have done all of these things and much more and we shall continue. Much has been accomplished and remains to be done through these timeworn means. But the Masters of War and Empire and Propaganda are undeterred by reasonable mass citizen action. Bush has dismissed responding to the many millions in the streets as "governing by focus groups."
The Masters are determined to carry out their hideous crimes in our name, regardless of what we say and feel. We have spoken truth to power and power has refused to hear. We have said, "Please Sir, listen" to the illegitimate Dull Boy President, surrounded by his neo-fascist "posse," and he has responded with authoritarian disdain. The decision for "war" (massacre) has been made, we are told, and now it is time for us to go home and line-up obediently behind the bluebloods who alone are fit to make policy, grateful that we were benevolently granted the right to express our opinion. "Support our troops."
"The president, who's wanted war with Iraq all along," notes New York Times columnist Bob Herbert today, "has been unwilling to listen seriously to anyone with an opposing view." Further: "Mr. Bush has remained unmoved by the millions of protestors against the war who have demonstrated in the United States and around the world. If anyone of these millions has had something worthwhile to say, the president hasn't acknowledged it...The president's mind was made up long ago and all the chatter of pro and con was just so much smoke. Mr. Bush will have his war."
It all brings
many supporters of peace and justice to a very different moment of truth than the sort contemplated by Bush.
It brings us to the point where we are compelled to embrace extra-legal direct action and open civil unrest to
undo the new slaughterhouse of Empire.
Paul Street is a writer, social policy researcher and teacher in Chicago Illinois .