William Rivers Pitt: Going Nukular
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 05 May 2006
OK, I'm freaking out.
It's a quiet freak-out, even a mellow one by comparison to ones I've witnessed first-hand and endured personally, but it is happening. I seize up like a poorly-oiled engine several times a day, and my teeth grate together so hard that it sounds like two icebergs colliding in the North Atlantic inside my head. It won't be long now before my body's ability to manufacture endorphins shorts out like an old fuse, and when that happens, I will probably collapse into a gibbering gob of pudding.
Blame it on the movies I watch.
You see, I like watching movies. Good ones, bad ones, scary ones, stupid ones, action and adventure and gore and mayhem and mystery, I don't care, but the DVD is in the player so I can unplug my brain for a while every day. My movie collection is on the verge of outgrowing the large shelf I bought to contain it. Yes, I buy movies instead of renting them. I'm that guy who can never return rented movies on time; I wind up paying $276.33 in rental fees to Blockbuster for a movie I could have bought for $14.99.
Over the last few days, a strange theme has developed in my movie-watching. My ears perk up every time I hear a certain word. I heard it while watching "Deep Impact" the other day, again during "Seven," and again during "Thirteen Days." I hear the word, and that's when the freak-out kicks in. I can't control it, and all too often it sneaks up on me.
Before we get into the word, I should explain what I am not freaking out about.
I am not freaking out about the impending indictment of Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame investigation. I should be, but I'm not. The voices in my head tell me the indictment is coming soon, but I am holding it together. Hell, it's not like this is a big deal or anything. Valerie Plame was only running a CIA intelligence network dedicated to tracking the nuclear ambitions of Iran, and her exposure only annihilated a good portion of our ability to keep an eye on that situation. It's not like wrecking her career and exposing her position was a blow to national security or anything.
I am not freaking out about the fact that the Abramoff scandal is widening into a pestiferous vat of bribery and prostitution. I should be, but I'm not. They have taken to calling this thing "Hookergate," and a lot of people are smelling blood on the wind. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham is currently enveloped by an eight-year prison sentence, and the scandal surrounding him looks to snare several other House members. It appears that a defense contractor was providing bribes and prostitutes to as many as fifteen Representatives so as to curry favor, including the Duke's favor.
Ed Rollins, one of the GOP's heaviest strategists, was chewing the fat with George Stephanopoulos on the Charlie Rose show Tuesday night, and had this to say: "If this House scandal is as big as I think it is from talking to people that are around it - of course it started with Cunningham and it's moving beyond that. Duke Cunningham, a congressman from San Diego who took bribes. There was a real little cabal on the Defense Appropriations Committee in which a couple of people who basically made an awful lot of money off of defense contractors and basically rewarded a bunch of members, Republicans."
If this thing widens in the way it seems to be, if the bribery allegations spread to House members swapping whores in the back of defense contactor limousines, well Ms. Lewinski will suddenly seem a piker by comparison, and the geometry surrounding the '06 midterms will be tossed into a cocked hat (pun definitely intended). Nope, not freaking out.
Nor am I freaking out about a story from the Providence Journal about American soldiers going hungry in Iraq. I should be, but I'm not. After all, we are simply seeing the unfolding of Donald Rumsfeld's master plan: go to war on false pretenses by scaring the fudge out of the American people, lie with your bare face hanging out, and then send in too few troops with no armor and a bad tactical plan to guarantee utter failure and complete disgrace.
American troops are now going door-to-door in Iraq begging the civilians for food, and writing home to their families asking them to send canned provisions. One troop wrote his mom that he and his squad dropped ten pounds in the first couple of weeks they were over there, and only get fed meager provisions twice a day while working 22-hour patrol shifts under combat conditions. Rumsfeld must think that hungry troops will fight harder. I am more convinced than ever that he is a Sith Lord.
There are so many things I am not freaking out about, but should be. We get a Kewpie Doll talking-head natterbrain named Tony Snow as press secretary for the administration, on the heels of a hint from chief of staff Josh Bolten that the live, televised press conferences out of the White House may go the way of the dodo. Who cares? The same cocktail-pinkie clubhouse "journalists" in DC who ignored the historic hand grenades lobbed by Stephen Colbert, because he skewered them beneath the fifth rib, aren't likely to care much about limited access to administration spin. They've written it so much in the last few years that they know it by rote.
Yeah, I'm only freaking out about one thing, one word. Perhaps I am freaking out in such a limited fashion, about such a narrow issue, because whatever portion of my brain that handles freak-outs over larger and more important issues has been reduced to gelatinous goo thanks to everything that has happened since these crazy fools got their hands on the main levers.
Whatever the reasons, I am losing my mind over one word: nuclear.
It popped up in those movies I've watched over the last few days. "Deep Impact" had astronauts planting "nuclear" devices on a comet; "Seven" had Morgan Freeman mentioning books about "nuclear" weapons in a passing conversation; and "Thirteen Days" had the Kennedy administration scrambling over "nuclear" missiles in Cuba.
Nuclear, nuclear, nuclear. The word has been around for decades, and for the longest time, was at the center of American foreign policy and the deepest fears of the American people. Nuclear brinkmanship. Nuclear winter. Nuclear holocaust. Etc. It's a great, big, fat, important, and serious word. Its very existence has changed the face of the planet. In the last few weeks, the word has been bandied about regarding Iran. Do they have nuclear weapons? Will the Bush administration use our nuclear weapons to get rid of their nuclear weapons? How will this affect Pakistan and its nuclear weapons?
The word has been getting around lately, and has been on the lips of Mr. Bush and his cronies, along with a whole galaxy of television talking heads. You hear it all the time.
Too often - and this is the nut of my freak-out - what you hear is "nukular." Phonetically, that version of the word spreads out to "noo-kyoo-luhr." I've heard a dozen people on supposedly-smart news shows blither that version of the word. It started with Bush, who could not pronounce "nuclear" properly if you promised him all the oil in the universe, and has spread like a dumb disease across the landscape. The people in the movies I've watched get it right, ya know, those Hollywood types, but neither the President of the United States nor most of his closest people nor the cream of the nabob crop on television can get this word past their teeth without sounding like hapless waterheads.
So here's the thing. If we as a nation are going to be led by dangerous fools, if we are going to allow treason to stand in the highest ranks of government, if we are going to allow our Representatives to get wild with prostitutes and fat wads of cash, if we are going to allow our soldiers to slowly starve in Iraq while getting blasted out of unarmored Humvees during an ill-conceived occupation, the very least we can do is not sound stupid while doing it.
The word is "nuclear." Noo-klee-urr. Work with me here. I'm freaking out.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.