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William Pitt: Ideological Prozac, American Style

Ideological Prozac, American Style

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 11 October 2005

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

-- Bob Dylan, "It's Alright, Ma"

My goodness, but I have been out of it these last several days. I've been in this tiny log cabin, see, at the end of five miles of dirt road up here in New Hampshire. There is a lake and a kayak and dogs and a fireplace and a television that gets one channel filled with little beyond cooking shows. I finally got a glacially slow dialup connection to the internet going, and decided to get caught up on the doings of the world beyond these woods. It seems things are moving briskly.

Mr. Bush has been tattooed about the head and shoulders for suggesting that God told him to invade Iraq. I can't imagine why anyone is surprised by this. George is the putative head of the fundamentalist evangelical wing of Protestant Christianity here in America, and has been for years. They are the source of his now-waning political strength. Pretending to be on armchair-to-armchair relations with the Almighty is the best way to keep the Christo-Talibanical wind at his back. It's either that or he is literally hearing voices in his head. Let us pray it is the former, as bad as that may be. The alternative is that the man with the finger on the button needs to be fitted with one of those coats that button up in the back.

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It seems the horrifying threats of mass bombings and death in the New York subways were, in fact, a big fat hoax. I'm shocked, shocked, that a bogus yet spectacular warning was broadbanded the same day as word came down that Fitzgerald was about to drop the hammer. Funny how the worst possible terrors always seem to pop up on the grid whenever George and the boys get themselves into hot water. The individual who provided this false information is in the hands of Pakistani officials. Mayhap the false threat information came about after a round of torture? Perish the thought.

However the false threat came to be, it hasn't deflected the hard rain about to fall on the White House. New York Times reporter Judy Miller, once lionized by defenders of journalistic ethics for refusing to divulge a source under duress, now appears to be simply another dirty player in a filthy game. As if by magic, a notebook of hers filled with crucial information has suddenly materialized out of the ether. The notebook details a conversation between Miller and Cheney's right-hand man Scooter Libby, and indicates that Libby may well be the original source of the leak that put Valerie Plame on the public shelf. Simultaneously, an email from Karl Rove that puts him on the spot for outing a CIA agent likewise sprouted from nothingness. The walls are indeed closing in on these rotters.

Fitzgerald's investigative ticket expires at the end of the month, so if something is going to happen, it will happen soon. It is all-important, as the Byzantine details unspool, to remember the main point.

Rove, Libby, along with others within the administration as well as the now-compromised Ms. Miller, were involved in one thing and one thing only: selling the American public a budget of lies to justify the now-catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq. Ambassador Joseph Wilson exposed Bush's "Uranium-from-Niger-in-Iraq" nonsense in the public prints back in the summer of 2003, and the attack on his wife was meant to deflect and destroy that criticism. Ultimately, the purpose behind this was to maintain the rationale for war.

It isn't about perjury, or contempt, or any other low-rent charge. These people are responsible for nearly 2,000 American military deaths, thousands of American military wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and the looting of the American treasury to the tune of several hundred billion dollars. In other words, they have committed premeditated first-degree murder on a massive scale, assault, conspiracy to commit same, with grand larceny thrown in to boot. In Texas, you get a spike in your arm for that, and a quick trip to Somewhere Else.

The larger picture developing here was captured by, of all publications, the London Daily Mirror over the weekend. "Americans are the planet's biggest flag wavers," wrote veteran Mirror correspondent Dermot Purgavie. "They are reared on the conceit that theirs is the world's best and most enviable country, born only the day before yesterday but a model society with freedom, opportunity and prosperity not found, they think, in older cultures. They rejoice that 'We are No.1,' and in many ways they are. But events have revealed a creeping mildew of pain and privation, graft and injustice and much incompetence lurking beneath the glow of star-spangled superiority."

"America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been profoundly damaged," continued Purgavie. "And now the talking heads in Washington predict dramatic political change and the death of the Republicans' hope of becoming the permanent government." This sentiment was echoed in a Washington Post article from Monday by Charles Babington and Chris Cillizza, who wrote, "Republican politicians in multiple states have recently decided not to run for Senate next year, stirring anxiety among Washington operatives about the effectiveness of the party's recruiting efforts and whether this signals a broader decline in GOP congressional prospects."

An epic electoral reversal for the GOP in 2006 may be in the offing, but there is a larger game afoot. We are sliding back into the kind of ideological malaise endured during the late 1970s. The end days of the Carter administration saw skyrocketing gas prices, economic stagnation, the humiliating hostage crisis in Iran, the shock and disgust derived from the crimes of Watergate and the resignation of a sitting President, and let's not forget the lingering sting of a lost war in Vietnam. All of that balled together left the country at a loss. The belief that we were special took a furious beating, and only the superlative shyster salesmanship of Ronald Reagan was able to restore faith in the desiccated mythology.

Americans, by and large, have a fundamental need to feel like they are part of something great, above the fray and beyond the rest of the world. They are fed American exceptionalism with mother's milk, and will fight like rabid wolverines to avoid being forced to believe otherwise. Anyone mystified by the public support Bush has enjoyed until very recently, despite the endless litany of disasters that have befallen us, can look to this bone-deep need as the main reason for that support. It isn't just about 9/11. Americans need to feel good about America in the same way fish need water. Americans need to believe, and will thrash around like boated marlin if that belief is undercut. That belief serves as a kind of ideological Prozac, shoving bad thoughts to the background.

Iraq. Afghanistan. The continued freedom enjoyed by Osama bin Laden. Katrina. Abu Ghraib. Frist and insider stock trading. DeLay and a handful of indictments. Rove and Libby staring down the barrel of more indictments. Bush's approval ratings are plummeting, and the entire country is beginning to wilt under the depressing reality that we are, in fact, getting screwed with our pants on. Any conceits of moral authority being put forth by the White House and the Republican Party have been washed away in a flood of graft, death, lies and corruption.

Our supply of Prozac is running short. The belief in American excellence so desperately necessary to the mental balance of the populace is being eroded by the hour, and there will be hell to pay because of it.


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.

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