How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Bombing
It was about this time in March 2003 that the bombs began to fall on Baghdad. I remember it well. I watched with a bit of trepidation as the TV news carried image after image of phosphorescent flashes lighting up the black desert night sky. I wondered what would happen to American society as we entered what looked to be a long season of war.
The bombing was riveting to behold. Tomahawks hit their targets dead center and the night vision cameras painted the scene in a ghoulish, somehow satisfying green. During the daytime bombing, daisy cutters and MOABs bent the air and the surrounding built environment around them as they exploded, sucking in a little dust and mirage before bellowing out in a giant display of American military ingenuity.
As the bombs kept falling, my trepidation wore off. It was undeniable that the United States was dominating the battlefield with dazzling pyrotechnics. I began to enjoy watching the bombs fall. The bombing was keeping us safe—I nodded in agreement as cable pundits wrung every last drop of ratings out of the patriotic gore. The sorties and the strikes and the urban areas pitted and cratered by strafings from A-10 Warthogs—what a wonderful show. I was proud to be an American. The flags on the flagpoles outside the library and courthouse and grade school in the sleepy town I lived in seemed to snap in salute to the exploits of war fighters in the Middle East. Bombs solve our problems! Bombs bring freedom and democracy! Bombs keep bigger wars at bay! Long live the bombing of Iraq, and let’s think about expanding the bombing to Iran and beyond—for the sake of peace and the USA!
The subsequent two decades dampened my enthusiasm for bombing considerably. I read Rothbard—that was huge. I read Smedley Butler and Albert Jay Nock. I read Lysander Spooner. I began to read books in Japanese by people who had seen American bombing from the ground, not from the air, and who had, for that very reason, a decidedly different view of what the exercise meant. I visited Vietnam and realized, as a novelist acquaintance mentioned in passing recently, that bombs were never going to break the spirit of the Vietnamese. I started to wonder why we had tried breaking anyone’s spirit in the first place. I couldn’t help but think that maybe we had no business in Southeast Asia at all. What if LBJ really had been a baby killer?
What I had argued for during the Bush years—that bombing kept war away from the homeland and always on the doorstep of some other schmucks (and better them than us)—gradually came to seem rather facile. And dangerous. There was, after all, no guarantee that the people doing the bombing would also make such neat distinctions between near and abroad. This was borne out by meeting veterans of foreign wars. The men I met were often on edge, unable to sleep. They brought the war home with them in their nightmares, an interior uniform they could never fold up and put away. War coarsened American society. War made us think that war was who we were, that war was the best we could do for ourselves and for other countries. War began to seep back into the country from abroad. It wasn’t as easy to keep the war over there as I had thought.
And yet, I still had faith in the American form of government. I thought that the Constitution, although honored largely in the breach, would keep the American homeland sitting pretty in civil liberties no matter how much the American military carpet-bombed Syria or pointed batteries of missiles at Vladimir Putin. That was all somewhere else. I read about the history of the CIA and learned that it was basically an international criminal cartel with diplomatic immunity provided by Washington, DC. But never mind about that. The CIA was off causing mischief in Niger or Pakistan, was busy terrorizing the residents of Yemen and Guatemala and Chad. But we still had the FBI in the States, the organization tasked with keeping law and order and busting up Al Qaeda cells before they could blow up our buildings again.
But then I began to study the court cases emerging from the “war on terror” and I couldn’t shake a rising suspicion that it was all a sham. The FBI was perhaps the worst organization in the federal behemoth. These were the guys supposedly keeping us safe and free? Setups of hapless teenagers, infiltrations of patriotic groups, and—what’s this, the history of Ruby Ridge and of Waco and of Elián González is the opposite of what I was told on CBS? And the FBI was spying on peaceful Japanese Americans before World War II, and the FBI was now undermining—with all the fake search warrants and the “FISA” chicanery of the “war on terror” years—the very Constitution it was charged with upholding? Uh oh. Maybe our Plan B—let the CIA assassinate foreign despots, but let the FBI act as constitutional referee back home—was not such a great plan, after all.
The final straw came in the summer of 2016, when James Comey, the FBI director, exonerated—in a one-man speech, on the basis of no delegated authority whatsoever, and in contradiction to the preponderance of the evidence—his preferred presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Clinton had been running one of the biggest embezzling operations in the world. But things tend to go very well for someone whose husband makes personal visits to the business jet of the Attorney General of the United States. Amazing how that works.
We later learned that Comey and his G-men were also spying on Trump and his associates, using a two-bit procedural scheme cooked up by deep state paramours who had decided that elections were too important to leave to the American people. It turned out that the FBI was just the CIA on the home front. Even worse, in many ways. The FBI was running a “Clowns in Action” show, but the consequences were taking a toll domestically. And the whole thing was connected in a sleazy political economy of grift, cover-ups, payoffs, “unfortunate accidents,” and the relentless hounding of anyone, even a president, who stood in the way of ever-increasing power.
It was in January of this year, nearly eighteen years since the invasion of Iraq, that it all hit home. Literally, I guess you could say. There was the National Guard, in Washington. They were there to keep American citizens away from the “people’s house.” It was like a bad movie from the 1980s. Would a flinty-eyed Steven Seagal be walking down some marble steps somewhere, a look of supreme put-out-ness on his grimacing face, to take back control of rogue units and end the domestic terrorism by our own armed forces? But, no, no Seagal in sight. Only a decrepit, senile statist, flanked by partisan toadies, washed up athletes, and lounge singers, barely getting through a few pages of boilerplate before being whisked back to an undisclosed basement location to “govern” the country.
The National Guard remained even after the decrepit statist and his hangers-on had gone back to their usual corruption. Apparently there was some “white supremacy” brewing and the National Guard had to be on hand for a pitched battle with the Klan. Or with Q. Or with the Proud Boys or Martha Stewart or something. None of that ever happened, even remotely. And then it all made sense. It wasn’t the military that kept us safe. It was the military that was always our greatest threat.
This is why the founders wanted well-regulated militias, and not a standing army. Standing armies are what our homegrown Kim Il-Sung, Abraham Lincoln, always craved. Ever since the hijacking of Washington by Lincoln’s progressives in 1860, it has been a steady march from republic to police state. We told ourselves that the standing armies were probably OK, as long as they were standing (or bombing, or whatever) somewhere else. Now, we discover that from the perspective of the deep state, we are all a standing army. Bombing is all the state can do. It’s how it solves every problem, with a war—on poverty, on drugs, on women, on Christmas, on childhood obesity. Now we’re on a war footing against an enemy measured in nanometers. The only way to kill this enemy is apparently to destroy small businesses and turn the economy into an alliance between Big Tech and the printing presses of the Federal Reserve. Line up for your checks, citizens. Take the king’s shilling and form ranks to await orders from the kindly commander in chief. Hail to him. Hail to him or else.
I thought, in my youth, that we were attacking Iraq because of 9/11. Now it’s obvious: there was 9/11 because we had been attacking Iraq. The military didn’t protect us, it implicated us in its terror campaigns against unarmed civilians—the same campaigns it’s been waging since Vicksburg and Wounded Knee. And that has utterly destroyed the United States as a free and prosperous country. The military has turned us all into slaves.
Tucker Carlson pointed last week out that flight suits for pregnant women was a very creepy idea. A military man responded by saying that they had gotten top-flight medical advice so that pregnant women could be more “lethal” in combat. Jacking up the lethality of pregnant women—sounds like something a war state would do. And that’s just what we’ve become.
I’ve learned to start worrying and hate the bombing. But it’s probably too late. The DC war machine has come home, and now they are training their cross hairs on us.