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Embracing a fire that still burns us today

Posted: June 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.

A friend of mine surprised me with an unexpected opinion the other day. Like me, he had recently traveled to India and came away stunned by the immensity poverty prevailing there.

Yet, while others blame British colonialism or corrupt governance for this plague, my buddy concluded, “Religion is a great way to keep the masses in check while the privileged continue their plunder.”

It’s a large leap from faith to economic performance, but it surely does take something palliative to soothe the mind when looking out at 600,000,000 million destitute fellow citizens.

It wasn’t too long ago that a popularly held American belief in “Manifest Destiny” allowed millions of Americans to accept the annihilation of a native people as “God’s manifest will.”

Today, we’d have a much harder time convincing Americans God wants us to slaughter all of Canada to extend our “seas to shining seas” all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

But the “Manifest” mantra worked back then when disinformation and twisted, bigoted religion captured the hearts of Americans who came to believe the American natives were inferior and were God’s fodder in our national expansion.

It’s apparent that nations act according to their cultural and national beliefs. We follow whatever’s been zapped into our national conscious as “good.”

And we don’t step too far out of our core image and comfort zone — unless we’re successfully scared, tricked, or manipulated. 

Unfortunately, the manipulated part happens with some frequency.

A good and noble German people bought into Nazism and launched headlong into World War II — and by the time most woke, the evil machine had taken the controls.

Ditto on our Japanese friends whose faith in a God-empowered emperor permitted untold atrocity.

And yet, today we know our Japanese friends to be highly cultured, intelligent and peaceful.

For the faithful among us, there’s a biblical proverb that pretty much sums it up, Proverbs 6:26: Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?

What we allow into our hearts we become. When we embrace fire it will burn us.

Manipulation has burned the minds of entire peoples to perform heinous acts previously never imaginable.

So, with this as a preamble, it was again provocative to hear Richard Clarke — George H.W. Bush’s, Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s security and anti-terrorism boss — again taking to airwaves airing his first-hand and expert opinion that President Bush and associates are provably guilty of serious war crimes relating to Iraq II and torture, and are prosecutable under existing law.

Clarke, you recall, resigned prior to America’s invasion of Iraq during G.W. Bush’s Iraq war. He’s the guy who warned the Bush administration about Bin Laden months before the attacks, and he’s testified before Congress, proven his positions, and has published countless papers detailing the deceptions leading to that war and the war crime acts committed in it.

We’re well past a decade since the start of that war and even today, a war-rallying America largely views President Obama as a wimp for shutting it down. 

Many Americans still believe Saddam staged the attacks against the Twin Towers, as Bush and Company wanted us to believe. But that’s a myth, same as the rest of the cascading lies that were told and sold:

“Saddam funded Al Qaida.” “Saddam had nuclear weapons.” “No, Saddam had a nuclear weapons program.” “Saddam had mobile weapons labs.” “Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and could hit us in a year.”
Nope, nope, nope, nope and nope.

We were sold a war, charged it on our national deficit credit card, and we’ve held that fire closely to our chest and it’s burned us and we’ve not yet had the national courage to expose and extinguish the flame.

One trillion deficit dollars later, 6,000 American soldiers died, with another 30,000 or so injured. Another 200,000 Iraqis died from fighting / starvation / depravation with millions more dislocated into poverty.

We also ironically hung out some 2 million Iraqi Christians who, once protectedby a strong state, are now driven off, persecuted or worse. 

And, along the way, we introduced torture as a newly accepted American practice and have turned a Patriot Act and overly aggressive NSA to spy and prey on our own people.

We embraced the fire and it continues to burn.

It’s a bad, sad story in America’s history book, but most are pretty much OK with it.

We’re desensitized to the mayhem. And we surely don’t want to consider the possibility of an America gone wrong against our long-standing claim as captains of liberty, justice, and exceptionalism.

Except that, examined or not, America staged a war under false pretense with no ramifications for the perpetrators of the act.

And that’s a fire that burns at our national morality and international standing.

We’re today more callous, indifferent, detached. Crimes were likely committed, but hey, “That’s just war.”

But what are the moral costs to a country of forsaking justice in favor of a well-manipulated story?

We carry these moral burdens and flaws and can’t rise above them until we finally and formally forsakethat which burned us.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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