another fine mess...

In the preface to Heartbreak House, Shaw wrote:

“Only those who have lived through a first-rate war, not in the field, but at home, and kept their heads, can possibly understand the bitterness of Shakespeare and Swift, who both went through this experience. The horror of Peer Gynt in the madhouse, when the lunatics, exalted by illusions of splendid talent and visions of a dawning millennium, crowned him as their emperor, was tame in comparison.”

Ah, but if Shaw had lived through a second rate war by a first rate power led by fourth rate con men – then he would have been able to brag. Not the earth opening up to eat the European generations, perhaps (the earth has only opened up to eat the Iraqi generations, after all ): but not all cataclysms come on the same scale. Ford Maddox Ford’s phrase, in the Good Soldier (a mouse dying of cancer is the whole story of the fall of the Roman Empire) is, perhaps, more apposite. It is the small lump that sometimes announces the upcoming death.

So it is not a wonder that a story like this – a story that indicates what mad, bad people ride mankind, at the moment, with their D.C. cocktail party plans for world domination coordinate with such halfwit organizational skills as to render them unfit for planning a child’s birthday party – is passed over in silence. This is from two days ago, in the Washington Post. Of course, it was buried on page A19:

“The Bush administration disclosed yesterday that it had vastly underestimated the number of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and warned that the health care programs will be short at least $2.6 billion next year unless Congress approves additional funds.
Veterans Affairs budget documents projected that 23,553 veterans would return this year from Iraq and Afghanistan and seek medical treatment. However, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson told a Senate committee that the number has been revised upward to 103,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. He said the original estimates were based on outdated assumptions from 2002.”

Oh, and of course, the Administration knew all of this as they watched Senator Murray’s attempt, a month ago, to add money to the V.A. go down in Republican approved flames. They simply didn’t want to disclose the underestimate during a period when it would get publicity.

Why they bother puzzles me. As if the media has not, by now, become organically incapable of exercising any critical power whatsoever. The terrible beauty of the Iraq war is in how it makes us see the immense rot at the heart of America’s ‘meritocracy’ – this is an elite that well deserves its inevitable downfall, even if it is paid for by other people’s deaths. These people have passed all the tests in the American system. The tests are, as we suspected, absolutely worthless.

Let’s see, what did the oracles at the WP last say about Iraq?

“Fortunately, most Americans appear to have a hardheaded appreciation of the problems and stakes in Iraq. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that most do not believe the administration's claims of progress, but a majority still is willing to support an extended stay by U.S. forces.”

Ah, that ‘fortunately’ – shored up by the systematic misinforming of the American public by papers like, well, the Washington Post. Reading the WP editorial board on Iraq is like reading a review of a cookbook by a convicted poisoner – it is an essay in moral obliquity enlivened by grotesque juxtapositions.