I finished Chain of Command this week and it’s a scary book. It’s written by Seymour Hersh, the guy who broke the My Lai Massacre story back in the Vietnam era. If you want to see just how out of control the Bush administration has been over the past four years, read this book. What’s damning is that most of the material comes from people inside the machine, be they intelligence officers, military types, or diplomats. This is not some wishy washy lefty book with a few facts and a lot of conjecture, it’s an investigation that features people on the inside talking about where the Bushies have gone wrong. And it’s quite a list, but one thing links all the actions of the administration: arrogance. Not run-of-the-mill arrogance, but monstrous, Cthulhu-esque arrogance. The neocon crowd really seems to believe they can do whatever they want and that no one else could possible know better than they. Why listen to the military experts who tell you that you’re going to need more troops on the ground in Iraq when you’ve already decided that air power and special forces will be more than enough to get the job done? Why listen to your intelligence agencies when you can handpick ideologues to provide you with the lies you want to hear (especially when you can then turn around and blame the intelligence agencies when the lies are revealed!)?
All this really made me feel that the defining moment of America was not, in fact, the Declaration of Independence but the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer’s last stand may be the quintessential American story. Custer, with a very small force, is sure he can whup any injuns he comes across. He even refuses a complement of gatling guns because they’d just slow him down. In his arrogance, he can’t conceive the natives being able to resist his power. He is then proved tragically wrong, his force is annihilated, and he is slain. America today is just like Custer. We came out on top in the big war of our age, we have technological superiority, and we are certain that we can impose our will on anyone we please. We can’t conceive that anyone could defeat us, especially a bunch of bearded dudes hiding out in caves. And yet every day Iraq redefines the term “quagmire” while we are told that everything is great and democracy is on the march. I fear that we’re all going to pay for the arrogance of this administration.