“What Makes a Person So Poisonous, Righteous that He’d think less of anyone who just disagreed?”The Gulf War Song, Moxy Fruvous (1993).
An Earworm is often described as part of a song. So it’s fitting that my first entry after I renamed the blog is prompted by a song.
Moxy Fruvous was a “one hit wonder” from Kingston, Ontario that wrote and produced a full album of politically charged folk songs in the early 90s. The hit was a fun little ditty called “The King of Spain” in which the band tells a prince and pauper type story of international trade. But the album reaches its most poignant moment on the final track, in the “Gulf War Song” a 4 minute acapella lament of politics turned to self-righteousness. In addition to the line quoted above my other favourite says “I’m just a pacifist, he’s just a patriot, if I said you were crazy would you have to fight me?”
This song was written during the first Gulf War. Before 9/11, before anyone knew who Osama bin Laden was or how to spell Taliban and before anyone but a few pentagon staffers knew what WMD meant.
I haven’t written much in the past few weeks. I’ve been reading a lot of the recent history of the Bush administration and how the world reacted to September 11, 2001. Like everyone, I’ve lived that history and at times had a front row seat. 9/11 is one of those events, like the moon landing, pearl harbour or the assassination of John Kennedy that everyone who was alive at that moment will never forget.
As was often the case, I was the first one in the office that morning and I vividly recall sitting at my desk in a Toronto high-rise looking out at a clear blue sky and watching aircraft on final approach to Pearson International Airport. The thought crossed my mind that there appeared to be more planes in the area than on other mornings, little did I know that US airspace had just been closed and a number of flights were being diverted.
I had the window open and a maintenance crew who happened to be repelling down the side of the building making repairs to the balcony leaned in and asked if I had heard was what happening in New York City. They had a portable radio on their work platform. It was a surreal moment; 4 men literally hanging from a rope 19 stories above the ground talking to me through an open window about how airplanes were crashing into a similar building half a continent away. Would we be next?
As I have read the historical and political commentary of what followed two things have stood out.
# 1) In 1998 journalist Thomas Freidman said, “It’s not another superpower that threatens America at the end of the twentieth century. The greatest danger that the United States faces today is from Super-empowered individuals who hate America more than ever because of globalization and who can do something about it on their own, more than ever, thanks to globalization.” (The Lexus and the Olive Tree). 3 years before 9/11, Freidman prophesied that Globalization could become a double edged sword. Our struggle in the 20th century is to keep one edge sharp, that of expanded markets and empowerment and the other, increased poverty and widening economic gaps, dull.
# 2) Decision makers need to have complete information. In the case of George W. Bush my reading of the accounts from journalist like Bob Woodward (State of Denial) and Ron Suskind (The One Percent Doctrine) have revealed that the president was functioning with bad intelligence. The people with good intelligence were unable for various reasons, not the least of which was fear for their own jobs, to pass the information up the chain. In one instance a general on the ground in Iraq later wrote in his personal journal that he felt the government was making huge mistakes that would take years to correct and yet when given the opportunity to meet face to face with the president said that the mission was proceeding as planned.
I am not an apologist for George W. Bush, but how can you expect a man to make effective decisions when his closest advisors aren’t giving him correct information.
Over the next few posts I hope to expand on the first idea, the second I’ll leave to the historians.
Go ahead and download the Gulf War Song at: