From the master, Joseph Heller, comes a passage about a WWII bombardier who has been pushed past the limit and is refusing to fly more missions for his selfish commanding officers, who’ve been, for their own advancement, demanding more missions than they have a right to:

“Won’t you fight for your country?” Colonel Cheney Korn demanded, emulating Colonel Cathcart’s harsh, self-righteous tone. “Won’t you give your life for Colonel Bush Cathcart and me?”

Yossarian tensed with alert astonishment when he heard Colonel Korn’s concluding words. “What’s that?” he exclaimed. “What have you and

Colonel Cathcart got to do with my country? You’re not the same.”

“How can you separate us?” Colonel Korn inquired with ironical tranquility.

“That’s right,” Colonel Cathcart cried emphatically. “You’re either for us or against us.  There’s no two ways about it.”

“I’m afraid he’s got you,” added Colonel Korn. “You’re either for us or against your country.  It’s as simple as that.”

“Oh, no, Colonel.  I don’t buy that.”

Colonel Korn was unruffled. “Neither do I, frankly, but everyone else will.  So there you are.”

Catch-22, p.433

I couldn’t help thinking of this passage when Scott Ritter began his talk at the Ethical Society Friday night by reminding us that just such a technique was the heart of the Bush/Cheney plan to neutralize any opposition to their war fever when we attacked Iraq. Any dissent automatically made one unpatriotic.

The other propaganda ploy they used was painting all Muslims with the same brush. We were shown a dark skinned man with bushy eyebrows and a hooked nose and told to fear him: whether it was bin Laden, Saddam Hussein … or Ahmedinejad. Bush/Cheney/Colonel Korn used American fears to meld all Muslim men with 9/ll, ignoring the distinctions between Sunnis and Shias and counting on the ignorance of most citizens in that regard. Our neoconservative neomilitarist leaders counted on us not to know that our attackers on 9/11 were all Sunnis and that Iraq and Iran, being predominantly Shiite, would hate al-Qaeda.

Few Americans know that Iran was the first Muslim nation to condemn the 9/11 attacks. Few know that Iran, because it hated al-Qaeda for killing Iranian diplomats and their families in Afghanistan, offered not only approval of our invasion of that country, but also “search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and even advice on which targets to bomb in Afghanistan.”

Furthermore, in May of ’03, Iran offered normalization of relationships  between themselves and the U.S., proposing talks about their weapons program and their support of Hamas and Hezbollah  as well as volunteering to help stabilize Iraq. In exchange they wanted an end to U.S.

“hostile behavior and rectification of status of Iran in the U.S.,” including its removal from the “axis of evil” and the “terrorism list,” and an end to all economic sanctions against Iran.

Bush rejected such diplomacy, continuing to call Iran the greatest terrorist threat in the world. His basis for saying so is that Iranians seized the U.S. Embassy and held our diplomats hostage for 444 days. They were also responsible for the bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut.

Bush is right too. That did all happen. 25 years ago.

These days, though, the acts of terror originate in Sunni quarters, as a result of Wahabism. In fact, Imam Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, has said that he wants war between us and Iran so that al-Qaeda can go after the victor.

Still, Bush continues to insist on a nexus between the Sunnis of al-Qaeda and the Shias of Iran. Only a deeply ignorant populace could swallow such nonsense. In the last twenty years, one would be hard pressed to find evidence of anti-American sentiment in Iran. What one can find there is anti-Israeli sentiment.

Iran has supported Hezbollah, and Israel should be concerned. No doubt, Iran feels justified in its support. Iranians remember that Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and that Hezbollah was born in 1985 as a result. But we should remember that those talks Iran wanted with us in May of ’03? They offered “a sweeping reorientation of Iranian policy toward Israel. ”

Ritter’s question, then, was whether Iran’s support of Hezbollah is reason enough for involving us in a war of intervention. Bush defines the problem with Iran as a nail, to which the only solution is a hammer. What he should see, instead, is that the only possible path out of the quagmire in Iraq is cooperation with Iran. That country is our potential ally in Iraq.

An aside: You might find wry comfort in these final agonizing months of Bush stupidity and stubbornness by reading (or rereading) the book that takes such idiots to task on every page: Catch-22. Heller’s portrait of two of the officers makes him look prescient. Colonel Cathcart, good looking and stupid, is the nominal commanding officer, while Colonel Korn, bald and paunchy, intelligent and evil, is really in charge.

There’s this from the conversation about whether Yossarian should fly those extra missions Cathcart wants from him:

“Doesn’t he know there’s a war going on?” Colonel Cathcart, still stamping back and forth, demanded morosely without looking at Yossarian.

“I’m quite sure he does,” Colonel Korn answered. “That’s probably why he refuses to fly them.”

“Doesn’t it make any difference to him?”

“Will the knowledge that there’s a war going on weaken your decision to refuse to participate in it?” Colonel Korn, inquired with sarcastic seriousness, mocking Colonel Cathcart.

“No, sir,” Yossarian replied, almost returning Colonel Korn’s smile. (p.431)