The war lovers I have known in real wars have
usually been harmless, except to themselves. They were attracted to Vietnam
and Cambodia, where drugs were plentiful. Bosnia, with its roulette of death,
was another favorite. A few would say they were there "to tell the world";
the honest ones would say they loved it. "War is fun!" one of them
had scratched on his arm. He stood on a land mine.
I sometimes remember these almost endearing fools when I find myself faced
with another kind of war lover the kind that has not seen war and has
often done everything possible not to see it. The passion of these war lovers
is a phenomenon; it never dims, regardless of the distance from the object of
their desire. Pick up the Sunday papers and there they are, egocentrics of little
harsh experience, other than a Saturday in Sainsbury's. Turn on the television
and there they are again, night after night, intoning not so much their love
of war as their sales pitch for it on behalf of the court to which they are
assigned. "There's no doubt," said Matt Frei, the BBC's man in America,
"that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of
the world, and especially now to the Middle East
is now increasingly
tied up with military power."
Frei said that on April 13, 2003, after George W. Bush had launched "Shock
and Awe" on a defenseless Iraq. Two years later, after a rampant, racist,
woefully trained, and ill-disciplined army of occupation had brought "American
values" of sectarianism, death squads, chemical attacks, attacks with uranium-tipped
shells and cluster bombs, Frei described the notorious 82nd Airborne as "the
heroes of Tikrit."
Last year, he lauded Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the slaughter in Iraq, as
"an intellectual" who "believes passionately in the power of
democracy and grassroots development." As for Iran, Frei was well ahead
of the story. In June 2003, he told BBC viewers: "There may be a case for
regime change in Iran, too."
How many men, women, and children will be killed, maimed, or sent mad if Bush
attacks Iran? The prospect of an attack is especially exciting for those war
lovers understandably disappointed by the turn of events in Iraq. "The
unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth," wrote Gerard Baker in the
Times last month, "is that we are going to have to get ready for
war with Iran.
If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status,
it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the
Bolshevik revolution and the coming of Hitler." Sound familiar? In February
2003, Baker wrote that "victory [in Iraq] will quickly vindicate U.S. and
British claims about the scale of the threat Saddam poses."
The "coming of Hitler" is a rallying cry of war lovers. It was heard
before NATO's "moral crusade to save Kosovo" (Blair) in 1999, a model
for the invasion of Iraq. In the attack on Serbia, 2 percent of NATO's missiles
hit military targets; the rest hit hospitals, schools, factories, churches,
and broadcasting studios. Echoing Blair and a clutch of Clinton officials, a
massed media chorus declared that "we" had to stop "something
approaching genocide" in Kosovo, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in 2002 in
the Guardian. "Echoes of the Holocaust," said the front pages
of the Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Observer warned of
a "Balkan Final Solution."
The recent death of Slobodan Milosevic took the war lovers and war sellers
down memory lane. Curiously, "genocide" and "Holocaust"
and the "coming of Hitler" were now missing for the very good
reason that, like the drumbeat leading to the invasion of Iraq and the drumbeat
now leading to an attack on Iran, it was all bullsh*t. Not misinterpretation.
Not a mistake. Not blunders. Bullsh*t.
The "mass graves" in Kosovo would justify it all, they said. When
the bombing was over, international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to
minute examination. The FBI arrived to investigate what was called "the
largest crime scene in the FBI's forensic history." Several weeks
later, having found not a single mass grave, the FBI and other forensic teams
In 2000, the International War Crimes Tribunal announced that the final count
of bodies found in Kosovo's "mass graves" was 2,788. This included
Serbs, Roma, and those killed by "our" allies, the Kosovo Liberation
Front. It meant that the justification for the attack on Serbia ("225,000
ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59 are missing, presumed dead,"
the U.S. ambassador-at-large David Scheffer had claimed) was an invention. To
my knowledge, only the Wall Street Journal admitted this. A former senior
NATO planner, Michael McGwire, wrote that "to describe the bombing as 'humanitarian
intervention' [is] really grotesque." In fact, the NATO "crusade"
was the final, calculated act of a long war of attrition aimed at wiping out
the very idea of Yugoslavia.
For me, one of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton,
and their eager or gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm of sedentary,
effete men (and women) for bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never
have to retch over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching
for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken truth
and public lies. That Milosevic was a minnow compared with industrial-scale
killers such as Bush and Blair belongs to the former.