Friday is our anniversary. It will be seven years since we shocked and awed the Iraqi people, showing them who was boss. Considering the Washington Post says more than 4,300 U.S. soldiers have died and at least 31,000 more are maimed, we’ve actually proved who isn’t boss.
Maybe we’ll get that seven-year itch. Let’s divorce ourselves from war and go find a more fulfilling relationship with the world. I mean we’re not the same people anymore, right? I don’t just mean that some of us are dead and seriously wounded and countless more have emotional problems. No, I mean those of us who didn’t go to war are different people, too. We were once duped by the government, but we’ve become aware and we can move on now.
But we don’t move on; does that mean we haven’t changed?
We know our government lied — even if inadvertently — but no matter how much we say we’re against it, we continue acting as if those lies were true. Even if our hair is grayer or our kids are older, our brains haven’t changed — we still act as though the government will do the right thing, which means that we’re still stupid.
I know you didn’t feel stupid seven years ago. You were listening to trusted folks including Colin Powell. Remember Secretary Powell told us: “The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction pose to the world. Let me now turn to those deadly weapons programs and describe why they are real and present dangers to the region and to the world.” He then went on to convince enough of us that the weapons the United States sold to Saddam Hussein to use against Iran were still there and poised to be used against us. And you felt as if the smart thing to do was to believe him.
If you feel stupid today, imagine how stupid he feels.
Imagine Secretary Powell’s humiliation knowing that he testified: “Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions. These are facts.”
I bet that’s why you never see him. Poor Powell is sitting at home feeling like an idiot, and if we had half the brains and courage that he has, we’d have retreated from the battle just like he did and we’d be home feeling like dopes, too.
But that’s the other problem: Too many of us aren’t smart enough to know we’re dumb. You voted for Barack Obama thinking that seeing the error of our ways would make our government change its ways, and yet the casualty count continues to rise.
Stupid isn’t just a lack of knowledge, it’s also listening to folks in authority and doing as you’re told because you refuse to believe that your government would give you false information — as Powell did — and then wield its power against you.
Hey, look, stupidity’s rampant. Centralia, Pa., has been on fire for 47 years. In 1962, the town fathers accidentally ignited the hundred-plus-year-old coal mines that wound beneath their homes, churches and schools. They had chance after chance to extinguish the fire. But initially every level of government acted too slowly and each subsequent idea to put the fire out came with a higher price tag.
I was in Centralia on Saturday. The buildings are bulldozed. Ground vents allow fire gases to escape. Centralia’s gone and scientists think it will take 211 years for the underground inferno to migrate to the next nearest town. By then it will be some other generation’s problem and some other budget’s line item.
So there’s no hurry to extinguish the flames. Admit it, that’s stupid. I’m not just talking about selectmen igniting the blaze while illegally burning the town dump stupid, or delusional residents staying while their houses filled with carbon monoxide and other deadly gases until the government forced them to leave stupid. No, I’m talking about awe-inspiring stupid; like folks purchasing houses in Centralia as recently as 1983 — 21 years after the village started roasting.
The U.S. federal government isn’t afraid you’ll smarten up about the Iraq war, the economy, the bailouts and the health care debacle, because we actually want to believe their lies. After all, nobody’s that stupid.