Almost two weeks into this damned war…

..and I’m reasonably certain that no American who reads this is going to pay much attention.

The invasion of Iraq, while not going as well as the hawks expected, is still grinding forward, and good people on both sides are dying. For what? The installation of a puppet leader seems inevitable, and after various US and British companies (I am ashamed to be a Briton, these days) squeeze their profit from the reconstruction we can expect to see him deposed and another populist will arise to take his place. Failing that, we may see a replay of the Iranian scenario, where a strongman stays in power for many years only to fall to a popular uprising which has deep anti-Western roots.

Meanwhile here in Canada the Liberal party followed the initial polls and stayed clear of the war, while the local neo-cons subordinated morality to commerce and bellowed that we should support our American cousins even if we didn’t truly support the unsanctioned invasion, because the US might impose trade penalties because we dragged our feet. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course. The US subordinated morality to commerce themselves during both World Wars, staying out for three years in World War I and two years in World War II in order to profit from trading with both sides. In World War I they sold Canadian aluminum to Imperial Germany, who sent it back to us in various forms in the trenches of France! O tempora, o mores!

The Americans are our neighbours, our biggest trading partners, and our closest cultural relatives. At times they can be magnificent, with a generosity of soul so deep it makes receiving nations tremble (and human nature being what it is, resentful). Sometimes, though, they can be so wrong-headed as to make you gasp. We saw it in the Fifties, and stood on the sidelines as they chased their internal boogeymen with the help of Tailgunner Joe and his evil henchman Nixon (now being rehabilitated by his spiritual descendants). Today they’re chasing terrorists – a Good Thing to do – but in the process tossing away two hundred years of progress in free speech and democratic expression in the name of security. As before, we look on from the sidelines in dismay, powerless to help them past the crisis point and fearful that we too will be swept up by the repressive whirlwind.

All this madness in the name of security is nothing new: France in the Terror after the Revolution was held tightly in the grip of the Committee of Public Safety. That new Republic died still-born, and an Empire rose after it. In the wake of today’s turbulence, will we see a new Empire rising?

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the Country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed.”

–Abraham Lincoln