Saturday, July 19, 2008

Catch 22

The catch is a permanent military presence in Iraq!
by Charlie Leck

I recently had occasion to reread Catch-22,* Joseph Heller's remarkable novel published in 1961. I first read it in 1963 and thought it funny then. Reading it now, in the light of George W. Bush's presidency, Dick Chaney's vice presidency and the careers of guys like Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales, the story didn't seem quite so outrageously comical and fictitious. As a matter of fact, it's down-right frightening.

There's an account of the squadron psychiatrist, Doctor Sanderson, summing up a diagnostic session he had with Yossarian, the leading protagonist in the novel. The doctor says the following about Yossarian:

"You're antagonistic to the idea of being robbed, exploited, degraded, humiliated or deceived. Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you. Persecution depresses you. Violence depresses you. Slums depress you. Greed depresses you. Crime depresses you. Corruption depresses you. You know, it wouldn't surprise me if you're a manic-depressive!"

"Yes, sir. Perhaps I am."

"Don't try to deny it."

"I'm not denying it, sir," said Yossarian, pleased with the miraculous rapport that finally existed between them. "I agree with all you've said."

"Then you admit you're crazy, do you?"

"Crazy?" Yossarian was shocked. "What are you talking about? Why am I crazy? You're the one who's crazy?"

That section of dialog, you see, makes me feel like it might be a conversation between me and George-W or any of those officials of his that I mentioned above. Someone here is crazier than a hoot-owl and I don't think it's me.

Am I paranoid for thinking I've been lied to (by this administration)?

Crazy for thinking I've been cheated (by Chaney and Rumsfeld)?

Unbalanced because I've been deceived (by Rove and Gonzales)?

Folks, we've been dealing with a bunch of crazies for the last 7½ years who have tried to make us think we're nuts. I'll admit, they almost pulled it off.

Now, please understand that John McCain is as crazy as or crazier than the lot of them; and if you want to put the inmates in charge of the asylum again for another four years, you are, as Yossarian said, "the one who's crazy."

The truth now becomes clear
The news has broken that our President has agreed to a time-table to get out of Iraq after all. This is the President who has said time and time again that no time-tables would be set – the same thing that John McCain has been shouting from the roof tops. Now we learn, as a condition to withdrawing our troops from Iraq and giving up our occupation of that land, the President is negotiating for military bases and a permanent military presence in that nation, and thus in the Middle East.

[Read Noam Chomsky's very thorough essay about the Bush/Cheney plan from day one -- oil fields and military basis in Iraq.]

"The demand could hardly be more intense. Iraq contains perhaps the second-largest oil reserves in the world, which are, furthermore, very cheap to extract: no permafrost or tar sands or deep-sea drilling. For U.S. planners, it is imperative that Iraq remain under U.S. control, to the extent possible, as an obedient client state that will also house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world's major energy reserves." [Chomsky]

No wonder John McCain was talking about a hundred years in Iraq for U.S. troops. Now McCain is trying to say that this is no time-table, because he has been staunchly opposing any time-table; yet, Iraq President Jalal Talabani is clearly calling it a "time-table for withdrawal."

We're all such dupes. This has been the end-goal from the beginning. This is what the Bush Administration, under the careful guidance of Chaney and Rumsfeld, wanted from the beginning. They wanted a base in the Middle East from which our military can respond to problems and from which they can strike quickly anywhere in that region. Bingo!

The will and desires of the American public be damned! The lunatics are running the asylum now. The news will come hot and heavy out of Iraq in the next few days, announcing the end of the occupation and an agreement about a systematic withdrawal of American troops. There will not be much said about the new military base.

And what can the American people do about it? What say to we have? That's the Catch-22.

*Heller, Joseph: Catch-22: [Simon and Schuster, New York, 1961]
My wife, Anne, made an interesting point yesterday about this book and its introduction of a vocabulary concept – a synonym for the "ultimate dilemma" -- into our language in such a permanent, enduring way that many people use the expression now without knowing anything about its connection to Joseph Heller and Yossarian!

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