Mutterings over soldiers' graves

May 22, 2008|By GARRISON KEILLOR

The Current Occupant tossed Nazis into a speech last week. He likened those who would negotiate with terrorists to those who tried to appease the Nazis, an awkward comparison, since Nazis were self-defined and wore the swastika proudly, and terrorists are anybody we nominate to be terrorists.

The Nazis have served us well as an embodiment of evil even after they're all dead and buried, thanks to wonderful movies with cruel men with bad skin and guttural voices - and the word itself, which has an ominous buzz to it, unlike the gentle "communist," a cousin to "communion" and "community," though when it comes to outright hard-core evil, communism outdid the Third Reich hands down. Stalin was the most murderous man in the history of the world, having had a larger victim pool to work with, and yet "Stalinist" is not the epithet it should be.

That's because communism was exploited for short-term political advantage after World War II by Richard Nixon and other weasels of the right, much the way "terrorist" is today, to scare people into acceding to unprecedented secrecy and concentration of power and freedom of bureaucrats from any accountability whatsoever. Spooky old hammerhead politicians found anti-communism to be wonderfully profitable, and they rode that horse for years and cheapened the language.

Republicans who've been embedded in Washington too long are now finding that the word "terrorism" has lost its tread. This multitrillion-dollar war is going to wind down, one way or another. The Occupant will hand it off to the next president, who can then negotiate with people who know people who know terrorists and work out a way to extricate our people from the desert.

If a Democrat does it, it will be appeasement, and if a Republican does it, it will go down as a courageous act of statesmanship, but one way or another, it will be done.

I got a letter from a U.S. Marine in Fallujah ("trapped in this heat and smoke ... running in circles that won't change anything") who, though a "right-wing social conservative," asks, "Where are the protests from my contemporaries in America's colleges? Why do I not detect an appropriate sense of urgency from our citizens and elected officials?"

It's only May. You will see more urgency from elected officials as November nears. Sen. John McCain is now talking about withdrawal, except of course he wants to call it "victory," and Republicans up for re-election are learning to sound a little more thoughtful and even skeptical about the war.

On Memorial Day, we'll hear about men who gave their lives for their country, but many lives were not given, they were taken, and taken stupidly and carelessly. And there has been great public piety about those men and their "sacrifice" on the part of politicians who blithely sacrificed them.

Garrison Keillor's column appears regularly in The Sun. His e-mail is oldscout@prairiehome.us.

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