The new cold war

By Ben Hoffman

“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography”

– Ambrose Bierce

The audience was a who’s who of Calgary’s social elite, from oil baron to politician, the conversation topical and bearing the stamp of influence. I was a little out of place. This was the backdrop to a one hour invitation for a speech by the silver tongued virtuoso, former president Bill Clinton. For what President Bush owes to his own self-aggrandizing stupidity, Clinton owes his charm and without looking around the room and observing the cookie cutter attire, I can tell you the crowd was enraptured by the charismatic eclipse of the 42nd President of the United States.

Even without his trademark saxophone Clinton had a remarkable smoothness, like a Napa Valley cabernet, and any president with the gift of the oration could be one with an affinity for lying and doing so successfully. While I don’t doubt politics are infested with mendacity there is something unsettling about an administration willing to go to war over lies. On many levels I can’t overcome the fact that such an administration would have been succeeded by the electoral college and the popular vote. The question on my mind was one posed by the London Daily Mirror: ” How could 59,054,087 people be so dumb?”

As surprised as I have been that the intellectual elite have been reluctant to call the Iraq War “Vietnam: The Sequel” I am equally confounded as to when the war really started and when it will ever end. The war on terror is not going well. Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose, Iraq is not yet a Colorado suburb, and Iraqis actively resist the wealth and fame awaiting them in the tower of democracy. Perhaps the writers should leave out the comparison of Vietnam to the Iraq War. After all, Operation Iraqi Freedom was on a much grander scale and recorded in high definition. Maybe they should just call it “the new cold war.” Surely there must be a writer who can acknowledge the similarities between the two–both are a war or a noun. To the extent that the Kennedy and Reagan administrations needed to protect the citizenry from the scourge of communism, the Bush administration needs to protect the world from almost anything. Since the war on terror began that fateful morning in the clear Manhattan sky, I don’t think anyone sleeps any easier at night under a duvet of colour-coordinated terror alert.

Plato noted 2,500 years ago that “leaders like wars because they remind people why they need leaders.” The observation is as telling today as it was then. The current administration does not have a leader like Clinton who could fib without detection and smooth things over with rhetorical effrontery. Without this luxury, only an ongoing war could secure the need for re-election. There is a certain divorce from reality on those islands of Republican arrogance. By luck and perhaps the patience of bearded madmen lurking in the caves of Tora Bora, the Bush camp now wears as a badge of honour due to an absence of real terrorist attack son American soil since 9/11. The war must go on, the imagery must become more menacing and the language full of more foreboding adjectives. With the right combination, who knows where or how the war on terror will continue?