The president's smog of war is not just metaphorical rhyme for Errol
Morris' "The Fog of War" - the acclaimed documentary about Robert
McNamara's views on war. The smog of war is actually literal.
If anything, it's an understatement about how President Bush has been
conducting the war on terrorism: secrecy, arrogance, deceit and a wimpish
assertion of executive privilege. But even more so, it is commentary
regarding his policies that are wreaking long-term havoc upon our already
extremely fragile planet.
War is always controversial because untold (or uncounted) numbers of
innocents die. As McNamara admits, had the allies lost World War II, their
leaders would've been tried as war criminals for crimes against humanity -
for their role in devastating the civilian populations of Japan and
And that was the "good" war. Yet, the same holds true for Vietnam.
"The Fog of War" is not compelling just because of McNamara's frank talk
about Southeast Asia, but because of its obvious parallel to the Iraqi war.
Of course, it took McNamara 30 years to come forth with the truth/lies
about Vietnam. (This provides hope that perhaps Dick Cheney, Colin Powell,
Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice may in time also 'fess up).
The president no doubt wishes that former chief of counterterrorism Richard
Clarke had also waited 30 years, or at least until after the election, to
level his charges. (Of note: Incompetence isn't illegal, though waging wars
based on deception is minimally immoral.) Yet three things are clear: 1)
This election cycle began the day after the 2000 election; 2) Clarke hasn't
told us anything that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil hadn't already
told us; and 3) no matter what Clarke alleges, the charges will be mired in
partisan bickering. Actually, for this administration and its apologists,
there's one other certainty: Everything pre- and post-9/11 was and is
But the toxic contamination and smog that result from the president's
environmental policies don't distinguish between Democratic and Republican
The war on terrorism, one might argue, is a distraction (war for oil or for
U.S. global military dominance). What's indisputable is that permanent
global war is being used as a convenient excuse for shirking global
environmental cooperation and systematically dismantling the world's
environmental laws. Human rights are also being shoved aside in the
This is the real smog of war, and it's potentially much more lethal than
all the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of all the Middle East
The difference between amoral wars that kill humans and amoral policies
that harm the entire planet (which includes all life) is that we have but
one planet. On our current course, the harm to our planet is irreversible,
and in geologic time, the response is instantaneous, as new cancers and
other environmentally triggered ailments (lupus and asthma, etc.) are at
virtual crisis levels. Extreme contamination and its resultant health
crises are no longer confined to the U.S.-Mexico border region or the
nation's largest cities. Some scientists say that because of pollution,
we're racing toward the sixth great extinction of species. Truthfully,
there are no longer any dark corners on the planet where we can safely
dispose of our toxic or radioactive wastes. While we all live in but one
ecosystem, the Bush administration continues acting otherwise (Kyoto).
Because of the fog of war, most of the world has, in effect, been
distracted from the administration's even more duplicitous war on the
planet itself. And tragically, both issues are intertwined. Even the
president's tax policies that favor the rich are significant, as there's no
money for enforcement or a meaningful cleanup of the environment.
So treacherous is this second war that politics now routinely trumps
science, even while polluters are firmly in charge of "protecting" the
environment. A visit to the Natural Resources Defense Council
(www.nrdc.org) or the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.com) Web sites only
begins to tell the story of this unprecedented onslaught. Neither can we
expect relief in Congress or the courts as polluter-friendly
representatives hold sway in those bodies.
This practice of appointing representatives of the energy/oil industry to
oversee environmental protection is akin to appointing Osama bin Laden to
head the war on terrorism. Neither is this hyperbole, as the president's
environmental project now relies on "deregulation," voluntary "compliance"
or "market-based" solutions, which, in effect, means a free reign for
polluters. That's the smog of war.
The world awaits a Richard Clarke within the EPA to lift and counteract the
president's even more destructive smog of war - to warn us all that it's
not simply important, but extremely urgent.