Addicted to war

Finally I want to ask how the Pentagon changed the American people. You say we’ve become a militarized, “vengeful people.” Do you really believe that?

I do. I love my country, and the American people are good people. But we are allowing the government to do things in our name that are wrong, they are criminal. If I could say something really outrageous, I think that the American people today have turned against the war in Iraq for the wrong reasons. They’ve turned against it because we’re losing. We should be against this war because it’s wrong and unnecessary. If this war had gone the way Rumsfeld and company thought it would go, Americans would have been fine with it. And that’s appalling. And of course if it had gone the way they thought it was going to go, we’d be in Iran today. That’s the tragic good news here. This war has gone so badly that the American imperial enterprise has been stalled. Thank God for that.

But, again, we the American people have not reckoned with what we did at the end of World War II. And one of the things that happened on 9/11 is that we looked at ourselves and presumed to think of ourselves as world-historic victims. What we suffered was tragic, and indeed a catastrophe, but on the scale of suffering it was very minor compared to the kind of suffering we’ve inflicted on other nations, and we’re still doing today.

Well, is it possible to change this?

To me the greatest symbol of hope is what happened at the end of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, beginning with Chernobyl. It’s a miracle of my lifetime that a nonviolent popular movement led to the demise of the Soviet system. And if that can happen, the equivalent can happen on our side. We have to break the myth of military power. We have to understand that there are many more grievous threats to our nation than those that the Pentagon can protect us from.

James Carroll, interviewed by Farhad Manjoo | Salon  (read more. . .)