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Running out of time

On September 11, Jonathan Schell lived six blocks from the World Trade Center. He then began a series of columns in The Nation called “Letter From Ground Zero.” Some have been collected in A Hole in the World, which I’ve been reading off and on over the last week or so.

Last night, I read his April 7, 2003, column. Published two days before US forces “took” Baghdad, its conclusion is a sad but accurate commentary on what the Great Misleader and his crew have done and been allowed to do to this country.

The tragedy of America in the post-Cold War era is that we have proved unequal to the responsibility that our own power placed upon us. Some of us became intoxicated with it, imagining that we could rule the world. Others of us — the Democratic Party, Congress, the judiciary, the news media — abdicated our obligation to challenge, to check and to oppose, letting the power-hungry have their way. The government of the United States went into opposition against its own founding principles, leaving it to the rest of the world to take up our cause. …. Because the Constitution, though battered, is still intact, we may still have time and opportunity to recoup. But for now, we will have to pay the price of our weakness. The costs will be heavy, first of all for the people of Iraq but also for others, including ourselves. …. The fight for “freedom” abroad is crippling freedom at home. The war to stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has provoked that very proliferation in North Korea and Iran. More ground has already been lost in the field of proliferation than can be gained even by the most delirious victory in Baghdad. Former friends of America have been turned into rivals or foes. The United States may be about to win Iraq. It has already lost the world.

The “time and opportunity” to recover is fast disappearing. Failure to re-defeat Bush may well mark the expiration date.

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