A Generation Lost

For Whome the Bell Tolls

“If Colin Powell and George Tenet had walked out … in February 2003 instead of working together on that tainted UN speech … they might have turned everything around. They might have saved the lives and limbs of all those brave US kids and innocent Iraqis, not to mention our world standing and national security.”

— Maureen Dowd, NY Times, 2 May 2007

The truth is a twisted sister and rarely sets men free. The cold bloody truth of the war in Iraq is like a toxic cloud that poisons everything it touches.

If former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet thought they could find absolution in their post-complicit years, they are as delusional as the little man who dreamed of empire and betrayed a nation. If they believed the armor of loyalty and patriotism could shield them from the harsh blow of accountability, they have been drinking from the well of Shakespeare’s Queen Mab.

How now that trinity Medals of Honor awarded Tenet, Paul Bremer and General Tommy Franks have stained the heart of integrity and transformed the very words “presidential honor” into an oxymoron.

Everyone who has grasped the hand of our self-anointed war president now feels the sting of humility and disgrace. Powell is gone. Rumsfeld is gone. Wolfowitz is gone, spiraling down the rabbit hole, wrapped in his own arrogance and cronyism. Ashcroft is gone and Condoleezza Rice has all but vanished from the stage.

The latest diplomatic initiative came and went like a whisper in the night, a token gesture from a token neocon, a one-time renaissance woman who sacrificed the promise of greatness when she consigned her soul to a rabid brain trust bent on the path of war.

As it is for Condoleezza Rice, who might have been a concert pianist or Nobel prizewinner, so it is for the generation that nurtured her and blessed her with the promise of hope.

Shame, where is thy blush? It hides behind masks of honor, loyalty and patriotism.

Among the forgotten coalition of the coerced (our allies in the conquest of the Middle East), Asnar of Spain was first to fall, Musharraf of Pakistan is hanging by a totalitarian thread, and
Britannia’s Blair is cursed to live out his days in the shadow of the Bush wars, as his companions shake their heads and wonder what might have been.

As it is for Tony Blair, so it is for the generation of new and bold ideas.

The bell chimes and we think of Rice, Powell and a loss of innocence. The bell tolls and we think of Camelot, the Bay of Pigs and a president who at least knew when to cut his losses. The bell rings out and we remember Rudy Giuliani’s 9-11 testament: “Thank God George Bush is president.” The bell sounds and we think of patriotic boys and girls who will never become fathers and mothers.

The bells echo in the chambers of our collective soul and we wonder if we have finally learned enough to spare future generations the sorrow of an endless cycle of violence and destruction.

As we step forward and look back upon our selves, we reflect that we were the generation with the greatest promise, the greatest moral founding, the greatest hope and vision for transforming the world we inherited, yet we squandered that bountiful promise for the darkest vision an American president has ever advanced.

While we launched a campaign of aggressive war, wars of dominion and economic conquest, our allies in Israel, Pakistan, Philippines, and Russia wandered further from the paths of justice and democracy.

While we led the campaign of denial, the world marched toward global catastrophe.

While we pushed our armed forces to the brink of implosion for a fool’s campaign of horror, we allowed genocide in Darfur to roll on as if the community of nations was obliged to tolerate inhumanity in dark skinned populations.

While we squandered half a trillion in fortune on the destruction of other nations, we allowed a great American city to wallow in virtual ruin, transformed as much by indifference as by an act of nature.

When we hear the bells, we reach inside and mourn a generation lost. We hear and we contemplate the words of John Donne:

“Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind: And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

As of Saturday, May 12, some 3,391 men and women of the American armed forces had died in the Iraq War. The latest:

Army Pfc. Roy L. Jones III, 21 of Houston, Texas.

Army Sgt. Jason W. Vaughn, 29 of Luka, Mississippi.

Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by Dissident Voice and others. Read other articles by Jack, or visit Jack's website.