For those who enjoy watching the annual NCAA basketball tourney known as "March Madness" on television, one serious drawback is having to sit through countless insipid commercials. Some are even offensive in the violence they depict, including one for beer that features a young man knocking another unconscious with a hurled rock. I'm told this is funny, but still I'm convinced that ads like this insidiously cause the public psychic damage. They set a tone and send a message, which -- when repeated endlessly throughout TV viewers' lifetimes -- coarsens moral sensibilities. At some level, possibly the deepest one, the message is conveyed that using violence to obtain something even as trivial as a bottle of beer is acceptable.
How much greater the psychological impact, then, when instead of watching scripted video clips, a whole country is forced to participate in a years-long destruction of another nation, as in the case of the US vis-a-vis Iraq. Most Americans can tell you that since March, 2003 over 3,000 US soldiers have died in the conflict; some can tell you that at least 60,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed; and a few can tell you that the direct cost of the project runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet virtually no one in our land discusses the psychic costs borne by all 300 million Americans, day after day and year after year. How repugnant and shameful to know that one is to some degree complicit in raining disaster down on a far-flung populace that never presented any threat to us? How awful to know that one's tax dollars made it possible to keep millions of Baghdad children awake every night to the sound of exploding bombs as the vaunted "Shock and Awe" campaign was carried out? What can one ever say to the 2 million Iraqis who have fled their homeland because US policy made it virtually uninhabitable?
That one opposed the illegal invasion of Iraq from the beginning as both an abysmal policy choice and an immoral act, does not necessarily make it easier to watch a war criminal continue to occupy the Oval Office while the two major political parties that gave him carte blanche to wreak needless havoc on the world maintain their eternal duopoly in Congress. Not only has our nation been deeply stained by the sins of war, but each individual who forms a part of it has suffered a moral contamination. Our collective spirit has been deformed. Perhaps that is why individuals such as David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute -- neither an elected politician nor a federal official, but nonetheless part of a coterie of sadistic academics who designed the Iraq war -- can go on national television and prescribe the next steps to take in Mesopotamia as if death weighed no more heavily on them than the filming of a TV ad.