The news analysts cited the corroborating testimony of the opinion polls a 70 percent approval rating for President Bush, 60 percent in favor of sending the army to exterminate Saddam but in New York during the months of September and October I could find little trace or sign of the militant spirit presumably eager to pat the dog of war. Not once in six weeks did I come across anybody who thought that the President had made a coherent argument in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Whether at lunch with film producers in Greenwich Village or at dinner among investment bankers overlooking Central Park, the commentary on the President's repeated attempts at explanation invariably descended into sarcasm. Who could take seriously the reasoning of a man armed with so few facts no proof of Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda, no indication that Iraq threatens the United States (or even the nearby states of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran), no evidence that Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction, the presidential indictment based on surveillance photographs too secret to be seen, on old stories of past atrocities and the premise that America "did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it"?|
The last statement, drawn from the President's speech in Cincinnati on October 7, prompted a civil rights lawyer the next morning at breakfast to mockery. "To whom does the man think he's talking?" she said. "To people so stupid that they can't see through the window of his lies? A Republican administration promotes a foreign war to hide the mess of its domestic politics, and the President asks us to believe that we're being attacked by Joseph Stalin?"
The lady voiced a New York opinion, and I accepted it as such. Given my long confinement in the city's spheres of literary influence, I don't know many people who admire President Bush or who feel anything but loathing for the reactionary scholars who teach him lessons in geography. In New York I expect to hear Bush compared to Little Lord Fauntleroy or Bernie Ebbers, and I take it for granted that nearly everybody else in the conversation shares my own low regard for the corporate-management theory that informs the making of American foreign policy.
What I didn't expect was the fierce opposition to the Iraqi adventure that I encountered elsewhere in the country. Traveling to California in September and October, and then in Oregon, Connecticut, and Virginia, I sought out fellow citizens unmarked by the stigmata of effete, liberal intellectualism an aerospace engineer on the plane to Portland, a quorum of computer programmers in Hartford, two retired admirals on a golf course in San Diego, various unpublished social critics met with in hotel coffee shops and airport bars. It was as if I hadn't left New York. Never once did I find myself in the company of people who approved the Pentagon's strategies of "forward deterrence" and "anticipatory self-defense." The general opinion of President Bush wavered between the phrases "toy soldier" and "dangerous fool."
Lewis H. Lapham, Notebook: Hail Caesar!, Harper's, December 2002, pp. 9-10.