Each country that plunges into nightmare--whether Germany under Hitler, the Soviet Union under the Bolsheviks, Chile under Pinochet, or, for that matter, Iraq under Saddam Hussein--travels there along its own path. The American political system--based on free elections, the rights of citizens, and the rule of law--is, though under the severest pressure, still available for use. If it is lost, and the full American nightmare descends, there will be many causes. They will include the militarization of foreign policy, global imperial ambition, the loss of balance among the branches of government, the erosion of civil liberties, and the overwhelming influence of corporate money and power over political life--all present before Osama bin Laden made his appearance. But at every step of the way the skids will be greased by the national capacity, conferred by the media and exploited by politicians, to produce and consume illusion, which, though hardly an American monopoly, may be the specific form of corruption most dangerous to American democracy.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Jonathan Schell is under no illusion.