I had the chance to do the drive between Milan
, which is a gorgeous drive if you ever have the chance to cross the Alps
by car. The weather was great. An old friend was driving. Known him for nearly 20 years. We grew up close to each other in New Jersey
, though we didn't know each other as kids. Wound up working for the same California startup company in the late 80's and most of the 90's. We travelled all over the world together for years.
He became rich and less-so famous, while I became less-so rich and not famous.
His wealth and fame enables him to travel in interesting circles. He knows a lot of venture capital guys--these are very wealthy people, some billionaires, who invest in small companies. He hangs out with people in government office. Knows rock and movie stars. Etc.
His history is very interesting. In the late 60's his family "escaped" the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. He tells me stories of his family driving down roads blocked by Russian tanks, and having to travel through fields to get out. They came to America with a couple bucks and a father who was a well known scholar in the field of telecommunications. Bell Laboratories gave his dad a job, and the family did well.
He spent the rest of his childhood and most of his adulthood as an American citizen. I'd say that he became a very "rabid" American. He appreciates his American citizenship more than anyone I have ever met. His personal view of life is that America gave him the chance to succeed, and he did.
He's living in Europe now. Has a house in Aix-en-Provence, France, and one in Florence, Italy. He keeps the house in Los Altos Hills, California. He votes.
So I asked him how things were for Americans in Europe now--now with the war in Iraq tearing people to political shreds in the west, and soldiers and families being torn to actual pieces in the middle east.
He grew quiet for a second. Then he said: "It had to be done, you know."
Me: "What? The war? How so? How far back do you want to go? You telling me there's a connection to 9/11? You going to say there were WMDs we missed?"
He said, "Nope," with his usual aire of confidence. My friend is an incredible politician. Terribly glued-in. I would never argue politics with him, but this one seemed too easy to pass up.
I said, "I saw a documentary made by German television. They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Degussa and MAN sold centrifuge technology to Iraq."
He said, "Uh huh. Sure."
"So that's not it."
"No connection to 9/11."
"So what is it, then?"
"Oil, of course."
"Duh," I said to a man with enough money to buy Iowa.
Being a good friend and stuck in a car with him in the middle of the Mount Blanc tunnel, he decided to explain his position rather than change the subject.
"Of course, oil is strategic. Without oil there is no energy, and without energy we are a sitting duck. You buy that?"
"I guess," I said, because I think I do. It's hard for me to conceive of a state of affairs where we had no gasoline, but I suppose I believe that if North Korea thought they could get away with invading a gas-free Oregon, they're stupid enough to try.
"Don't guess," he said. "Be sure. Now point number two--Saudi Arabia is in a heap of trouble. You think the Saud family is happy all those hijackers came from their country? Think again. They can't control their people. They're a couple of years away from some significant internal instability--maybe even a coup. There are things blown up every day there. We only saw the one case on CNN, but believe me, there are indications all over Europe that extremists have their eyes on Saudi Arabia and are willing to try a takeover. And you know the U.S. Government knows that. So what do you think would happen if Saudi Arabia falls to a radical right-wing religious government?"
"So you're saying we invaded Iraq to preempt a Saudi implosion?"
"No. I'm saying we invaded Iraq so we can be there WHEN Saudi Arabia implodes. Because if the bulk of the oil producing world is ruled by unfriendlies, we're in a sorry state."
"So you believe Bush did the right thing?"
"Bush is a fucking idiot. But we had no choice other than to invade Iraq. 9/11 and that jerkoff ruling the place gave us the excuse. It had to be done."
"And what do your neighbors in Florence say to you about it? I mean, while you're mowing the lawn, do they rag on you for America's foreign policy?"
"Nope. It's not polite," he said. And after a few miles, "I don't mow the lawn. I have a gardener."
I said, "Me, too."
There is no doubt in my mind, nor I suppose in the minds of most of the people in the free world with brains, that the war in Iraq was "sold". The buyers were in priority order 1) the people of the United States, 2) The people of Great Britain, 3) everybody else.
There's a great quote on someone's homenode from a trial at Nuremburg where an accused high-ranking Nazi officer something to the effect--you can get the masses to do whatever you want by convincing them there's a great threat and that the only way to combat that threat is to eliminate "fill-in-the-blank".
We all know that lots of things have filled in those blanks over the years. Countries. Resources. Entire races of people.
So, one then wonders, as my good friend riverrun has mused so passionately in A Sniper in Every Minaret, have we all been duped in the same way as the post-World War I German citizenry? And is it any less a sin in our case because "we know we're the good guys?"
riverrun quotes Jesus Christ on this one, and so if you're willing to accept Christ as the ultimate arbiter of "good", you have your answer.
As weird as it seems, with our American president being an avowed Christian and all--he doesn't agree with Christ, nor Ghandi, and certainly not with a northerner like Bob Dylan.
That phenomenon gives me pause. I mean, I know why my rich left-leaning friend thinks the war was inevitable and necessary. But he doesn't claim to be Christian or Buddhist or anything else religious oriented. Why everyone else?
And that got me to thinking about angels with swords.
I've been thinking a lot about angels lately, particularly archangels. Been reading a lot about these guys who are somehow simultaneously very close to God (closer than the regular angels, but not as close as the cherubim and the seraphim) but also very close to human beings. Archangels do God's dirty work. When something needs to be smote in a very visible way, we get one of the six of seven down here with a sword blasting the living shit out of things. Archangels think nothing of taking human form and doing their stuff as a member of the human race. Sort of the plain clothes thing.
By the way--let's be totally clear about which angels we're talking about. I'm talking about the angels that members of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths believe in. All three, believe in the same angels. They may have slightly different names for them, just like my name is Giuseppi in Italian, Jose in Spanish, and Joseph in English--but I'm the same me and Michael is the same archangel who blasted Lucifer out of heaven down to good old terra firma.
Now the terrible, wacky, soon-to-be-a-historical-believe-it-or-not-docudrama THING that's happening is that all the sides in this mess, save for the Japanese, perhaps, all claim to be on the side of the same God.
This reminds me of the way American football players thank God on bended knee for touchdowns they make. "Dear God, thanks for letting me win and Bob over there, lose. Thanks for liking me more than Bob, because we all know that's why I won. Because you like me more."
I once had an argument with someone about who God liked more. We were drinking beer and I was partly drunk, but the conversation went like this:
"Christians believe in God the father. He's the same Yahweh Jewish people believe in. Ok?"
"Muslims believe in the same God. They call him 'Allah' in their language."
"What's with 'Nope?' It's the same fucking God."
"Do you know anything about history? The great prophet Muhammad believed Christ was also a great prophet. He prayed to the same God."
"Those bastards that blew up the World Trade Center were praying to the same God that the people inside the buildings prayed to before they died."
And so on with 'Nope,' because the individual needed to separate himself from the other side. See--you can't kill the other side if they're like you. This is the thing. They have to be different to kill them.
Once again--if you think they believe in a different God, they're easier to kill.
The terrorists know this. That's why they call us the Great Satan. Because they're Michael in this war.
They think they're the guys God likes. And we think we are.
They believe in the same God Billy Graham believes in. It's the same God the Pope believes in. It's the same God every Rabbi on earth prays to with his congregation. It's like the Cowboys and the Packers praying to win on the sidelines of the superbowl. It's just plain stupid.
Christ knew something like this was stupid. I'm less familiar with the Jewish and Islamic faiths, but I bet there's something in both of those religions that goes exactly like this: DON'T KILL PEOPLE. They're called commandments or laws or something, I bet.
I bet there's something that says: DON'T KILL PEOPLE EVEN WHEN THEY TRY TO KILL YOU. Which is sort of like, "If you whack me on one cheek, I should forget about it immediately so that you can whack me again."
This is the whole thing we have trouble with. See, we just don't buy the whole Abraham-Moses-David-Daniel-Job-John-Christ-Peter-Mark-Paul-Muhammad thing. We buy into all the smiting and smoting and Joshua blowing horns and blasting enemies into dust. We buy Michael blasting the likes of evil into nothingness, the sons of light vs. the sons of darkness--but not one single one of us has the guts to stand there and let our buildings be blown up and knocked down, our airplanes hijacked and run into government offices, our post offices polluted with biological agents, our trains exploded on during rush hour and to say--"Bring it on, brother. Kill me and inherit nothing. Live with me and enjoy life. I'm not going to stop you."
Dear God, I don't think I'm that brave either.
If you were to ask God who's side he was on, he's probably just as soon set the sun to go nova, melt the earth, and start all over with new ones.
But what the hell do I know? I'm sitting here thinking about archangels and writing stories about them, wondering if I'll be smote for blasphemy but not actually caring.
Sooner or later, though, we may meet up with a couple of God's angelic hit-men, and I'd rather be on Mars then.