Today is zero hour, the calm before the storm. The Bush administration sits poised to unleash a tremendous volume of destruction on Iraq, and after months of build up and tension, I find myself oddly calm. Outraged intellectually, but emotionally spent. All the polls on television claim that a majority of Americans supports the war, yet I don’t know a single flesh and blood human being who agrees with it. Who are these people, I wonder? Why hasn’t a pollster called my house to ask my opinion?

In my 28 years, I don’t think I’ve seen days as dark as these. I remember the Iran hostage crisis, the Cold War, Ronald Regan sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, telling America about the imminent Soviet nuclear threat. I remember the first Gulf War, Kosovo, Grenada, the Invasion of Panama, the Battle of Mogadishu, Afghanistan, 9/11.

How did we squander the goodwill of the world? How did we get to this point? In 1944, America invaded Fortress Europe, helped to overthrow the tyranny of the Nazi regime, while beating back the Japanese empire. We fought real evil in those days, and against the odds, we won. But the rest of the 20th Century is filled with so much embarrassment -- Vietnam, proxy wars, “The Third Way.” And yet it all pales compared to the second Gulf War, the war without reason.

The Muslim world despises the West and America in particular, and yet the Bush regime tells us that they will welcome the American military with open arms. The UN sanctions crippled Iraq in the 1990’s, inadvertently harming the civilian population while Saddam was largely unscathed. How will the Iraqis react when the rich Americans arrive with their billion dollar weapons, while they have starved for 10 years?

I look at Iraq, and I see another Vietnam.

And yet, the media can only talk about how great the President is -- they refer to him with an almost religious fervor, this man who wasn’t elected to office, who won the president by deceit and coercion and nepotism, without even a plurality of the popular vote. Everyone is lauding the “Great Leader” who they love for his honesty, his determination, his faith in God. All hail Big Brother, all hail George W. Bush. He knows what’s best for us. Any dissent is definitely “Double-plus ungood.” So much for an objective media, much less a mythical “liberal one.”

On Saturday, I marched in the “emergency” peace protest in Washington. At one point, the huge crowd was making its way down 14th Street, heading towards the Washington monument. We marched down a slight incline, past the National Press Building and an enormous cheer erupted from the crowd. My voice joined, as did Pantaliamon’s, our friend Brian’s. The roar was incredible, exhilarating. All these people of disparate political beliefs -- radical leftists, moderates, even some Republicans -- united in their opposition to the war. It was 60 degrees, San Francisco weather. The sun shown down brightly from the sky, and I found myself believing that the world was watching. It was rare a moment of sublime beauty, I felt contented.

And then it was over. And now I sit in my office, numb about the war. Numb about everything. A strange disease is killing people in Asia, unemployment is almost at 6%, and the economy is a wreck. The American century with all its hope and promise is over. Now the 21st Century, the century of uncertainty has begun.

I wish it were still 1998. I wish it could always be 1998.