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A Nation of Psychotic Soldiers

It’s rare that Americans get to pore over a screed of up-to-date anti-U.S. hysteria as unapologetically caustic and lovingly detailed as this rant by Sir Simon Jenkins at Comment is Free. The distinguished British journalist has gone to the trouble of diagnosing America’s various ailments, their causes, and the overall prognosis, so we should give him our full attention:

Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia.

From Jenkins’ visits to the U.S., he’s arrived at this impression of our fair land: “A country in so many ways a kaleidoscope of the world is in many ways so different. Above all it is full of soldiers.” This is excellent news, as I’ve been hearing rumors the military was stretched thin, and as Sir Simon says, America is engaged in an “atavistic love affair with war.” There’s nothing atavistic about twenty-first Century knights like Jenkins, is there?

Here’s a charming wrap-up:

To visit America at present is to be reminded of the continuing trauma of post-9/11, of a nation that craves a cohering substitute psychosis for the lifting of the Soviet menace. It is seen in ubiquitous threat alerts, hysterical airport security, the continued acceptance of Guantánamo Bay and even jibes about public figures not wearing the American flag in their buttonhole.

But doesn’t the psychosis lie in denying the ramifications of post-9/11 existence? In reality, threat alerts are almost non-existent now. It’s the threat that’s remained ubiquitous. As for having to take off our shoes in airports, that maddening requirement comes courtesy of London’s own Richard Reid, who managed to sneak his shoe bomb past the decidedly non-hysterical airport security at Charles De Gaulle International. Prisoners being held at Guantánamo Bay live better than American soldiers, and have each gained an average of twenty pounds while there. So now we’re down to the flag lapel pin and “public figures.” For starters, the likely Democratic nominee for president isn’t just any public figure, and anyway, who can take seriously a scolding about nationalism from a journalist whose title establishes him as member of the English nobility?

And speaking of nobility, it should come as no surprise that this regal anti-American is gaga for Barack Obama: “His capacity to transform America‘s self-image and world image is colossal.” If only he can convince the soldiers from sea to shining sea.


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