"What's Going On?" A Vietnam-Era Song Rings True Today

In 1971, singer Marvin Gaye raised hackles when he tried to make sense of the madness of the Vietnam War by asking, "What's Going On?" He sang:


Mother, mother/ There's too many of you crying/ Brother, brother, brother/ There's far too many of you dying/ You know we've got to find a way/ To bring some lovin' here today -- Ya/ Father, father/ We don't need to escalate/ You see, war is not the answer/ For only love can conquer hate/ You know we've got to find a way/ To bring some loving' here today.
The song, told from the perspective of a returning Vietnam veteran, was inspired by Gaye's brother who had recently returned from that disastrous war.

Gaye would be asking the same question if he were alive today. Nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. A brutal civil war continues to escalate, aggravated by intense opposition to the U.S. occupation. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, General John Abazaid -- commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East who just resigned -- and the vast majority of the American people oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. Yet George W. Bush is planning to do just that.

Even staunch Republicans like MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough, who supported the war and voted twice for Bush, is asking what's going on. On his December 20 show, Scarborough was appalled by Bush's statement, "I encourage you all to go shopping more." MSNBC analyst Mike Barnacle noted that "this President is isolated, delusional, and stubborn." Bush's "delusion," according to Barnacle, is going to result in the deaths and carnage of our troops and people throughout the Middle East. "I don't think [Bush] knows what he's saying . . . He is totally isolated from reality," Barnacle added. "The deaths of American soldiers now verges on the criminal."

So what is going on? Former Nixon counsel John Dean recently told a San Diego audience he doesn't think Bush is in charge -- Cheney is running the government. "One of Dick Cheney's geniuses is that he lets Dubya wake up every morning and think he's President," Dean noted. Cheney has set up his own National Security Council in the Vice President's office, according to Dean. Decisions about budgets, personnel, etc., never get to the Oval Office. Cheney decides the important matters before they ever reach Bush's desk, Dean said.

The report of the Iraq Study Group was not prepared by a bunch of radicals. It even recommended privatizing Iraq's oil. But the group of 10 saw that more troops and shunning Iran and Syria is not the answer. What did Bush do? He dismissed the ISG report out of hand in favor of Cheney's agenda.

Why would Dick Cheney and the neocons who convinced Bush to start this war decide to pull out now? They created the war to achieve their imperial dream of privatizing Iraqi oilfields and building permanent U.S. military bases nearby to protect them. They are willing to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers and the Iraqi people in pursuit of their dream.

Cheney is undoubtedly telling the evangelical Dubya to hang in there, God is testing him. Remember Bush said he consulted with his heavenly father before starting the war. If Bush thinks God told him to start this war, what will it take to make him stop?

And it could get worse. Cheney-Bush has sent our battleships to the Persian Gulf to "warn" Iran that we mean business. And the White House blacked out parts of a New York Times op-ed on negotiating with Iran written by two former U.S. government advisors. This means, in all likelihood, that Cheney has decided it's time to pick off the next member of the Axis of Evil. They're following the same strategy they used on the way to Iraq: convince the American people that Iran is building weapons of mass destruction, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Attacking Iran would cause a disaster of epic proportions.

Now that the Democrats are taking over the reins in Washington, we have a golden opportunity to set things right. But incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid's first instinct was to align himself with the 12 percent of Americans who support sending more troops to Iraq. And new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lost no time in declaring that they would not cut funding for the war.

It seems more likely the Republicans, not the Democrats, will try to derail the Cheney-Bush war express. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore) declared last week on the Senate floor: "I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore."

Ultimately, it is up to the American people to step up to the plate and stop this war. It's fine to tell the pollsters we want our troops out of Iraq. But that's not doing the trick. The Vietnam War ended after thousands of people marched in the streets. We may not have the draft to get the college kids off their duffs. But we do have our consciences. And that should be enough.

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