It’s a blast from the past, an old folk hit brought back, newly relevant.
The Pete Seeger song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” – the one he sang on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that got them cancelled in 1968, is once again echoing in the conscience of our nation.
The song is a parable about a small group of soldiers ordered to ford a raging river by an ignorant commander. They keep getting deeper and deeper in the swirling river, but “the big fool says to push on.”
Now Boy George wants an additional $87 billion to pay for his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ones he claimed to have already won. The quagmire is sucking us in, the cost keeps rising, the lies keep piling up, more Iraqi and U.S. youth keep dying daily, and the big fool says to push on.
Last year, long before U.S. troops invaded Iraq, many warned about the unending trouble that would face the ocupying soldiers. Even the CIA and the British intelligence services warned that an invasion was much more likely to trigger terrorism than to stop it. Many in the U.S. military warned that the force being sent to Iraq was not large enough, well-funded enough, or prepared enough for the job they were ordered to do. Those objections were brushed aside, just as the protests of tens of millions of people were ignored.
Almost two years ago, after the quick invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the right wing, full of self-righteous triumphalism, bragged about how quickly “we won.” Now, U.S. troops are still dying in the daily fighting going on in that country. But that news is buried in little articles way back in the newspapers.
Months ago, Bush announced that “we” had achieved “victory” in Iraq. His hollow boasts provide no comfort to the families of the several hundred soldiers who have died since. Bush’s “support for the troops” includes cutting veterans’ benefits and cutting military pay increases, in order to pay for the exponentially escalating costs of his overseas follies, and this on top of asking them to die for his poll ratings.
Now, he wants us to keep paying and paying, and to put future generations in hock for the rest of the century. And what we’re paying for is making us less safe. It’s a program of national insecurity, to pave the way for Bush to scare his way back into the White House.
We can predict some of what is coming, based on what happened during the war in Vietnam and Reagan’s “Irangate” scandal. Some months before the election, Bush will announce a “secret plan” to bring peace. He will claim to be unable to publicly discuss the details due to delicate negotiations. That fictitious plan is as likely to work as his “road map to peace” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Then Bush will order a stepped-up U.S. military campaign. At the same time, he will try to “Iraqi-ize” the conflict, paying mercenaries to fight as U.S. surrogates. His minions will descend into the White House basement and try to figure out creative ways to steal from the pay envelopes of troops, steal from the already meager benefits for children in the U.S., steal from the paychecks of workers, all to hide the true costs of Bush’s wars and to hide from the growing anger of the people of the U.S.
This is history repeating itself as both farce and tragedy. We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool keeps saying, “Push on.”
Marc Brodine is chair of the Washington State Communist Party.
He can be reached at email@example.com