Joan Didion and the ‘War to End Peace’

Norman Solomon’s latest column (Creators Syndicate, 1/31/09) looks over a decade in which “the false truism of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction led to the horrors of the Iraq invasion and occupation,” and “in the wake of 9/11, overall, the main journalistic outlets of the United States fed us falsehoods, hysteria, self-righteousness and endless permutations on rationales for waging war in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Luckily Solomon noticed that “sometimes the best journalism is something else” that might not “pass the muster for soundbites or long-form televised discourse as historic events unfold”:

During the second year of the “war on terrorism”–which was increasingly being shortened to the even vaguer “war on terror”–both [Joan] Didion and [Norman] Mailer were out with books that drew on assessments they had made in essays or interviews after 9/11.

Didion wrote: “We had seen, most importantly, the insistent use of September 11 to justify the reconception of America’s correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war.”

There, in one sentence, an essayist and novelist had captured the essence of a historical moment that vast numbers of journalists had refused to recognize–or, at least, had refused to publicly acknowledge. Didion put to shame the array of self-important and widely lauded journalists at the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post, PBS and National Public Radio.

Viewing the sprawling post-2001 U.S. wars as one “war to end peace,” Solomon thinks “the war seemed, by rhetorical design, to be inherently endless”–and the work of spreading of that rhetorical framing largely fell to all-too-eager corporate media; see the FAIR Media Advisory: “Iraq and the Media: A Critical Timeline” (3/19/07)