One of the most common complaints among progressives is that
we seem to never get credit for having been right about important issues. This
complaint has had a breath of new life in the wake of Barack Obama�s
appointments of Iraq War hawks to his national security team. People like
Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald are asking, where are the cabinet positions
for those who opposed the invasion of Iraq in the first place?
I�ve had the personal experience of this phenomenon myself,
as I�ve written earlier. Before the war started, I was writing about the lack
of evidence for Iraqi WMD, and how intelligence was being manipulated. With few
exceptions, this was not a story getting much play in the corporate media,
which had been beating the war drums from the beginning. I watched in horror as
the inevitable unfolded. The only surprise for me, when it turned out there
were no WMD, was that none had been planted after the fact.
The phenomenon of having your predictions disregarded has
sometimes been referred to as the �Cassandra complex.� The name is derived from
a character in the Iliad. Cassandra was the sister of the Trojan hero, Hector,
and was so beautiful that she attracted the favor of the god, Apollo, who
granted her the gift of prophecy. When Cassandra demurred from his attentions,
Apollo turned the gift into a curse. Cassandra was still able to see the
future, but no one would believe her warnings, and she could do nothing to
change the unfolding of events. A curse, indeed.
What prompts this post is a rare example of progressives
getting credit for being right. I�m reading the new book by Andrew Bacevich,
�The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.� Bacevich is a
retired Army colonel, and professor of history and international relations at
Boston University. He�s also a longtime opponent of the Iraq War who�s had the
tragic experience of losing his own son as a casualty in that conflict, and a
clear-eyed realist about American imperialism.
Monday night I read this passage: �Many Americans remember
the 1960s as the Freedom Decade -- and with good cause. Although the modern
civil rights movement predates that decade, it was then that the campaign for
racial equality achieved its greatest breakthroughs, beginning in 1963 with the
March on Washington and Martin Luther King�s �I Have a Dream� speech. Women and
gays followed suit. The founding of the National Organization for Women in 1966
signaled the reinvigoration of the fight for women�s rights. In 1969, the
Stonewall Uprising in New York City launched the gay rights movement.
�Political credit for this achievement lies squarely with
the Left . . . Pick the group: blacks, Jews, women, Asians, Hispanics, working
stiffs, gays, the handicapped -- in every case, the impetus for providing equal
access to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution originated among pinks,
lefties, liberals, and bleeding-heart fellow travelers. When it came to
ensuring that every American should get a fair shake, the contribution of
modern conservatism has been essentially nil.�
It would be nice to think that some of Obama�s new national
security team would be taking Bacevich�s views about the rot at the heart of
American foreign policy into account. Too bad he�s a fellow Cassandra.
Hasty lives on a farm in West Virginia, where he wrote a column for seven years
for the Hampshire Review, the state�s oldest newspaper. In 2000, it was named
best column by the West Virginia Press Association. His writing has appeared in
the Charleston Gazette, Online Journal, Common Dreams, Buzzflash, Tikkun and
many other websites. He publishes the blog, Radical Pantheist.
He plays guitar and harmonica with the folk/gospel trio, the Time Travelers.
Email:. radicalpantheist(at)gmail (dot) com.