Now we sit in an uneasy twilight — at home, abroad

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas observed in the McCarthy era that “As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

Oppression comes in strange packages. These twilight days we can barely discern it as it moves toward us deflecting concerns about needless human suffering in wartime with institutional fibs etched in stone and a foreboding magic act of PR in which the right hand works a puppet selling fear about terrorism while the left hand pushes buttons to massacre tens of thousands.

Of course terrorism is to be feared and condemned in all its endless forms and permutations. There's simply no good terrorist, period, not in uniform or disguised in noble causes.

The twilight of oppression, however, cloaks the truth in terror and denial. And you don't need to go halfway around the world to see it. So-called harmless depleted uranium munitions testing outside Socorro in the late l980s and early l990s, denial of health dangers from post Cerro Grande fire plutonium concentrations in runoff around LANL that are 100 times as potent as runoff measured four years ago, and the complete disguising of war-caused human catastrophe in euphemisms about “regime change” and “disarmament” — these are dark enough.

In this twilight, an aggressive war against Iraq is being sold as if our military could simply scoop out the offending Iraqi “illegal weapons” and, along with them, Saddam himself.

But the reality is surely nothing like the sell. American troops by the thousands, and Iraqi civilians in appalling numbers will be killed, and all to demolish a single monster who probably will have escaped before the first bomb is dropped, much like that other monster Bin Laden.

Imagine what would happen to Albuquerque if a war should take from us an estimated 48,000 to 260,000 civilians, numbers cited by the UN and the World Health Organization as probable for the citizens of Iraq. As Newsweek noted recently “new reports predict that as bombs destroy Iraq's transportation networks and electricity grids, millions will lose access to basic medicine, adequate food, and even potable water...{and} health consequences range from malnutrition and dysentery to deadly outbreaks of measles and meningitis.” And all that for “regime change.”

If cruise missiles should hit us here, our lives would change forever, if we survived. Dead friends and spouses, dead children, closed schools, closed banks, no food or water, rampaging illness, social disruption, trauma of all kinds. What could possibly be worse? It's a living hell.

In order to kill one man, in essence, a whole nation and its people have to be irreparably mangled? The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that after such a war in Iraq, some 7.4 million people will need humanitarian aid. That's over three times the population of New Mexico. How can that be sane?

In twilight times, however, even madness is sold as rationality. State health officials here see, for instance, “no immediate health risks” from what they euphemistically call “legacy waste” in the form of old plutonium carried in runoff to the Rio Grande in intense concentrations since the big Los Alamos fire. The fact that there's some 2,000 toxic dump sites around Los Alamos, that petty crime is rampant at the labs, and that institutional lying, in the form of national security coverups are the order of the day, makes twilight seem darker than ever.

The darkness is particularly chilling, though, when it comes to ammunition made from depleted uranium, a material suspected as a cause of lung and kidney cancer, and nonchalantly tested behind New Mexico School of Mining and Technology for years. DU is pyrophoric, it burns on contact, and as an army fact sheet states, impact of DU shells causes great heat, which “results in smoke that contains high concentrations of DU particles.... {which} can be inhaled or ingested and are toxic.”

Think of Iraq covered in such smoke. Think of Socorro. These are twilight times indeed.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
February 4, 2003