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Steve Lopez / POINTS WEST

The Sound of Apathy Over War Resounds

April 14, 2006|Steve Lopez | Reach the columnist at

I'm strolling the campus of the University of Southern California on a warm, sun-blasted day, and it's awfully quiet here. Then again, it's quiet just about everywhere.

The only thing I can figure is that people are numb to the unabashed lies and distortions out of the nation's capital. We're living in a time, after all, in which a government report on global warming was toned down by a White House "science advisor" who then quit to go to work for Exxon Mobil.

"To be honest," says Daily Trojan staffer Christina Hugh, "I think USC is very apathetic."

It seems to be contagious, and I don't know what the nation's leaders have to do to get people worked up. There was a time when the kind of news we've had recently, combined with the bloodbath in Iraq, would have sent throngs into the streets.

First we got word last week that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff leaked information on orders from Cheney and President Bush to support the administration's call for war in Iraq. Bush, who has been fanatical about his disdain for leaks and leakers, this week came up with one of the most creative explanations in political history, claiming he had declassified the classified information before the leak. He said it was in the public interest, no less.

Then came another Alice in Wonderland bulletin:

Not only did the administration ignore evidence to the contrary before the war and insist that Iraq had mobile biological weapons labs, but now the Washington Post reports that after the war began, Bush's claims that two such labs had been found came after Pentagon conclusions to the contrary.

None of this seems to have disturbed napping USC students, and I don't know if UCLA can be much prouder. I went to the Daily Bruin website, typed "antiwar" into the search field, and the last substantive article that popped up was clear back in August. You still have to go to old reliable UC Santa Cruz if you want campus unrest. Last week, antiwar protesters there threw a ruckus over military recruiters.

Is any war winnable if military officials are dense enough to try to recruit at a school where the mascot is the banana slug?

The war is on my mind, in part, because of the horrific details on the hijacking of Flight 93 at the ongoing trial of an Al Qaeda terrorist. The trial raises once again the question of why our troops were sent to risk their lives in Iraq -- a move that appears to have set off a civil war -- when none of the terrorists were from there.

The war is on my mind too, because last week an old family friend who was never the same after returning from Vietnam passed away.

It's on my mind because of reader outrage at the photos of wounded soldiers that appeared in the L.A. Times recently. If it were up to me, there'd be more such photos, not just because they are part of the truth but because they honor the sacrifice.

I have no patience for the hypocrisy of warmongering religious fanatics and bristle at the narrow-minded bravado that suggested democracy could be delivered at gunpoint. Included in that group are the cheerleader pundits and an American press that was at its worst.

Mostly I blame the president and all his men, many of whom dodged the wars of their time and sent no sons and daughters to this one. And let's not forget the weak-kneed Democrats who didn't stand up for fear of being called unpatriotic.

For the mess these people created, and for the absence of a plan on what to do now, it's quiet out here. Much too quiet.

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