Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

Attention might be turned today to a critical piece in The New York Times by Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt: "U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel." The Irish poet William Butler Yeats famously described the rise to total war in Europe in 1919 to the spiraling of a hawk rising. Again the hawk rises.

"When American forces raided a home near Fallujah during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about," Arango and Schmitt write.

The man was Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.


"That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East."

Fallujah in 2004 and Fallujah today suggest a comparison to Germany in 1914 and Germany later. Those who went to war in 1914 were born in peace; they went from peace to war. Those who went to war in the 1930s were born in war; they went from war to greater war. Likewise Arab youth today. Those who went to war in Fallujah in 2004 were born in relative peace. They were not ready for war. Those who go to war today were reared in war. They are ready.

In the first, no one is prepared psychologically to fight. In the second, almost all are. Today, they flock to al-Baghdadi and to a new cause which resembles a new religion; a religion born in war. In the 1930s they flocked to Adolf Hitler, and to a cause which resembled a new religion; a religion born in war.

In time, we always hear this, as reported in the Times piece: "He was a street thug when we picked him up in 2004," said a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. "It's hard to imagine we could have had a crystal ball then that would tell us he'd become head of ISIS."

If not him, another. We are never taught how it really is. We are taught that Hitler was less than nothing; a half-mad failed street painter and that Germany was struck by a sudden madness. We would not be taught that the roots of antipathy returned to the time of Napoleon and that Hitler was a hero in World War I who constantly risked his life on the front lines and was awarded the Iron Cross twice, almost unheard of in Germany for an enlisted man. We are not taught how things begin; how they happen.

Now, with President Obama, we randomly prepare again for greater war. We will not be told that the portal opened in 2002, when Congress, including then-Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Biden (D-Del.), granted President George W. Bush the power to attack Iraq unilaterally and gave permission as well to invade our personal lives in ways that had never been done before in the history of the American condition. 

By 2002, we had already settled into the warm self-exile of leisure class delusion; had already abdicated our collective will to govern ourselves with clarity, strength and balance. Today there may be no stopping the hawk's spiral.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at quigley1985@gmail.com.