On March 27, 2003, one week after the United States-led invasion of Iraq began, The Nation published Margaret Atwood’s “Letter to America.” It begins, “This is a difficult letter to write, because I’m no longer sure who you are. Some of you may be having the same trouble.” And the closing paragaphs:
If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They’ll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They’ll think you’ve abandoned the rule of law. They’ll think you’ve fouled your own nest.
The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn’t dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; and in the country’s hour of greatest peril, he would return. You too have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.